The Left Hand/ Holding the Violin

Holding the Violin:

This is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears but I will come back to that later. For my instruction, you will need a shoulder rest. It is put on by putting the violin upside down with the neck in your left hand and the scroll pointing left. You will notice that there is a tall and short end to the shoulder rest. Place the footing of the short end around the bottom edge of the violin on the side away from you and the tall end on the side toward you. Turn the violin back over. Place the rest on your shoulder/chest and place the side of your chin/jaw on the chin rest on the top of the violin. Make sure that the height of the shoulder rest is not too high or it will seem that you are stretching your neck. Also make sure that it is not too low or you will get a stiff neck from bending your head over too far. The height of the feet of the rest can be adjusted by screwing them in or out. You should be able to hold up the violin without using your hands. This is where Goldilocks comes in. The body of the violin should be level with the scroll at a 45 degree angle between straight left and straight forward. Or in other words, the scroll shouldn?t be too high, too low, too far back, or too far forward but just right. Practice putting the violin down and up over and over again until it becomes a smooth, easy, and natural feeling action.

Holding the instrument:

Much of your success in playing the violin will come from a correct understanding of how to hold the violin and bow. This can not be over emphasized. It is the foundation of all you do. If it is not learned and ingrained from the start, it will thwart your progress and you’ll eventually have to correct it anyway to continue. There is a video to view and a written description for reference.

The Left Hand (Fingering)

Try pulling the bow across a string. Great! Now let?s try and make it sound even better. There are a few principles to remember when starting to use the bow and they all must be adhered to. They are: placement or contact point, direction, pressure, usage/smoothness and hand/finger motion.

Placement/contact point: The bow rubs/moves on the string(s) in the middle between the fingerboard and the bridge (between the black and brown).

Direction: The bow should move straight or perpendicular to the strings (like a plus sign or X). Hand and finger motion will help with this.

Pressure: This is like Goldilocks and the 3 bears. If you push too hard you will get a crunch. If it is too light, it will sound airy and like a voice is cracking. Try both and then find the ?just right? in the middle.

Usage/Smoothness: Basically, use the whole bow and make it smooth and SLOW.

Hand/Finger motion: Let me illustrate this by having you try something. Make sure that you have the proper grip, put the tip of the bow up, and raise the bow up as high as possible without changing your grip. Notice you must bend the wrist down. Now lower the bow as low as possible without changing the grip. Notice you must bend the wrist back in the opposite direction. It is the same in using the bow. You HAVE to bend your wrist the same way in order to keep the bow going straight on the strings or else you will ?hook? the bow. To hook means to have the tip go over your shoulder behind you and the frog and your elbow to go behind you. The motion should come mostly from bending the wrist and elbow and NOT the shoulder. Only when you get to the last couple inches near the frog, should the shoulder move. Your hand will likely be above the bow when you get to the frog and you will press the palm of your hand toward the floor. Your wrist will of course be somewhat pronated. More on finger motion will be discussed later.

Practice bowing back and forth on each open string keeping the bow straight and adhering to all these principles.

Intonation and Tone:

The left hand: This is absolutely crucial. There are 3 places that your left hand should touch.

The pad of the thumb on the side of the neck.

The side of the 1st finger on the opposite side of the neck.

The tips of your fingers on the strings. (Your fingernails need to be trimmed short)

There should be a space between the thumb and your hand/1st finger. Your wrist should be straight. The palm should be away from the neck. The fingers should be curled over so that the fingertips come straight down on to the string where the finger-tape/note is. The exception is the 4th finger which lies straight with some downward curve on to the string. To reach the 4th finger position, you should stretch your 4th finger forward not to the side.

The finger-tapes are not absolute they are guides. Your ear is right.

DO NOT CRADLE! Cradling is when you put your palm, thumb or 1st finger under the neck for support. This comes from fearing that you will drop the violin. Be sure you can hold the violin with your chin and the shoulder rest. Up and Down: Up and down is usually in relation to pitch. On the violin fingerboard up is toward the bridge, down is toward the scroll. On the bow up is toward the tip, down is toward the frog. An up bow is moving the bow in an upward direction, and a down bow is toward the floor. On the violin the highest string in pitch is string I then II, III, IV or 1, 2, 3, 4.

Practice: Finger walking: with each string, separately bow each note starting with the open string (0) and then add and take away each finger with slow, even, straight, correct bows (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0). Stop the bow in between each note to keep it clean. Also, improvise something using any of the notes from open to 4 between 2 adjacent strings. (Ex: 1 & 2, 2 & 3, 3 & 4) Learn to meticulously, slowly and patiently invent and experiment on the violin. This will help you get to know the instrument very well and not having a set group of notes will free your mind up to concentrate on your technique.

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