Left Hand Tension / Sluggishness / Intonation
No matter what I do I can't get my left hand fingers to move fast enough to keep up with my bow and so the notes are not articulated clearly at moderate to fast tempi. I have tried many things to alter my posture to no avail. My left hand feels tense all the time and I can't figure out how to properly hold the instrument to have dexterity and consistent intonation. My teacher is an orchestra musician and seems unable to help. Any advice for how to relieve left hand squeezing and improve intonation? Obviously intonation requires ear training but I can tell there is a separate issue of my fingers not being able to reliably sit comfortably on the fingerboard and hit the same notes consistently even if I am aware of their tuning.
When a student comes to me with this issue, the first thing I ask them to do is to play something--a scale, etude, or their solo--with "whistles," that is, with the fingers of the left hand just barely touching the string as if playing every note a harmonic.
Eric, a couple of points. It seems to me that poor posture/hold is at the root of your problems.
What Mary Helen said. Your violin setup may also make it harder than it needs to be. What instrument are you playing?
Tension in the hands are connected. Check your bow hold and maybe try a different bow. You may be compensating for something unexpected, just see what happens.
Mary Ellen's reply is the answer; the light fingers will eliminate the excessive tension thus allowing fast articulations, and the fingers will be able to make the micro adjustments required for good intonation.
I would love to share some thoughts! Unlike many other folks on this site, I am not a teacher - just a student like yourself.
I use a shoulder rest but on my 17 inch viola I can play all of the notes up top and down low with a strong vibrato. This I likely because I’m tall and have large hands. However I think much of it is also likely because I developed a freedom and flexibility in my holding of my rather challenging instrument. I think no shoulder rest playing can be hugely beneficial for playing with shoulder rest as it was for me.
Like Anita writes, "hand frame" is the magic word here, and "finger independence". Try lots of left-hand exercises. Some sources for these: first page of Schradieck "School of Violin Technique" was already mentioned by Anita; the first page of Sevcik opus 1 is very similar. Also first exercise of Dounis "Daily Dozen". Generally for this kind of problem solving, Simon Fischer's book "The Violin Lesson" is very valuable. Keep up the spirit!