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Bent Violin Wrist Position


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When I first learned the violin I had a bent wrist and although some would point it out it never really got fixed. My wrist would rest over the violin's neck, and it became a bad habit. Its now extremely hard to go more than a few measures now without switching back to this position. Its the main bottleneck causing my intonation and vibrato issues. Does anyone have any tips or ways to get over this?

Edited by Meer
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  • Meer changed the title to Bent Violin Wrist Position

The fastest way to get over it is to use a splint of some sort,

small thin sticks (popcicle) plus  athletic wrap, rubber bands, hair ties,or tape,, whatever suits you..

Or gluing  together layers of cardboard while shaping it to the wrist in place of the sticks would be more comfortable.

they have to be stiff enough to hold your wrist straight.

Place them on the centerline on the palm side or the back side,, of the wrist or both.

It would be helpful to have someone put them on for you while you assume playing position so everything is placed correctly.

This will be highly annoying, as you will immediately see just how strong these habits can be.

The trick is to not fight it, but relax and pay careful attention to the muscles and movements that work against the brace.

Focus on relaxing, and every time you feel the uncomfortable pressure from the splints, think about it and fix it.

You will have to completely repurpose the muscles that move your fingers and how you use them.

Things will have to be redirected to the forearm and away from the wrist, the wrist will learn how to relax and be neutral in the scheme of things.

The good part is that it won't take a terribly long time to see some results.

Pay attention to keeping the shoulder relaxed,, and pay attention to the elbow position, it all needs to float together,,, and relax.

Focus on the thumb and fingers and be gentle with them, and relax the wrist,,, very soon the wrist will just go away and will stay straight.

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Breaking a major habit like this is hard, but eminently doable.  Chances are you've long since adopted this position as an unconscious thing.  So you have to go all the way back to being conscious of your wrist. 

Slow everything down and try to stay conscious of where your wrist is all the time.  It will be really awkward.  It changes the feel of holding and fingering and all sorts of things.  As Evan said, avoid tension like the plague.  It's bad for the sound and bad for the musician.  You have to capture that feeling of a loose back, loose shoulder, loose arm, loose wrist, loose fingers.  Focus on it and stay there.  Eventually it will start to feel natural and even eventually become sort of instinctive.  Then you can go back to worrying about tone or intonation, or whatever else needs to be adjusted.  Most of us are always working on something!

If your wrist position is getting in the way of vibrato, you could try and use more vibrato, to remind yourself to straighten it.  

Also, some people adopt a bent wrist because they're somehow nervous about dropping the violin.  So remind yourself how easy it is to keep it where you want.  If you use a shoulder rest, just the weight of your head on the chinrest should be enough to keep it there.  No squeezing! Just relax your neck and let your chin rest on the chinrest.  There's a reason it's not called the chingrip!  Even without a shoulder rest, a very loose grip on the neck and a little bit of support from the thumb is enough.  

I once heard someone saying they were told not to hold or grip the violin, but just to stand under it.  It was sitting on the table, and now its sitting on their shoulder and their thumb.  It's a useful image I think.  Even if its not 100% true.  

But overall, that's it.  Stay conscious, stay relaxed and play slow simple stuff until the position feels natural.  Then go back to more complicated stuff once the right habit is ingrained, but try to stay conscious of the wrist position.  Use shifting and vibrato to point it out to yourself.  If you are slipping back into your old habits.  Go back a step.  Eventually you'll retrain yourself.  

It's a long slow process.  But you can do it!  I've corrected bowing habits and I've removed tension in my back.  You just stay conscious, stay relaxed, and work on it.  

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Do you have wrist, arm, finger, or hybrid vibrato?

The problem with fixing your problem is that you risk messing with other things such as vibrato.  In the past, I tried a splint (as suggested above), but that method messed up my wrist vibrato and forced me to learn arm vibrato.  When the splint eventually came off, I tried reverting to wrist vibrato.  The result is one UGLY ASS vibrato.

IMO, you have to fix this in small and slow increments.  Practice scales in one-octave and go painfully slow ensuring that you keep your wrist straight.  Don't practice more than 45 minutes at a time.  Muscle memory at later ages takes time to redevelop.  Move onto 2 octaves and three.  Integrate shifting slowly.  

Practice in the mirror.  

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As others have suggested, you must play with full awareness of what you are doing until your bad habit is GONE.

You did not say how advanced you are, but if you are playing in higher positions, I would suggest only playing in 3rd position and above until you are cured. I don't see how you can collapse your wrist when playing in this neighborhood. I also suggest not trying to learn new music during this time.

I feel I can recall some periods in the past, during the 82 years since my first violin lesson, that I have had to stop progress and concentrate on some rehabilitation of technique for one reason or another - and that received my full concentration. It worked!

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You could try practicing exclusively in front of a mirror, putting all your focus on the position of your wrist. I’d imagine that during the process of trying to change this habit, you might also need to change what you are playing so it allows you to put all your focus into this new hand shape. 

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