Other possible titles include... "Why You Can't Shift", "Why You Can't Play In Tune" and "Why You Can't Vibrate"... Basically everything stems from the same issue!
This week the blog is dedicated to so many (especially self-taught) beginner violinists I see out there struggling to level up their playing because of one fundamental problem in their technique. They're consistently frustrated because they can’t hold the violin, put their fingers down accurately, keep the left hand loose AND wrist straight while they do it.
Does that sound like you too? If it does, I have a secret for you. You’re not crazy.
Don’t worry, it’s possible, but probably not how you’re doing it right now if these problems sound like you!
One of the most important days of your entire violin education is the very first day you pick up the violin, place it on your shoulder and hold it under your jaw. This is because you need to learn how to control and support the weight of the violin without your left hand. period.
That means: all the weight of the violin should be held up by your jaw and shoulder!
You need a good foundation here in order to do the fun stuff—that will make you sound good—like shifting, vibrato, and moving lightning-fast across the neck.
When you’re in “playing position” are you holding on for dear life? If you let go, what would happen? Would the violin fall down to the floor? If you answered yes to any of the above, hear me out. We need to take it back to basics for a second.
STEP 1: Practice lifting the violin into playing position with your left hand supporting the side of the violin, and then let go completely with the left hand, without losing your grip at the jaw and shoulder.
STEP 2: Adjust the shoulder rest if you need to! Adjust your posture if you need to. You need to be able to let go without losing your grip on the violin.
STEP 3: Try crossing your left hand over to your right shoulder while the violin is up. Does the violin move? If it does, check in and go back to step 2.
STEP 4: If your hold on the violin is still strong, try placing your hand in first position. Make sure not to release control with your jaw and shoulder when you do this!
STEP 5: Check to make sure your wrist is straight—it should be much easier to keep it in place now.
I know this probably feels like a step backward to some of you, but, speaking from experience, it's much faster to take a step back and correct a mistake in your technique than it is to forge ahead with a major issue. Everything you do with your left hand hinges on you actually being able to hold it up without relying on your hand for support! If you get this part down correctly you'll make faster progress and sound a lot better while you do it.