Left Hand Agility for Beginner Violinists
Hey friends! How’s everyone doing? I’m definitely feeling a little reluctant to pick up the violin these days; I don’t know about you. In such an uncertain time for the world, it can be so difficult to maintain your normal routine and stick to your goals, especially when the only person keeping you accountable is well...you. Hey, it’s hard to maintain a practice schedule when we’re not in a global crisis! But I want to keep helping you make this month a great one for “violinning,” regardless.
This week, a student of mine was really struggling with her left hand. She has her positioning down... she has a nice tone... but it’s almost as if her fingers have a mind of their own. So I whipped up a few mini-exercises to master finger dexterity and they really helped. And guess what: now I’m giving them away to you! Click here to skip directly to the exercise videos -->
Total practice time with these exercises is only about 10 minutes—leaving you plenty more time for Animal Crossing.
Pick which string you’d like to work on to start-—you should replicate any exercise on all four strings, so it doesn’t matter where you start! Select a slow metronome setting (60-80 beats per minute) where you feel confident and play the pattern steadily without mistakes. You’re going to “loop” a few notes at this tempo, so count a measure or two out loud before you start playing to internalize the beat.
To really practice your finger dexterity, you’ll need a few short (1-2 measures) exercises where you aim for accuracy in intonation, timing, and coordination between individual fingers. These exercises should be simple, but require the fingers to move in a way that challenges your habits. For instance, if you’re used to playing a scale linearly, eg.1-2-3-4, try reordering the pattern of notes in the scale to 1-3-2-4.
Cycle each short pattern slowly, repeating it until you feel locked in, and gradually increase the tempo until you start to feel challenged. Staying focused and controlled here will help you increase your speed without sacrificing accuracy.
The trick is to always test that boundary between the comfortable tempo and one that is just a bit too fast!
After working your fingers out, stretches like the ones in this video can help a lot to keep the muscles in your hand loose, and protect you from any pain you might have in the future. It doesn't seem like playing violin would ever hurt you the way things like weight lifting might, but over time repetitive motions can actually give you stress injuries, so we want to be careful and pay attention to any pain from the very beginning! Always stretch both hands, even if your right hand isn’t as strained or tired, to maintain balance in your muscles on both sides of the body.
Rest & Repeat:
The key to a great practice session is knowing when to stop, especially if the skills you’re working on are pushing you physically. Your brain actually needs down time to process all that hard work you just did. Some of my students even leave their violin out on a table or hang it up on a wall mount to come back to again and again during the day. It really helps make it feel easy and accessible to practice a few minutes. Just make sure it’s in a safe place!
There you go! I can see your fingers blazing across the neck in no time. So I guess all there is to ask now is... can you spare 10 minutes?
...so maybe words are not quite enough to get you started. Check out the mini-videos I made for you to put this into action—They're free!
Each one is just one measure, and uses the standard hand position for first position. They’re recorded to a click of 80 beats-per-minute. You can play them on any string, or even without the violin at all! Just tap your fingers on a flat surface. Hope you love 'em.