Playing with Smaller Hands – Part One

I was looking at videos and reading about playing the violin with smaller hands when I came across a sentence in an article that struck me: “A caution for players with small hands: placing the thumb behind the first finger often causes undesirable tension in the thumb’s base muscle, a condition less present in larger hands.” (The American Viola Society Studio Blog – Thumb Placement for Small Hands by DelGiudice-Bigari)

I took out my violin and placed my left hand on it as I had been doing, and had an “a-ha” moment. For the past two months I had been placing my left hand so that my thumb was further up the on the neck than my index finger. Here’ is a picture (not of me and not quite my grip) that will give an idea of what I mean by having the thumb up higher than the index finger.

I moved my thumb so it was now further down, below my index finger, and I immediately felt less tension in my thumb and less tension in my other fingers as I dropped them on the strings. I played the first part of a new tune I am learning, first with my “regular” thumb placement and then with my “modified” thumb placement. Not only was it easier for me to drop down on the strings, but it was easier for me to move my hand up and down the neck. The tension in my thumb, and the unnatural balance under the neck was gone. It felt as if the neck was now balanced on a 2-point track that could move underneath much more easily up and down the neck, something I was having difficulty doing up to this point.

Of course, if I had a teacher (a whole other story), I probably would have learned this much earlier. I even wrote a blog post a few weeks back entitled Fiddle Finger Follies where I wrote about this very issue, but I guess it didn’t sink in at the time!

I was going to write more about playing with smaller hands today, but I feel like I stumbled onto something that is going to be very helpful and want to work on it while it’s fresh in my mind. So, this is just a brief post. I entitled this as “Part One”, and I’ll continue in my next installment.

  2 comments for “Playing with Smaller Hands – Part One

  1. joe
    March 29, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    I too occasionally struggle with holding the fiddle, using my palm instead of my thumb. But getting better. Fortunately I have a teacher to remind me of all the habits I need to change. 😉

    I’d suggest two videos by Katy Adelson who was also self-taught.
    “How to Play Fiddle Tunes Faster + Bow Hold and Violin Posture”


    “Lessons Learned while I was a Self-Taught Violinist”


    • March 30, 2019 at 4:23 am

      Yup, I imagine having that immediate feedback from a teacher really helps. Thank you so much for these two videos…very helpful. Wow! I love Katy Adelson’s playing, so rich and dynamic! I have her as one of my Liked sites on the FFOF Facebook page. Have you seen her Sponge (Ragtime Fiddle) recording? ( And, she makes the greatest faces! (I think Dancing Bear and Liberty follow that one, two more of my Katy favs.) I never knew she was self-taught. Thanks, Joe!

      P.S. I have the comments set so they post immediately. Just so you know, and others reading this, comments will not post immediately if they have links in them. WordPress automatically alerts me to check such comments, just in case the links are someone spamming. Of course, in this case, your links were most welcome, but this is one of the safe-guards in WordPress.

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