Proper Finger Position on the Left Hand
I have been playing violin for 6 years now and I've gone over my posture and grip of the violin and bow with my teacher several times. She has now given me conflicting information about how I position my fingers on the neck and fingerboard of the violin and now I am questioning if I even know how to hold a violin when I have an audition at a college of music in 5 months. This is infuriating and discouraging and I don't even know if I am practicing the right way or not or if I am wasting my time now. The way I have always played is represented in the first image, with just a bit of space between my fingers and the neck. The way she is showing me now is like the second picture with no space between my fingers and the neck, with the insider of my fingers touching the side of the fingerboard. Which of these is correct, or are neither of them correct? What should my fingers look like on the fingerboard?
I have several books with diagrams that are unclear for this and videos online are not helping me either.
Neither, but the 2nd picture is definitely worse than the first.
I had the palm of my hand positioned that way so that it would be easier to see what I am referring to as to the position of my fingers specifically. Maybe this is a more accurate representation of how I would hold it.
To be more clear, should my fingers be touching the neck or not? Should the fingers be flat or curved? If you notice in that third picture there is a slight gap between the neck and my fingers and they are curved which apparently is wrong ?
The side of the index finger may touch the neck in some contexts, not in others, but should never be pressing against the neck. Mine usually does not touch.
This is exactly my issue. She was showing me that my index finger should be touching the neck, which if I force myself to do that makes my fingers flat and I feel like it's impossible to play that way.
This is a little alarming.
I think you're too caught up with the aesthetics of your left hand, and not thinking enough about functionality.
Something else to add, in response to what you just posted: there are certainly instances where your index SHOULD touch the neck to provide stability. Try to take the advice in context.
Erik, if I understand the OP correctly, his concern is that his teacher is instructing him that the side of the index finger should ALWAYS be touching the neck, which is not only incorrect advice, it is destructive.
Maybe I misunderstood her, English is her third language after all. One of the pieces for my audition is Kayser's Etude No. 24 in G Minor and the context she mentioned it in was hitting the D on the G string in the first measure. It's starting to make a little more sense if what she was saying if I am playing with my fourth finger on the G string because if you don't have your fingers touching the neck a bit at that point you'd have to overcompensate by moving your elbow and palm out in order to reach with the pinky so perhaps she meant that context specifically and I misunderstood. I'll double check with her at my lesson on tuesday but its good to know I don't have to retrain my hand completely which is what I thought she was saying. From the information you provided it seems I'm doing it properly but my teacher may be right as far as my fourth finger on the G String.
OK, that makes much more sense. My index finger would contact the neck in that context.
I agree with Mary Ellen.
Left hand double contact *all the time* *under all circumstances* which is what I thought the OP was saying his teacher had said, is destructive. Even Galamian doesn't recommend that.
Everyone agrees there should be no pressing of the hand into the neck. But pressing has little to do with contact, since it reduces sensitivity for 'orienting' the hand, in Galamian's terms.
My €0.02 : I have a light contact in passage-work, and The Gap (1/32" or more) for vibrato.
As with so many threads on this forum:
Christian, can we really see that these violinists maintain the contact at all times? And would we see a 1/32 inch gap on a video?
Another guy with lots of contact:
What I see is an rather infrequent return to dual contact. But it is impossible to know from these videos the difference between a real contact and a feather-light brushing, except perhaps Capuçon.
Feather-light brushing = real contact, "slightly touching" in Galamian's words
Long story short here: everyone does things a little differently, and that's OK. People need to find what works for them, and to question their teacher when something feels off (the teacher should be able to provide an explanation of the logic behind any particular correction).
"When you're" (base of the) "index is on top of the strings, do you actively keep the index from touching the strings?"
My pleasure, Christian :) I love looking for clues, of how artists achieve their ends. I wish someone would produce videos for aficionados, not just video for 'artistic visual effect.'
Went to my lesson today and she did confirm that what she meant was to always have the inside of the index finger contacting the neck at all times. I'm finding this highly impractical and completely impossible on the e string in particular. I've come to the conclusion that while it may be beneficial to try to have this contact where possible but it's most certainly counterproductive to try to force it. I am always trying to improve my intonation however and perhaps using the double contact more often will help but again I'm not finding it practical or helpful so far to maintain this contact all the time, it feels particularly unnatural and stiff.
That Szeryng video above is amazing. The camera work is so good regarding letting you see subtle technique. Thank you!
My beginner students start without The Gap, and on the two middle strings.
Double contact is a pedagogical concept, not a technique per se: it's like straight bowing, or preparing finger patterns, keeping fingers down. It manifests differently according to individual shapes and proportions, and it may be used more or less by some than others,
Regarding the elbow: since my stubby fingers are reluctant to get longer just because I take up my viola, and to avoid pushing my elbow into my ageing waistline, I setup my CR/SR for a 30° tilt on violin, and 45° on viola.
It is worth mentioning in passing that too tight a grip between the thumb and index finger will have a damping effect on the sound -- slight perhaps, but still there. I am talking about the grip typically associated with an as yet uninstructed beginner, so it is not really applicable to most of us here. I learnt about this phenomenon for myself many years ago when I was learning the classical guitar, and it was confirmed by my teacher.
I remember getting some students in the past from teachers who actually started them, from brand-beginners, without double contact. Without exception, these students always struggled immensely with intonation and consistency.
The Julia Fischer video that Jeewon posted last is illuminating!
Christian, I may well rest the violin on the base of the index - until I play! Then it will be against, but not on, the base joint. So I consider that the right arm of the V, or U as you so rightly say, is vertical
"...now I am questioning if I even know how to hold a violin when I have an audition at a college of music in 5 months..."
After a lot of practice and trying different things out and looking back at my technique over the years and my struggle to maintain consistency with intonation I think that double contact overall is going to be helpful to me if I can learn to apply it properly. However, these are the pieces I am playing for my audition -
I think you should stop worry about retraining yourself until AFTER you take your college auditions.
The basis for his decision seems to be his teacher's instruction.
I'm going to see where I am as the date draws closer and if I feel ready then I will request the audition date. If not I'll wait until the spring. The basis for my decision is that I feel like I've reached a point in my playing where the foundation of my technique is limiting me and preventing me from achieving consistency in the things that you mentioned Scott, specifically intonation and bowings that require more flexibility from the wrist like spiccato. I think she is a good teacher but she has not mentioned my grip on the violin until a week ago which is definitely a huge oversight and I've paid her a lot of money to not teach me literally the first thing about playing. For sure I need a better teacher and I am going to try to find one. Like I said, I may or may not choose to wait depending on how quickly I can incorporate the proper contact into my playing and how good the repertoire sounds as December gets closer. If I have time this weekend I'll try to post a video of me playing the Bach at least, first with the way I've been holding the fiddle and then with the double contact for comparison.
What? Now you're saying you're limited in your RIGHT hand?
Yeah I'm questioning everything I've been doing for years now and I feel like I don't know anything any more and it's really discouraging. I'm trying to learn from a variety of sources now like videos online and there is so much information that I don't know who is right or wrong or if I am doing anything right so it's really pulled the rug out from under me when I was about to audition for music school.
to OP- it may be that your teacher has tried to tell you things, but somehow you haven't heard them or implemented them. Coming to conclusions on your own and seeking advice on the internet will not help you as much as good communication with your teacher. I'd recommend you seek better communication. There are all sorts of intermediate steps a teacher may take you through, and some of them may be "wrong" for a virtuoso or advanced player, but may be a step up for you. Talk and find out what progression the teacher has in mind. Your left hand position is also highly dependent on having the proper violin position in general, and all technique is dependent on eliminating tension, so it's difficult to just get "directions" about "how" to do things when there could be an underlying issue that's not going away.
Communication is a serious problem with my teacher. For one thing I can say with confidence she absolutely never instructed me on my hand set up. Also English is her third language, so she has a hard time articulating things to me quite often. I'm not saying I'm going to stop seeing this teacher entirely but for sure I am going to find another one to help. As far as looking online you're probably right, but I am looking online for videos for the first time since I was teaching myself before I got a teacher because I am trying to get someone to actually describe certain techniques to me in a manner my teacher hasn't been able to. I'm not looking at random videos on youtube though because obviously anybody can do that, I've been looking at violinmasterclass.com tutorials which seem to be a reliable source of information. The only issue is I don't have anyone to tell me if I am doing what is shown in those videos correctly.
Here's a quick video of me playing some of the Bach I made quickly this morning where I am holding the violin like I have been for years without my teacher ever mentioning until a week ago that I wasn't holding it properly. My intonation is even more all over the place than usual because I've been playing with double contact all week but you get the idea, I recorded it with my back turned so you can clearly see the gap between my hand and the neck.
I watched your video.
No I agree with you completely and these are concerns I've expressed myself. I am aware my bow hand is far too stiff and I think there is an issue with my bow grip as well that I need to work out and I am more than aware and frustrated with my intonation which I feel is directly linked to the fact that I was never introduced to the idea of double contact until a week ago. This is exactly why I am feeling that I have to start from scratch and retrain both my left and right hands. I will most likely not audition in December but wait until I have these issues sorted. The main problem is that I have been paying a retired orchestra musician to teach me this way for 6 years and I have no idea who I am going to learn from. The time frame is not my concern because I already accepted once she mentioned my hand set up that I was going to have to start all over again and that being ready in five months would be impossible. Now I just have to find a better teacher which will not be easy.
That's the right attitude. I commend you.
Of course I won't give up. I've already invested thousands of dollars of my own hard earned money into this and countless hours of practice and I'm also a composer I've been making music since I was 12 so giving up is simply not possible. I'm contacting the strings department at the school I want to go to and asking for teacher recommendations, I'll find a new teacher and start over and when I am ready I will audition.
No I didn't mean give up on violin/music. lol
oh ok well either way it's true I will continue to try this is what I want to do. I just hope I can find a good teacher here in Tampa.
You should have no problem finding a good violin teacher in Tampa. I'd start with current members of the Florida Orchestra.
As I mentioned before I am a composer as well (luckily my ability to compose is much much better than my ability to play for the time being at least), so my main goal as a violinist is to compose and perform my compositions. I'd like to play in an orchestra one day. I can't get a degree in composition without a degree with the instrument first though so I have to do violin performance followed by musical composition. I've already contacted both the head of the string department at USF for teacher recommendations and I've contacted the Florida Orchestra to ask about lessons from their violinists as well.