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Elke Meier
This discussion includes members-only video content

Today I have a pure practice video, because I am a little insecure whether I go in the right direction with the change in my thumb position. I just notice that something HAS to change. Just, whether these are the right changes, I don't know and would very much appreciate your input.

All other explanations are in the video. Sorry for the sound. I have been rather sick all week, my voice was completely gone, and not much has come back yet. But tonight was a good match for the video otherwise, so I just hope you can understand what I say.
Elke Meier
45 Responses
Posted: March 3, 2015
Last Comment: March 18, 2015
Replies

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 18, 2015
I'm also guessing broad handed people have a nice cushy pillow of thumb/palm muscle that makes for a nice comfy ledge. Hillary's hands are pretty buff!


Posted: March 18, 2015

And this one, by Vengerov again. I think the deep cradle is shown particularly well around 5:40 and 7:40 in the video. Sometimes it looks like he has wide hands with shorter fingers, kind of like my own. (Maybe that's why the deep cradle felt so good to me when I tried it out.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSAMK3kiz5c

And this one by Heifetz - lots of players have a deep hold, it seems. Food for thought.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q-Zqz7mNjQ



Posted: March 18, 2015

I just came across another image of a "deep cradle" left hand hold from another obvious master - Vengerov is the guy's name. I encountered this video by following one of Maria's video links (Perlman -> Vengerov) on vibrato. Thanks Maria!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y7GLMRkCUg

Here's a snapshot from the video showing his deep hold. I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem like his fingers are extra long, and his vibrato is wonderful, despite the "high" thumb that you see in the picture. It would be really interesting to see all these master players up close, in slow motion, on the same pieces of vibrato music.




Posted: March 9, 2015
My, my...I go away from this thread for just a couple of days and look at all of the responses!  It's definitely a topic that has many takes and also one that has been nagging at most of us.

I really liked Michael's comment about, "...it is best to just let it go along for the ride..."
Fabian makes a good point too...it is about physics.
Beth reiterated that we all have different hands, (great video BTW,) and that we need to adjust by how our own physiques are in relation to the violin.  Personally, I have big hands and long fingers.  If I were to put my thumb way under the neck, I'd be a mess.  I'd have fingers all over the place.  Yet, someone with small hands may need to go further under the neck in order to wrap their hand around and get the fingers in their proper position. 

One thing I did pick up in Beth's video is that we don't want to use our first, index finger knuckle as a ledge.  Do I have that right, Beth?  That's definitely something that I do and I find that it probably leads to squeezing...another problem that keeps cropping up for me. 

Elke, I hope that you're feeling better by now.  Let us know how the hand position adjustments work out for you. 

~ Cindy


Posted: March 8, 2015
Kevin,
I think you over simplify everything. There are far more forces at work.


Posted: March 8, 2015

Since this is a violin lab site interested in deep knowledge, it's probably worth mentioning a few words on how forces affect the position of the thumb contact point.

For now, let's just consider the three main forces – finger pressure, squeezing pressure, and thumb pressure.

Finger pressure comes down through the fingerboard, more or less perpendicular depending on what string your are playing on. Squeezing pressure is a more sideways force through the neck, and for convenience we will say that squeezing pressure originates somewhere near the first finger base knuckle, and points towards the thumb contact point.

Thumb pressure must exactly offset both finger pressure and squeezing pressure.

To the extent that finger pressure is greater than squeezing pressure, the thumb contact point will move down lower on the neck, to offset the stronger finger pressure force. If you have zero squeezing pressure going on, the thumb will be at its lowest point on the neck, offsetting finger pressure alone at 180° from the finger pressure direction.

To the extent that squeezing pressure is greater than finger pressure, the thumb contact point will move upward on the neck, to offset the stronger squeezing force more effectively. If you are squeezing like mad, and are using harmonic finger pressure, the thumb will be at its highest point on the neck, primarily offsetting the squeezing pressure at more or less 180° from the squeezing pressure direction.

To the extent that your violin is not supported well by your shoulder and chin rest, it will need some sort of support from the left hand, and that will normally require some degree of squeezing (unless of course you have a deep cradle hold, which supports without squeezing).

Just playing with some combinations of forces now…

Suppose you are a beginner who presses too hard on the strings. Suppose also that you have the idea in your mind that a high thumb contact point is the right way to hold the violin. Your thumb should be low in order to offset the high finger pressure, but instead it is up high for some reason. So the only way that you can offset the strong finger pressure (without relocating the thumb downward nearer to a 180 degree position) is to squeeze like mad until the vertical component of the thumb pressure is strong enough to offset the finger pressure. (The solution to this problem is to move the thumb lower down on the neck, closer towards the hundred and 80° offset position from finger pressure.)

Or suppose you have not much support from your shoulder and chin rest, so that you have to support the violin with your left hand. That requires some degree of squeezing, maybe quite a bit. Accordingly, your thumb contact point will move up on the neck, which means that it will be less effective at offsetting vertical finger pressure. Hopefully you have a light touch on the strings, but if you press a little too hard on the strings, we are back to the previous scenario.

Because high thumb contact points are not efficient at offsetting finger pressure, you will have to squeeze like mad again to offset strong finger pressure. In this case, the squeezing pressure of a high thumb contact point must squeeze enough for finger pressure, plus squeeze enough to support the violin. I would guess that this is the scenario where you would get maximum squeezing pressure.

Finally, if your violin is well supported by your shoulder rest and chin, you won't need to squeeze to support the violin. And if your thumb is low enough to be about 180° offset from finger pressure, you will not need to squeeze to generate counter pressure. In this scenario -- which is probably characteristic of most good players -- there is very little squeezing force going on (if any), and the thumb contact point is probably very close to 180° offset from finger pressure.

Keep in mind that it is the thumb contact point that we are mostly interested in. As Beth pointed out, if you have really long thumbs, the thumb contact point can be a considerable distance away from the tip of the thumb that shows above the violin neck.




Posted: March 8, 2015

Hi Beth, thanks for the words of advice. I agree with you on all points.

Yes, I experimented with the neck touching the bottom of the V. It's really not so bad, and yes it does create some drag for shifting. But not much more than just my thumb dragging along during a shift. I think what happens is that all skin touching the violin - fingers, thumb, ball of the thumb joint, palm, side of the first finger - all of them must lighten up the touch while the shift occurs.

Yes, I agree with your 0700 - 0800 contact range too (maybe 0630 - 0800), since that area is directly opposite "sloped" finger pressures (and maybe with a tiny bit of sideways squeezing pressure from the first finger base knuckle area) that don't go perfectly perpendicular through the fingerboard. (The fingerboard is curved anyway, so for example, playing on the A or E strings would naturally require a counter pressure force at 0630 or 0730.)

Yes, thanks for your advice to try some shifting. I've been doing shifts to (mostly) 3rd and (sometimes) 5th position along with my vibrato practice, to give myself some variety in hand movement and notes for vibrating, and to encourage my vibrato to "fire" immediately on landing on a new note. Having loose wrist and finger joints and isolating the right muscles for vibrato is one thing, getting them all to fire on time to the beat of the music after a quick shift up or down is another thing entirely!

And I've learned that shifting down on the G string is tricky, since when the elbow rotates in to facilitate the long finger reach to the G string, the plane of shifting also rotates, and creates an angular difference with the longitudinal direction of the neck. So if I just shift (by bending the elbow) like I do on the other strings, the misalignment drags some skin along the violin neck, jars the violin a bit, causes a glitch and a bounce in my smooth bow, etc. I have now learned to shift "inward, rightward" as I shift up on G, and to shift "outward, leftward" on a shift down, to maintain perfect alignment between the neck and the shifting plane.

I continue to marvel at the many delicate angles and forces that are at work in violin playing. Quite the interesting challenge, to keep them all integrated and coordinated to produce a beautiful sound.

PS. For what it's worth, I continue to play with my original "low thumb" position, 180 degrees from the finger pressure. My contact point, as Beth points out, is rarely at exactly the 0600 position. I think it gets there vibrating on the G string, but usually my thumb contact point is in the 0630-0700 range while vibrating (where I seem to need zero squeeze and perfect offset), and in the 0700-0800 range (sometimes even higher) when it's ok for me to do a little squeezing (neck not touching the webbing at the bottom of the V) at particular places in a song. Maybe I'll try a deep cradle again one day, but I sure love the freedom of movement using a traditional low-thumb position for now...


Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 8, 2015
Kevin, I don't know if your deeply cradled hand has you resting the neck on the webbed skin at the very bottom of the V, but if it is, I would caution strongly against that. Even though we can't see underneath James', Hillary's, ot Itzhak's violin neck, I'm darn near positive they're not touching the neck to the bottom of the V. 

My strong feeling is that most classical violinists main point of contact on the violin neck somewhere from the 7:00 to 8:00 spots. - (given the top of the fingerboard is high noon, directly underneath is 6:00, the hand side of the neck is 3:00). It's the contact points of the thumb that varies so much. Some have the pad of the thumb in those general locations, whereas others touch on or right above the hump of the thumb knuckle near the palm of the hand. It gives the hand entirely different looks and added to that the difference in finger sizes that's why we  have high and low thumbs. (James Ehnes has the longest fingers and thumb I've ever seen!) If his thumb were the size of Hillary's, his hand would probably look more like hers. My guess is that they have similar contact spots, but since his thumb is huge, it extends and wraps around the neck). If there's skin actually touching the bottom of the neck, and given the shape of the hand, it would wrap all the way around, it will create a lot of drag when shifting. I would incorporate beginning shifting exercises into your practice to get a feel for the "big picture": A time when you will be shifting frequently all around the violin.


Posted: March 7, 2015

Hi Elmer, I agree with your point. It's not only guys with big hands. I'm just guessing that anyone with normal or wide / stubby hands could access a kind of deep cable hold. Here's a frame I clipped from the Hilary Hahn link you provided -- I'd say her hand looks more normal than thin (thin with long fingers is like the Schindler's List girl in a link below).

The more I play around with a deep cradle hold, the more I learn about the angles and radius of motion that goes on. It turns out most of my vibrato in that position actually uses the ball of my thumb as the pivot point, since the cradle for my hand runs from the V across the ball of my thumb, rather than directly across the lifeline of my palm.

This is to be expected, because the base knuckle line is at a corresponding angle to the fingerboard, and the wrist (or at least my wrist) has a hard time twisting enough to get the base knuckle line parallel to the fingerboard. All very interesting.



Posted: March 7, 2015
I discovered that I prefer a high thumb, at least in first position where I am at present. But as someone here pointed out it is a very personal thing. Also not only menwith big hands use a high thumb. I have always assumed Hilary Hahn was rather petite, and yet she has a high thumb in first position:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3aloHY7I_g

Barb Wimmer
Posted: March 7, 2015
Looks great Elke, looks like you got it, I like Beth and Diane comments


Posted: March 7, 2015

Haha Chris, I do remember that guitarist thumb -- in my youth, it was known as "the ugly thumb", hanging over the top and dampening the low E string. And not useful for bar chords at all...

Yes, I can play all the usual F and F#, Bb, B notes with my first finger.
Yes, I have to work for it, just like you do.
Yes, I must rotate my deep cradle around a little bit to make things work. 
And yes -- (I think this is somewhat important) -- I do "tilt my wrist back" to make things work smoothly with minimum tension. I'm hoping by "tilting my wrist back" you mean moving the palm of my hand up toward the neck, so that it's closer than with a normal hold.

And when I slide up to third position with a deep cradle, my palm drops away from the neck, my fingers reach up the neck, and my hand starts looking an awful lot like a "normal" hold up there, where the thumb is hooked around the neck where it joins the body of the violin.

Funny, isn't it? Both the deep cradle and normal "squeezing" holds end up looking the same (becoming the same?) in those higher positions (3rd, 5th, etc), maybe because the higher positions demand and permit one and only one kind of hold, because of the shape of the body of the violin.

Keep in mind that by "deep cradle" I mean a cradle hold where the forces are centered in the bottom of the cradle, so no squeezing for stability needs to occur. The hand is quite loose and relaxed, because the neck "self-centers" in the deepest part of the cradle.

I also emphasize that "deep cradle" doesn't mean cast in stone, immobile, inflexible, or any of those bad things. It's a fluid sort of hold, and the cradle and elbow rotate around more or less as usual to facilitate reaching strings (G or E), and the cradle slides up and down the neck as required, etc.

I would guess that with your long fingers in a deep cradle hold, you would just have to do a little less adjusting than me, since I would have to reach more than you would (especially with the pinky -- I pretty much have to shift the cradle a little bit for that one, at least during my little experiment. Maybe I had my cradle rooted an 1/8 or 1/4 inch too far back to the scroll, being the newborn novice that I am with cradles... :-)

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that most of the tall, slim, long-armed, long-fingered, narrow-handed (base knuckle line) violinists that I've seen on YouTube use a low-thumb or normal squeeze hold, and they always seem to do fairly well with flex vibrato, where the finger is more parallel to the string (because of hand width and finger length), and where the tip knuckle bends in the style that Beth teaches. The sole counter-example of a slim-hands / fingers person I can think of is Doree Huneven, whose vibrato link I posted earlier.

And I could be wrong again, but it seems to me that most of the deep cradle violinists that I've seen on YouTube do not have slim hands, long fingers, etc. Instead they seem to have normal hands, or wide and/or stubby hands (more like my own).

=====

I'll be thinking about this deep cradle hold for the next month while I complete my 8 weeks wrist vibrato project, for sure. I can't believe how easy the vibrato rocking was in the cradle. Maybe it had something to do with my previous 4 weeks vibrato practice, but I really think there was something beyond that going on.

It all makes me want to try out a deep cradle hold for a month or two, but I am reluctant to leave my current training path. So maybe later... (I know I'll have to bite this bullet and make a clear decision sooner or later, because it's a huge factor in left hand playing form and geometry.)

If you try it out for an hour or two, please post your results and thoughts here.



Posted: March 7, 2015
Kevin,

I fear you missed perhaps the most important aspect of the 'cavernous clinch', which is one for those not bless with long fingers...

... The ability to wrap that thumb around and 'fret' the notes on the G string like them blues and rock guitarist do on their E strings! It's all about efficiently of movement ;-)

Being a little more serious, are you able to play notes in first position on the e string with the deep cradle hold? If I try and do that my index finger just cannot get close enough to play the f# on the e string. I'd have to completely bend my wrist back to make it work.

I guess everyone's physical makeup is different and it's a case of discovering what works and listening to your body when it protests.

All the best,

Chris


Posted: March 7, 2015

Just for fun this morning, I spent a couple of hours playing around with what I will call a "deep cradle" left hand hold, like the one that James Ehnes uses in the video link that Fabian just posted. Here is the link again for convenience.

http://youtu.be/4kZT9ZsCO7Y

The interesting thing about a deep cradle hold is that it also aligns the forces at 180°, except that you have a whole V joint between the thumb and the first finger in order to support the violin neck and to exert counter pressure, instead of just using the thumb as in my earlier pictures.

Here is a summary of my thoughts that I wrote in my playing journal:

1. My violin became immediately rock solid – the cradle is a great support for both counter pressure in violin stability.

2. Putting the neck deep in the cradle caused my base knuckle line to be comfortably high above the fingerboard on the far side. This is more or less the same base knuckle line that I get with my normal thumb position, but with the deep cradle, it happens automagically -- I don't have to work at it or monitor it at all.

3. Fast, steady, continuous vibrato was incredibly easy at all speeds – Amazing! I think this is because the deep cradle geometry offer several immediate advantages

– the base knuckles are high, so movement in the base knuckles is transmitted very efficiently into the fingertip motion that implements vibrato,

- The anchor point of rotation for vibrato is deep in the cradle, very very close to the fingerboard, compared to the anchor point of rotation in the wrist (far below the fingerboard) with a low thumb position.

- The radius of rotation (from cradle to fingerboard to base knuckles) is FAR shorter than the low-thumb position radius (from low wrist to back of hand to base knuckles). A shorter radius means that for any centimetre vibrato movement in a base knuckle, a greater "subtended angle" is swept out by the fingertip, which produces a wider vibrato (compared to low-thumb position) for any particular base knuckle movement.

- The normal wrist flexing muscles are used, not the wrist rocking muscles. This means wrist travel distances can be greater, and especially much faster in frequency. It was sweet to be able to instantly and easily hit those rapid 300+ vpm vibrato cycles, for sure.

- The whole base knuckle line is closer to, and more parallel to, the fingerboard, making it easier to do finger flex vibrato (the stuff that Beth teaches) instead of rocking vibrato (such as Doree Huneven teaches).

So I was impressed with the deep cradle hold, for sure. Rock solid violin hold, instant fast controlled vibrato, ... What was there not to like?

As best I could tell (because I only spent a few minutes on this part), these are the limitations that I could immediately see for the deep cradle hold. Please recognize that some of these limitations are mine alone – if I invested the time to overcome them, like James Ehnes and other good players obviously did, I believe some of these limitations would fall away.

1. No arm vibrato (or very little arm vibrato) is possible, because the cradle is the anchor of rotation. With arm vibrato, the elbow is the main anchor of rotation. I wonder if no arm vibrato is a consequential limitation, given the ease and capability of deep cradle vibrato. I get the feeling that I would not miss arm vibrato at all.

2. It seemed to me that there was less freedom of left hand motion compared with an airy, flexible, low-thumb position. I imagine that there would be less freedom than with a squeezing hold of some kind as well (thinking here that squeezing is an elevated form of cradling, except that squeezing requires two-point contact to provide squeezing counter pressure (eg thumb and first finger base knuckle area).

Although I felt that there was less hand freedom, I think it was because of the solid nature of the deep cradle hold. There is more skin contact with the violin, and less sideways wobbling of the hand because of the deep cradle stability.

As for longitudinal motion sliding up and down the neck, I was not used to all the friction caused by all the skin contact in the cradle. With my normal playing position, I can stretch out my pinky more easily because my whole hand can move while keeping the thumb in the same place. But this sort of thing is not possible with a deep cradle hold, because the cradle cannot stretch at all.

3. Accordingly, I found that with the deep cradle hold, my first and pinky fingers had to do all the stretching back (to low 1) and forward (eg. to E on A string) themselves, rather than counting on a little bit of help from moving the hand and base knuckles while pivoting on the thumb anchor.

But the stretching really wasn't all that bad – the cradle was an excellent, solid anchor, and it was easy to see that with some practice I would be able to make the stretches easily.

4. Speaking of stretches, I found it really easy to reach the G string with all of my fingers (even though I don't have the gift of long fingers like Chris does. :-) So at least for first position playing, I think on first impression that the deep cradle hold is really very effective, and easy to implement.

No wonder so many of the all old-time and bluegrass fiddlers use this kind of hold – it's a very natural hold, rock solid, provides an easy reach to all the strings, and uses all the best geometries and muscles for fast, continuous vibrato.

---

So after doing my experiment for an hour, I'm left with a long list of advantages for a deep cradle hold for first position, compared to low-thumb and squeezing holds of various kinds.

At least for first position playing, it is not at all obvious to me that a low-thumb 180 degree position, or any of the various squeezing positions, are superior in any way for most people. (Of course when we get to the individual case, anything goes, because of individual differences.)

For a vibrato in first position, the deep cradle hold seems far more accessible and capable than my normal playing hold. I've been practising wrist vibrato for over one month now, and am barely capable of reaching into the desired 300+ vpm range with my best fingers on my best strings. In contrast, in probably two minutes of playing with the deep cradle hold, I could easily reach the 300+ vpm range, and hold it, on almost all strings and all fingers, with far less effort and muscle tension going on. That blew my mind.

Although I believe that I will be able to reach the 300-400 vpm vibrato range with another month or two of continued practice with my normal low-thumb hold, I really must marvel at how easy it was to do 300+ vpm, essentially instantly, with the deep cradle hold.

So everything points to the advantages of a deep cradle hold, so far, for me in my short experiment. The solitary "advantage" that I could immediately see, and feel, was the freedom of motion issue with a low-thumb hold. If I switched to a deep cradle hold, could I learn how to slide up and down the neck into fifth position as easily as those other deep cradle players, such as James Ehnes? Obviously it is possible, if they can do it.

I wonder if it is worth a try for me -- take a month or two at the front of my violin journey, to give the deep cradle hold (a 1 hour experiment so far for me) a fair chance against the 11 months that I have invested in a low-thumb hold?

An interesting question. A very interesting question.

If any of you readers out there can make a well-reasoned case for the advantages or disadvantages of using a deep cradle hold (beyond the usual "well so-and-so uses it" or "it is tradition to do it this way" kind of reasons), I for one am interested in reading your thoughts on the topic...


Maria
Posted: March 6, 2015
Thank you all for the thumb info...It's was great to read all explanations.

Michael your statement/conclusion was like a bulb lighting up in my head...Clear and concise, thank you.

I used to be conscious with my thumb placement when someone mentioned that it was wrong...I tied to change and copy some violinist but in the end I just let it go or move naturally-as long as there's no obvious tension and pain.

I hope Elke you'll find an efficient and natural thumb position...I'm into bowing quest at this time...Have a great evening.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 6, 2015
Hi Fabian,  Thank you for your kind remarks and thank you for introducing me to Mr James Ehnes. Wow! He's fabulous. What a beautiful sound!!! I love that piece. It would be a good one to have here on VL.


Posted: March 6, 2015
Hi everybody, 

here's a Video of James Ehnes. 
I think he plays adorable and his thumb in my opinion is pretty high. Just saying! 
I started playing the violin half a year ago so I can't be much of a help at that topic but I'm a former dancer, I know quite a bit about physics.   =)

Elke, 
bad news!!!
It IS all about physics and it is all about reducing tension and reducing unnecessary movement.
And what is even worse that sort of work is never done.
BUT the most beautiful things are done though there are physical laws! 
Physics are quite a help in analyzing why something isn't working. But no physician can tell you how to do a difficult turn for example, same as analyzing doesn't TEACH you how to do it. Well a good teacher might help but most of all YOU have to try it over and over again. I guess you won't find your perfect thumb placement right now.    =)

I don't t want to answer back!!! 
It's just that I was thinking about that all reading this thread and I was so thankful for this website, Beth's Videos and all your posts, a resource of inspiration to me, so I started writing. 
Well here I am!
Thank you all for your questions, your ideas, your posts and your help!!!

I've had some really good teachers in my life.
Beth, your ability of breaking things down to the essence of it is adorable and inspiring and you always seem to know what to do next to make the most possible progress happen. I only know few teachers with gifts like that. Thank you!!!

Well, I gonna watch some thumbs on YouTube now!   ;-)

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 6, 2015
Also Elke, don't worry about the other techniques going crazy while you work on left hand. That just happens! Think of your hands like your children, when you put all your focus on one, the other misbehaves. Once you've calibrated to a position that works better for you, your bow will work itself out. It's good that you are exploring this. Getting your postures and positions comfortable right away will help you to improve so much faster.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 6, 2015
Elke, yes, the level of the hand does lower to accommodate the E string. If not, our fingers would be too high and the arching too squared.

As for our discussion about thumb position, the more experience I have teaching, playing, and observing my professional colleagues, the more I see how varied thumb positions are. Truly, everyone's hand is uniques, and what feels balanced for one person, may not work for another. I could never play with a high thumb, but Itzhak Perlman seems to do it pretty well. 

Maxim Vengerov is one of my very favorite violin soloist and his thumb rather high on the side of the neck too. I like the summary Michael posted: The thumb is like water - it simply adapts to the correct level all things being equal. 

Vengerov's hand: Look how high is finger level is. Personally, I couldn't play like that. But
her sure can.


Posted: March 6, 2015

Hi Michael, always nice to hear your view. I smiled when your blogger guy says "ignore your thumb, it will follow along if you get the base knuckles right." Well, kind of.

Obviously the thumb is attached to the hand, so if you position the base knuckle line, that will establish the range of possible thumb motion from the base thumb joint. But as you can appreciate, the thumb's range is probably 3 inches along the neck, and at least 1 inch vertical on the neck. Now, exactly where in that range are good positions for the thumb?

Since the thumb is one of two contact points during vibrato (assuming you're not squeezing or cradling the neck), I look at the thumb as more of an anchor rather than a follower, especially since the one thumb position can support lots of different finger movements and vibrato movements.

In the end, I think it comes down to the same old thing -- everyone is different, by virtue of their genetics, body motions, muscles, chin / rest forces, tensions, posture, pedagogy influences, and who knows what else. All of those issues and forces will ultimately have their effect on workable thumb positions, I'm sure. 



Posted: March 6, 2015
  Hi Michael.  Yes, the thumb does move around for shifting,  helping the fingers position and
keeping them in balance with bottom joint of the left index finger,   but one if it's real functions is to act as a counter-balance to the fingers stopping the strings....you do need the thumb and I believe its fleeting position at times is to keep up with the fingers on the fingerboard to help stabilize the violin.  One advantage of the shoulder rest/pad is that you have more freedom with the neck, chin and can help support/balance the violin so that it's not just the left hand doing all this.  Many of the old "Master" soloists were learning and playing before the shoulder rest was developed to what it is today...some where even wary of this new invention and probably did not want to use it...they used a small pad or cloth under their shirt and coat...: >).  The idea left hand...the palm has a cup shape to it,  so you could cradle an egg
 in that space...thus keeping the left hand relaxed and supple.  If not the egg will break. ; < O
Stay tuned. Diane in SoCal
 

Michael Baumgardner
Posted: March 6, 2015
Very interesting thread, Elke.  Kevin, bringing in the world of physics is always interesting to me and really makes you think about that perspective.  I think you are right about your take away Elke - concerning a focus on the level of the knuckles first.  And as Beth mentioned, beware a thumb position that produces tension or awkwardness.  I saw a blog post from someone awhile back on this topic who is usually quite knowledgeable about technique issue.  His thoughts resonated with me.  I'll have to paraphrase, but he basically said ignore your thumb.  If you become conscious of your thumb position, you are probably doing something else wrong (like squeezing or getting in an awkward position producing tension).  The thumb is like water - it simply adapts to the correct level all things being equal.  He maintained that since the advent of the shoulder rest supporting the violin the poor thumb is confused and doesn't know what it's role is anymore, so it is best to just let it go along for the ride - it doesn't really need to actively do much of anything.  Watching high level soloists, it certainly seems to wander around freely wherever the hand is taking it. 


Posted: March 6, 2015

Came across this link this morning, and was surprised to see this girl play all of her songs using what I'm calling the 180 degree ideal thumb position. So I might have sought out the position myself based on physics, obviously other people have known about it and used it long before I ever picked up a violin. Most interesting - not a hint of a high thumb, even with a high camera angle. So I post these links as video examples of a low thumb / 180 degree position, not as recommendations of any kind.

And look at those long fingers, and how they reach up the neck to do (almost totally) flex vibrato like Beth teaches. Wish I could do that!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s61b71PNiWc&list=RD4mYluVev-k4&index=13

Here's the same girl playing Meditation, same camera angle, but you can just catch a glimpse of her thumb tip once in a while.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GpnJ-FzB-U&index=15&list=RD4mYluVev-k4



Posted: March 5, 2015
Elke, 

I have been doing a lot of experimenting (and some studying) lately to see how to find good "home" for my left hand. It's amazing how many different ways one can see both "masters" and youtube instructors advising left hand position. Along with Beth's valuable instruction I found an old "Master Class" video from Yehudi Menuhin very interesting in the level of freedom and fluidity he suggests can exist in the left hand.

Mr. Menuhin's methods are a bit radical in that he does not use a shoulder rest and so his left hand has a lot more responsibility. I've tried practicing without a shoulder rest and it does not hurt my posture and shoulder, but it does make the left hand a devil to control well, particularly when playing all strings open. 

I thought you might be interested in this video just because of the various little exercises he demonstrates. I hope it is useful to you. 


Regards, 
-Lauren


Elke Meier
Posted: March 5, 2015
I am kind of sorry to have triggered off such an intense discussion on thumb placement and how to describe it. I notice that the biggest problem to a perfect thumb solution in my case is that the thumb does not work in isolation. It is connected to the rest of this body which strongly influences and hinders any idea solution...

But actually, for me this is not really a thumb question any more. To me Beth's most important remark in her response was that my left hand was too low and that I needed to find the right position for the left hand before I made any further decisions about adjustment of the thumb position.

Okay, so I am concentrating on bringing the base knuckles of the left hand higher up to align them with the fingerboard. The good news is: I think I can do it. It is a lot of concentration all the time: playing a note, checking the level of the hand, checking how the finger feels which engages the string, checking how the thumb reacts to the finger and which part of the thumb actually provides the stability, watching whether my shoulder stays relaxed - puuh, lots of details, but I think it will come, and it feels good. The bad news is: it throws all my bowing and intonation completely off - you should have seen what parts of the violin my bow started to explore while I concentrated on these details while doing my scales and exercises... :).

I can disengage the hand alright for playing first finger on the E-string (with concentration, as all the other movements, but it works and it feels actually very good), but I just want to reconfirm one little detail:
When I play first finger on the E-string, the hand nicely disengaged from the fingerboard, this also means that the base knuckles will drop a bit. Right? I tried to keep them exactly level with the fingerboard, but this feels rather unnatural and produces tension up into my shoulder - and in spite of being disengaged from the fingerboard the first finger is still awfully squared, and the string is still stopped by the very tip of the finger. When I lower the base knuckles maybe a cm or so, then it looks (not so square, string stopped by the pad of the finger) and feels better - at least that is what I think. I tried to see how it looks in video #85 but am not sure whether what I saw confirms this or not. Or am I starting to cheat here again and it would just be a bit more concentration and getting used to a different position? Beth, can you just quickly confirm or correct this?



Posted: March 5, 2015

Since this is such a big thread on thumb position, for the sake of completion I thought I would attempt to clear up any doubts about my normal thumb playing position during long vibratos, by posting some pictures -- awkward pictures with my bow hand phone camera crossed over to the back side the neck -- but perhaps useful pictures.

Things you might notice:

Maybe you can see how little my thumb moves as I vibrate across strings and fingers. It moves a bit around the neck of course, as it must to balance the 180 degree forces. But not much. So I consider it to be a pretty relaxed and stable hand position.

Although the pictures do not show it, there is _always_ space between the neck and the base knuckle area on my first finger. The only two points of contact during all of my vibratos are my thumb (tip, mostly) and the vibrating finger. So there is zero squeezing and zero cradling going on.

Although the pictures don't show it, my base knuckles are up high enough to let my fingers plunk down on the finger board more or less from above. I don't have to reach flat way across the fingerboard because my base knuckles are too low.

As before, I make no claims about what you should do, what Beth should teach or do, or what anyone else should do. All that I suggest here is that these pictures are a fair representation of what a thumb position looks like when it is very near (or exactly on) a 180-degree force offset line.

To explain my reasoning, I know that my position is pretty much dead on because there are no other auxiliary forces at work here, including chin pressure, etc. (I include no chin pressure because I use a fancy shoulder rest that hangs / balances my violin on my shoulder, so I don't have to use chin contact to hold the violin if I don't want to. There was no chin contact during these vibrato pictures, so I am confident that the finger pressure and thumb forces are very nearly dead on, 180 degrees apart).

I hope that you get at least something out of these pics, bad and awkward as they are. I post them as a demonstration of what my hand looks like using the ideal 180-degree offset position.

Second finger vibrato, F# on D string

Pinky vibrato, A on D string

Pinky vibrato, D on the G string. Note how the first finger base knuckle gets closer to the neck, so the pinky can reach. But there is still open space there - no squeezing is happening.

Pinky vibrato, B on E string. Notice the space between neck and first finger base knuckle. There's lots of room here because the reach to the E string is closer than the long reach to the G string.

Once again I'll say to make the claim: these pictures don't show it well, but there's always open space between first finger base knuckle and the neck. No squeezing or cradling is happening, and no auxiliary forces (to the best of my knowledge) are covering up for, or influencing, my thumb position. So I'm very sure that my thumb is in the ideal 180 degree position in these pictures (at least for my hand, my violin, my shoulder rest, etc.)

Your pictures, should you decide to take any, will no doubt look somewhat different.

Good luck and get well soon, Elke! With all the info on this big thread, you'll certainly have lots to think about while you're recovering!



Posted: March 5, 2015

Just a quick response to Michelle before I get into the main body of this post -- If it helps any, my thumb in the picture is definitely curved back, but mostly because my hand is laying on the counter in order to take the picture. In actual playing, my thumb contact point is more towards the tip of the thumb, and my thumb is not bent so much. Sorry about that – trying to hold the violin, demonstrate playing position, and take a picture with your iPhone is sometimes awkward and doesn't always produce the best results. That's why I thought it was useful to post George's video link to AngelsByOlin I thought her camera angle was better, without showing a bent thumb.

---

I've been talking with Beth in the background about all of these issues, and took a picture for her today illustrating a simple exercise that you can use for yourself to explore these ideas of thumb position.

First, here's the picture. I put an eye-makeup remover pad under my thumb, to reduce all possible friction between my thumb and the neck of the violin. This means that unless my upward thumb pressure is perfectly aligned 180 degrees opposite of the downward finger pressure on the fingerboard, my thumb will slip up the side of the neck, and finger pressure will force the neck to drop into the bottom of "the cradle" -- (Beth calls it that) -- the V between my thumb and first finger.

Squeezing is just another form of cradling, but with squeezing, the neck of the violin does not drop all the way to the bottom of the cradle.

The squeezing – and in particular the upward thumb (and first finger knuckle) forces -- holds the neck of the violin up off the palm of the hand, so it does not hit the bottom of the cradle. So if you have a sense of humour, you might say that squeezing is an "elevated" form of cradling. :-)

Let’s separate the three ideas of:

1. the ideal 180 degree offset position, determined by the laws of the universe

2. what Beth wants to teach, and how she teaches it

3. what people (including me) actually do
 
In these posts, I’m trying to explain (1), the ideal 180 degree position that perfectly offsets finger pressure on the fingerboard. This is the ONLY position, defined by the laws of physics, that has minimal forces and minimal tension at work.

What I actually do (3) is to try to aim for that ideal position (1), given the limitations of my own hands.  Thus I prefer, and try to use, a low thumb position very close to the 180 ideal.

I make no claims at all about what other people should do, or what they actually do (their (3)), because that's their business, and none of my business.

I also make no claims about what Beth chooses to teach, or how she teaches it, because that's her business, and none of my business.
 
But what all people actually do, (everyone’s (3)), both good players and bad, must always be consistent with the laws of physics.

If they do not use the 180 degree ideal positions that I'm trying to explain, then according to the laws of physics, they are introducing one or more other influences (forces) that allow them to deviate from the 180 ideal postion. For an example of this, Michele just mentioned (correctly) that it is possible to have a nice vibrato if the chin and shoulder rest can support the violin adequately -- meaning that the chin and shoulder rest forces can together provide enough upward force on the neck to offset whatever finger pressure the thumb cannot support.

We all can see that there is no doubt that many players can make beautiful music without a 180 degree ideal thumb position that minimizes all tension and auxiliary forces. So a 180 degree offset thumb position is clearly not required -- just introduce whatever auxiliary forces you like - (chin, shoulder rest, squeeze, cradle, long / short fingers, twists, or whatever) -- and then balance them out somehow in a way that works for you and the laws of physics. 

So the way I look at it, what people actually do (their (3)) can be anything they want to do that works for them.
 
My only suggestion here is that if a person (eg Elke) is having problems with thumb position and squeezing, and asks for help in a forum like this, then it seems to me that it makes sense to try to help them out, by showing them why they are having problems (misaligned forces, not enough friction, too much tension, etc), and to try to explain the ideal 180 position (eg with the eye-makeup remover pad example that I show above).

From that point on, it’s up to them – they can do whatever they want for their style, genetics, muscles, etc.

For emphasis, I will repeat my disclaimers once again. None of this is my opinion. I am just a lowly messenger trying to explain in this forum a few of the fundamental laws of physics (eg Newtons Third Law of Motion) that were discovered by Newton and other people hundreds of years ago. We all must abide by those laws, even if we don't like what we read, and even if we want to shoot the messenger (me, in this case).

I make no claims about what people should do, what Beth should teach, or what is "the right" way for anyone.

All I'm trying for is to explain the ideal thumb position according to the laws of physics, in the absence of probably a dozen other forces that can influence hand position, including chin pressure, shoulder rest angles, arm lengths, finger lengths, arthritis, comfort levels, and so on. I'm sure Beth has seen all possible variations of weird auxiliary forces at work in her time as a teacher.  

All of that stuff varies from person to person, and everyone must find their own hand positions that work for them.

All I hope to do here is shine a light on the ideal position, so that people can understand it, and then make whatever adjustments they deem appropriate for themselves. (So please don't shoot me... :-)

Maybe we'll see some more input from Beth on these topics in the future. I'm sure that coming from her, the info will be far more palatable and more professionally presented to everyone.




Posted: March 5, 2015
One more comment on Kevin's thumb position under the violin.  I notice Kevin's 1st thumb joint is bent backwards (looks hyperextended) at the 1st joint.  I can't get my thumb in that shape - the joints just don't go that way.  So maybe that's why the thumb under the violin works for him.  His fingers just work differently.  Just for kicks I tried his thumb position and it puts a weird very uncomfortable twisting into my wrist.  Can't do it at all.   Also, I have  small hands.  I guess everybody is different.  I do know that it's not necessary to have the thumb under the neck to get a good vibrato if the violin is adequately supported by the chin and shoulder rest. 


Posted: March 5, 2015

Elke sure triggered a popular thread when she opened one up on thumb position and vibrato!

For the record, when I post a link, that's not me recommending what they do in the link.

I learned long ago that most website members on teaching sites are usually fiercely protective of their teachers (Beth, in this case), and of their teacher's video/instructional preferences (Beth's vibrato flex approach, and thumb positions in this case).

So I am keenly aware that I post alternate approaches, conflicting information, or even new ideas at my own risk. Perhaps people perceive such info as threats of some kind against what the teacher teaches on the website, I don't know. But I do know that the protective reflex exists.

When I make a post of alternate information, I usually try to make the ideas come across clearly, and I always, always try to explain reasons that support the idea. Sometimes despite my best efforts, my words and logic just aren't smooth enough or good enough evidence to convince, and so I trigger the protective reflex.

When I communicate, I try to explicitly identify (1) the claim being made, eg - high thumb is better than low thumb, and (2) the evidence supporting the claim. I look for these same two elements in other people's postings, and in Beth's videos and words too.

As you might have guessed already, a lot of claims are made in posts without much supporting evidence at all. May I gently suggest that people try reading threads carefully, looking for (1) claims and (2) evidence? :-)

---

As for the contents of those links I posted...

Sure, the girl in that link (I got the link from George in another thread) was inconsistent between what she said and what she did. Why did I post it? I simply posted it to show Elke a close up picture of a low thumb that looked well balanced against the finger pressure to me, so that Elke could get a visual of what that might look like. The video picture was better than the one I first cobbled together and posted below, so I thought it was an improvement over my picture. I intended nothing more.

Do I agree, or advocate what the girl does with vibrato? I don't know, because I stopped watching the video once I saw the thumb position that I thought Elke could benefit from.

I'm ok with all kinds of vibrato technique, if it gets the job done. To be clear, I am certain, from (1) physics, (2) observation (of Beth, and that recent Anne Akiko Mirror video full of vibrato), and from (3) personal experience that vibrato can be accomplished in multiple ways.

Vibrato is a very complex integration of everything including fingers, strings, playing position up the neck, wrist angles, vibrato depth and speed, and probably other minor factors.

The truth is that the vibrato method used changes in all of us as we play different fingers and strings in different positions. I've seen it in Beth, Anne Akiko Meyers, other students on this site, and myself too. The vibrato method changes because it must -- the geometry and angles of our fingers and hands and violins and playing positions demands it.

Hopefully this post won't frustrate people and trigger their protective reflexes. I am not intending to argue with Beth in any way by posting this kind of information (like George's link to the girl explaining her version of vibrato).

If it helps any, I like to think that Beth and I get along quite well, and (I like to believe) that she listens to what I say with an open mind, and considers my supporting evidence and reasoning carefully. (My goodness, how could she _not_ have an open mind with her teaching experience -- she's seen thousands of hands and vibratos in her time, no doubt!)

Anyhow, she said in Troy's thread she might post a response video on Troy's recent vibrato thread, and I'm looking forward to it.

And that's my long posting for this morning... :-)


Deirdre
Posted: March 5, 2015
Ying, I agree! And another problem with the girl's instruction-- she does seem very lovely, BUT-- she demonstrates two completely different hand positions. In her exercises, she shows vibrato motion going side to side, but when she's actually playing, it's much more back and forth.  Beth's exercises match what she wants us to achieve -- because she is an awesome teacher!

Elke, I hope you're feeling much better! I always enjoy your posts so much, and learn so much from them. You have an amazing, analytical mind, along with great spirit and presence. (And Kevin, so do you :-) )

Beth, the video response is wonderful! So educational for all of us!


Posted: March 5, 2015
Kevin, that last vid you posted, that girl's hand position is definitely NOT a good example of a good hand position!

Mary Reeley
Posted: March 5, 2015
Great Job Beth!  Love the idea of a video response to our posts.   This will be very helpful to all of us. You are  really spoiling  us now.  Thanks

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 4, 2015
I'm glad you liked the video! Ok, so low tech it will be, at least when I have less time than usual. This week has been a little freer than most so I wanted to take advantage of it.

Kevin, you're exactly right about the opposing forces. Here's the video where I'm saying the same thing, just with less scientific terms :) It's at 3:41


Posted: March 4, 2015

And another good link showing a close up of this girls vibrato thumb position -- well under the neck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=WaUL_k7XvoA




Posted: March 4, 2015

Just came across this video on vibrato and thumb position, which emphasizes having space between the first knuckle and the fingerboard during vibrato. It seems appropriate for this thread.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJYsBi74MvA



Elke Meier
Posted: March 4, 2015
Thank you so much, Beth for this "low tech" version! What a wonderful and helpful idea. Sure, the quality of a webcam recording will be less than in the teaching videos, but who cares? I am concerned with this question I have and this gives me a much more detailed answer than anything in writing could provide. So thank you again!

I had watched the squeezing videos quite some time ago and figured at that time I don't squeeze. That is why I had not gone back to them. Well, I guess I do squeeze - and quite a bit. Also the low hand position - now that you pointed it out I can see it very clearly also...

I can't say much more to it at the moment, but have lots to put into practice in the next few days and see where it leads me. Thank you so much again!




Posted: March 4, 2015

PS. Just a little note on phrasing. When I use the phrase "directly opposing finger pressure", I mean to say that when forces are directly in opposition, the opposing force can be as small as it can possibly be, and that means that unwanted tension everywhere is reduced.

Maybe in other postings you've read that I always try to feel the forces at work (that is, I search around for where the tension is), and then I try to adjust things to remove all possible tension. When I get that done, what I'm always left with is directly opposing forces -- always, in all kinds of motion in life.

So now I just try to shortcut the tension-search-and-destroy process by considering where the originating force (finger force) is coming from, and I usually just try to go as directly as I can to the place that looks like it would be directly opposite. It saves time.

Hoping this helps,...



Posted: March 4, 2015

Hi Beth, here's my two bits on your nice video:

1. This informal video method is excellent, IMHO. It takes a lot less time for you, and communicates very well to us, the centering of your image was excellent, and your eye contact was very close to perfect. Lighting is really good all things considered, and the teal colors in the background come across very well. 

All in all, you came across really well (as usual), so I don't think you have anything to worry about. I hope you do more of these kinds of videos.

2. If you're worried about eye contact with the camera, I have found it useful over the years to shrink my camera preview/recording window a bit (so it is not full screen), and move it up to the top center of the screen, right under the camera. That way, when you look at yourself in the preview/recording window, you're really only looking at a spot about 2 inches from the camera itself. That really overcomes all possible eye contact problems, other than looking directly at the camera.

3. On the low thumb idea (or my low thumb picture, specifically, if you like): When you started to describe the little ledge on your thumb, and showed where you place it on the neck, I smiled, because that's EXACTLY what I do with my thumb. Maybe the camera angle in my thumb picture made it look like my thumb was way, way, down low, but it is not.

Instead, I think I place my thumb almost exactly where you place your thumb. And that position is, I bet, for both of us, almost exactly opposite the force applied by fingers on the fingerboard.  My thumb (actually, the little ledge spot on the thumb joint) is only really near the center line of the back of the neck when I'm playing on the G string, because then the finger forces can only be offset directly with a very low thumb contact point. And my thumb spot does come up higher on the side/back of the neck when I'm playing on the E string.

I also recognize and agree with your point on the length of the thumb having an influence on thumb position. My normal (preferred) thumb position jams up a little bit when I'm playing up against the nut, because I can't quite get the thumb spot into perfect offsetting position. So I have to move it up the back side of the neck a little bit, and count on more skin friction for stability.

For me, thumb spot positioning is probably the most awkward with 2nd (A,B) or 3rd (C,C#) finger vibrato on the G string, since those positions are the ones that simultaneously require the most "arm under, thumb under, base knuckle line / wrist twist" position to directly offset the finger forces on the fingerboard. The 1st finger position isn't so bad, because the knuckle line angle with the fingerboard can open up some, making more room for the thumb spot.

Once again, nice video -- it's not low-tech in any way. You come across really well, and the setup looks very friendly and less formal than the formal lesson videos. My sense of it is that this style of video is very appropriate for recital response videos. Excellent job!




Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 4, 2015
This discussion includes members-only video content

Here's an experiment with my webcam video! I can't tell if when I look at the screen it looks like I'm looking at you or if I have to look at the camera dot.


Posted: March 4, 2015
  Look at video called thumb and left hand placement.Also videos called left hand balance there are 3 they were suggested to me by Beth when she responded to one of my posts.
Do the exercises and examples along with the video helped me.
 I find thumb not flexible I think it should adjust a little more as you play especially playing fourth finger.
 Watch that arm is coming around under violin as move from string to string.
  Beths videos explain it better than I can. Hope this was helpful It is a never ending process 
 But guess never dull moment .Lots of luck hope you feel better soon.
 

Maria
Posted: March 4, 2015
Elke, 

I hope u r feeling much better by the time u've read this...

My thumb is like that when i play regular no vibrato notes...but when vibrate the thumb goes a bit under...



jz
Posted: March 4, 2015
Hi Elke, I'm so glad you brought this up.  In my last lesson, my teacher told me I had to RAISE the position of my thumb, because my intonation was off due to my changing  hand position from string to string with what he saw as a low thumb.  I have been struggling all week with that, with the result that my intonation is no better, and now I am no longer comfortable even holding the violin.  That then led me to diddle around with my setup - changing chin rests, changing shoulder rests, the works.  I wish I had recorded my lesson bcse maybe I am "mis-remembering" what I was supposed to be aimimg for with the thumb... I have no suggestions for you, but am curious as to what others might offer! Hope you're feeling better!  -- Cheers, Jane


Posted: March 3, 2015
HI, MY OPINION MAY BE A BIT UNORTHODOX ACCORDING TO CONVENTIONAL METHODS, BUT I HAVE BECOME AWARE OF THE FACT THAT MY THUMB POSITION HAS CHANGED  AS I GAINED PLAYING ABILITY AND REQUIRED DIFFERING AMOUNTS OF SUPPORT/ RESISTANCE......AND IT WAS HARD FOR ME TO --NOT--USE MY THUMB ON THE LOW-'E' STRING ON THE GUITAR.....NOW, WANT TO TALK ABOUT ''GRIPPING'' !!!LOL

KarenJ
Posted: March 3, 2015
I've tried to place my thumb similarly.  I think for me it feels more mobile.  make sure the joints don't lock, though.  I think the new position looks freer for you.  experimenting like that is good.  No one knows how you feel except you.


Posted: March 3, 2015

Hi Elke, I hope you are feeling better soon, and get your voice back.

Here are my two bits, for what they are worth. I recognize that my views might not be the standard pedagogical views, of course. Do with them as you will. :-)

It seems your thumb is way too high for my taste. Perhaps my view comes from learning to put my thumb on the back center of a guitar neck when I first fooled around with guitar / banjo as a young teenager for a few years. But then, and even now (50 years later), if your thumb is on the back of the neck (instead of on the side), it puts the fingers in far better position for stopping the strings on all string instruments.

And for violin especially, it puts the whole hand and fingers in far better position for vibrato because (as you pointed out) it easily creates some space between the first finger knuckle and the fingerboard. And you need that space (or no more than a tiny, tiny, brushing force) for a free-moving vibrato.

Here's a picture of where I normally play (this includes playing vibrato, and playing up the neck; my thumb position hardly changes at all, no matter what I am doing with my fingers, and no matter the string). In this picture, I placed my third finger in playing position, then took off my violin so I could get a decent picture. The center line of balanced, opposing forces runs from the pad of my third finger, through the center of the neck, to the pad of my thumb.


Thumb Position for Long-Duration Vibratos

As for your wrist vibrato sliding practice movements, they look loose and fine to me. I don't think thumb position matters much when you're doing those slide exercises way up the neck -- I think Beth just teaches that position so students have a little something (the bout of the violin) to push against to support the violin, so they don't end up pinching the neck for support while they are trying to loosen up the wrist and finger movements.

At least for my bones and fingers, I can't get a decent vibrato _on all fingers, on all strings_ unless I keep my thumb on the back of the neck as shown in the picture above. The reason is that a loose, free moving vibrato basically requires (and allows for) only two contact points with the violin - the thumb, and the vibrato finger.

The thumb _must_ provide an equal and opposite force to the finger pressure, and therefore must be located almost directly opposite the vibrato finger. The best place for the thumb is on a straight line drawn from the vibrato finger, through the center of the neck to the thumb. The further the thumb contact point is away from where the center line comes out on the back of the neck, more the thumb will have to depend on that "skin friction" force that Beth talks about in the videos.


Skin Friction Force

The skin friction force is obviously far, far weaker than an opposing thumb placed directly opposite a finger force. Yet, if you press very lightly with your fingers, only play short notes in varying positions, and have a good sticky skin friction force, it can work for some people.

I know that it doesn't work for me (and has never worked) for good consistent playing, even though I can easily feel the skin friction force. I think especially on long vibrato notes, my skin friction force is not enough to stop my thumb from slowly sliding at an angle to the finger force, which eventually throws my hand and fingers out of position.

So I don't really believe in the sliding, skin friction force as a useful main force for opposing finger forces (especially for my vibrato), even though I know the sliding skin friction force exists, and is workable in some circumstances. I would far rather learn to create and use a balanced, stable, minimally light, directly opposing thumb force to offset my finger forces.


Suggestions for You

If you try to mentally draw a line of balanced, opposing forces from your finger, through the center of the neck, to your supporting thumb, you will find you cannot do it, using your current thumb position. The line will come out pointing down into the base knuckle of your thumb somewhere, meaning that you would have to pinch the neck a little bit somewhere in order to create enough sliding skin friction to generate enough force to oppose the fingerboard pressure. And if you pinch the neck, that's generally not good, and especially not good for vibrato in particular.

So for my two bits, I would suggest that you move your thumb way down until it directly opposes your fingerboard fingers. You can easily find the right point by pressing down hard with your fingers, while making sure that you're not pinching the neck. By pressing down hard, sliding skin friction force will be too small, and the neck will slide around until your thumb finds the correct location to balance the opposing finger force. Then you can lighten up the forces to the bare minimum required to stop the string so that it rings a clear tone.


Of course, everyone is different, and so must figure out something that works for them. I do not claim that my way is "the right" way for everyone, but at least my opposing thumb approach works well, and I can explain why it works well. Using directly opposing forces lets you use the minimal forces possible, and is not my opinion, of course -- it's how the physics of the universe work.

(And if you will pardon the pun, I like to be in tune with the forces of universe whenever I can... Life is just easier that way for me, when I don't have to fight unstable, sliding, unbalanced forces.. :-)

Please let us all know what you decide to try, in the end.