Any solutions for pancake hand?

Lisa said: Jul 30, 2009
Lisa Shaw
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
2 posts

I have a student who has been playing for about 2 years. We just can’t correct her pancake hand (hand resting on neck of violin). She has gone through good times—we drew faces on her hands so she would be a little more aware, but that isn’t really helping anymore. I have tried to think of something to stick on the neck of her violin or her hand to hinder her physically from going there, but I can’t come up with any good solutions. Both mom and I are really hoping for some ideas!!! Please help!!!

Laurel said: Jul 30, 2009
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

I worked with a colleague who claimed he taped a thumbtack onto the neck! ouch! but he says it worked!

An idea I was given in teacher training: Hold your hand against the back of the student’s wrist, and ask them to push you away. This way, they are making the straightening motion themselves.

Then get them to keep their wrist against your hand for a whole Twinkle. Again, they are keeping it pushed out; you are helping them feel how far out, plus at the same time teaching the parent how to do it at home.

Make sense? Hope this helps!

Laurel

Lynn said: Jul 30, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Is she standing with the violin parallel to the floor, not scroll down, is the violin an an angle, not pulled around in front, is her left elbow open and not planted against her rib cage, and can she hold and maintain the violin easily on her shoulder using her head, without needing her left hand to shove it back or keep it from slipping? AND if she starts out with good posture and set up, does she maintain her body posture while she plays, or does she twist and droop? If there are problems with either posture or holding the instrument, pancake hand is likely a symptom, and not a primary problem.

Laura said: Jul 30, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

How about having her practice glissandos or shifts up and down a string, to practice the sensation of finger pressure while removing the sensation of having to support the violin with her hand?

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 30, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

ow! (to the thumbtack post—I hope that no one on this forum seriously considers using that kind of tactic. Inducing physical pain as punishment is not the way to go about this, and it is definitely not in keeping with Suzuki’s philosophy of teaching in the way that a person learns a language!).

However you could put something non-painful there—perhaps a finger—and make a game of how long the student can go without touching it. Perhaps the goal could be 1 musical phrase, then half of a short song, then a whole song, or two songs, etc., etc.

Or start teaching vibrato, and use that as an excuse to absolutely insist that nothing be played without a good starting hand and wrist position.

Mikaela said: Aug 3, 2009
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

Lucy

Is she standing with the violin parallel to the floor, not scroll down, is the violin an an angle, not pulled around in front, is her left elbow open and not planted against her rib cage, and can she hold and maintain the violin easily on her shoulder using her head, without needing her left hand to shove it back or keep it from slipping? AND if she starts out with good posture and set up, does she maintain her body posture while she plays, or does she twist and droop? If there are problems with either posture or holding the instrument, pancake hand is likely a symptom, and not a primary problem.

I definitely second Lucy…a collapsed left hand is almost always due to a larger problem. Think about this: what is your student instinctively (she’s obviously not consciously trying to go against you) trying to accomplish with her “pancake” hand? Most likely, she is trying to support the violin, when her left hand should never be doing the supporting. The left hand is merely resting there while the jaw and shoulder take care of the grip and support. Work on that, and the left hand should be an easy fix.

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 3, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Mikaela

left hand should never be doing the supporting.

Although I generally agree that the weight of the head should be able to support the instrument without left hand support, I would hesitate to use a word like “never” regarding L.H. support, and especially not to the student, who may be liable to take “never” at face value. There are plenty of excellent upper string players who do use L.H. support to varying degrees. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in the end, the student should be able to use either or both at will or by instinct, while still keeping the wrist/hand near the middle of its range of motion.

Tiffany said: Aug 4, 2009
Tiffany Osborn
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Los Angeles, CA
41 posts

I “third” the comments on that posture is often the root of the problem. I am reluctant to place anything between the violin and the wrist, because ultimately I don’t want them to have that resting sensation that would be transfered from the body of the violin to the object trying to keep the wrist away- it just moves the problem over and that’s not what it feels like to play in first position. (I’ll add that I feel the violin transfers and balances between the left hand and shoulder, not exclusively held by the shoulder)

But here are some other ideas in addition to what is stated above. Perhaps you could go at it focusing on the angle of the finger tip? When you have pizza hand it makes your finger tips change.

Sometimes the problem is that their hand is not far enough down the neck, and if that is the case (I’ve mostly encountered this when the get a bigger size) you could cut a small rectangle of mole skin or something like it to place where the left thumb goes, so that when they’re preparing the left hand they can feel how far down the neck they need to go.

You could also use it as a chance to talk about phrases- at the end of a phrase in the piece you are playing stop and check in with where the wrist is- has it migrated? if so, fix it and continue. You could offer some sort of incentive- every song played with out pancake/pizza earns a chip, 10 chips equals a sticker (or whatever).

good luck!

Mikaela said: Aug 4, 2009
Mikaela CashViolin, Viola
28 posts

I assumed we were talking about a less-advanced student, who should not be taught with the concept of the left hand supporting the violin. However, I would not explain the left-hand’s role to a student with the words I used, so perhaps I mispoke. Glad you understood what I meant!

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