Players w/o a shoulder rest: In pieces where you're always vibrating, does the base of your index f

July 22, 2017, 2:04 PM · A little bit ago—I ditched my shoulder rest and I'm liking it a lot. Lately, I've been learning vibrato, and am having a hard time holding the violin.

As practice, I've been playing pieces without making any index-finger contact, so that the violin is supported only with my thumb—but this is... difficult. The instrument always feels like it's going to slip, and sometimes the neck falls fully between my thumb and index.

Am I holding it incorrectly, or should I not be trying this exercise at all?

In pieces where you're using vibrato most of the time, are you usually supporting the violin with only your thumb? Or do you folks w/o a shoulder rest have a good vibrato making contact with the base of your index? If the former, would you mind describing where on your thumb the violin sits?

I would love a picture or two, too, if that's not too much to ask.

Replies (10)

July 22, 2017, 3:58 PM · Try vibrato with a shoulder rest. When I do vibrato, the side of my index is very close to the neck and it may hit the neck occasionally. When I play without a shoulder rest, I try to let the violin rest mostly on the shoulder so the left hand doesn't have to support it too much. The weight of my left arm helps to hold up the violin without a shoulder rest.
PS: I use a shoulder rest 99% of the time, but have played briefly without one.
Edited: July 22, 2017, 4:17 PM · From what I have read, players who do not use SR generally have more contact of their index finger against the neck of the violin. That has been my experience too.

I played without a shoulder rest my entire childhood (ages 5 to 17). When I returned to the violin 25 years later, one of the reasons I decided to try using a shoulder rest was to allow the release of my index finger and facilitate vibrato, shifting, etc., which were weak aspects of my technique. Maybe I could have learned those things without SR and with index finger contact, but my setup just seemed more natural with the SR. You might be perfectly fine without one. Lots of players are, obviously.

July 22, 2017, 5:04 PM · You need some contact to help stabilize. Even with the index finger contact the hand should still be relaxed. Remember it is only RESTING on the thumb and index finger, the thumb and index finger are not "holding" the violin. And god forbid your hand "grip" the violin!

As you become more comfortable holding the instrument you will be able to release the index finger more. I can't take pictures now, but maybe tomorrow if you think it would be helpful.

July 22, 2017, 11:17 PM · I play restless and my violin's neck makes contact with the soft webbing between the thumb and first finger when playing on the G string, and up to the base of the first knuckle when playing on the E string.

To accomplish vibrato in this setup, your motion will need to be a rotational one emanating from the elbow/forearm. Flapping the wrist back and forth won't work.

Edited: July 23, 2017, 3:49 AM · As I've been trying to get away from what I can only describe as shoulder vibrato (everything moves) in the last week and into forearm/wrist vibrato (elbow is still but wrist and back-of-the-hand stay in line with each other) I've found the torque very demanding. It's quite a chore without SR and CR compared to the easy relaxed but slow shoulder vibrato.
July 23, 2017, 9:07 AM · Javi start slowly with preparatory exercises. I suspect you are currently forcing a vibrato, something which is possible with a SR but not without. Begin with exercises for loosening your first joint and your base joint, and other preparatory exercises. You can find everything in the Vibrato chapter of Simon Fischer's book "Basics".
July 27, 2017, 6:32 PM · My index finger is almost always in contact with the neck, including during vibrato. The exception would be actual first finger vibrato, in low positions, and only when it needs to be particularly wide/free. You can see video here, although it's sometimes from an angle that doesn't explicitly show the index finger contact:

July 28, 2017, 10:42 AM · In the video the initial vibrato is so wide you must be sliding the finger? It goes down nearly a semitone.
July 28, 2017, 10:17 PM · No sliding, only rolling! But of course that's wider than I would use in actual performance. This is just to help develop the motion. As the oscillations get faster they also get narrower.
July 29, 2017, 6:12 AM · I discovered that the *portion* of my finger that is in contact with the string matters a lot in how much depth I get. If the contact point is lined up closer to the middle of my fingernail, not much. If off to the side some, then I get more. Seems especially important in low positions on the E string.

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