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Meg
Hello, I'm a newbie to violin lab. I am having problems with my fourth finger in first position on the G string. It feels like I'm straining to reach the D (D sharp is out of the question!) without the knuckle of my first finger touching the side of the violin, and there's a lot of tension in my elbow and shoulder. I think it might be a shoulder/set-up problem because I'm grinding my jaw and chin into my chinrest. I suspect this 'Left Hand Squeezing: part 3 - Restructuring' video would really help but I can't seem to view it! Apologies if this is the wrong place to ask these questions:) -Meg
Meg
9 Responses
Posted: January 25, 2011
Last Comment: February 8, 2011
Replies

Meg
Posted: February 8, 2011
Hi Beth, Thank you so much for the video response! That answered all my questions very clearly. You were working hard while I slept! I have quite long fingers (handy for cello), but, despite that, the stretch to the fourth octave is a surprisingly big one and I think if I keep my thumb in the crook of the neck it would preclude good vibrato. So I will try shifting it around, as you demonstrated, without letting it leave the violin. Iím also very clear now about how it is used in vibrato in first position. I was wondering whether it moved along the neck to support the vibrato of the third and fourth fingers, so itís good to know that it stays put with a little scope for angle changing. Also a relief to know about the fingerboard length from you and Anne. I do suspect my fingerboard is a little short, as an E marks the end of mine (not an A). This doesnít matter at this stage, as Iím not up to the more demanding repertoire yet and it will be good for me to consolidate my three octaves. Iím also really pleased to hear that we donít play off the end of the fingerboard on the violin either, because it just does not sound good! The fellow at my local violin shop offered me a trade-in option when he sold me my violin, so I might even be able to take it back to him and get one with a normal fingerboard for free (now that I know to check it!). New violin... exciting thought! Thanks for the jaw relaxation advice too Eileen. I wonder whether Iím jutting mine as well as grinding? Iíll have to check! All I know is that relaxation sounds like a much healthier solution than copious amounts of panadol! Thank you again Beth (and Anne and Eileen) for helping with my questions! I really appreciate it. -Meg P.S Hear hear about no thumb position on the violin Anne - thank GOODNESS!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 8, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content


Eileen
Posted: February 8, 2011
Hi Meg, I have what I think is a "similar" issue as what you do with clenching your jaw. I don't clench so much as just stick my lower jaw out...which doesn't cause me any discomfort but "looks" horrendous ! Like I'm about to clobber someone with that violin..lol.

I've been working on getting rid of that tendency by focusing on relaxing from the head down...which is a good thing. The last vid I made I don't think I did that very often. Try taking some deep breaths and focus on relaxing before you put that violin up to play. For awhile make that your topmost focus as you're playing. Like any one of the zillions of "OTHER" things that one needs to work/center on when playing. It's like trying to fix that crooked bow or lifted pinkie. Making it a priority will help to get rid of it.


Anne aMaudPowellFan
Posted: February 8, 2011

Hi Meg, welcome to Violinlab. Interesting that you are coming from the cello to the violin. I know a number of people, my daughter included, who went the other way.

I can go up to the four-octave A on my fingerboard. Normally I am doing only three-octave scales, but just for fun I started to look into the Sevcik exercises for the Paganini concerto no 1 that were posted somewhere recently, and it has a perfect A major 4-octave arpeggio. So I know the A is there, right at the edge of my fingerboard, with perhaps one or two more notes to go. Now, to make something that high up sound well is a completely different story!

By the way, I believe that cellists play even beyond the fingerboard, but violinists don't. Is that correct, Beth? And certainly violinists don't let their thumb trail after the hand up the fingerboard like cellists do. Thankfully, no thumb position on the violin (not enough support for the weight, I expect).

I noticed that some of my friends' violins have shorter fingerboards (but standard string lengths). The fingerboard just stops earlier, like a part has been cut off, and the area between bridge and fingerboard is wider. Perhaps you have got one of those violins?


Meg
Posted: February 7, 2011
Ooh, my very own videos! I'm excited! Thank you so much:) They really are very helpful. The jaw clenching is giving me headaches and face ache (jaw ache)... I suspect I'm just a general tooth grinder as well which might be adding to the problem. I think as you say maybe the answer is probably just to be aware of doing it and stop. I tend to get a bit fanatical in my practice and forget to take breaks. But maybe a couple of minutes break every fifteen minutes could be the answer, so I'll give that a go. Sorry, can I also ask again about the notes off the end of the fingerboard? On my cello I can do a four octave C major scale very comfortably on the fingerboard. I'm just wondering whether I should be expecting the same range from the fingerboard on my violin (four octaves starting on the lowest string), or whether it's usual for those last few notes to be off the end.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: February 7, 2011
Hi Meg: You've posed excellent questions, and I don't have videos that address playing in the "nose bleed" part of the fingerboard. Good for you practicing 4 octave scales!! For that question and the one about vibrato, I can give you a video response. As for the jaw clenching, is it giving you headaches or jaw pain? I often grit my teeth on top of the head weight, which is bad and I have to be aware of not doing it. You can get mouth guards that are designed for "grinders" to sleep with at night.I agree that the chili peppers are a bit extreme and may also be distracting...lol. Glad to hear the tapping exercises help. I ALWAYS do those. Of all the warm ups there are, they are the most important for me, as my 4th finger is the first thing to manifest weakness if I'm not in shape.

Meg
Posted: February 7, 2011
Hi Beth, Another few questions, this time on the left hand thumb hand. My apologies if there is advice on this in a video that I've missed (I tried to look at Don Dobialka's thumb angle video, but only the first second of it played for me, then it stopped - might be a problem at my end, not sure??). I am tackling the fourth octave of G major, and I'm wondering whether the thumb always stays in that crook between the neck and the body of the violin for those high notes, or whether you release it to travel up the string. I was watching your video on vibrato in the higher positions, and it looked like your thumb stayed in the crook. So does it stay, and do I just have to practice stretching my hand? And another thumb question: in first position with vibrato, can I just check that the thumb stays where it is, even for vibrato on the third and fourth fingers? Also: I noticed that the last few notes of the fourth octave of G major are off the end of my fingerboard. Do I need a new violin, or is this normal? And (one more thing!): do you have any tips for releasing tension in the jaw, or is it just a case of taking breaks and trying to mindful not to clamp with my chin? My fiance suggested putting a chili between my teeth to teach me not to bite them together, which I thought was a neat idea but maybe a bit extreme! Thanks for your help! It's great having someone to help me with my violin, as my budget won't stretch to face to face lessons at the moment. -Meg P.S Your tapping exercises have really helped with my fourth finger. I also now have the bohn musica shoulder rest, which I think has helped my fourth finger too because it makes me feel more secure when holding the violin. It's also loosened up my shoulders a lot - they no longer feel tense after practice. It's just my jaw I have to work on now!

Meg
Posted: January 25, 2011
Thank you for the amazingly quick response Beth! Apologies, I should have looked at lesson 40 before I posted. I just watched it, and have been tapping away and I think that the tapping exercise will help because I can already feel my muscles becoming tired. So they obviously needed some strength work. I will see how I go for the next few weeks after some tapping practice:) It is also good to know that I don't need to panic about brushing the neck with my knuckle, but I shall keep my eye out for any tendency to squeeze. Thanks again:) I'm really excited to find violin lab - I've played cello for years but only just discovered how much fun the violin is!

Beth Blackerby
Posted: January 25, 2011
Hi Meg, and welcome! Thank you for catching that. That was another video with a tiny screen. That was my fault. It's there in full size now.

This 4th finger issue is very common. It's ok that your hand touches the neck when you're on the G string, you just don't want it to be squeezing. Try a couple of weeks of tapping exercises with 4th finger to strengthen it. You'll be surprised at how much easier it will feel with just a little bit of strength training. Also, check out Lesson 40 too. If it's not improving in a couple of weeks, post again, and I'll make a video response.