When learning how to play violin properly, one of the most fundamental things a beginner is taught is how to hold a violin. Holding a violin incorrectly will limit your sound, prevent you from performing advanced skills efficiently, impede you from advancing in tone and speed and cause the violin to slip while playing. It is astonishing how many violinists struggle to hold a violin correctly, making playing it considerably more difficult.
Why Do You Need to Hold the Violin Properly?
It's important to hold a violin correctly for various reasons. An incorrect posture, such as a collapsed wrist, hunched shoulders or back, or a twisted torso, can cause strain and injury. Since violin playing depends on numerous moving parts of the upper body, a strained muscle might have a domino effect. Good posture requires accuracy; however, it's not rocket science, and if you constantly practice the right form, it will quickly become natural and comfortable. Besides, keep in mind that each violinist is unique, with different body proportions and levels of flexibility.
Therefore, this makes the experience of holding a violin differ from person to person. For instance, you will have a longer reach on the fingerboard than someone with smaller hands if you have larger hands. However, this doesn't exclude players with smaller hands from participating; rather, they'll shift to a different position instead of overstretching their hands.
Now that we understand why holding a violin correctly is crucial, let's check on the steps on how to hold a violin properly.
Steps on How to Hold a Violin Properly
Step 1: Obtaining proper posture
Sit or stand up straight in a straight-backed chair. It doesn't matter whether you sit or stand; what matters is that you maintain your core engaged and stand or sit straight. You need to feel like you have power throughout your body.
Avoid slouching. Slouching might reduce speed and eventually cause discomfort. Both feet should be level on the ground and in the same posture as if you were standing when seated.
Place your feet a comfortable distance apart if you're standing. They should be wider than shoulder-width apart, with your left foot slightly in front of your right. Ensure you distribute your weight equally between your two feet.
Step 2: Place the violin on your shoulder.
Now lift the violin to your left shoulder. Keep your left hand as close to the starting position as possible, and lift the violin to rest on your left collarbone. Don't shift your chin yet; first, get used to having the violin rest on your collar bone.
The idea is not to use your shoulder muscles to accomplish anything; the violin is merely resting here; thus, your muscles should not strain. Lift your shoulders to your ears and then back down to neutral to ensure you aren't hunching your shoulders.
Most violinists use shoulder rests to cushion your collarbone and clips below your violin. You can adjust the height of the shoulder pad to fit your measurements. Besides, it will be obvious when it is in the right spot since it will feel most at ease.
The "zip and step" approach is the best way to determine the optimum angle for your violin on your shoulder: place your feet together, open (or zip) them to about a 60-degree angle, and then take a small step forward with the left foot. Ensure your left elbow is over your left foot while holding the violin.
Step 3: Place your chin on the violin
Once your shoulders are neutral, place your jawline and chin on the violin's chin rest. Now that your chin is on the chinrest, tilt your head at a 90-degree angle to the left. It would be best to angle your head so that the chin rest goes down your jaw and ends at your chin.
Find a comfortable position, but ensure the left side of your face rests on the chin, and the violin is at an angle. As with our shoulders, it's critical not to hold the violin with your jaw or neck muscles. If you clench your teeth, it won't be easy to swallow, and you will become dehydrated.
Pivot your violin toward the center. It should form a line extending from your nose outward. This is how you should hold a violin. It may appear tough if this is your first time holding a violin. Or else, you will create bad habits that will make future improvement harder.
Step 4: Keep the chin pressure light
Most beginners and younger students are unsure how firmly their chin should push against the violin's shoulder rest. It is tempting to hold your violin with the jaw or the left hand, but doing so might lead to the player inadequately supporting the instrument. However, as far as you use a shoulder rest, the pressure can remain mild to maintain the violin in position. Otherwise, if you don't know how to use a shoulder rest, you may need to press down the instrument harder on the chin rest, which might cause the muscles to lock up overextended performances.
Besides, if the muscles are sore after playing the violin or your chin hurts when playing, you're pressing your chin down too hard. To stabilize the violin posture:
Keep your head weight light and maintain a relaxed neck.
Experiment with the appropriate amount of pressure on your chin rest by placing your hand under the instrument if it falls.
Gradually remove the pressure on your chin until the instrument is about to fall due to lack of pressure.
Step 5: Maintain a straight wrist
Your wrist should rotate so that the pinky is facing you, and you should maintain the left wrist straight and rigid, with no bending or flattening (and no bending inwards). Besides, your hand will resemble your movements when holding up a tray or pushing something if your wrist posture is incorrect. If you're unsure what this looks like, check your shape using a mirror. A good rule of thumb is to avoid touching the neck with the base of your thumb.
Step 6: Check the positioning of your left hand
Double-check your alignment before continuing since you can now hold the violin properly under your chin. First, ensure the violin rests in the same beginning position we discussed earlier, right below your index finger, then anchored on the left side edge by your thumb. Consider this hand posture to be the violin's cushion, where its neck rests. Besides, push your fingers down on the strings to see whether you have got it correctly. This will help your hand automatically find the appropriate angle. Moreover, since it's only your fingers that press down on the strings, your thumb should remain where it is.
Place your left hand at the edge of the violin's neck before the struts. Then hold the neck between your forefinger and left thumb as if you're pinching it. Be careful because holding it too tightly can cause cramping in your hand.
Step 7: Maintain your violin straight with the strings parallel to the floor.
Bad posture causes the violin to drop, so evaluate your posture if you find the violin dropping frequently. To help with the issue, tie a rope from the ceiling to the violin's scroll. Ensure the rope is short enough to be tight when the violin is in the correct position. Besides, curl your forefinger onto the top of the violin's neck. The remaining fingers shouldn't come into contact with the violin. Allow the violin to rest gently on that knuckle. Additionally, ensure the violin's weight is equally divided between your collarbone and this knuckle.
Step 8: Remain level headed
You want your head to be level with your violin. When you have the violin in a proper position, the scroll shouldn't point at the floor or the ceiling. Rather, the scroll should be parallel to the floor and ceiling as well as your nose. Maintaining a level head while playing the violin is handy for your posture. Later on, your technique will be great for attempting more challenging techniques.
Step 9: Final check
Now do a quick body check; relax your wrist, right hand, arm, jaw and shoulders. Avoid twisting your body and keep your back straight while facing ahead. If you hold the violin upright, your back will be straight; Otherwise, if you let the violin point towards the ground, you will automatically begin to slump over. Consider the violin to be an extra body part that will keep you from clutching too tightly, stooping, or tensing anything when holding it. Get the violin and the bow once you're ready.
Hold the bow at the edge; don't hold it like a baseball bat. Instead, grasp it with your right thumb and fingers. Ensure your forefinger rests on the bow's pad and your pinky finger on a screw. You're now ready to play like a pro violist.