Whether you’re 3 or 93, holding a violin properly is one of the first and most important things to get right! If your violin is not positioned correctly, your developing bow strokes and left-hand technique will be hindered. Just last week, I met with Rachael who was having trouble with her shifting.
Rachael was very frustrated because, despite the hours that she was spending on shifting exercises, her moves to and from different positions were sounding rough. It turned out that an incorrect violin position was causing tightness in her left-hand and hence making it difficult for her to shift smoothly to higher positions.
With a change of shoulder rest and some simple posture exercises, Rachael left my studio feeling far more optimistic and positive about her playing
Strong violin technique starts with holding a violin properly, so be sure to give care and attention to this each and every time you begin your practice. On the right,
What size violin should I buy?
As a parent, I try to save money wherever I can. I tend to shop for clothes that my children will get plenty of wear out of and therefore choose sizes that have plenty of ‘growing room’.
Unfortunately, ‘growing room’ is not something we want in a violin, even if it does save us time or money or a combination of both! The first step to holding a violin properly is to have the right sized instrument.
At my daughter’s last school concert, a group of five and six-year-old students struggled their way through busy busy stop stop. Many of them were hidden behind violins far too big for them which were no doubt doing irreparable damage, not only to their necks and backs but also to their technical development and progress.
Choosing the right sized violin is crucial to holding a violin properly.
The following table will give you an idea of the appropriate size violin for you or your child. When you reach under your violin as you stand in playing position, the scroll should rest comfortably in your palm and your middle fingers should wrap easily around the scroll.
If you have to stretch or strain to reach the scroll, the violin is too big; your left-hand will need to be free and relaxed as you learn to play so don’t make this any harder or more uncomfortable than it already is by choosing an oversize instrument!
Can I sit down to play?
This is a question that I get asked at least once a week, even by my ongoing students who know that I’ll probably say no. While sitting may be appropriate for members of an orchestra or string group, it is not the ideal way to practice, especially as a beginner.
As well as providing more comfort, standing properly to play will lead to more efficient technical development and allow you to better express your musicality later on down the track.
Ensure that your body is balanced by distributing your weight evenly between your feet. Common problems with body stance include shifting your weight from one foot to the other, keeping your feet too close together and locking your knees in place. Not only do these things make it harder to play well, they can lead to pain or discomfort following your practice.
Making a Foot Map
For my little (and sometimes not so little) students, I use an A4 piece of coloured cardboard to make a ‘foot map’. Firstly, I trace around their feet in rest position and then again in playing position. This provides them with a guide to use every time they go to practice at home, it also provides a handy place to put reward stickers! Little people LOVE stickers and colours, so if you’re a parent or a teacher, a decorated foot mat is a perfect way to encourage practice and good technique!
Don’t Forget To Stand Up Straight!
I often tell my students to play to the sky as this encourages them to stand up straight. Slouching is bad for your back and can also cause problems with your bow position and violin hold. Keep your shoulders level and relaxed and if you ever do need to sit, for instance when rehearsing in a group, make sure that you sit firmly on the chair rather than hanging off the edge.
From Rest Position to Playing Position
Now that you’re standing straight and strong, it’s time to add the vital ingredient: a violin!
One of my earliest memories is that of my first violin teacher chanting the words ‘toss, tuck, turn’ to me as she twisted my violin up and to the side of my shoulder. At the time, I don’t think I understood how much this simple routine would help my progress, but as a teacher, I see how my students benefit from first visualizing and then putting into practice these three important steps.
The First step is to ‘toss’ your violin from the side of your body up onto your shoulder. You then ‘tuck’ the chin rest into place and ‘turn’ your violin to the side slightly. Here’s a video of five-year old George getting into the swing of things with his brand new Gliga! Well done George and thanks for being a part of myviolinbff.com!
You’re All Set!
Once your violin is in the correct position, you’ll find that the distance between your collarbone and chin is the same distance between the bottom of your shoulder rest and the top of your chin rest; in other words, you won’t be either stretching or crumpling your neck to keep your violin in place. At this stage, you should be able to place both hands by your side and keep your violin up in position comfortably and safely.
Practice Makes Perfect!
It’s important to spend some time focusing on your violin hold; just because you do it well the first few times doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it ongoing attention. Regular practice from rest to playing position in front of a full length mirror is a great way to pick up on any small errors in technique before they have the chance to become habits.
Now that your violin is in the correct position, it’s time to add the bow! Check out my bow hold post here and if you ever need a hand with anything, be sure to let me know in the comment section below!
Founder of myviolinbff.com