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Could you talk about the feel of holding the violin?  If you close your eyes, and focus on the physical sensation of holding it in a starting position, where do you feel it touching, where is it balancing, where do you feel more tension/weight, tactile clues that it is out of balance. 

I have come a long, long way in loosing my death grip, but I'm still not holding it as lightly as needed to comfortably shift, play vibrato, of even play on the E string.  I'm clamping with my chin - and that very quickly leads to the violin wanting to  pivot across my chest to the right.  And that, of course, leads to the feeling of pushing back with my left hand and pinching with my thumb. 

Recently I put sticky double sided tape on the neck (briefly) to get the feel of not needing the heel of my index finger to keep the violin from pivoting and what a feeling of freedom in my left fingers.  I have very dry skin, that natural adhesion you talk about in your videos just doesn't happen. 

I'm thinking I'm missing something --  I really like that feeling of freedom when I'm not pushing on the neck to avoid the pivot to the right.  What are the tactile clues you use to orient yourself with to get the balance you look for?

Thank you!

8 Responses
Posted: November 6, 2012
Last Comment: December 9, 2012

Posted: December 9, 2012
Vicky, it's interesting what you say about your jaw.

When I was first (re)starting viola, I used to get jaw pains because I would clench my jaw from just trying too hard to get everything right. And of course, if you have tension anywhere in your body, it communicates itself to everywhere else, and then builds even more...

Interestingly, it seems that little kids have this problem, too. My teacher said that one solution (in the past) used to be to have the child hold a little piece of carrot between the back teeth on the left side...Then, if there was a CRUNCH when the child started to play, they would know that they were clamping their jaw. Their job would be to hold the carrot gently without clenching -- or crunching.

Which sounds a bit crazy -- but I did actually try it one day, and it was quite instructive.

I don't know why it's so hard to relax when you are learning a new skill. It seems to be so key -- I wish it weren't so hard.

But anyway, it sounds as though you are working through some interesting ideas and solutions, so I hope your jaw and neck pain will soon go away.


Posted: December 9, 2012
Hi Beth,

I want to offer you feedback now that I have taken a few weeks to practice with your video suggestions.  I have been able to make several changes in my "technique" (I feel silly describing my playing as "technique", but I guess it is). 

1. Thumb:   It was very helpful to hear you talk about the thumb  and that there is a bit of "resting" of the violin there.  I now think in terms of feeling the violin neck on the joint of my thumb vs. on the pad of my thumb.  Of course, I still feel the pad, but I use the top of the joint as my reference point, I only want to feel the pad just above the joint.   This seems to help me keep that upward feel vs. coming from the side.

2.  Elbow issues:    I now realize my left elbow tends to drift off to the left resulting in adding that lateral pressure from the upper thumb pad on the neck.  If I feel my violin wanting to skate across my chest, my elbow is the first thing I check.  That upward light touch by the thumb really originates in my elbow.  Never realized that before.

3.  With the above changes, I'm able to maintain that slight distance between my left hand and the neck more consistently;  I have been able to add a great deal of relaxation to my hand, arm, and whole body.   The relaxation adds a whole new dimension to playing; my fingers love the added freedom.

4.  I bought a 15 X 20 inch mirror that now hangs in my practice area, specifically placed to reflect my violin height when playing.  I love it for easy feedback that is always available.

 A violinist friend once told me "Playing violin is all about relaxing".    Thank you so much for your help in this journey!


Posted: November 9, 2012
Thank you, Beth.    Your video response is helpful. 

 I will continue to practice and see what develops.  It does help to know that  lightly balancing the neck on the thumb joint is not a bad thing.  I will keep practicing and see what develops over the next couple of weeks, sometimes just taking a leap of faith and practicing has a way of working things out as body parts adjust to new skills.


Beth Blackerby
Posted: November 7, 2012
This discussion includes members-only video content

Vicky, I don't know if I completely answered your question. I think I got too stuck on the left hand and didn't address the violin hold enough. It is hard to find the magic combination of shoulder pad/shoulder pad angle, and chin rest. The website George linked too is a good one for that.

Posted: November 7, 2012

Hi Vicki, I found this site to be of great value in resolving my ''first time I ever touched a violin''problems..


...shows college students and their individual 'equipment' problems, often ignored or suffered - with.....I believe the link is accurate.....MYSELF, I had to change to a center chin rest to get the proper grip-pressure..I couldn't twist my neck ,literally, backwards-twist sideways and down-pressure..on the 'standard chin rests'...Beth may have available taller chinrests for you, please check with Blackerby Violin Store if you decide that would be right....knowledgable folks !......hope this helps !

Posted: November 7, 2012
Vicky, that's a great question.  I always wanted to know what it's supposed to feel like.  Is what I'm feeling what I'm supposed to be feeling?  I don't feel like others look.  The good players seem to have this comfort and ease about their hold.  I hope Beth chimes in with some thoughts.

Posted: November 7, 2012
Hi George,

Thank you for your comments......I do use a Bon Musica and for a while it helped tremendously.  I like your description of a silky shirt - that fits my experience, too.

I need even more relaxation and freedom in my left hand - isn't that the way it always goes?  You're climbing the mountain with the summit in the clouds, you think you just made it to the summit, enjoy it, then there's a break in the cloud cover and you realize it's a false summit and you have more climbing ahead of you.  But it's all good 'cause you really love just being on the mountain.

I have bent, reversed L-brackets, lengthened, shortened, bent some more, changed position on the violin, found a chin rest that fills the space well,  yada, yada, yada......and I still get the pivoting and the neck pain is coming back.  I do still love the Bon Musica, I have a long neck.

I'm thinking the geometry of my jaw and the shoulder rest is adding to my problem somehow?  Pushing down with my chin results in major jaw pain so I have to be careful to keep the focus on my jaw.

At home, I currently tuck that curved shoulder piece into the neck of my t-shirt.  It does reduce the pivoting!  Not exactly a long-term solution, however. 

Thank you for responding.


Posted: November 6, 2012

Hi, I guess it is just in my nature,To relate my experience--when I've found a solution that seems too good to keep quiet..........AFTER various beginner problems, I found my violin not staying in place and pivoting around.......too.......AND  I had already put on a ""BonMusica'' shoulder  rest.....it felt as tho the shirt I was wearing was silky..and the upper part of the rest was walking down my shoulder.

Sooo....after examination of the 'BonMusica' rest and the many ways it is able to be adjusted    and    manipulated  (bent-twisted on aluminum parts)  I saw  the part that is meant to go on top of ones shoulder....it has two plastic ''nuts'' on short 'screws'..that allow the extension & / or collapse  of that part..........COULD BE ANGLED ..toward ones neck-collar bone....BY REMOVING --ONE --OF THE NUT-SCREW  UNITS....THEN RETIGHTEN OTHER  ..a temporary measure for try-out..IF THIS ANGLE --ABOUT 45*  FROM STRAIGHT---DOESN'T FEEL LIKE A HAND ON YOUR SHOULDER--KEEPING THE VIOLIN FROM TWISTING...you can put it back to original configuration with no harm....IF IT WORKS FOR YOU--IT'S A SIMPLE MATTER TO ''''CAREFULLY'''' HAVE SOMEONE DRILL A MATCHING HOLE FOR THE SCREW-UNIT NBR  2......keep the rest in new position and use one of the factory drilled holes as a guide to drill the aluminum, soft stuff....

A little twisting and it is like a little hand saying go ahead..I gotcha..!...THEN I went back to Beths' left hand videos, to start all over again !!!