How To Position Your Left Thumb and Relax Your Hand on the Violin and Viola
In this episode I’m going to answer a question from one of our viewers:
I have just bought your Violin Lounge TV DVD box and it’s fantastic – I’ve learned a LOT already and the episodes you have done on how ability progresses (thinking you’re getting worse, when really your ear is just improving faster than your technique etc) have been particularly helpful.
Especially as being an adult learner can sometimes be discouraging, we expect progress faster than is really possible. I know that I definitely expect way too much from myself sometimes, so it’s wonderful to have you making videos explaining why it’s not just me who struggles occasionally. So THANK YOU VERY MUCH! =)
I do have a question for you though… I have been playing violin for almost a year now, and am just starting to get past the point where everything is completely new, and I’m getting more comfortable and familiar with my instrument. I’ve noticed now that I’m starting to play songs that are a little bit more difficult and faster- that I tend to get cramps in my left thumb while playing.
I know that probably means that I’m squeezing too hard with my thumb, but I can’t seem to get enough leverage to push down properly on the strings without also pushing in with my thumb.
Do you have any advice?
It can be that you are squeezing your thumb too much. The issue might also be that you have your thumb in a position that it gets tensed.
You have to know there is a connection between your pinky and your thumb. I don’t know the medical term, but these two fingers are related to each other.
The ease with which you play with the 4th finger highly depends on the position of your thumb.
In the video I show that when you place your thumb under the neck of the violin, it causes a lot of tension in the ball of your thumb.
Every wrong basic technique on the violin or viola will bother you more as the speed and difficulty of the pieces you play increase. You will be challenged more. Problems will arise you didn’t have in easier pieces.
The way to place your thumb in a way it can stay relaxed is to place it:
- opposite your index finer (1st finger)
- opposite your middle finger (2nd finger)
- in between these fingers
None of them is better than the other. It differs per person what they like most.
Doing this the violin must be a bit in your hand, so you can let your fingers fall on the string in a curved position. Your fingers will have more space and don’t have to stretch. This will benefit your intonation.
Some people wonder if your thumb should be visible above the fingerboard. This depends on the length of your thumb and the shape of your hand.
Don’t let the violin rest in between your thumb and index finger without leaving a ‘mouse hole’ under the neck of the violin. This will block the movement of your left hand.
Hi! I'm Zlata
Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.
Your elbow should be right under the violin pointing to the floor. In the video I demonstrate some different positions.
Kel mentions she can’t seem to get enough leverage to push down her fingers properly on the strings without also pushing in with her thumb. When I’m playing I have the feeling that with my left arm I can hang on the violin. I don’t feel like I have to hold the violin up. You can achieve this by having a relaxed violin hold that is not too much up and not too much to the left.
To implement these tips, start with an easy piece and feel the change and relaxation. After you are used to this, slowly apply it to more difficult pieces.
Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!
PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to email@example.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!
I don’t have this thumb problem, but it was enjoyable and informative to watch.
Thanks Graeme, welcome in the Violin & Viola Academy. I hope you will enjoy it very much and get good results.
All the best,
Could be a setup problem. If the bridge is too high, the player may “need” to push down too hard on the strings to contact the fingerboard. Have your violin looked at by a good luthier and see if a different bridge could be your answer.
Yes, good addition, a good set up on your instrument is very important!