One of the most common issues I see as a teacher among aspiring violinists and fiddle players is a crooked left wrist. Today, we are going to be diving into what this technique faux pas is, and how you can fix it!
But first, let's make an important distinction between two similar, yet very different issues that can occur with the left wrist as it pertains to violin technique.
The collapsed wrist, which is the lazy cousin of the crooked wrist, is just as it sounds: collapsed. This occurs when the left wrist caves in, and the palm comes up to meet the neck of the violin. This creates a bend in the line from elbow to knuckles, instead of the wrist maintaining a straight, neutral position, as shown in the photo above,
The crooked wrist, however, is a shift of the wrist to the left and hand to the right, also creating a bend in the line, but in a different, more intentional (and often uncomfortable) way. This almost always occurs as a result of the violin student attempting to reach the E string while keeping their arm static and leading with their fingers.
So, as you can see, although the collapsed wrist and crooked wrist are similar in theory, they are the result of two completely different actions.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk more about the crooked wrist!
As I mentioned, the crooked wrist occurs as a result of a very specific attempt, and that is to access the E string.
Let's say you go into playing position, and begin playing a G major scale. What would happen if you kept your left arm completely still, and led with only your fingers as you made your way up to the E string? If you've tried this, you would have noticed that inevitably, your hand has no choice but to shift to the right in order to allow for your fingers to access the notes on the E string. This can cause undue tension and strain on the small muscles and joints, and this is something nobody benefits from.
But what if instead, as you were making your way up to the E string, you shifted your elbow to the left? This produces an entirely different result, and is in fact much easier! Leading with the elbow allows you to keep your wrist in a straight, neutral position, and guide your fingers to the desired string with absolutely no manipulation of the hand or wrist. How about that?
Leading with the elbow also allows you to keep your fingers relaxed (since they are simply hovering above the strings as you move from string to string), thereby improving your intonation since your hand is able to maintain the same exact position on each string.
So, let's review some of the benefits of leading with the left elbow and maintaining a beautifully straight wrist:
- Less effort
- No tension or strain on joints
- Improved intonation
And there you have it! I hope you're able to see how truly effortless it can be to change strings, and why you should always be leading with your elbow instead of your fingers. If you'd like to learn more on this topic and see my demonstration and practice tips, check out the video below!