I've been playing violin exclusively with a shoulder rest for several years of playing thus far, but I recently found out some benefits of playing without one (better sound, more mobility, convenience) and I've since wanted to learn how to do it.

As of right now, I can comfortably play in and across positions 1 and 5 with a little difficulty in adjusting my hand in upper positions without a shoulder rest, but the difficulty is manageable.

Doing vibrato, however, is the one thing I'm having trouble with. I first learned vibrato the traditional "loose wrist" way: with all but the thumb and vibrating finger moving entirely without contact to the violin. This obviously works well in conjunction with a shoulder rest, wherein no upward force from the left hand is required. The way I hold the violin without a shoulder rest, though, involves actually partially lifting it up using the bottom-most index finger and thumb joints. As such, holding the violin in this way doesn't allow for the regular wrist vibrato I'm used to.

How might one vibrate using this type of left hand grip?

2 Answers 2


Wrist vibrato without a shoulder rest can be accomplished by

  1. twisting the left elbow to the right, thereby flattening the thumb somewhat
  2. simply resting the violin neck on the horizontal thumb

This not only releases the index finger from holding the violin in place (thus allowing for freely moving vibrato), but also allows for what I find to be a left shoulder far less susceptible to cramps or soreness.

It is important to note that the neck of the violin should generally rest above the thumb's bottom knuckle; otherwise, wrist vibrato yields a very peculiar motion.

This horizontal thumb position also has other useful applications: without the need to jump between positions, holding the violin on the lower thumb makes it much easier to shift.


If wrist vibrato isn't working, then how about trying finger vibrato? In the long run, this might work better. It would probably be more subtle than wrist vibrato, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

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