Setting up the left hand correctly for violin and viola players is essential to developing good technique and intonation. Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind.
Points of Contact
When holding a violin or viola we have three points of contact:
- At the the shoulder/chin rest
- At the base of the first finger
- At the thumb
The three points of contact are dependent on each other. If any of them are not set up correctly, they will affect the student’s overall technique and ease of playing. Not paying attention to these points of contact often leads to “pizza wrist” where the wrist collapsed toward the instrument due to lack of enough correct support on the violin.
- Make sure that the base of the first finger is touching the neck of the violin (as seen on pic2)
- Thumb is soft. There is a space between the thumb and the neck of the instrument (pic1)
- Fingers are curved, soft, and a bit separated.
- Fingers are resting at about 45 degree angle from the strings
Shaping The Hand
Notice on the second picture above, the students is holding an egg inside her hand. Using this activity can help a students grasp a concept of soft and curved hand. Occasionally I would work with a student who wants to “squeeze” with their left hand too tight. The “Easter egg” helps me open up their left hand and get them to shape it. I talk to younger students about “not cracking the egg”. Fingers need to be soft enough to protect the egg as well as separated so that egg is supported from all sides.
Soft Hand and Elbow
The first picture shows the Easter egg resting on the student’s elbow. This could serve as a game for tow concepts. The hand needs to be nice and soft so that the egg can gently swing. The same idea could be used when teaching left elbow movement when crossing strings.
Having Fun While Developing Posture
Sometimes I like using toys and “props” to explain it to students. It helps the younger beginners as well as the students who have a harder time getting the concept. As Easter is around the corner, here are two ideas to make things visual and easier.
When using games and props you would like to do it carefully. They will help your teaching and learning, but you should not rely on them. Learning about posture has two parts – understanding the concept and working on muscle memory. Eventually you would want to train your muscles to do the correct thing without extra help.