No shoulder rest vibrato excercise

Edited: January 11, 2022, 10:39 AM · Hello everybody, it's been about a month since I've stopped using the shoulder rest and I'm loving it.
All the pain in the back of the neck I had when playing many hours is gone, it also feels more natural now to play the violin, more comfortable, it is not easy to describe, the sound seems bigger and the intonation easier.
One thing I'm struggling with a bit is vibrato.
I developed a wrist vibrato when I was using a shoulder rest and I used to support the weight of the violin only with my chin.
What I find difficult now is to maintain the space between the index finger and the neck of the violin when vibrating. If I do so the neck of the violin will fall between the thumb and the index finger.
I've searched a lot of discussions in this web site and found a really interesting reply of Emily Grossman dated January 4, 2009 at 04:03 AM but the pictures unfortunately are gone.

I've also found a video where Dylana Jenson explains how to develop a good wrist vibrato with no shoulder rest (at 47:35), the problem is that the video is not at high resolution and I'm not able to understand exactly on which part of the left thumb should the violin neck rest. I'm trying the exercise she propose but I'm not sure I'm doing it right, since I need to move the thumb a little higher than what I'm used to and bend it a little, I do not have tension when I do that, just want to be sure I'm doing the right thing.

Replies (18)

Edited: January 11, 2022, 10:52 AM · I returned to using a shoulder rest around 40 years ago, but..
- restless (!) players often allow a brushing contact with the base of the index;
- we simply cannot copy other folk's thumb placements: hands are as different as noses!
Edited: January 11, 2022, 3:24 PM · Paolo, you might find a bit of arm vibrato easier for first finger in the lowest neck position.

Practicing wrist/hand vibrato in third position using the edge of the violin to stabilize your arm and wrist might help get the right muscles working together correctly. Once you get that the next problem is getting it to work properly lower and higher - without the stabilizing contact with the edge of the violin.

LATER EDIT: Perhaps you should try some chinrests of different design!

January 11, 2022, 12:01 PM · "restless (!) players often allow a brushing contact with the base of the index"

The divide on this issue is fascinating. The vast bulk of mainstream literature on violin technique gives such contact as a primary and foundational aspect of good technique, yet over the last decade or two it appears that many people hold quite the opposite view. I had previously tracked that back into US pedagogical institutions but Adrian is from a different venue.

Edited: January 11, 2022, 12:37 PM · On the thumb but only against the base of the index?
With The Gap when appropriate..

As a stubby-fingered violist I need The Gap for vibrato, especially with the first finger.

To me, holding up the fiddle with my left hand is a bit like trying to lift the chair I'm sitting on, but I often do it just to vary the sensations.

January 11, 2022, 1:12 PM · I recently read in the Galamian "principles of violin playing and teaching" book that the index finger should always be in contact with the neck of the violin until the third position and in the first positions in can bet detached a little from the neck when doing a wider vibrato.
When playing with the shoulder rest I always had contact with the index finger and the neck of the violin except when vibrating.
The problem is that now without it if I do the vibrato, the neck falls between the index and the thumb as I was writing before.
Without the shoulder rest I'm holding the violin with my thumb, index finger and on the clavicle.
Edited: January 11, 2022, 3:00 PM · Both Paganni and Ole Bull placed the thumb under the neck. The appendix of this book is worth a read: I've been endeavouring to do the same (sans shoulder rest). I want to be able to vibrato without the chin touching and this position works for me, though it's a bit unstable presently.

I use this lady's technique:

also found this:

Edited: January 11, 2022, 9:13 PM · Having spent years both playing restless and rested, I can tell you that some adjustment of your left hand position and balance comes with the territory when you switch. Contact of the base of the index finger with the neck, as Galamian describes, is fine. What you don't want at that point is any pressure or squeezing.

If you look in Suzuki Book 1 you see a certain picture showing where your thumb should be. A great many fine violinists do not play this way. The violin neck can rest deeper into that slot, and this is true for a lot of good violin players who use SRs, such as Ray Chen. In your case it may be necessary to provide more support to the weight of the violin along its length. Watch Nathan Cole -- he plays restless and there are a lot of close-up shots in his videos.

The ease and success of your vibrato is actually a pretty good operational test of whether your hand position is working for you. Some adjustment of your hand balance may be needed to activate your wrist vibrato but you should be able to keep your wrist vibrato. For very low positions where the support may be more difficult, Andrew's suggestion of mixing in arm vibrato might work. I find that swinging my thumb more under the neck for low positions helps with my wrist vibrato, but I have the SR for support.

January 11, 2022, 7:06 PM · Greetings,
with or without depends on the individual, but at the same time it is useful to keep in mind that even if you wish to retain the SR, playing restless to do a reevaluation of hw you use your body when playing the violin is one of the most valuable things a player can do.
One point this discussion brings to mind might seem rather abstruse, but I personally believe it is terribly important. I first learned this from Alexander Technique lessons. That is, when we talk about holding the violin up, or supporting the instrument with the thumb, hand or similar discrete part of the body we may be inadvertently setting up psychological (and therefore physical) barrie’s to complete freedom. In fact, the violin is supported by the whole body from the soles of the feet, of which the arm and hand are part of. The left arm actually connects (in a funny kind of way, maybe links up with?) or runs all the way to the right hand side of the lower back and just happens to have a hand on the end. It is this -whole edifice- which is supporting the violin. Exploring this way of thinking can create beneficial changes with minimal effort.
Then, as an aside, we need to ensure that the general rule ‘the violin adapts to the body and not vice versa7 is being strictly adhered to.
Having given these points consideration, I suspect if one is having trouble reesatblishing vibrato at this moment then the same is probably true of shifting. Indeed, the player who chooses to go restless should, in my opinion, spend a great deal of time on shifting during the transitional phase. Useful books to works from included Yost, Sevcik opus 7?8? and Dounis Artists’s technique. The huge shifts over the length of the fingerboard at the beginning of Dounis are invaluable , as are the scale type exercises where the hand moves quickly forward and returns to a note -without - changing position.
These kinds of exercises can be practice with the scroll of the violin support and strong focus on not raising the shoulder or gripping with the jaw.
Achieving an incredible sense of freedom with these exercises may help you to get away form an over focus of the correct position of the thumb which is actually, by default, where it works at a given moment, and help the hand naturally adjust t self to find an appropriate vibrato.
Even if it doesnt’t it will certainly raise you playing to a new level…
The Max Bailie youtube videos on vibrato are -extremely- helpful BTW.
January 12, 2022, 3:42 AM · We can compare videos of Perlman and Kyung Wa Chung playing the Brahms concerto.....
January 12, 2022, 4:18 AM · @Bud
In my restless days, I too had the pad of my thumb leaning backwards under the violin neck: it was the only way I could "vibrate" with my hand shape and size. However, on viola, with stubby fingers, I often use half position.
Edited: January 12, 2022, 4:49 AM · Practicing either viola or violin I've no trouble having thumb under but the exigencies of rehearsal often get the better of me :)
January 12, 2022, 6:22 AM · good replies already, about the thumb: as long as it comfortably supports the violin, and you can have a nice classical hand frame, any thumb position that works good like that is fine. when I went restless some twelve years ago, initially I had my violin neck rest on quite the end of the thumb, as it is something one needs to get used to. however the more comfortable you are, the violin neck is supported on the thumb closer to the palm of the hand, and a light contact with base of first finger becomes possible. that is how it evolved with me personally, but it takes a good month or two-three.
January 12, 2022, 7:17 AM · Thanks everybody for the responses, really good insights.
Yes I think in the end one needs to try different things and find the best position that suits themselves.
I think I still need to find mine. Now I'm trying the Dylana Jenson
exercise I posted yesterday and see what happens.
Basically when vibrating I'm positioning the neck of the violin on the upward metacarpal bone of the thumb and trying to find the balance point by not letting the violin neck sliding in the palm of the hand.

I've seen the Max Bailie and Nathan Cole videos on vibrato, really good quality videos. It's amazing how many valuables instructional videos can be found on youtube.

Edited: January 12, 2022, 11:05 AM · Paolo,

Vibrato without a shoulder rest is something I have worked on for many years. I can share what has worked for me.

I essentially support the violin by balancing the weight between my left hand and the collar bone. The weight of my head resting on the chinrest provides stability to prevent the violin from moving forward and backward during vibrato. The weight of my head resting on the chinrest does not contribute to preventing the scroll from tilting down. Rather, the left hand does all the work in preventing the scroll from tilting down.

Finding a comfortable position to support the violin with the left hand while doing vibrato took a lot of trial and error. I get the best result by distributing the violin neck weight on the proximal phalanx of my thumb with most of the weight being distributed near the bottom joint of the proximal phalanx.

To overcome the issue of the violin neck slipping down into the palm of my hand, I lean my wrist back slightly and rotate my forearm so that essentially all four non-thumb fingers are naturally lined up with the string I am playing on. Another way to think about this is that the left hand frame is comfortably balanced on the fourth finger and the hand slightly reaches back to get the other three fingers in playing position. The end result is that your proximal phalanx of the thumb is at an angle such that it can comfortably support the violin neck while being able to accommodate the vibrato motion and keep the violin neck stable. If the neck keeps slipping, aim to keep the proximal phalanx more horizontal by experimenting with the angle of the wrist and forearm rotation.

With the left hand setup I have described, I am able to perform a wrist vibrato / hand vibrato and occasionally mix in an arm vibrato when needed. The best part is that I am able to play tension-free with no pain. Good luck with your endeavor in playing vibrato without a shoulder rest!


January 13, 2022, 1:27 PM · Also make sure to keep your left arm supported by itself -- don't let it hang from the fingerboard. I have found that when my low position 1st finger vibrato is not working I need to consciously think of lifting the arm and then it goes back to what I want.
January 13, 2022, 1:27 PM · Also make sure to keep your left arm supported by itself -- don't let it hang from the fingerboard. I have found that when my low position 1st finger vibrato is not working I need to consciously think of lifting the arm and then it goes back to what I want.
January 13, 2022, 8:40 PM · I use a finger vibrato for the first finger in lowest position. It works well if you're playing without a shoulder rest.
January 15, 2022, 12:27 AM · Greetings,
I think there is another way to approach this problem. The vibrato of each note has a kind of ‘optimal’ position. That is, if you put the finger tip down in such a way, with the hand in such and such a position etc. a nice vibrato will result. Conversely, in a sub optimal position you may be able to force some kind of vibrato but it will be neither particularly beautiful nor mechanical efficient. In stead of trying to immediately ‘add’ vibrato onto each note of an etude (for example) why don’t you try just imagining /finding the optimal position of the finger for each note of a medium paced etude with maybe six or 8 notes to a bow. Really try and imagine how the finger would look for each note -in order to produce a lovely vibrato- (probably a lot of pad and slightly flattened) and let the relaxed thumb just respond to this placement . Having played through an etude in such a way you might then actually do the vibrato while retaining the same degree of relaxation and natural finge rplacing. Let the thumb move around at will.

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