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Are you using a shoulder rest?  A 45 degree angle with the violin that you can get using a shoulder rest isn't too much from what I see, and that will make you have to swing your elbow under a lot less.    Also, what great amount of pressure on the fingerboard are you talking about?  All you need is enough pressure to push the string down, and not necessarily all the way.  A lot of people even talk about using the "weight" of the fingers as if there was no pressure involved.  As for fat fingers, Perlman has really fat fingers and he's maybe the best technician ever.  Don't get discouraged; get something right like be able to play things in 1st position in tune with a good sound and only when you are happy with that extend from there.

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No great amount of pressure on the fingerboard is needed....  pressing down hard will only make your difficulties worse.  I have had several adult students with similar issues.  Careful work over time can increase the flexibility in the left wrist and forearm so that you'll be able to play  more easily.   Patience is key though.

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Hey All,

I've been taking lessons through a professor at the nearby college and they focus on the Suzuki method. With that I'm a little concerned that I'm not able to physically play the violin. The awkward angle that one must contort their left wrist to in order to apply the great amount of pressure on the fingerboard to produce anything slightly less than a muffled 'dud' when playing pizzicato isn't sustainable for any length of time. This is further complicated by the fact my fat fingers (years as a welder and pianist) have quite the narrow window for pressing on only the D string without interfering with the other three. I'm told to keep the wrist not collapsed but have found I'm able to hold this 'musical-finger-board-game-of-twister' for all of 4 seconds before I'm unable to hold the position.

I am curious to learn if there are others who have experienced this in their early years, or know of any teacher in the Michigan area that is able to help correct this...if indeed it is able to be corrected.

Any help is much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

 

It's normal. The muscles/tendons can do it but they refuse to cooperate. Practice diligently and try to hold and relax the hand/arm in that specific position : that's what tells the muscles what pushes and what pulls and how much. Holding the violin higher and more towards the side helps too. Nothing to worry - you'll do just fine but it'll take around two years to feel "at home". It's probably the easiest problem you'll have in learning violin. 

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I think it's necessary to have a straight wrist or otherwise there's too much tension. Keeping the elbow in helps. You don't have to press really hard as others have said.

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Part of one lesson, the teacher was physically trying to force my arm and wrist into position. I'm not quite able to bend those ways. If I hold my left arm parallel to the floor, then bend at the elbow and make a 90 degree angle. Rotating at the wrist, I'm not able to get the palm of my hand to move past perpendicular to my upright body. That is, my palm faces flat towards my body. If I wrap my left hand index finger around the finger board the ring and pinki finger are unable to be turned to reach any part of the finger board.

How do you all get that extra 90 degree turn out of your wrist?

 

At current practicing diligently isn't effective as my form is no where near where it should be...I.E. Poor Practice makes for poor habits. No matter how slow I go I'm unable to over-ride the join rotation limits of my body.

 

Give it time - it'll work out just fine. Push ( with help ? ) into the proper position and hold there for a while. Muscles will learn. B vitamins in some excess help with tendon stiffness. You'll do fine.

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That is, my palm faces flat towards my body. If I wrap my left hand index finger around the finger board the ring and pinki finger are unable to be turned to reach any part of the finger board.

How do you all get that extra 90 degree turn out of your wrist?

 

The palm facing your body is the right position for say f# on the e string.  Then if you reach for A on the e string then your hand naturally pivots on the first finger to face more toward the fingerboard.  But the movement is a rotation of the forearm, not the wrist.  The wrist itself can't rotate.  It will eventually start to feel coordinated and normal.

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Think of a ballet dancer or gymnast.   They can't just bend like they do right out of the gate, you may need to work into it.   Sounds to me like you are extremely limited in forearm rotation as I have not run across a student with your issues - or at least to the extreme that you are describing.  You should be able to rotate the hand held out in front of you, using forearm rotation, very close to 360 degrees - about 110 degrees clockwise and 250 degrees counter clockwise (for the left hand from a palm down position.)   The playing position should feel very natural if set up properly.  I have my students drop their left arm and completely relax, then bend at the elbow, rotate the hand almost 180 degrees without bending at the wrist (which it should do rather effortlessly) while raising the arm from the shoulder joint to meet the instrument.  The exact angles and positions are specific to the dimensions of your body.    Many students feel just a little strained at first, (on viola I turn the hand a few degrees more than on violin) but it seems you hit that limit way earlier than most.   Have you had an injury in the past to your forearm, or elbow,do you have problems turning a faucet or screwing a lid on or off?    Hold your hand out in front of you, palm down you should be able to comfortable rotate the hand to palm up; which is about the amount of rotation you need.   If you can't do that, then slowly work - in this position - to achieve this flexibility.   DO NOT FORCE, just gently stretch and hold, then just push a little more and be patient.  You may have to back off of actually trying to play until this is resolved.  You need to be comfortable in position.  If this doesn't work, then consider cello, which requires no hand rotation. 

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If you view videos of 10 world class players, you will see 10 variations on positioning the violin to get the left hand in a good position. You might be setting the violin on your shoulder in a way that works against your body's natural geometry and flexibility.

Here is a method that was shown to me to get my "natural" position...

Stand looking straight ahead.

Take your left hand and place it, palm down, on the top of your RIGHT shoulder. [sorry for the earlier mistake]

With your hand on your shoulder, let your elbow drop down until your upper arm is resting on your chest.

Lift your left hand from your shoulder by rotating your upper arm against your chest. Stop when your forearm is vertical.

Turn your head to look straight into your palm. Now extend your hand straight away from your face until your upper arm lifts comfortably away from your chest.

This is the basic angle of your left hand to your body. It should feel comfortable.

Your elbow is pointing straight down.

If you place a ruler against the back of your hand and forearm, it will generally rest against the back of your hand and your forearm. Do not obsess over this. It is just a roug4h guideline.

Now twist your forearm so your palm faces more towards your left shoulder. Turn it as much as you can without feeling excessive stress in your elbow.

That's your basic playing position. What you have to do now is figure out where to place your jaw on the chinrest so you can comfortably use at least the first three fingers. Here is one way to do this...

Grab the violin just forward of the nut with your left thumb and the crease at the base of your index finger. You should feel like your thumb and the base of your index finger are grabbing the fingerboard the same distance from the nut.

Lift the violin onto your shoulder and put your hand into the position you discovered in the previous steps.

What you will find is that as you twist your forearm to reproduce the comfortable palm angle, the bottom of the violin will obtain a natural position on your shoulder. Tuck it into your neck and notice where on the chin rest your jaw will comfortably rest.

Some people have the jaw resting well to the left of the tailpiece. Others on the center and some a little bit to the right.

The important thing here is you should feel like you can slide the thumb and the base of the index finger up and down the fingerboard, roughly opposite to each other.

Over time, as your flexibility increases, you can play around with the position of the thumb relative to the index finger and the position of the bottom of the violin on your shoulder.

The tilt of the violin due to shoulder rest adjustment mostly affects the comfort with which one move from the E to the G string.

If you are having a lot of problems rotating your palm towards your left shoulder, you can try positioning the base of the violin so it is touching your neck more left of the tailpiece pin, or, you can move your left hand at a sharper angle towards the left shoulder, or a little of both.

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It is a tough question.  Two things come to mind.  Don't injure yourself any worse and don't chaf the teacher with tips/help from here.  I mean do or try what some say just don't tell the teacher what or whom you asked for help.

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.....

Stand looking straight ahead.

Take your left hand and place it, palm down, on the top of your left shoulder....

I'm wondering if you actually meant to say right shoulder, because left seems to give strange results, while right goes in the familiar direction.

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ctanzio's advice seems complicated to me but sounds like one way to achive what I would suggest, which is to be sure the neck of the violin is pointing sufficiently far to the left to account for the length of your arms and to increase the parallelism between the palm of your left hand and the neck/fingerboard of the violin. The more the violin has a "sideways" tilt, the easier it is to finger the lower strings. Not only might a shoulder rest be helpful, but finding the best chinrest design for the shape of your jaw is also very important.

 

If all else fails, take up the cello!

 

Andy

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Now twist your forearm so your palm faces more towards your left shoulder. Turn it as much as you can without feeling excessive stress in your elbow.

That's your basic playing position. 

What you will find is that as you twist your forearm to reproduce the comfortable palm angle, the bottom of the violin will obtain a natural position on your shoulder. "

Thank you for the detailed steps! 

Twisting my forearm/wrist get the left palm to run parallel to the plane of the chest. Lining up the basic playing position (placing the finger board benefit my fingers there), sets the violin in front of my throat rather than on the left side of my neck. That is, the inability to twist the usual amount forces the body of the violin to line up with my palm, and thus extend in front of my body.

 

Eek, the violin doesn't even come close to touching my shoulder, ha!

Thank you again!

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I'm wondering if you actually meant to say right shoulder...

Thanks for the catch. I edited by original post. It is the RIGHT shoulder.

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Eek, the violin doesn't even come close to touching my shoulder, ha!

There is a position used by some fiddlers that places the violin more on the chest than on the shoulder. It gives a less stressful position for the wrist and elbow.

Look straight ahead.

If you have a chinrest mounted to the left of the tailpiece, then slide the main part of the chinrest directly under the front of your chin.

Clamp down lightly with the bottom of your chin and let the shoulder rest sit comfortably on your chest. (I guess it is now a chest rest. >grin<)

Now move your left hand up and down until you find a comfortable position. Usually the violin will slope downward at about a 45 degree angle from the chin to the left hand. Your left arm is mostly dangling at the side of your body.

The hand position is similar to playing a guitar.

This is a very comfortable position but makes bowing with a classic bow grip a challenge. What you can do is switch to a "Russian" type grip with the index finger touching the stick somewhere between the base knuckle and the middle knuckle.

Give it a try. With a little practice you should find it easy to play scales in first position and make accurate bow strokes of modest length near the center of the bow. This is more than enough to play an enormous amount of repertoire across all genres of violin music.

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I am curious to learn if there are others who have experienced this in their early years, ...if indeed it is able to be corrected.

Any help is much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

 

I think Stillnew went through this a one point.  And came back and came back to play again, maybe you can be talked out of quitting.  

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 Andy and I both play violin and cello. I have to say, the cello doesn't require any contortions! You could rent one to try it out,,,

Or, get an endpin for your violin and play it as if it were a cello. These days, anything goes.

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