Thumb under neck

Edited: May 1, 2020, 6:58 AM · This came up in a thread last week. Here's another reference I came upon this morning for the thumb supporting under the neck from a Kreutzer guide (Cutter pg. 32 (1903)):

Swing the hand freely around the corner in shifting upward.
Draw the thumb back before going into the third shift. We would mention again, in this connection, that many of the best violinists play with the thumb bent freely backward behind the hand, the neck of the violin resting on the thumb instead of being pinched between the thumb and the base of the forefinger. Such a holding facilitates the playing of a passage like this one in question; it allows the hand to move freely and with the least hinderance. Furthermore, we would say that in extensions, except in those which follow the open string, some lower finger must he held down to keep the bend in place. This difficult study should be played until flexibility has been gained. So considerable are some of the difficulties that to master them means a decided growth of the ear.

Replies (7)

May 1, 2020, 9:29 AM · That's all fine and dandy unless your hands are as big as mine and your thumb would touch the heel of the pegbox from second position. There are also many great violinists who keep their thumb peeking out over the fingerboard. Heck, Roman Kim uses it to actually finger the G string. But maybe that's an exception.
Edited: May 1, 2020, 9:36 AM · Yes and yes..

- Even those who like a constant contact with the base of the index will need to forgo it sometimes (if not often..), and then the thumb comes into its own. If like myself one cannot get the main part of the thumb to be horizontal (except on the lowest string), the pad of the said thumb can go back under the violin neck, let's say from 4th or 5th position upwards.
- Extensions should probably be learned as real new finger groupings, with all fingers down, even if there is a "1/4-position" adjustment.
But once the hand, wrist and arm have assimilated their new shapes, we can liberate most or all of the other fingers, which still "hover" over their notes. It can sopmetimes be better to extend the index backwards and advance the hand a little. Consciously. We can also "rock" the hand over the 3rd finger to play a 4th finger extension.

E.g. tritones: 1,2,high3,high4 ; or low1,low2,3,4, according to context.
OR, opening the 4 fingers symmetrically, with the hand in a "quarter-tone" position. To be learned as a clear third alternative.

Edit: Between Cotton's farmer's hands and my stubby ones, we should cover most situations!

Edited: May 1, 2020, 11:36 AM · I thought thumb under neck was a gesture in Freemasonry!
(It might also be why the Royal Masonic Hospital might not have bothered with a scalpel for its throat operations).
May 1, 2020, 1:29 PM · “many of the best violinists play with the thumb bent freely backward behind the hand, the neck of the violin resting on the thumb...”.

Too bad Perlman, Heifetz and Hahn didn’t get this memo. Imagine how they’d play if they did this..

Edited: May 1, 2020, 1:38 PM · Pedagogies take generations to set in.
Edited: May 1, 2020, 2:16 PM · Good pedagogy works right away.
May 1, 2020, 2:14 PM · It does sound a bit like what Dounis used to teach, a fairly straight thumb supporting under the neck.

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