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Kirsty Cameron

Hi Everyone,

I have been trying to learn the violin for 12months now. Until i tried to learn vibrato recently, i did not realise what a problem my left hand was in. I can not get my hand to comfortably leave a space between the neck and  the first finger. I get such a cramp in my wrist trying to reach further around the neck that i dont think that i will be able to continue. and this has come from only practicing on the e and a strings. dont even think about D and G. My method before trying to learn vibrato had the neck resting on the base nuckle for most of the time.

I believe this is because i have short pudgy fingers and i suppose short arms as well. ARe there any accomplished fiddlers out there with short fingers that can give me hope that my hand will adapt? Is there maybe some tricks to utilise for short fingered players? I have even tried to take up the guitar recently to get my fingers to stretch. I have re-watched all the early one videos about holding the violin correctly and the left hand position so i think i am holding them in the right way.

I am unable to get a  live intructor as i live in a rural area that has no fiddle teachers. Cello yes....but not violin. Go figure.

Any help would be appreciate. I don't want to give up just yet.


Kirsty Cameron
6 Responses
Posted: March 26, 2012
Last Comment: March 27, 2012

Beth Hyde
Posted: March 27, 2012
Hi Kirsty,

I'm struggling with the same problem and though there is slight improvement (especially on A and E strings) it is a tediously slow process. One thing I have started paying attention to is how much I really lean on my left hand/arm/shoulder throughout the day. I've started conciously changing those other bad habits (like resting my hands on my laptop as I type) and it seems to work. It seems to be a mental connection more than anything else but I'm determined to break this habit. Keep going and know you're not alone.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 26, 2012
Hi Kristy,

Since I made those videos (knowing this was a huge issue for string players), I didn't realize just how much. There is certainly an acceptable amount of contact that can happen with the hand, so I guess the contact points really fluctuate between2 and 3. I don't know if you've seen this video, but it also address the contact/squeezing issue of the left hand.

Also, do a search in the google box on the main page of the forum, and you'll find many posts on the subject. 

I don't think it's necessary to down size your violin, but I can tell you, it did wonders for me. FOr me, the slightly shortened string length made it easier to reach extensions, play octaves, etc.

Kirsty Cameron
Posted: March 26, 2012

Thanks Eileen and Dave. Just your words have given me the encouragement to keep going.

After posting i checked out more of Beth's videos and saw the ones where she focus' of exercises for the left arm and hand. Ill focus on those for a few weeks and see how i go. I am even going to being the violin in to work so i can pick it up while i wait for the computer to crunch numbers.

The video idea sounds like a good one. I will definately consider filming and uploading.

I always thought Beth's hands and fingers looked long and slender as she handles her violin. Maybe if i traded mine if for a slightly smaller model, I would have more luck. I love my violin though. Bought second hand from a strings shop in Brisbane Australia. I went in and told the owner how much money i had. He lined up the instruments i could purchase for that amount and played them all for me so i could pick the one with what i thought was the best sound. Its got character.

Thanks again guys. Im very happy i found violin lab.

J. David
Posted: March 26, 2012
Hi Kirsty,
I'm working through the same thing right now, it's hard to get that separation after resting the neck on the base knuckle for so long. I think it'll be some months before I'm comfortable with it, more months to be able to incorporate it into my playing,  and  more months again before it actually sounds good.  For now, I'm content just to do vibrato scales while maintaining the separation, even that can be a challenge! Take a look at:
Left Hand Squeezing: part 5 - How Much Space, Really?
The need for/amount of separation seems to be variable, depends on what you're doing.
Hang in there, it'll come eventually.

Posted: March 26, 2012
BTW Kirsty,

Welcome to the V-lab community !!    ;-)

Posted: March 26, 2012
Hang tight CAN do it !

Have you ever seen Itzhak Perlman's fingers ?   Look him up on Youtube and watch him play that violin !   For the life of me I can't figure how someone with such large "sausage" fingers like that EVER learned how to play the violin....but he did ! IS possible !

He started when he was a very young boy, so that's most likely an advantage to him, but I too have very small hands, and Beth says that she does too.  You have to make adjustments for such.....just as someone with very long arms and fingers has to learn to make adjustments for that as well.  Beth plays on a 7/8th violin...I use a 4/ is a bit harder for me to reach around to the G string and you do have to be careful so to avoid injuring go carefully and listen to your body. 

Set aside trying vibrato for now......The first thing I would suggest for you to work on ...and the most to relax that left hand/arm/shoulder.  Beth has many videos with exercises and techniques to help you to do that.  Take your time and get that right and you will eliminate a LOT of troubles down the road !  There is one where she shows how to train your arm/elbow to come around to the front to make a better angle to reach those strings.   you can also adjust your shoulder rest to tilt your violin so that the face of the violin is more vertical (not actually vertical, but more so)...not sure how to explain that....but that's what I have to do to get over to that G string. 

The violin is a very uncomfortable instrument to play until you figure it out, and even then it's just...awkward !    Persist and you'll find a way to overcome those issues.  It really is true that where there's a will....there is a way !   I've seen people with no arms play classical guitar and I've also seen a one arm fiddle about persistence and finding a way !

Do you have a way to upload a video so Beth can see what you're doing ?   If you can do that she can give you some specific advice that will be very helpful to you.  :-)