Are you a serial squeezer? Do you find that your left hand feels exhausted even after playing your violin for just a short while? I recently made a video where I presented an exercise to help alleviate this, and in this post, I am going to break down why we strangle our fiddle, and how to avoid it.
If you find yourself regularly holding the death grip on your violin when you play, you are not alone. This is something many people do, even if they have been playing the violin for several years. The issue is not necessarily you, it's just likely you were never taught the correct technique to avoid this.
The thing is, when we play, something occurs mentally where not only are we holding a foreign object, but we are also trying our best to maintain accuracy and precision despite this. With our brain sending us all of these red flags, the stress from the situation manifests itself in the body as a result. and thus the squeeze prevails.
Ideally, our hands should maintain a very natural position. One not too dissimilar to their relaxed state when we are not playing. But it can be one thing for our brain to tell our hands to do this, and another entirely for them to maintain the relaxed state despite our brain not constantly telling them to.
So what can we do? Well, there is a very simple (although not necessarily easy) exercise, that will guarantee your left hand to release the tension. It does take a bit of coordination, though, but we violinists are used to that, aren't we?
Allow me to walk you through this exercise:
Bring your violin to your shoulder, in playing position, with your left hand in first position.
Begin gently tapping your left thumb on the neck of your instrument.
Play a scale that comes very easily to you, while continuing the tapping of your thumb.
And that's it! Simple in theory, but perhaps a bit more difficult in practice. What this thumb-tapping exercise allows us to do is physically release the finger that generally perpetuates this tension, by forcing it to remove itself from the neck.
If you are a visual/audio learner like myself and would like to see this exercise demonstrated, see this video, where I walk you through exactly how this exercise works.
This exercise has worked for me in the past, and I know it will work for you if you stick with it. Good luck!