Very high positions without a shoulder rest
I would like to preface this with the assertion that I do not intend for this to be a war between the two factions.
I have been practicing without a shoulder rest for a couple of weeks intermittently and the greatest difficulty has come when shifting into the very high positions. Approaching the 3 third octave of F and upwards, my thumb is on the verge of slipping out of the crook of the neck. I am worried that the added element of nerves (and sweat) might cause my thumb to completely lose contact. How should one combat this; is a shoulder rest in order to be able to secure the violin >8 position. My hands are of average size although my thumb is a bit on the shorter side.
Details of posture, left hand hold and relaxation come into this a lot, as does a teacher to observe and correct where necessary.
Adam, out of curiosity, do you find any hindrance or difficulty in transitioning approximately between 3rd position and fourth? That is to say between the position where index finger touches violin neck (1st to 3rd) and when it leaves the neck.
From first to third is somewhat uncomfortable, definitely not as smooth as I’d like. 3-4th doesn’t really pose any problems.
Sorry I mean specifically shift from 3rd to fourth (although that may be fourth to fifth). The shift between different hand shapes.
I'm a beginner and don't have any problems playing in the highest possible. I mean, I can't control that area at all, but I have no problems playing there, noodling.
What type of chinrest are you using?
I do not use shoulder rest anymore, but do use a wedge.... so not really an expert. However, it is generally accepted that if the scroll is a bit higher than the other side of violin at the collar bone, the left hand is paradoxically descending the fingerboard, not climbing up. Moreover, the balance point of violin is more toward the collar bone. What I have heard so far is that going from upper to lower positions restless is more challenging, although there are some trick with the thumb.... if insecure, or while experimenting, practice by standing right next to your bed, (your legs touching the edge and violin above it) with pillows and comforters spread across. If you drop your violin it will land on the soft cushion. Have a mirror or 2 and look at your posture... the last thing you want to do is to lift your left shoulder.
I move my thumb onto the ribs of the instrument when I've gone stratospheric on the A and E strings. For the D and G, I slide it onto the side of the fingerboard. I also have a tall chinrest that lets me get a good squeeze on the violin when I need it.
Erik Williams, I am currently using a Guarneri chin rest. I experimented with a center mounted Flesch and the tall SAS , but I found both to be uncomfortable, as though I had a block between the violin and my jaw/chin.
Rocky, that is why I asked about the shift between lower position hand frame and upper (especially going down). The motion of the thumb I found to be jerky and not fluid. My teacher (who uses a shoulder rest) teaches that at that point, there is a fluid movement of the hand, from a lower hand position where index touches neck of violin to an upper hand shape where the finger are curved/arched above the string, elbow to the right, no contact between index finger and violin neck. To be able to transition, you would need to rotate the hand around and over the violin neck, but the thumb gets in the way, especially the proximal joint. It is easier for shoulder rest users(or those with wide shoulders) because they rely less on carry the violin with their hand. Another issue might be the specific hand shape and how setback the thumb is relative to the other fingers.
I found these videos to be very helpful with this:
Ok, Guarneri chinrest is actually good for this situation, in my opinion.
I use the Guarneri “bar” exclusively and I play restless. I should probably either get it raised to be taller by a luthier or get a center mount CR, but honestly on me you get used to balancing the violin you use it so little I haven’t bothered. It would have been helpful earlier, though. I’ll probably get it done for my kids when they get bigger.