Many people have questions about holding the violin correctly, especially if they choose not to use a shoulder rest. Here is a question that Jessica sent to Professor Belknap:
Dear Prof. Belknap,
I have a problem with holding my violin. Like you I believe it is better not to use a shoulder rest in order to be able to move more freely. However, my violin keeps slipping down the side of my thumb. I am reading and practicing the "six lessons for violin" course by Yehudi Menuhin, but have no idea how to keep the violin from slipping. I would be very thankful for any advice.
Before attempting to switch to holding the violin without the shoulder rest, here are some things you may want to keep in mind. First, you will be using different muscles that are not as strong as they need to be at first. To keep from straining yourself, you should use an electric timer and not allow yourself to practice for more than 15 minutes without a break of 3-5 minutes. This is the most important thing to remember when switching how you hold the violin.
Advantages to Holding the Violin Without a Shoulder Rest
Holding the violin without a shoulder rest will allow you to play better in tune with less practice. It will also allow your sound to become richer, deeper, and more natural. Finally, it will allowy you to play with less tension and become almost immediately more comfortable. So why doesn't everyone switch back to the way the violin was meant to be held?
The reason is simple - there aren't enough people that still know how to hold the violin up without a shoulder rest and fewer that know how to teach it, so everyone is left to learn how to hold it up by themselves. To make it easier, here are three simple tips you can use:
- Step one is to make sure that the violin is sitting on the collarbone
and centered with the tailpiece going right into the neck. You might need a
chin rest that goes over the tailpiece to do this...I didn't but some
- Make sure the strings of the violin are parallel to the ground so that
the violin points up a little.
- Do not touch the violin with your shoulder. This is the hard one but is very essential or you will have more back pain and more coordination problems than you did with a shoulder rest. How do you hold it up? With your left hand and your collarbone.
Here are three exerciese that will help:
1. Hold the violin as described above with the strings parallel to the
ground. Now glide up and down the fingerboard from 5th to 1st position to
ensure that you can shift down. The violin will feel like it will fall off
your shoulder unless you have it held up high enough. If your hands are
sticky or wet with perspiration than you might have to wash them or use baby
powder to make them slide more easily.
2. Holding the violin up high as described put your thumb underneath the
neck at 5th position and reach back to 1st position and up to 10th position
pivoting on your thumb. Slide back and forth to create the feeling of
shifting without dropping the violin.
3. Do the same thing from 5th position to 10th position pivoting on the
thumbs second bone. This one is hard to describe in writing so you might
have to wait for the dvd.