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This discussion includes members-only video content

I've been a Violin Lab member for over a year now, but this is the first time I've uploaded a video of myself!  It's been a very useful tool for spotting all the things I'm doing wrong, what I noticed straight away was:
  • I'm not bending my right wrist at the frog so the bow tip shoots over my left shoulder on an upbow
  • The scroll looks as though it's pointing a bit high in the air, although while I'm playing the violin feels flat.  I had been playing without a shoulder rest, but recently started to use one to give more of a stable platform for shifting and vibrato.
  • My left wrist seems to bend outwards (towards the nut) when I'm playing on the E string
  • Intonation needs some work and as for 3rd postition... !!!!!
What else?  All comments gratefully received!



PS - The melody is the Ashokan Farewell.

39 Responses
Posted: September 2, 2011
Last Comment: September 7, 2011

Posted: September 7, 2011
thank you for your replies.

I keep thinking and I am quite convinced that I have 'suffocated' a few of you with my long posts when I go on about posture and other details and that some of you think I am 'mad' and probably think 'my goodness please will you just shut up?'.  As a result I am now cautious/scared to initiate any more conversations as I am the type of person that either I say it all or I don't say it at all if you know what I mean so on balance I'd rather not say anything LOL.

My view not just on the violin but in life is that I like people to be happy, there is nothing else I want so...... dress as you like, marry who you like, have a red violin, a yellow one, a shoulder rest or none, I really don't mind LOL (so long that of course that you don't harm others...)
 I am used to give out information and let people make their decisions, I do it in my job 'every day', six days a week, we discuss about pros and cons, evidence and latest research findings and 'what is supposed to be best for them' but them ultimately they have to decide what they want.   Sometimes it is VERY OBVIOUS what is best but they still want to make a decision that 'seems' not to be right one...ie: their baby is dying but they won't let us save him/her (in the UK the unborn baby/fetus has no right to life legally at all), or the mother has a condition which could make her die any second, we could admit her in hospital and give her treatment and save her life but she refuses admission and goes home and risks a stroke and death (no, she's not depressed either, but in hospital she cannot smoke her cigarettes).  It is their life and we cannot judge/say what is the right decision.


Beth, that is a very interesting view you have put across there, thank you for sharing it, I shall put it in my 'bag of information' which is getting bigger and bigger all the time :)
I don't know enough on that one to talk back on it.  Obviously my intonation and shifting are not great anyway, all I can say is that since giving up the support for the violin I have started holding the violin with my left hand and since I have started doing this my teacher has started commenting that my intonation and shifting have improved a lot, but he has not said it is down to me holding the violin with my left hand.  BUT, I am only a beginner and these things are bound to improve at this stage anyway right? Whether holding the violin with my left hand means that I will get to a point where I will 'plateau' and I will never get very good with them (ie: it will limit me) I don't know, guess I will find out in time, if it does I'll remember what you said and will have to reconsider at that stage.....

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 6, 2011
Sharing opinions, even if they differ is what forums are for. No one should not post because they are afraid of offending,  that is unless you're being offensive, and that only happened once a while back. That person is no longer a member.

In that vein, I will share my opinion. Not about shoulder pad or no shoulder pad, but about the balancing the violin between the thumb and fingers, or the thumb and first finger base knuckle.

 Those players who have mastered the art of balancing the violin on their left hand, are generally the greatest players in the world, and through their millions of hours of practice have developed so much control and fine motor finesse, that they CAN do it. (Menuhin, for example).  I have yet (but then admittedly, I don't travel much or watch many Youtube videos) to hear a novice player, as well as some professional orchestra players I know, posses flawless intonation, or  shifting skills with the violin resting on the "cradle" of the thumb and index finger. One of my very talented colleagues stopped using a shoulder pad and tried the balance thing, and her intonation went down hill.

Again, I'm not talking about not using a shoulder pad.  Those who are built for it, can support the violin securely and maintain a completely free and independent left hand. I think everyone learning the violin should at least start with a secure set up, nestling the violin under the chin, resting securely on the shoulder (pad, or no pad), and develop their left hand technique well, which includes fluid and accurate shifting skills, beautiful vibrato, accurate intonation, and fast independent fingers. Once your body knows what those skills feel like and can do them, then it will be able to retain those things, even in the absence of shoulder support. 

Posted: September 6, 2011
Jo, I second what Simon said...I don't think anyone is offended.  You are very good with your responses and explaining what you are trying to convey.  The detail that you go to are very helpful.  You study this instrument in such detail and are willing to share your discoveries with others.  You have much to offer Jo...that's a good thing !    I'm just sorry that you took my tongue in cheek comment so seriously.  It wasn't meant to be critical or negative at all...just a light hearted jest to a friend.   I shall in future be careful not to be so flippant.

Posted: September 6, 2011
Looks like a lot has been happening in this thread since I logged in a couple of days ago!

Patricia; thank you for the Menuhin video links - they are very interesting and I hadn't come across them before.  Watching him roll around the floor in the first part was almost surreal!  I came across another set (which I haven't watched yet) but thouht I'd post: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLE91970A52FA0877F

What I'm taking from all this is that, while there are some basic do's and don't, much of the technique for holding and playing the violin depends so much (more than other instruments) on the size, shape and build of the individual.  While I understand what Menuhin is advocating, my fingers are much too short and it creates too much tension in my hand to play with just the thumb for contact and keeping the base of the hand away from the neck.  Besides balance being more difficult!  I think most teachers these days will teach holding with contact on the thumb and base knuckle of the index finger.  One reason is that it's easier to know where you are on the finger board (when shifting positions) if you have contact with the base of the index finger.  That's not to say it always has to contact the neck, but it's the 'home' position. 

What I enjoy about ViolinLab is reading what eveyone else does, finding out what works for them and what they've some accross, then watching a few YouTube clips before trying things for myself.  Some things work for me, other don't, but finding the 'perfect' posture and hold is going to be an almost never ending quest!  And it's going to be different for each of us.

Ray - thanks for the comments and suggestions, but I'll have to disappoint you regarding a recording of your Twinkle variations - I'm not yet proficient enough to cope will all the markings and instructions!  Hopefully I'll learn the techniques in the coming months and will let you know...!!!

Jo - Please DON'T change the way you respond to posts!  I don't think anyone has been offended or upset by your comments (at least I haven't read anything from anyone that would suggest that) - folks just have different experiences and ideas, but that's the great thing about ViolinLab - we learn from each other and in order to understand we must discuss and debate.  I would hate for you to feel you can't tell us about your experiences and research - I always enjoy reading your post and it makes me question and think about what I'm doing.  So I hope you will reconsider your decision about not commenting further.


Posted: September 6, 2011

Hi Simon,

If you would like a newbie's thoughts-at least my two cents worth-I really do not see your scroll going up too much at all,  nor is your left wrist out of proportion to where you are playing.  As for your bowing wrist, perhaps relooking (if that is an English word?) or perhaps a review of Beth's videos on advanced bowing practicing where when you are practicing you try placing your right hand away from the frog and closer to the tip.  If I remember correctly Beth suggests to practice this way for a short time say only a couple of minutes.  And practice verrrry slowly inorder to observe all the nuances.  When you do this and keeping your bow straight (which you do) your wrist will lift because you will be bowing closer to the frog. 

In the end of it all, BRAVO, you are (in newbie's opinion) you are playing great for only practicing the violin for a year.  Remember you have not heard me play.  HAHAHAHA.  You will of course just not right now.

P.S. As for intonation,  it will -only- be a matter of time before you will strike the correct pitch every time.  I notice there are no tapes again WELL DONE.

Thanks for comments on my earlier post about my composition and Beth has kindly posted it on the Resources page.  The composition is now clearer and larger.  I would like to hear your interpretation of the piece and hear how you hear the notes.



Posted: September 6, 2011
And it's ok, I understand I have upset a few of you, I am grown up enough to accept it (I've known it for  quite a while now) what I'll do is: in future like I've said I won't talk anymore and I'll keep myself 'short and sweet'

I'll give my comments on members videos and my help but like I've said I'll keep it short and sweet, I'll just say 'well done', 'keep your bow straight' (for example) and that's that.

That way I will not get caught up in any discussion and I won't carry the risk to bore or annoy anyone, it will be much easier that way.

I don't see why we should go down the road of anybody else avoiding 'subjects' to talk about and feel 'restricted' just because of my presence, I must rather discontinue my membership, it is much better if I (the perpetrator) is the one who shuts up. I can do that, I won't mind.  

I promise I'll shut up from now on, you have my word, I won't give an opinion on anything from today, you are free to talk about whatever you like and whatever you say whether I have an opinion or knowledge of it being right or wrong I won't say as otherwise I might get the 'itch' to start talking/asking questions too much and annoy you!

Peace  :)

Posted: September 6, 2011
ps I don't know if you have noticed but I am usually quite interested about anything that discusses: posture and holding/handling the violin (this includes left hand and right hand) so whenever these subjects come up I tend to post a lot, it is nothing to do with 'no shoulder rest position'!!

Posted: September 6, 2011
'very protective of the no shoulder rest position'?  I thought that throughout this whole thread I was discussing primarily Simon's squashed left hand finger and how to address that.  Of course also the fact that he has been switching to and fro the shoulder rest (subject not introduced by me), then I was merely discussing the 2 point of contact of the left hand vs the hold advocated by Yehudi Menuhin as Tricia was saying she finds it difficult to hold the violin the way Menuhin shows in his video (well, yes it is more difficult to hold it that way without the help of the index finger, but may have its benefits once you learn it probably).  The non shoulder rest has slipped in the conversation as Tricia was talking about it in regards to the scroll of the violin being held higher and how apparently this is was needed when playing with no rest, I was just pointing out that this is not so.
I am now just 'gently' saying: why does that make me 'protective' of the non shoulder rest position to tell someone that it is not necessary to keep the scroll higher and to talk about the 2 point contact of the left hand?  To exchange information/education?
I don't find that 'protective' I just find it an exchange of education/information.  But I think I''ll just stay in my corner in future, sorry.

Posted: September 5, 2011
LOL Jo.....you do give the impression that you are very protective of the no shoulder rest position.  I shall think very carefully before I ever bring up that topic up !   x-D

Posted: September 5, 2011
sorry by the way, I am not trying to give anyone a 'hard time' I am just a very inquisitive person by nature and I do like looking and going into details, often I 'need' to understand every detail otherwise I don't understand the 'bigger picture', that is why I sometimes ask too many questions or go into too many explanations.

I know that because of the way I am I can be a bit 'heavy' sometimes and I apologise for this, please feel free to 'ignore me' if I ever give you a 'headache'

Posted: September 5, 2011
LOL guess it's the only to make me 'stop' ;) 

Posted: September 5, 2011

Hi Jojo!

You are absolutely correct. After all, you are the one not using the shoulder rest, for consequent, you must be right.

My best!


Posted: September 5, 2011
Tricia, thank you very much for posting that link.  What a wealth of information and so many exercises !  I'm going to have to watch this vid with violin in hand and go through each exercise one at a time.  A good "quiet" evening workout while the family is up and about. 

Posted: September 5, 2011
Sorry Tricia, I am not sure what you mean when you say: 'it is possible to hold the violin without raising the scroll but it seems it will be easier to handle'

what do you mean by that?  having the violin high or low does not make it easier or more difficult to 'handle', it is all the same, that is why I don't understand what you mean, sorry....

maybe you think that when it is lower the violin will rest on your shoulder hence it is 'easier'?

If that's what you think then no, it is not necessarily so... with me for example my violin does 'not' touch my shoulder even when it is lower, I ALWAYS have to hold it with my left hand whether it is with the scroll higher than the bout or level or with scroll a little lower than bout.  

I would have to have a VERY DROOPY violin to have it resting on my shoulder and I would have to have it 'very much pointing to the left too' making it difficult for me to bow straight, so basically, the answer is no: I never have my violin resting on my shoulder, it is always kept up by my left hand has I play, therefore I would not understand why it is easier for me to keep it lower or higher, it is the same LOL  I can keep it higher if you like, but I'd just do it 'for show'.

Was that why you said it would be easier to handle?

ps if anything it is 'easier' when the scroll is higher as when you down-shift the violin will not 'move away' from under your chin by the way....

Posted: September 5, 2011
Hi Tricia, I know the video by Menuhin 'very' well.

Menuhin uses a different hold of the violin, he uses ONLY the thumb as a point of contact with the neck of the violin, this is not the way I learnt and it is not the way many others use, for example it is not the way Ivan Galamian teaches, Ivan Galamian used and was teaching the '2 point contact' of the left hand, I believe I am correct when I say that 'most' (not all but most) violinists who play with no shoulder rest will use the '2 point contact' (and these days it is probably the most commonly used anyway even by those who use a shoulder rest).

The 2 point contact advocated by Ivan Galamian is where you have both the thumb 'and' the base knuckle of the index finger touching the neck of the violin, this is the way I learnt.

When you watch the Yehudi Menuhin video lesson n.3 pay attention how he will 'underline' that 'ONLY the thumb and the tip of the fingertips on the fingerboard should touch the violin and you 'must have a nice round gap in between your hand and the violin'.  Well, I can't play that way as I have not learnt that way, I have tried and I can, but I have to 'concentrate/be careful with my shifts' as I don't have my index finger to help me support my violin and to tell me in which position I am in LOL

Also Menuhin was a person who 'did' hold the violin quite high all the time by the way, he was like that.

This does show there are differences between players but it does not mean one way is 'the way' and certainly the way he shows how to play is not the only good way, the way Ivan Galamian and other pedagogues taught how to play was just as good/valid.

What it is good is to take it all in, all different approaches and take a bit from everywhere and certainly as a teacher know what to use for which student.  I have tried and am trying some of the things that Sir Menuhin suggested and take from him what works for me, I do the same with Galamian and so on.  

Yes, the thumb exercises are 'very good' :)

I have his book too and the videos complement the book very well, I think it is excellent to read the book and the watch the videos as then it all 'sinks in nicely'.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 5, 2011
Tricia Thanks for posting that link.  I had never seen it, and it was great to see validation from one of the great masters. Specifically, at about 8:50, he demonstrates an exercise that I had more or less talked about in the video on  Left Hand Squeezing: Restructuring.  I refer to the natural "stickiness" of the thumb, and it's upward directional force that serves as the counter pressure for the finger. He of course takes it to another level by using it to hold up the violin.  My thoughts on that are different though. In any case, it's that structuring of the relationship between the thumb and fingers (especially the first finger) that is so crucial to left arm technique. 

Simon, I was going to make a video today talking more about that. The exercises Menuhin demonstrates would be great for you to do. (Even WITH a shoulder pad). I am going to steal those exercises..ha!

Posted: September 5, 2011

Simon and Jo:

Yes Jo, it is possible to hold the violin without raising the scroll, but it seems that it will be easy to handle while you are playing. Take a look to this video of another great master of the violin, Yehudi Menuhin, teaching to some students. I tried to hold the violin the way Menuhin did (just with the jaw) to see if someday I can play without a shoulder rest, but I was unsuccessful. The name of the video is “Yehudi Menuhin Violin Tutorial - 3. Left Hand First Exercises” posted by Lemon77UG. The bad audio is only at the very beginning of the lesson.


Simon, this video also has an interesting description of the left hand fingers position, angle and movements (vertical, horizontal etc.) He used a transparent violin for us to see the way fingers fall over the strings, as well as hand and arm around the instrument from different views. Please notice the left hand’s thumb that tilt the violin back-and-forward to the audience.

It seems to me that the thumb gets very busy while the violinist are playing.


Posted: September 5, 2011
No actually Tricia, that is not what I said sorry, I was saying that playing with no shoulder rest does not mean you have to keep the scroll higher than the bout of the violin, that is the only point I was making, I was not talking about Ida Haendel and Perlman's abilities of making a good tone (though of course they do), I was just quoting them as 2 examples of players who play with no shoulder rest and do not raise their violins, I can give many more examples of players who play with no rest and have their violins either flat or drooping and can play well enough or well but you would not know their names as they are not 'famous'.

Posted: September 4, 2011

Yes Jo I agree with you. Ida Haendel and Itzhak Perlman know how to play the violin with or without shoulder rest, change the sounding points to accommodate the different dynamic, produce a sublime tone no matter what and maybe they can do this with their eyes closed; but you have to agree with me that none of us are there yet.


Posted: September 4, 2011

not sure why you find tuning difficult.....

as your neck looks shorter than mine! and I don't find tuning difficult AT ALL without a shoulder rest....maybe we should organise a meeting on web-cam through skype? then I can show you what I do when I tune with no shoulder rest?  or I can upload a video on here? ;) but now you have a shoulder rest so you can tune ok anyway :)

I am not even sure why/how you find shifting/vibrato a challenge, I wonder whether you have the right chin rest on your violin for your neck to begin with maybe that is the problem....or perhaps you were 'jumping the gun', what I mean is: these things are difficult anyway and without a shoulder rest they do require a 'certain way' to be learnt and if you are learning without a teacher sometimes sticking a shoulder rest on is just 'avoiding/going round the problem', which I don't blame you as...what are you supposed to do if you don't have someone to tell you/show you how to go about it? :)

anyway, at the end of the day whatever you are happy/comfortable with is the answer and if you feel now you are more comfortable and playing better/progressing better then that is the important thing, so good on you for always looking at different views/perspectives and see what you can do to help yourself improve all the time.

Posted: September 4, 2011
:-)   I should explain, Jo, that I've been backwards and forwards with shoulder rests!  I started with one, but could never quite find the right position for me, and the sound of the violin was choked.  So then I went without and found that the sound was immediately bigger, more free and resonant.  I also found I could play with the violin happlily on my collar bone and the freedom of movement that the violin had was helping my playing.  I played like this for a good 9 months - but there were problems.  Firstly I found tuning with the pegs difficult as I couldn't easily support the instrument and turn the pegs.  Then I started to learn some basic vibrato and shifting and found that I needed a more stable platform to learn these techniques so decided to go back to using a rest.  I've bought a Viva La Musica rest which is more comfortable than my first one so I'm getting on OK with it.  I will consider going back to not using one in the future after vibrato and shifting are more natural to me, although I think tuning will still be a problem - I'll see how things go.  I realise (as Patricia pointed out) that changing and tweaking things will affect my whole set up, but as I've not been learning that long, it doesn't seem to take too long to adjust.

And my thumb - it does look more tense in the video (I was surprised how much), but it didn't feel as bad as it looked!  After playing some more this evening, I do think the 'forward' position is better.

I'll also echo Beth's comments about you being a good teacher!  And making special videos for folks on here is very kind of you - thank you.

Posted: September 4, 2011
WOW, now sorry but this really makes my head spin LOL

when I first saw your very first video I thought 'hang on a minute', I seem to recall Simon once said he does not use a shoulder rest.....but then I thought maybe I was tired and I must be mixing you up with someone else surely!

Then Tricia says 'if you ever think of going back to not using a shoulder rest' and I think 'what is she talking about' LOL LOL

Now I get it!!  But Simon, what's going on? did you originally learn with no shoulder rest?  If so how long have you learnt the instrument with no shoulder rest for? and then what made you go to use a shoulder rest?    

For the record: playing without a shoulder rest does not mean you 'always' keep the scroll higher than the bout of the violin, I don't, many other players don't either, the violin constantly moves as you plays, up and down and on its axis and left and right, often just by a tiny bit, sometimes a lot more, Ida Haendel probably never has the scroll higher than the bout ;)  I think Itzhak Perlman also has never raised the scroll high (I mention famous violinists as if I mention my next door neighbour nobody will have seen him playing LOL).  I didn't realise how often the violin moves and how important these movements are until 6 months into playing without a shoulder rest when I tried to play with a rest again.....in the first 5 minutes I thought it was nice, after 15 minutes I could not stand the thing anymore and had to take it off! The reason why it was because it was 'paralising' my violin LOL  my violin could not move as it normally moves without the rest attached to it and I never realised how much it moves until I had tried to play with a rest attached LOL

Thanks for the compliment Beth, I actually 'do' teach at work, though I am not a teacher, I teach sometimes in clinical settings about medical procedures, medical emergencies and about physiology etc, I have done because of this a small university module (6 months in teaching/mentoring), but my 'students' often praise me as they say they find they can learn well with me.  Though it seems I was giving not the right advice this time, but still, maybe advice which may be useful to someone else none the less hopefully :)  

The advice Anne was giving was very good, it will give the same results of what I was saying but it's even better as it will help the bowing and tone as she said, though with a shoulder rest you will have to adjust the shoulder rest (but you got to that one and I see you have done this in your second video :)).

Simon, in your second video I may be 'seeing things' but to me it looks like you get a little bit of tension with your thumb in the 'backwards' position and it looks more relaxed in its forward position....or am I just 'biased'? LOL  what did you feel?

Posted: September 4, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content

Every so often I like to go back to basics and just check that everything is still working as it should - and this thread has made me look in some detail at my whole set up!

I think the high scroll was down to 2 things: (1) as Patricia says, having got used to playing without a shoulder rest, I was used to holding the violin higher for the reasons mentioned in the clip she linked to and (2) the screw on the 'shoulder' side of the rest was set quite high.  I've since screwed that down to its lowest setting and raised the 'chest' side of the shoulder rest so the violin is now sitting lower and flatter (which addresses Anne's suggestion) and is more comfortable.

As for the wrist / first finger action on the E string I think there are 2 things going on....

I remember watching in a YouTube clip some advice about keeping the line of knuckles from index finger to pinkie (with the hand in playing position) pointing upwards.  This tilts the hand back a bit, but not so far that the violin rests on the palm!  The advantage of doing this is to bring the 3rd and 4th fingers up to reach the strings more easily.  As a consequence of pivoting my elbow to the left (to reach the E string),  this line of knuckles drops to point downwards.

The second thing I've noticed is that I'm trying to play F# with the very tip of my first finger and to achieve this, I'm 'rolling' up onto the finger tip.  This rolling action sends the wrist backwards and out towards the peg box.

So, I'm now trying to (a) keep my knukles pointing slightly upwards on all strings and (b) playing with the first finger more on the side of the tip / pad, so rather than the string 'cutting' through the finger down the centre, it now cuts it on the A string side of the fingertip.  I think this is helping keep a better shape.

If I do this, I don't feel so much tension in the first finger, but it still feels 'squashed' as it curves right over against itself (I guess I've got quite fat fingers at their base!)

Anyway, I recorded the attached video before I gave a lot of thought to these solutions but tried to show what my hand and fingers were doing.  I've also tried to show my thumb placement as Jo was asking about it - I'm not sure which is working better for me, or which is more 'correct'.  I believe many of the famous teachers have said different things, although most seem to suggest either opposite the first or between first and second fingers.

Thanks for your thoughts.


PS - In this video don't pay too much attention to my bow arm, I'm gonig to work on that next!!

Anne aMaudPowellFan
Posted: September 4, 2011
Simon, here is perhaps another option to help the first finger on the E string. Try to hold the violin itself a little bit flatter, that is turn it counterclock wise around the fingerboard axis. That could also help your bowing on the E string, because now your bowing on the E string is nearly vertical. When the violin is flatter, you have better contact between bow and E string because of effective arm weight. Just an idea...

BTW, of course you yourself not only your violin need to take credit for good sound. The violin does not play by itself. And it will not sound good with anybody playing. Just give it to someone to try who has no experience in playing and see...

Posted: September 4, 2011

The scroll looks as though it's pointing a bit high in the air… I'm going to try having the scroll a little lower …. So far, neither Beth nor others are correcting you about this even when you pointed out twice. Simon, I don’t have the expertise to give you any technical recommendation, but if I was you, before you change your basic ways of holding the violin, consider it, re-consider it and consider it again. Like everything concerning to the violin, any little change has its effects. (“If it is not broke, do not fix it”).

Changing the level of your scroll will jeopardize others things; such as, it will effect the angle of your bow in relation to the sounding points. If you lower your scroll and to bow parallel to the bridge, then you will have to adjust your bow upper arm more (if my memory is correct) to the right.

If you decide to go back and not to use a shoulder rest, then probably your teacher will suggest to raise the scroll in order to have the instrument secure by its own weight against your body and facilitate the down shifting. Then you will have to re-adjust your way of bowing by bringing your bow upper arm more to your left, necessary to have an straight bow stroke.

English it’s not my first language, so to back me up and clarify my comments, check this video called “Raising the scroll” posted by smileyh888. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=GSOQ2pOcG7g

My best


Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 4, 2011
Nice point about pivoting with the elbow, Jo. I think you are going to make an excellent teacher! Your explanations are clear and thorough.

I didn't see that problem so much in Simon's technique, however. His elbow levels and pivoting don't seem to me to be the issue. My sense is that it is in the behavior of the first finger itself.  I'm going in to the studio today to record some tutorials for local Orchestra auditions excerpts, and while I'm in front of the camera.....

I also am gong to preview these darn scales I'm working on. The learning curve for inputting graphics, and the actual inputting is crazy!  But I have a little done and will post soon.

Posted: September 4, 2011
Beth / Jo - thanks for the help.  I recorded another video - but only realised afterwards that the microphone was muted!  I will do another one shortly!

Jo - you're right about knuckle position versus the fingerboard - I hadn't thought it through properly or tried it before posting.  Lower knuckle position and pivoting the elbow certainally help.  What's frustrating is that adjusing your hand/ finger to overcome one problem often means that the other fingers are now in slightly different positions and you have to re-learn when they go!

You're also right about my thumb!  In the past I've had it aligned to the first finger, almost pointing slightly towards the scroll, but then found it easier to reach with the 4th finger if I brought it more between the 1st and 2nd fingers.  Now though low, 1st finger is a stretch!  I guess you are constantly making small adjustments as you play which takes into account what the fingers are doing and the thumb goes where it needs to.

Thanks again.


Posted: September 3, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content

Simon, I really got all excited about this E string stuff tonight as like I've said I'd forgotten all about it until you've brought it up LOL  so I've played with it tonight in my practice and I've done a little video to show you the pivoting elbow, hope you don't mind (blush)

I really felt an improvement on the tension in the first finger, it reminded me of when I first had issues myself 2 years ago with this, especially with F natural, that is a real nasty one LOL

Posted: September 3, 2011
erm...there was a mistake at the end of my post to simon:

Just pivot your elbow to the right enough to help you, it don't need to be by a lot ;)

it should have said: just pivot your elbow to the 'left' (apologies Simon for confusing you LOL)

Posted: September 3, 2011
ps: about 'thumb positioning' I wanted to clarify that we are all different, so take with a 'pinch' of salt (there is also slightly different opinions as to where it should be...).  So long that you can play with no tension it's ok.  And also the thumb like Beth rightly mentioned in another thread is 'fluid' ie: will move about in playing, the most important thing is that it stays relaxed and does not grip.

Posted: September 3, 2011
having gone back to look after you brought back up your concerns over your index finger on E string:

'where' is your thumb??  I can't see it, but by looking at your hand it looks as if maybe it is opposite your second finger? or maybe even opposite in between your second and third?  could you please check and let us know?
If it is opposite the second finger and/or opposite in between the 2nd and 3rd you may want to try for a few days to play with it opposite the 1st finger, or do this (without the violin):

let your left arm/hand hang by the side of your body VERY LOOSE AND RELAXED as it was JELLY and give it a few gentle shakes, keep it VERY loose!!!
now keep it your hands/fingers VERY relaxed and bring them up to as if you wanted to play the violin, where is your thumb?  for virtually most of the people it will be opposite the first finger....this is why you should have it opposite the first finger when you play as it will not create tension when playing.  If you have it 'higher up' (ie by second/third finger) you start creating tension and this 'might' be one of the things affecting your index finger (not the only thing but one of the things).

If you do keep your thumb by your first finger already, apologies LOL ;)

then, to help your 'squashed' index finger here what to do:
NO, having your hand higher, your knuckles above the nut as you say will make it MORE difficult and will squash your index finger 'even more' ;)
the way your hold your violins is fine....
you need your base knuckles slightly lower than the fingerboard and also...
...pivoting your elbow under the violin will help!
you know how to reach the G string we pivot the left elbow to the right to help our fingers reach more easily?? I am sure you know or have noticed :)
OK, to help your index finger on E string (and other fingers), now you pivot your elbow 'to the left', do it and see how by magic your index finger will have its tension 'eased' :)

You will have to 'train' yourself to remember to do this.  We automatically do this for the G string as otherwise we can't reach it well, but we forget to do it for the E string as we can reach it so easily!! I still forget to do it for the E string myself and I've been learning for 4 and a half years, you just reminded me with your index finger 'dilemma' LOL

Just pivot your elbow to the right enough to help you, it don't need to be by a lot ;)

And yes, your knuckles need to be a little 'below' the fingerboard, try and see what I mean, try higher and below and see how with higher you will have an even more squashed finger LOL

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 3, 2011
Anne, I like your suggestion to reverse the bowing. Great practice tip!

Simon, would you consider posting another video with your scroll facing the camera so that I can get a better look at the way your first finger is working? Try and show me what you're describing wen you say: "when I try and 'square' it that I can feel tension down the finger". The first finger issues on the E string have troubled everyone at some point. I'd like to keep coming up with better suggestions.

Posted: September 3, 2011
Beth and everyone - thank you for taking the time to look at my clip.  It's truly great to get many peoples perspective.

One of the things I think I'm going to struggle with is keeping my left hand/wrist position, as Beth describes, when playing F# on the E string - my first finger feels so squashed when I try and 'square' it that I can feel tension down the finger so I'm almost unconciously compensating by moving the hand.  I'm going to try having the scroll a little lower which will hopefully help me have a slightly higher hand position which will bring my knuckles further above the nut - does this sound like the right action to take?

Jo - you are very perceptive!  I haven't done much work in actually shifting.  I've been having so much trouble actually playing in a position (both 2nd and 3rd) and getting used to the different spacing between the fingers.  It's been a real block for me over these past few months.  So before I work on the shifts, I've been playing through the Neil Mackay "A Tuneful Introduction to..." books.  Each book focusess just on playing in a single position (either 2nd or 3rd).  I wanted to get the positions firmly fixed in my fingers before trying to shift between them.  So I understand what you mean by guide-notes I just haven't starting applying them yet!  Again, I hope this is a good approach?

Eileen / Anne - I would love to take some credit for the tone, but the truth is I'm very lucky to have this violin and 95% of the tone is down to the instrument and not what I'm doing!  I do enjoy these slower pieces and will work some more with you suggestions for bowing and Beths tone production videos.

Vibrato is something I really want to get working more!  I'm not yet able to do it in all the places I want to.  It takes so much of my concentration that the other things like bowing, finger motion, intonation etc all have to take a back seat at those moments when I do try and use it.  Do you think I've got the basic motion OK, or can you see something bad starting to form?  The way it feels to me is that I'm moving from the wrist rather then finger or arm - is this correct?

Thank you all again.


Anne aMaudPowellFan
Posted: September 3, 2011
Great to hear you playing, Simon. Well done. Good sound! It is apparent from your playing that you've "musiced" most of your life.

My suggestion would be, for what it is worth, to look into your bowing first. You mention in another thread that you will look at Beth's tone production videos once more. That's good. The piece you have chosen requires some sophistication in bow control, since bows in one direction often have several beats as opposed to one beat in the next bow in opposite direction, so the faster bows needs to be compensated by something in the slower bows and vice versa (probably changing bow weight or tapering (changing bow speed from fast to slow within a single bow)). As a first approach, you might wish to reverse some bowing, playing the longer, heavier bows as down bows. At least at the beginning, you play what feels like upbeats on down bows. This makes it more difficult because down bows are natuarally heavier at the beginning and become lighter towards the frog.

Looking forward to further contributions from you!

Posted: September 3, 2011
I would say Simon that you are doing very well !   When you brush up in those areas mentioned and as you grow in your abilities and experience, you are going to be a fantastic player !   You have a lovely violin too and you are able to bring out such a nice tone with expressive playing.....and only a year under your belt !  

Congrats on your first vid posting Simon !  It's going to be a pleasure seeing and hearing you as you progress......I look forward to your next performance !  :-)

I think Beth has a nice little waltz posted in the resources called Flora's waltz...under pdf files.  You might enjoy giving that one a try as well !  If you look it up on youtube you can hear the composer play it.  

Posted: September 2, 2011
Simon, what a surprise!

well done on you for posting your very first video :) nice to meet you!!!

I really enjoyed it and that is a credit to you as I actually really dislike this tune HAHAHAHAHA so for me to enjoy it you must have done a good job of it !!! LOL  it's just something about Ashokan Farewell, I could never get to like it ;)

You are very good at self-critique so I think from now on you must put it in your practice diary: 
-I must record/video myself once a month and listen/watch
that will really help you progress!

You basically said it yourself:  your 'bowing wrist' needs to learn to bend ;)  but you were producing a nice tone so congratulations and I like your vibrato by the way, it's sprouting along very nicely indeed, it's really blooming.

Ok ok, you slipped on a couple of oily patches going to and back to 3rd position lol but if I remember right you have not been doing this for very long so be kind to yourself!

Do you practice your 'guide notes' for shifting?  it didin't look like you were using them to me (or maybe you are not used to them yet?), it looked more like you were 'jumping in the dark and hope to land in the right spot' to me, which is what I was doing before I started taking lessons with my current teacher LOL ;)

in your very first shift from D 3rd finger to is it A first finger on E string you were going to play? you seemed to just 'jump' there. (in the other shifts as well but not as obvious)

I don't know if you know what I am talking about when I talk about guide notes, I will be happy to 'elaborate' if you want me to.

I think your intonation is good as you can 'hear' what you are doing, that is the very important thing, you need to 'hear' first and you could hear it went 'out of shape' in third position, but that's only because you are not as confident up there as you are in 1st position, it will come in time, you have the ears, the muscle memory will follow, just keep doing lots of repetitive but very useful guide notes practice ;) LOL

I like the way you play and the way you hold the violin, you show potential and your passion/love shines through.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 2, 2011
Not too high. I don't see tension in the shoulder, so you're ok.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: September 2, 2011
Bravo, Simon!  I love it when someone gets brave and posts video!! You are doing so many things very well.  Your basic technique looks well formed, so I don't see anything that looks like a "bad habit". Your intonation is generally very good, and I can hear you adjust when it's off a little.  Intonation in shifting will come.  When we miss a shift, it's hard to adjust, since it's the whole hand that needs adjusting and not just a finger. It can be disorienting. Hence all those shifting studies out there....

Your left hand looks nice and relaxed, however when you have to play the 1st finger F# on the E string, you are pivoting your hand under the neck (you actually mentioned this). I think the problem is back to that clenching issue between the 1st finger and the thumb. I don't see the clenching until that note.  Try to play the F# by squaring up the first finger.  Keep that base knuckle out of the way and try and maintain your left hand position.

As for your right hand. Again, looking quite nice.  I think you could use a little more bend in the wrist at the frog, but not much.  Your arm and wrists level are naturally high, so you won't need to "goose neck".  Just a tad more bend...  I can tell you've been working on finger motion at the frog, and often times I saw it working! The bow changes were smoother and more control. Keep working on that!

Be careful with that sounding point.  You are at a tempo where using whole bows will want to make your bow traverse many sounding points all in one stroke, so keep an eye (literally) on that.

It was fabulous getting to hear you play.  Thank you for posting!!

Posted: September 2, 2011
... and my bow arm elbow is a bit high?