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Confused - what supports one's violin


Hank Schutz
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The threads on shoulder rests has confused me due to some remarks made in passing while discussing the (de)merits of these contraptions.

To wit: what part(s) of one's body is/are supposed to be supporting the violin while one plays?

When I started lessons at the age of 6 (more than 50 years ago), my teacher (who was with the Peabody Conservatory) demonstrated how she could clamp-hold the violin with her head and shoulder and actually jump up and down color> without holding it with the left hand too. She told me that the fiddle should be firmly held at the chinrest end so that the left hand was free to move.

Some of the passing remarks in the other threads seemed to imply that, in fact, the left hand aught to do some or maybe even most of the holding.

Are there multiple schools of thought here, or have I misunderstood?

HS

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Yes. No. Yes, that is, there are multiple schools of thought here, and no, you have no misunderstood.

Someone quoted a passage from Galamian's book in the chinrest thread, a passage that has always stuck in my mind as well, to the effect that some players support almost all the weight of the fiddle with their left hand, and are obviously comfortable in doing so, while others support the instrument mainly (or, indeed, entirely) with their chin and shoulder, leaving the left hand entirely unencumbered.

Galamian's point was the commonsense one, viz., do what feels right to you.

I like Galamian's book. Its principle charm is that it is free from the Big-Ender vs. Little-Ender ideology that so besets the writings of most violin savants.

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Yes it seems we have the full range of thougths on this. The post above sensibly points to Galamian ( I re-arranged his words a bit). I am not giving up on the idea that the violin should be supported mainly at the collar-bone end. But it seems that holding with the left hand is not uncommon. So my 'position' has softened to allow the other side to feel OK about this. I too had a teacher(s) who was totally comitted to supportive hold without the left hand, perhaps mostly this and a bit of left hand is the answer........if you don't use any left hand please don't start on purpose.

TD

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I still read Galamian a lot, especially when trying to answer questions that have come up during a days teaching. I also like Robert Gerles book on bowing for a quick refresher (although it informs more than educates) and have been reading Baillot's 'trilogy' (bigger than Star Wars!) and enjoying the terrible drawings of some ludicrously outdated posture and fashion!

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There are indeed multiple schools of thought, with your old teacher near one end of the spectrum and Milstein near the other end. But I am here to announce that I have discovered THE TRUTH. The violin is actually supported by invisible violin fairies. If you leave a sugar cube for them on top of your violin case each night, they will always come to help you when you play.

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If you support the violin to some degree with the left hand, you have no problem shifting up or to higher positions, it is, however, a little more difficult shifting down. Since the violin is not ridgedly anchored at the neck, the violin is allowed to pivot. When you shift up the forearm moves straight up and the violin pivots to the left and up slightly. This avoids having to swing the arm around the violin as much. Also, as you shift up, the instrument is pushed into the neck to some extend, thereby helping hold the instrument. When shifting back down, you must, as Veuxtemps suggests, clamp down slightly on the chin rest to stop the instrument from sliding out from under your chin. At the same time, the arm moves more or less straing away from you, and the violin drops slightly and pivots back to the right to its original postion. A part of the theory behind holding to some extent with the left hand, is to make sure that contact with the instrument remains. This maintains a physical point of reference for shifting and intonation. If you have compelte freedom to release the hand and replace it higher up the instrument, the agrument is that you have lost your frame of reference.

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