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I have played the violin for 2 years. One of the most persistent problems for me is the unbearable tensions in the left hand. The tension is much increased when I practice the arpeggios, with the instructions of "keeping the fingers down".

Would you please recommending any tips to eliminate the tensions? I have to confess that I dont really get the feelings of how to play without feeling tensed. Thanks.

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is an issue on almost every instrument.

There is a guitar teacher named Jamie Andreas, who focuses on minimising tension from the very beginning of learning. Her approach is to practice dead slow. I think this will work equally well on the violin.

Finger a note on the fingerboard. Don't play it yet. Check your entire body for tension. In the shoulders, in the arms, in the hand, in the fingers - everywhere - and work to relax all those places, while still applying the minimum of force necessary to hold the string down firmly.

Only when you're satisfied that everything is as relaxed as it can be, should you bow (or on a guitar, pluck) the note, again concentrating on relaxed muscles.

Now move on to the next note -- many seconds having passed -- and work on transitioning from the first relaxed position, to a second relaxed position, without going through a tense moment in-between. You need to learn how it feels to be in those relaxed positions, so that you can reproduce them at speed.

Since you have two years experience, this will be frustrating and you will be tempted to go faster. But resist that urge, and go ridiculously slowly at first. When you can play an arpeggio in a completely relaxed manner, one note every 10 seconds or slower, that's when to try speeding up.

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Thank you a lot :) –  Josh Vo Apr 19 '13 at 2:00
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I love your answer, I have back problems and arthrosis and am always very tensed, I'm currently learning to play Moto Perpetuo very slowly, trying to be the as most relaxed possible, I will definitly try this approach and try to learn more about this Jamie Andreas. –  Chipsgoumerde Apr 19 '13 at 14:48
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When I used to play long gigs back in the day when I was a Strathspey and Reel violinist, I used to have real problems with this, but the technique I learned is still useful today playing rock gigs.

It's not too far off @slim's description, but can be used almost live:

After soundcheck, as part of my pre-gig routine, I get up to the back of the venue and just stand, eyes shut, breathing slowly. I focus on loosening up all my muscles from the fingers all the way up to my neck, and I concentrate on this feeling.

When I get up on stage later, if I do have moments where I feel I am tensing (ie a fast run, or a complex series of chord changes) I have such a strong mental image now of that relaxed position I use it to drop tension across my whole body all at once.

If you can build your own mental image of being relaxed that you can call on for moments like this, it is very useful. It took me a few months to really get it embedded, but it is invaluable now.

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