I'm a self-learner using various online videos to teach myself to play the violin. Nearly two months in, and I've found instruction on how to hold the violin (and bow) differ quite significantly.

My reasoning is, each teacher chooses a style they're most comfortable with. I've experimented with various ways of holding the violin. Some have turned out to be more comfortable, others make it easier to hit the right notes etc. I've also watched virtuosos do things that were not encouraged by some of my online teachers.

I can't elaborate, but should I consider adapting a personal style that works for my body and my instrument? Does it, in the end come down to what makes it easier for the individual to hit the right notes with the least effort?

  • We really need to see some examples, and we need to know which aspects of the set-up you are currently focusing on. // Neck height is one very important variable. I mean the neck of the player. But there are other things that made the way you hold the instrument very individual, including arm length, type of chin rest, etc., etc. – aparente001 Oct 22 '15 at 6:27
  • @aparente001 I'll have to measure myself then :) Is there any resource online that has options for holding the violin for specific combinations (long neck, long arm, short fingers...)? – wsgeorge Oct 22 '15 at 11:30
  • A couple of photographs (from different angles, back, side, front, and a short video clip would be helpful. We don't need the sound for this question. – aparente001 Oct 23 '15 at 4:42

Ignore the pedagogy of addressing your instrument AT YOUR PERIL! It is easy (and becoming almost common) for a player to develop chronic deep muscle/tendon issues...carpal tunnel, etc., through bad technique.

Sometimes it's counter-intuitive as well. Something that feels odd and awkward at first may be far better over the long term than something that feels "easy" at first.


There are some aspects that are at a player's preference, but for the most part, it's a very good idea to follow the standard practice.

As an example where I've seen pros do it wrong, and it matters: With your left hand on the neck, your wrist is supposed to be straight. But some players, primarily those with big hands, instead play with a bent wrist, and let the instrument rest on the palm in many situations. The reasons this is bad: Having your wrist bent like that rather than neutral puts extra pressure on your nerves, and can result in carpal tunnel or other nerve problems. Also, if you don't have big hands, it will make it much more difficult to play notes and double stops that require long reaches.

And then there's the examples where you can choose what's more comfortable: There is a lot of leeway in the exact position of the violin on your shoulder. It comes down to whatever lets you reach the notes without discomfort, and will vary with your size and flexibility. Many players advocate using shoulder rests because it adds stability, which is useful when shifting or doing vibrato, while others advocate equally strongly against because of the freedom of movement it allows. (My case: I find it easier to avoid injury by not using a shoulder rest, so I don't use one). If you want to start a fight on an online violin forum, this is the topic to bring up.

Less controversially, there's the bow hold. There are many, many ways to hold the bow that will limit your playing because it holds the bow too tightly, or too loosely, or don't allow you to use develop much subtlety in your bowing. But there are a few that are well respected, and that will be considered acceptable by any knowledgeable classical player. So while there are several good options, you're better picking one of those than trying to figure out your own.

The trouble is picking out what's important from what doesn't matter when you don't have much experience. A lot of things that work for beginner music will hold you back at a more advanced level. This is why I'd suggest doing it how the pro's recommend.

When you have different pros recommending different things, it takes a lot of research to pick out what to actually do, especially for a beginner. One highly reputable reference is Simon Fischer's book The Basics. It's a good reference to turn to when you are being bombarded by too many options, and don't know what to choose.

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