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How to Hold the Violin Properly

Often, freshmen violin students arrive for their first lesson exhibiting one or more bad habits in terms of holding and/or positioning the violin. Many times this is due to a lack of private instruction, something I mention in my “auditioning tips” video. Here are some helpful guidelines on this topic:

correct left hand position

Correct Left Hand Position

  1. In first position, the thumb should be about an inch from the nut, slightly bent, and touching the neck at the middle joint. There should be an open space between the lower half of the thumb and the base of the index finger – you should be able to fit a pencil through that space, and move it back and forth freely (if your thumb is clenched against the base of the index finger, this leads to tension in the left hand, which is always bad, and prohibits smooth shifting between positions).
  2. The thumb and first finger should be aligned when playing a whole step above the nut. All fingers should be curved, and nails should be short enough so that the fingers can strike the fingerboard on their tips.
  3. The wrist should be straight, NOT bent inward. You do not want the base of the thumb/left portion of the palm contacting the neck!
  4. The left arm should be positioned under the back so that you can barely see it when looking down at the top of the instrument, on the right side.
  5. When standing up straight with the feet shoulder width apart, the neck (and fingerboard) should be lined up with your left leg and foot. If the violin is positioned too far to the left, it will make it difficult to draw a straight bow, and difficult to bow all the way to the tip.
    Incorrect Left Hand Position

    Incorrect Left Hand Position

    Believe it or not, many students get into this bad habit by directly facing the music stand when reading music. This forces them to move the violin to the left in order to see the entire page. To avoid this, position your body so that the scroll is pointed about eight inches to the left of the music stand. To accomplish this, DO NOT twist your upper torso to the left. Simply keep your body straight, and face approximately eight inches to the left.
  6. The scroll should be held at about nose level. A good shoulder pad will help you do this, while at the same time relaxing the shoulder and taking some of the lifting burden off of the left arm. Low positioning of the violin looks AWFUL, and actually works against smooth movement and shifting of the left hand, and successful tone projection. Again, if you are not directly facing the music stand, holding the instrument at nose level will not prevent you from seeing the music.
  7. Look straight down at the strings. Don’t play with the left side of your face against the chinrest, even if you think it makes you look like a virtuoso!
  8. Sitting in a chair really does not change any of the above suggestions.
    Reading Music

    Reading Music

  9. A mirror can be a very helpful tool to check everything. And remember to always RELAX – there should be no tension ANYWHERE.
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