Wrist Exercises

Edited: May 6, 2018, 4:25 PM · Hello everyone,

One of the comments I receive a lot from my teacher is to "loosen my wrist" or my "wrist is too stiff" when I play.

Can anyone recommend exercises that could help my improve my wrist situation? I'm a beginner learner - about a year.

Thank you,


Replies (12)

May 6, 2018, 4:33 PM · I am also looking for answers on this. I have read some sparse advise on relaxation, but in truth the advise doesn’t offer a whole lot more than “try to hold the violin in a relaxed position.”

On key advise offered by my teacher is thumb position. Try to keep the left thumb positioned under the first position finger, no matter which string is played. This naturally positions the wrist to a more comfortable position.

I am still working on this. And I am still trying to be more relaxed. It is even more difficult playing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 4:45 PM · Need just a little more info: How much do you practice? Is your wrist completely stiff or does it move at least a little when you bow?

There are generally two types of violin beginners: boards and noodles. The kind you are has no bearing on where you'll end up if you work hard. Boards need to be loosened up, noodles need to be firmed in certain areas. I'm assuming you're a board.

If your wrist is not entirely inflexible I'm sure you'll be fine in the long run. Remember: your violin muscles are still gaining strength and control at one year.

The best way to loosen up a wrist for a young beginner is to constantly remind them to lead with the wrist on an up bow exercise. I usually have a stiff wristed beginner follow this plan daily:

1) 20 back and forth motions without the bow. The wrist should lead the fingers and physically touch the nose on each "up bow" motion.

2) 20 open string bow strokes emulating the same type of wrist motion. Without touching the nose of course.

3) 2 or 3 simple pieces with longer up bows (Long Long Ago is perfect for this with it's long semiphrase ending up bows).

4) Remember - the bow may take some haphazard lines when performing these types of exercises. Staying on the contact point is NOT the point early on. Only the fluid motion of the wrist matters.

This routine hasn't failed me yet. It might take a few weeks to get the student on track but once the wrist motion is incorporated in the bow stroke it's usually all good from there.

And, like most severe violin gremlins - catch it early on and don't let go until its gone.

May 6, 2018, 4:42 PM · Also, most exercises I have seen are intended more for stretching joints and tendants, which is good, but do not lend much to relaxation.
May 6, 2018, 4:46 PM · Oh, Phil I was assuming left hand. Are you talking about your left hand or right (bow hand)?
May 6, 2018, 4:57 PM ·
It is most likely caused by thumb tension.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 5:13 PM · Ryan: Thank you for the exercises...I practice from 1/2 to 1 hour a day. When I do scales, my wrist usually does move - especially when I try practice in front of a mirror. I do tense up most other times and play with a stiffer hand/arm...

Pete: I think my left hand is ok - haven't heard any comments from my teacher yet - nonetheless, I will practice those exercises. I haven't gotten to 3rd or 4th position yet...

May 6, 2018, 5:19 PM · That’s good news Phil. I am stiff on my left and it’s difficult for me to relax. My bow hand is not as much of a problem but I do want to try Ryan’s exercises
May 6, 2018, 5:27 PM · If it's your bow hand, make sure your right shoulder isn't raised or tensed, and your right arm isn't too stiff.
Edited: May 6, 2018, 5:51 PM · Drop your shoulder, drop your elbow, it’ll help relax your wrist. You shouldn’t be pressing down with your wrist. It’s likely your hand is tight if your wrist is tight.

Do you feel secure holding the bow? Do you do bow hold exercises? Google “Up Like a Rocket violin bow” and “bunny violin bow hold”

Your bow hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder should all be relaxed. On a down bow it should feel like you are drawing your bow downward, not pressing down. Your bow arm should followed through on full bow strokes. (Practice playing in the lower half of the bow.)

Check your posture. Bringing up the violin drops and relaxes the bow arm. If you slouch or don’t have your violin resting on the collarbone properly, the right side suffers. If the bow arm gets pushed out (think of a bridged pendulum) by the violin hand dropping, the bow arm tenses and stiffens. It’s why we don’t play resting on our left elbows (which my kid always quick to point out, is less tiring.)

arg! Totally left/right challenged, fixed to violin and bow sides

Edited: May 6, 2018, 10:30 PM · Wrist and finger flexibility (and strength!) Right hand: practice the basketball dribble, both high and slow, and fast and close to the ground. Throw darts. Make sure the little fourth finger is curved. If it is short, then let it come off the stick when playing at the tip--not locked and straight. Left hand; with all four fingers down, in the half-whole-whole-step pattern, with the left wrist straight; Release your left thumb, then put it back where it is most comfortable--it might end up opposite the second finger instead of the first! The left thumb will change position a little when playing on the E-string vs. the G-string. Keep a round hand, both hands, like you are grabbing a baseball-so the knuckles don't rub against each other.
May 7, 2018, 1:26 AM · You can also massage your wrist to loosen it up. This is described in detail in the book "The Violin Lesson" by Simon Fischer, a book you need to have anyway Phil!
May 7, 2018, 2:09 AM · I second the recommendations of Ella and Jane. I am also working with my teacher on my wrist relaxation and it happenss that a lot of it comes from tense and high right shoulder and an over-active upper arm. I am seeing good improvements just paying attention to it. I remind to myself to "exhale the air of the shoulder", if it makes sense :-)

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