Strangling My Fiddle…

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    I’m a left-handed beginning musician, so my left is my dominant and stronger than my right. I’m not sure if that matters in the scheme of things, but I find I’m struggling with too much pressure in my left grip. I start out loose…or what I consider loose. By the time I get a few measures in I’ve tightened up to the point I have to fight for the stretch I need between notes. Is this a normal part of beginner adjustment? Anybody got any good exercises or trick for relaxing the left hand while playing?

    Thank you!


    I think John, our BGDaddy himself, is a left handed fiddler, if I remember right.  I don’t know what effect that has, but I think any beginning fiddler will grip too tight, just from the stress of trying so hard to do something unfamiliar.  That part of it just gets better with a little bit of time and playing experience.


    I’m left-handed but play right-handed. I don’t believe it makes much difference.
    I grew up learning to play on terrible instruments and when I got better ones iI overplayed them a lot…I spent many hours concentrating on not playing any harder than absolutely necessary to produce a good note…I still spend some time on it when I catch myself over playing or get a sore hand from using too much pressure.

    It is a very common beginner mistake to have incorrect pressure at many points in your playing, on any instrument.

    The best thing to do is to keep the problem in mind as you play and correct it as you go. Relaxation is important in playing but very difficult for many to attain when first starting.

    Keep at it and you can overcome this with time and concentration.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by fiddlewoodfiddlewood.

    I am left-handed, but play right-handed, all instruments.  I’m not familiar with the phenomenon of “tightening up”….


    Amber, that is a very common problem.  I’ve been running into folks all the time dealing with it.  It was a big problem for me also.  Because of how you have to stretch your elbow underneath so you can reach the lower strings, it really puts a lot of pressure on the tendons in your elbow if you use much finger pressure on the strings.  I got tendinitis so bad in my elbow that I could hardly play for most of a year.  A lady in orchestra is dealing with that now also.

    It is amazing how little pressure you actually ‘have’ to use on the strings.  Some notes you don’t even have to touch the string against the fingerboard.  I’m not aware of any trick to teach yourself to reform.  What works is the same technique for all the other essentials.  At the beginning of your practice session focus on a training exercise, where you concentrate primarily on that one aspect, namely finger pressure, for a few minutes so you can feel what it feels like when you are doing it right.  As you progress, more and more, this will cause you to be aware when you do it wrong.  So, start out with getting all the proper set up, then just fully concentrate on finger pressure for a while so your body can really experience what it feels like.  This focused concentration technique works wonders for all the other aspects as well, such as square bow training, posture training, intonation etc. etc.


    One thing bad about playing the fiddle is that there just doesn’t seem to be a non-awkward way to hold onto the doggone thing.  Over the centuries, if you read up on the history, they’ve changed the way it was held, especially once music got more and more demanding for the violin players, and invented chin rests, shoulder rests, all kinds of ever-changing shapes and sizes of the doggone things and it’s just obvious that it’s kind of awkward to hang onto a violin or viola and play it at the same time.  I guess there’s all kinds of rules to follow, according to the classical people, who have the toughest music to deal with, but we have to remember there’s always changing opinions, which means nobody has it exactly right.  So…I guess it’s even more complicated when you’re left-handed.  Basically boils down to paying close attention to what works for each of us as individuals, and try to do whatever we can do, ourselves.

    Great ScottGreat Scott

    John is left-handed but he plays the fiddle as a right-handed person.  Amber, most people learning the violin / fiddle encounter a lot of problems in their early training.  I have enclosed a link for you to Ben Chan’s violin website.  Ben is an awesome teacher and I know that he has a videos available where he talks about some of the issues that you are encountering.  If you flip through his videos, I am sure you will find the answer to some of your frustrations.

    If you are like me, sometimes all it takes to rectify a basic problem is to have someone demonstrate to you in person as in a one-on-one basis.  Videos are the next best thing.  I hope the videos of Ben’s can help ease your frustration and encourage you to keep learning the violin / fiddle.


    Frankly, the one thing, that made the most difference, for relaxing my left hand, in playing…was to get a Bon Musica Shoulder Rest. It hooks over your shoulder, keeping the Violin securely in place, so you don’t feel the need to grip the neck, so your Violin doesn’t fall…

    It is completely adjustable, to your body; works for either righties or lefties…a great Shoulder Rest. It is not cheap, though…but, worth every penny, to me. I have 3 of them, on my main Fiddles…

    Steve SraderSteve Srader

    Tightening your grip is normal I think for anyone. I used to hold either bow or fiddle neck until my hands would cramp. It seems the more complex the song the worse I would be doing it. Just in the last couple of years I have mentally tried to concentrate on playing more relaxed. And that seems to help. I was told if someone walked up behind you and gently slapped you on the back you should drop your bow. Have not tried that out yet but the more relaxed you are the better the playing should be.

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