tight grip on the neck of violin

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Nadia said: Jul 31, 2012
 Violin
16 posts

My 7 year-old has been learning violin for 4 years, and his current piece is #1 piece of Book 4. It seems to me that his left hand is way too tight with no space between his thumb and the bottom of his index finger. The bottom of the index finger also wraps the bottom of the neck of the violin, I’m concerned with the long term effect of such grip. His instructor of three years has never addressed this issue, and I watch a video of another instructor showing how to hold the neck in order to help my son. I would appreciate someone addressing my following questions. (Our instructor is not available during summer time.)

1. How much of the daily practices should be focused on this? And since it’s not going to be corrected overnight, how should I “pace” the progress/practice?
2. Shall I keep him from playing current piece until he gets the left hand right? Should he play beginning pieces of Book 1 only until he has the correct left hand, then reintroduce the other pieces one by one making sure his old habit doesn’t show up?
3. Should I be even doing this, since I’m not the instructor?
4. Is it time to look up another instructor who might help us focus on the fundamentals? (Our current instructor is not a registered Suzuki instructor though he uses Suzuki books and method to great extent.)

Thank you for your advice!!!

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 13, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Has your son been learning shifting and vibrato (yet)? Good shifting and good vibrato almost require a relaxed left hand.

Did you ask the teacher about it?

Does the base of the left hand feel hard or soft-ish when you touch it while your son is playing? You can’t just go on what it looks like.

Rubbing or tapping the thumb on the side of the neck of the instrument may help, if you consistently apply it to easy review pieces.

Playing a note or two (or a 1 octave scale) or a short review piece, without thumb touching the instrument at all (you may have to help support the instrument at first) might help loosen the grip. Obviously this is an exercise to get the hand loose—eventually you want the thumb to touch but not squeeze.

Playing everything with light fingers for a while—that is, touching the string as if playing harmonics (instead of stopping the string behind the finger from vibrating, which is what normally happens) may help. It sounds rather ugly or strange or spooky if done right. What I mean is: Play something easy with left hand fingers not touching the fingerboard, barely lightly resting on the string without pushing it down at all. After a week or so of doing this, then do it once this way, and the second time through, add just a penny’s weight—barely dropping weight on the string, barely making the string drop closer to the fingerboard. It should still sound odd, though ever so slightly more “solid”. After a few days of that, add a 3rd repetition with a bit more weight… after a few days, add a 4th repetition with a bit more weight in the fingers….

Eventually you should find that the tone is mostly solid and sounds good but the fingers do not have to press down very hard at all (if the string action is high enough, the fingers might not even touch the fingerboard). This should lessen the pressure of the thumb as well…

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