How to Get a Clean Sound Without Tension in Your Left Hand

by | Sep 30, 2015 | Beautiful Tone, Play Comfortably | 4 comments

This episode of Violin & Viola TV is inspired by my Violin & Viola Academy student Susan. She writes:

Hi Zlata

I Hope you enjoy every moment of your holiday and relax as much as you can. Thank you for all the wonderful videos you provide for us your students.

Something I am realy struggling with is the pressure on the strings with my left hand fingers. I think that I apply way too much pressure, but if I don’t do it I can’t get a clean sound. Do you think that is the main reason for the tension?

Thank you so much for your kind attention whenever possible.


This is something I myself learned wrong at first and after that learned to do it well.

There are three ways to place your fingers on the string:

One way is to place your finger on the string as softly as possible and to use very little tension. The downside of this way is that the finger placement becomes very insecure, vage and you don’t hear a good articulation coming from your lef hand.

You need to use some force to hit the string to the fingerboard. That leads us to the second way: People use a lot of tension and force to squeeze the string onto the fingerboard. You get a more clean sound, but your left hand will cramp after a while. That’s also not the way to do it.

The third and (in my opinion) best way is to hit your fingers on the fingerboard. In this way your intonation will also improve.

You need to hold your violin or viola in a relaxed way. You need to keep your left arm under the violin or viola in a relaxed way.

Your left hand fingers however need to be very strong and sporty. Without the bow you need to be able to hear your finger tips hitting the string, which hits the fingerboard. The strings should slap on the fingerboard a little, as if you are hitting a fly with your finger tip.

In this way your left hand will be relaxed, your finger tips won’t hurt and your intonation (playing in tune) will be more accurate. 

Perhaps you can analyze for yourself what way you are placing your fingers and if you can make some improvements with the tips from this video.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

What’s your favorite shoulder rest and why? Share it in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin & Viola TV episode to answering your question!


  1. Ann Cantrell

    Thank you Zlata for this week’s violin playing tips. This sounds very useful to me and makes me wonder how other violin instructors that I have visited in my area do not offer this kind of teaching.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Violinist Zlata

      Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your compliment. I have to figure out my ‘method’. Perhaps I can teach other teachers in the future.

      All the best,


  2. Thisbe

    A very good question from Susan, sometimes I have some calluses on the tips of my fingers too. After this video I decided to play as light as possible first. Of course I had a lack of sound and control then. So I gave a little bit more pressure till the feeling and sound were perfect. Now I realise I played with to much tension for a long time. An eye-opener, thanks a lot!

  3. Philip newton

    See Paul Ro.lands Birds Aat sunrise. Develop Equal left and right gentle sympathetic complementary
    movement before finger pressure.


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