Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Reaching G string


Recommended Posts

Possibly this is a good time to review the position you hold the violin. If you can comfortably stare down the fingerboard and watch your fingers move, the violin is facing too far forward and there is an easy solution to your reaching problem. Otherwise ignore this post.

You will notice that as you move the violin more and more to the left, pivoting from your chin, all the fingers start to line up parallel to the strings including the 4th finger the more you move the instrument (assuming that you maintain the hand position). Once you have the violin where you can comfortably manipulate all the notes without having to rotate the wrist any more, you are in the right spot which is crucial for advanced playing anyway. Next step is to relocate or replace the chinrest so that the violin automatically seeks that location (and every other location feels uncomfortable). I personally like a chinrest that is side mounted for additional flexibility (it usually enhances the sound anyway). If this position puts your fingerboard somewhat out of eyesight, good! You do not want the added delay of interpreting your playing through your eyes. By placing the violin to the side you force your mind to memorize the location of the notes, which eventually becomes automatic and allows you to spend more time on the musical interpretation. This sideways position offers the least strain on the wrist and is in fact a reasonably natural position for the left arm, contrary to popular myth. You will be able to play longer without strain and play higher positions easier, and with more pleasure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you so much Stauzart for your instruction as to moving the violin more to the left. This seems to allow at least three fingers to comfortably reach the G string with the fourth(pinky) coming close. I know with practice all four will work. I had my violin out too far in front of me to reach the strings. Thanks again.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're welcome, violinclassic, and welcome also to the forum.

I didn't discover that little positioning advantage until I was well entrenched as a player, and I have been trying hard to overcome the handicap ever since. But now, much formerly unattainable technique is becoming quite easy (that and a good responsive violin).

When you watch soloists, it sometimes appears as though we hold the violin right out in front of us, but usually it is an illusion because we tend to turn the head left. Since the eyes are often closed while playing, I believe it is more a hearing thing, trying to get sound to both ears.

In general, if something seems too hard, it is because it is being done incorrectly.

There is an ancient clip of Nathan Milstein which illustrates several things:

- violin off to the side (but his pinky was so long he didn't need much angle)

- head alternately facing the violin and then facing straight from time to time

- correct hand positioning for minimal movement of fingers (you'll be floored)

- amazing bowing technique again for maximum output with minimum effort

- relaxed, loose hold of the violin with total flexibility of head, arms, fingers

- absolute ease of playing something which sounds incredibly technical

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The short answer is:

what Oldgeezer and Shirl said.

How far to the right or left one holds the violin is often down to the player, and the player's anatomy. However, in my opinion, the closer you can comfortably hold it to the right the better* ...for two reasons:

1. Vision.

2. Hearing.

I'd like to add

3. Angle of bow approach to the strings, but this is also dependent on the player's anatomy. However, its best to keep everything "right there". The violin, the left arm/hand, the head, the right arm/hand/bow. The farther left you go, the more the violin is "away" (especially the g string!) rather than "right there" and things must be done to compensate. Not ideal.

*in the end, the violin will often generally still be pointing slightly to the left...my concern is that it doesn't point TOO FAR to the left.


1. Vision.

Being able to see down the entire violin is important. You can check the contact point of the bow to the strings (most important determinant of your sound). You can see your left hand form. You can use the technique of visual intonation (Bronstein) to help things out. You have your eyes, use them! Keep them open.

2. Hearing.

The left ear is for enjoyment. The right ear is for objective analysis/criticism. The more you use the right ear the better...this means moving your head to balance the sound out of both ears.

Now, the farther left you hold the violin, the farther left you must turn your head to achieve

1.Vision and 2. Hearing.

Not so good.

Heifetz stared straight down the violin. The example of Milstein was used...and it TOO shows a violinist that stared straight down the violin! Hahn stares straight down the violin. Most of the "greats" ALL generally stared straight down the violin. One exception to this "rule" though is Stern.

Still though, I recommend doing it the way most of the greats did it...and that is having your head in such a position so that you CAN comfortably stare down the fingerboard at will.

The bottom line when performing AND practicing is to be as objective and critical as possible. Ears and Eyes open, playing with your head, with just a bit of the heart leaking through to make things interesting...all the checks and balances are in place to ensure nothing goes wrong...and to make the instantaneous correction when something does go wrong.

When you're not practicing nor performing...every now and then...by all means close your eyes, swing the violin around, and enjoy your playing for enjoyment's sake. ...not too long or you might develop some bad habits though

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The right answer is the one you feel comfortable with. Violin playing should not be a strain. This will become important if you ever do 8-10 hours of gig work in a day. There are many variables and con_ritmo touched on one, anatomy. In my case, a 5 cm pinky. If you want to see what you are doing, fine, but in my opinion it is best to get to a place quickly where the violin is merely an extension of your body. When I shave in the shower, I don't use a mirror. When I play the violin, I don't need to constantly scrutinize where my left hand is (or right hand for that matter).

There are many demands on eyesight; sheet music, partner, section leader, conductor, audience, flying tomatoes..... No need to confuse the issue having to keep yourself in check. That's why you practice.

As far as right hand is concerned, I used to hit the chair between my legs frequently or rosin my tux with the bow. This doesn't happen when the violin is oriented left.

And Milstein in the clip is facing the violin most of the time because he keeps turning his head left (except for when he occasionally straightens out as in minute 1:31-1:33 where you see the actual positioning). He is so good he can enjoy seeing what his fingers are doing because he has the best "seat" in the house. But most of the time he seems to have his eyes closed or is just staring. In my own experience I usually have my eyes open , but I don't focus on anything when soloing, unless I am playing specifically to or at someone.

In the end, I suggest it boils down to your choice. Artist positioning is still being refined as opposed to violin building, where the ideal seems to be a copy of something very old. If still in doubt, a personal assessment by a qualified teacher would be the way to go.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yes, as the fingers move to the g-string, the elbow swings to the right. and as the fingers move to the e-string, the elbow drops back naturally underneath the violin.

watch the base joint knuckles of the left hand. as the elbow swings to the right, the knuckles should then pivot...moving higher and OVER the fingerboard to the left. this allows all your fingers to reach the g-string as they do on the e-string.

the higher the base-joint knuckles are...the more reach your fingers have. Oftentimes one can see some students with their base-joint knuckles underneath or barely reaching above the fingerboard (depending on the string). This drastically limits the finger's reach. Also, another thing often seen is that the fingers are moving from the middle knuckle of the finger...this cuts your finger's reach by almost half. instead, move the finger from only the base-joint knuckle.

hopefully this helps somewhat...things such as this are better demonstrated in person. :I

as far as holding the violin, that is up to personal preference, my initial point was to explain the importance of having the violin/head posiitioned so that one can:

1. look down the fingerboard and

2. hear primarily with the right ear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Originally posted by:

as far as holding the violin, that is up to personal preference, my initial point was to explain the importance of having the violin/head posiitioned so that one can:

1. look down the fingerboard and

This is quite often impossible in orchestral or ensemble playing where you share a stand. It's going to depend on seating. In typical orchestra seating, a violinist who sits on an inside stand cannot look down the fingerboard and read the music at the same time. Likewise for a violist who sits outside stand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

orchestral playing offers different techniques from solo playing. there are some things you can get away with which you wouldn't be able to as a soloist (and vice versa).

and even with that said, take a look at the violin section in the Berlin Philharmonic. This is the first clip I pulled up:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF9ZQpifOLQ Heads are mainly oriented as they would be in solo playing.

There is a difference too between active and passive focus. In orchestral and studio work your eyes are on the music/conductor...but your tools (left hand/right hand) are in your peripheral vision.

When playing as a soloist (which is what practice is primarily for...solo technique) ...active and passive focus again comes into play. In the Milstein clip over 90% of his head positioning is such that he can stare down to the scroll at will. Is it active all the time? No. But the passive check is there. It's the way it is normally done. If your head is facing away the passive check is gone. You lose your visual check. Your left ear becomes saturated and you lose your aural check too. Not good in my opinion.

In regards to professional work, my comments derive precisely from that. You are paid to be consistent. You are not paid to enjoy your own playing. The checks and balances are there to ensure this consistency.

"closing eyes" and "relying on instinct" works great when you have a good day. It's not so good when you have a bad day. This is why as a professional your job is to enjoy the absolute control and execution of your playing. Leave it to the audience to enjoy the MUSIC that is being played.

On an aside, one technique that can be used when sitting in a chair is to drop the right knee down along the right side of the chair. This opens everything up as needed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I used to be one of those orchestral players staring straight down the fingerboard. Heck, on some services I'm lucky if I have enough room to move my bow. All theory aside, what I am saying is that my playing has improved since I moved my violin left and I shared that information as a possible solution to the poster's dilemna and others who might have a similar problem. The response was that it helped. Let's not go overboard. No one is suggesting that the violin should be moved so far as to rest on the left shoulder blade. Nor am I suggesting that the position should be rigid.

Dropping the right knee is a definite no-no for me. Tried it briefly decades ago. Puts my body totally out of balance. But that too is an opinion. If it works for con_ritmo and others, great.

Are you following all this, violinclassic? Are you headed for soloist status, orchestra or gig musician, or country fiddler, or do you just want to play some simple tunes for your kids?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

You could practice the following:

In a comfortable position play a b2 (4th finger on E-string).

Lift the finger, but don't move anything else, Now play the open E-string.

Next move your left elbow to the right until the fourth finger is over the A-sring. DO NOT MOVE ANYTHING ELSE, ESPECIALLY NOT THE LEFT WRIST. Let the fourth finger fall down and play the note - it should be e2

Lift the finger again, move the elbow so that the finger is over the D-string.... and so on.

Moving the finger over the next string shall be only accomplished by moving the left elbow. The goal is that the position and tension of the fingers is the same on all strings.

Your problem is also often caused by the left hand not being really in the first position, but in sort of half position and you try to stretch the fourth upwards instead of having the hand slightly higher and stretching the first finger slightly back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 12 years later...
  • 7 months later...
12 hours ago, BoondockSaint456 said:

Hi, I have very small hands.  So reaching the full spread on the G string is exceedingly difficult.  Any tips from shorties?  My pinky is not only short, but slightly curved. 

Hi, and welcome to MN!

A few questions for you, and maybe some teachers will chime-in:

Are you an adult?

Are you currently taking lessons?

Is your violin sized correctly for you?

How thick is the neck, and how wide is the fingerboard at the nut?

Are you moving your elbow out from under violin to improve your reach?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...