left hand and posture


Ronald Hoffman said: Aug 29, 2011
 4 posts

hi, i’m new at teaching and i’m just trying to get some little kids started. one of them is not very good at holding the violin high on his shoulder. i finally got him (mostly) to hold it on his shoulder, but as soon as he puts his hand up to try fingers, it all collapses and he has a bookshelf, the fingers are flat instead of curved, and the violin comes down under his chin and i’m right back where i started—any suggestions?!?!?!?

Paula Bird said: Aug 29, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

I would spend a great deal of time checking out the setup to make sure that this isn’t the problem. When shoulder rests (or wedge sponges) are not set up properly, the student has a hard time holding the violin in place. I actually do not like many shoulder rests for young students because they are so difficult to fit a constantly growing student. I prefer to use the wedge sponges. I keep numerous sponges in a box in my studio and change them out frequently when a child grows. Sometimes we go to bigger sponges, and sometimes we go back to smaller ones.

After determining that the shoulder rest is not the problem, I would check things like whether the student is left- or right-eye dominant. Sometimes students pull their heads around to look at what they are doing and they use their dominant eye, and this causes the instrument to move out of whack and eventually slip further down.

I also determine whether the student is a visual learner. These students tend to pull the instrument around and down in front of them to make things easier “to see.”

When the student begins a “growth spurt” phase (usually evidenced by a twisting tummy in the hip area), I ask the parent and student to do a 90-degree thing for a week or two. We stand completely at 90 degrees, violin pointed out to the left, and tummy and hips straightened out and pointing forward. Adults would not be comfortable doing this, but kids are resilient enough and this doesn’t seem to bother them. After about two weeks of this, the student relaxes and goes back to the violin pointing at 10:30 or so, but the twisting problem has gone away.

Other games to try:

“no hands”: have the student hold the violin correctly, maybe with a toy balanced on top, and drop the left hand. I start out with a count of 10 and then build up the time.

“shake hands Twinkle”: play Twinkle theme but shake left hands on every A-A-E-E place; this is similar to the “no hands” game above.

“stolen violin”: when the violin looks like it’s slipping, find an opportunity to steal the violin away from the child. If done right, the child is completely astonished, and everyone starts giggling because the violin let the student get “tricked.”

“opposite force”: if I want a student to hold their violin up, I pretend I’m resting my arm on top of their violin scroll and I push down. A student who is not holding the instrument correctly cannot make this game work. We have a lot of giggles with this.

When I tune the instrument, I put a bean bag on the child’s shoulder, so that they get used to the feeling of what a violin will feel like when it’s resting on the shoulder.

There are so many possibilities here, but I believe the shoulder rest is the best place to start. Some of my blog posts that might help:



Hope this helps!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Rachel Schott said: Aug 30, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Well Ronald welcome to the wonderful world of teaching beginning violin! Paula’s right. For every student there is a whole host of potential reasons behind a crummy violin hold.

I would add to look at the big muscles first: your student’s back, belly, legs. There should be a stillness, strength, and sense of confidence in the ‘core’ before the violin can rest comfortably. Is the child particularly wobbly? Or wiggly?

Take your time. Drop the bow. Practice touching the neck only (not putting fingers down). Do this 10,000 times. Touch only the first finger softly. Count to 5 while the child keeps his fingers tall, and the violin in the right place. Do THIS 10,000 times. Come up with 25 steps between 1.Holding the violin and 2.’Trying the fingers’ as you put it.

We have a million tricks for you—but you have to be willing to go slowly and hang in there before rushing on. Keep trying. You’ll figure it out.

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