At the heart of all violin related advise, one topic always remains relevant to beginner students, advanced performers and teachers alike. This of course is the question of hand posture. Most commonly this question relates to right hand and bow hold but in this article, I will be covering advise that is applicable to both hands.
This topic is often made out to be needlessly complicated with talk of various schools of thought and traditions. It’s not that tradition has no place in modern violin technique but in order to remain relevant it has to be questioned. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, these explanations rarely provide convincing clarity
1. The bow hold of the Russian school, Mid-twentieth Century
I grew up on what is now referred to as the Russian school but have since done much experimentation with other approaches as well. As I started to analyse what works and what doesn’t, I realised that all good advice boils down to two simple factors: nature and function.
As we have discussed in the previous article, our hands do more than just hold and manipulate the instrument but are actually a direct extension of it. In fact, they play an even more important role in sound production than the quality of the instrument itself. When viewed in this way, it leads to a very direct question: What functions do the hands fulfil as part of the sound production mechanism and what is the most natural way to do so.
Power of Nature
If we go back to the comparison between the right hand and the inner workings of the piano, one stark difference emerges. The mechanisms of the piano were designed specifically for that instrument while a violinist’s hands do not easily fit their sound producing roles. Beyond that, the smaller muscles in the hands are extremely vulnerable to injury if stressed for a prolonged period of time. The high rate of serious muscle injury among violinist’s attests to this simple truth.
The fact that a violinist must spend hours every day with the instrument introduces very tight constraints on posture. What this means in practice is that the hands must remain relaxed 99% of the time while playing. In an idle position the hands default to a specific shape that is universal for everyone. This shape is characterised by: straight wrist, curved and slightly separated fingers and most importantly relaxed thumb muscles.
2. Relaxed hand position.
When adjusting our hands to their roles in fulfilling their specific functions, these characteristics provide an invaluable guideline for both hands. In turn, these criteria determine their default shape while playing.