Is Your Left Hand a “Centenbak”?

by | Jun 30, 2015 | Start to Play | 0 comments

I know from my ground school days that playing on the street can be quite lucrative. To get some extra cash you can put down your open violin case in front of you. This is where the term ‘playing with a cent container’ comes from. I translated directly from Dutch, so perhaps one of you peeps can tell me the English term for this thing in the picture.

What we mean by playing with a ‘cent container’, is when you collapse your wrist and hold your violin in the palm of your left hand. Almost like you hold up your hand to receive some cash.

centenbak-linkerhandpositie-viool-300x246Playing with a collapsed wrist instead of a straight wrist has a couple of disadvantages:

  1. It’s really difficult to stabilize your intonation. It’s a coincidence where you place your fingers.
  2. It blocks your vibrato, as your left hand isn’t free.
  3. Position play is very hard, because you can’t slide in this position. When you would play positions, you’d have to change your hold causing the shifts to be inaccurate.

goede-linkerhand-houding-viool-300x258So… How can you do it the right way?

Keep your left wrist it into a straight line. From your elbow to the tip of your pinky there is a natural flowing line without sharp angles (see the pic on the left).

giving-hand-linkerhandpositie-viool-300x252The alternative that works just as well is the ‘giving’ hand hold. The ‘giving’ hand hold is a term Kato Havas (amongst other violin pedagogues) uss. It means your left wrist is slightly curved (see the pic on the right).

In both cases it’s important to have a little ‘mouse hole’ under the neck between your index finger and thumb. This keeps your hand free and makes vibrato, position play and playing in tune easier.

Something to help you maintaining this hold while practicing is to keep a toilet roll between your hand and the soundboard or to use a Wrist Rascal.

Now… check how you hold your left hand and see if there are some tips I shared that can help you improve.

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 and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!