Tension on hand, shoulders and arms

August 4, 2019, 4:10 AM · I tend to squeeze my thumb on the neck of my violin and it’s always so sore. However, I don’t understand how you would vibrato on the violin without squeezing it? Also, my shoulder and bowing arm gets very sore after playing for few minutes.
I’m sure playing the violin shouldn’t be this tiring right?

Replies (9)

August 4, 2019, 8:03 AM · For me the violin neck rests on the thumb , and against the base of the index finger. No gripping. Thus in vibrato, the base of the index can slide on the side of the fingerboard, or even detach itself a little. So I dont "hold" the violin, I "hold it up"!

The left fingers only press down enough for a clear tone, no more.

Try approaching the violin like a slow-motion moon-walk, then "melt" the bow stroke into the string very gradually.

Playing the violin is unnatural, and unfamiliar for our muscles, but it should definitly not hurt!

August 4, 2019, 11:45 AM · I feel the same. But have exercises from my teacher which I try and implement.
August 4, 2019, 12:33 PM · Perhaps review your chin-rest and shoulder rest set-up. You should have the violin very stable, with only a little help from the thumb or first finger.
August 4, 2019, 12:56 PM · Let your right arm sag (drop) into the string. You may be putting too much physical energy into pressing the bow into the string
Edited: August 5, 2019, 10:31 AM · Learning to play without tension takes time, and perhaps even a little help to start with:


August 7, 2019, 7:06 PM · I had a revelatory moment today I'd like to share. I'm a newbie after an almost 60 year break (I played violin from ages 8-12). I too have been squeezing the neck, though I try to keep my thumb relaxed.

I've been devouring instructional material on the web, and instructors consistently say you should be able to hold the violin up with the weight of your head, and it should not feel strained. Every practice session, I spend a few minutes attempting to hold up my violin (Look mom! No hands!). And each time I can hold it up, but it definitely feels strained. Today was different. The violin stayed up as if it were weightless! And that allowed me to not need to squeeze the neck so much!

I'm using a semi-sculpted rectangular foam pad with a rubber band as a shoulder rest. I've been experimenting with exactly where to position the foam in offer to find comfort, and I'm using the chin rest that came on the violin. I'm sure that finding a comfortable shoulder rest configuration was at least half the battle. But feeling less like the violin was supported by my left arm certainly reduced the need to squeeze.

Also, I have small hands, so in the interest of reaching the 4th note, I have also been concentrating on keeping my thumb up closer to my first finger (closer to the bridge), and this seems to help as well in terms of reducing squeezing.

Being a newbie, my success was fleeting, but I swear it felt completely different -- if only for a brief time. I will continue to work on all these things (as well as a softer bow grip).

Some or all of these things might help you as well. I'm sure you'll figure it out, and I hope I can experience this feeling again soon!

August 7, 2019, 10:48 PM · Beverly--congratulations on the progress. Chin-rest: I ask all new students; is that the chin-rest that was on the violin when you bought it? They usually say yes, and then I say; then it is probably not the best one for you. The cheapest and quickest way to find your optimum chin-rest is to go to a full-service violin shop. It will be about $30 + travel. A lot of violins have the Guarneri chin-rest. The Luthiers prefer it, but it fits only a minority of players. We re-evaluate our set-up at several stages; when we start position-shifting and vibrato.
Edited: August 9, 2019, 2:22 PM · Hello Jo,

Please take a look at the late Kato Havas web site for relevant information regarding 'playing without tension'. The Approach really does work.

Best wishes


August 8, 2019, 9:18 AM · Joel - great to read your last statement. I had a setup change early this year after noticing a lot of tension and stiffness in my neck and left arm, then spent several months learning to play without that tension. Then my teacher asked me to work on my vibrato (I have a natural wrist vibrato, but I do not like how it sounds - even after extensive wood-shedding)... que: lots of tension in my left hand and shoulder, stiff and erratic vibrato, and I realized I needed to try out some different setups (my chinrest is custom made). I still have some kinks to work out but overall I'm a lot happier with my sound and vibrato only a week into my new setup.

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