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Hello everybody. This is my first post. I wanted to say I've really been enjoying this site and all the really good videos from Beth, as well as your positive comments in the forum. I've felt like I've learned more in the last month than any of my previous attempts at learning the violin. I come from a piano background having played for about 20 years. Several years ago I picked up the violin for a semester in college, but stopped for many years. I think I was just impatient with myself and didn't work on developing that good foundation in the beginning. I just wanted to start playing songs right away. Also I had back, arm and shoulder pain from tension issues. I was happy to find all the helpful videos addressing these issues and all the practical advice. I was looking ahead at some of the videos on LH squeezing and the importance of developing strong fingers. I was thinking of getting a hand exerciser from amazon. Has anyone tried that and did they see improvement? Thanks.
7 Responses
Posted: October 10, 2019
Last Comment: October 12, 2019

Beth Blackerby
Posted: October 12, 2019
Hi Joel,

Welcome to Violin Lab. I love to hear that new members are learning and improving!! 

I used one of these a long time ago and did think it helped strengthen the hand. Here's the thing about hand strength. The stronger the hand, the less effort it takes to hold down the string. A strong hand feels like the fingers only need a very light pressure. So when teachers tell students to use light pressure, understand that their hands are already very strong!

If a hand is weak, using light pressure results in partially held down strings and bad tone. If you don't have enough time to strengthen the hand with the violin, I think these hand strengtheners are good to keep around. 

Posted: October 11, 2019
I'm by not means an expert, but lately I've been finding more and more that "less" (as opposed to more) pressure (and by extension, strength) is needed. Here's a useful video on the topic... HTH!

Posted: October 11, 2019
Hi Ted and Tim. Thank you for the comments. Playing the piano has helped, but my left hand is somewhat weaker than my right. Particularly the pinky and 3rd finger. When I first tried learning to play violin, I was having the same issues that you described Ted. The left arm would get sore after a few minuets. Today, I still have some of the soreness, but its slowly getting better. I find I might start off without pain, but after sometime the thumb would get tense and start to squeeze and the tension would go down my arm. It gets worse when I move to the G and D string. Like you mentioned, keeping a little space between the 1st finger and neck has helped.

My neck and back issues improved tremendously after finding a good setup. It took me over a month of experimenting with different shoulder rests and chin rests, different adjustments and placements of the shoulder rest and angle of the violin. I got a chin rest that sits over the tail piece, instead of to the side. It feels more secure to me because the violin is resting more up on the shoulder, instead of  hanging over the edge. I found when my chin and head have to do more to keep the violin up, it causes tension in my neck. I have to show you a picture of what I mean, its hard for me to describe.

But going back to the fingers, I was watching the video series on squeezing and one of the things Beth mentioned was getting the fingers stronger to a point where not much counter pressure is needed from the thumb. Where the thumb is just there to stabilize the neck, like a table leg. I thought that was a good analogy.

So, one thing that has helped me so far is, not trying to do too much too quickly. Just a little bit at a time. So, I'm trying to work on just a few videos a week. Lots of open string bowings, finger tapping and some intonation work. I haven't started any songs yet. I'm just gonna work on getting more comfortable with the instrument for now.

Ted Adachi
Posted: October 11, 2019
Hello Joel,
As a piano player, I would say that your fingers should be strong enough just from playing the piano.

If you are concerned about squeezing, then, as one beginner to another, this is what I do. First, I make sure that the violin hold at my chin and shoulder is secure. I like it to be secure enough so that I can sort of play without using my right hand thumb and I don't have any insecurity about the violin falling.

Depending on how your hand and fingers are built, try having the only right hand points of contact on the neck being the pad of your thumb and the tip of the finger playing the note. Curve your index so the side of the index doesn't contact the neck. If you play like this, it is pretty hard to squeeze.

Tim, you have been playing for a while so this may not apply but when I started, my left arm got so tired and sore that I could only play for about a minute and then I had to stop and rest. It was like there were muscles in the arm that I had never really used before and now they were complaining a lot. I can't really remember when things changed but all I did was keep on practicing. Eventually, I took shorter and fewer rest breaks and now it is not a problem anymore.

Timothy Smith
Posted: October 11, 2019
I believe I need to look over these videos too as my left arm tends to get sore trying to move around the neck. It almost seems impossible at this stage to play with zero pressure from my thumb while fingering. In fact, my arm doesn't feel like it's supposed to be moving at that angle. Sort of like I'm fighting the natural swing of the joint, or going past the movement zone. Do you get that kind of thing?

Posted: October 10, 2019
Wow. Thats interesting. Thank you for the tip and video! I've been doing my finger taps daily and that has helped a lot. I might try that finger exerciser and see how it goes. It will give me something I can work on when I'm away from my instrument. I'll let you know how it goes. Thank you.

Posted: October 10, 2019
This discussion includes members-only video content

Hi Joel, welcome. I have this hand exerciser and it does well for developing and maintaining overall hand and finger strength, which I need, but for violin specific finger strength it does not develop what the finger taps and trills do for me- and these take time and I need these daily- maybe the angle of the hand while it is working on the fingerboard so that it cannot transfer easily to a hand exerciser specifically to get the entire job done.