Violin For Dummies
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When you’re actually playing the violin, you’re most comfortable when your left hand forms and holds a well lined‐up frame. Holding your left hand correctly is important to achieve the right sound. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand up and hold your violin across your waist just like a guitar, with the violin’s neck cradled in your left hand.

    Your left hand encircles the neck quite close to the scroll end, and your right hand supports the ribs under the top end of the instrument.

  2. Keep your left palm facing up and your fingers curved gently around the neck of the violin.

    The side of the ebony fingerboard leans lightly on the left side of your palm at the crease where your index finger joins to your palm. The base joints of your other fingers remain very close by the side of the fingerboard, without actually touching the wood.

  3. Place your left‐hand fingertips very lightly on the fingerboard, between the D string and the A string.

    This position is the correct alignment for your fingers.

  4. Swing the violin up into playing position with a little help from your right hand, which supports and steadies the violin by holding gently under its upper ribs.

    As you swing up, keep your left‐hand fingertips on the violin’s fingerboard in the same position described in Step 3. Don’t force your knuckles to be completely parallel to the violin neck, just keep your attention on your fingertips, and you will arrive in a good position.

    Getting your fingers into line. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]
    Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
    Getting your fingers into line.

For best results when getting into playing position, swing the violin up to a level that’s a bit higher than its final resting level, so that you place the violin on your collarbone from above. Landing the violin from above helps make it feel quite light.

In all of these steps, the inner side of your thumb pad rests gently on the neck of the violin, more or less opposite your index finger. Keep your thumb fairly straight and relaxed, with its tip just peeking over the top of the fingerboard while its base forms a U shape under the neck of the violin.

Left hand position. [Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk]
Credit: Photograph by Nathan Saliwonchyk
Left hand position.

You know your left hand is in the correct playing position when enough space exists between the lowest curve of your thumb’s U shape and the neck of the violin for a little mouse to sneak through (eek!).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Katharine Rapoport is an accomplished violinist and violist who taught violin, viola, and chamber music at the University of Toronto for over 25 years. In addition to authoring teaching manuals and syllabi—as well as articles for Strad Magazine —she has performed live in Canada, the USA, and across Europe.

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