So you’re proud of that opposeable thumb? Well, if you play the violin, you know why it can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. This post was inspired by another question from one of my YouTube viewers. It’s a very common problem, so I decided to post it here.
“Do you have any hints for my left thumb, which keeps tensing and locking my hand, preventing smooth movement?”
Yes. First of all, make sure your shoulder rest/chin rest is doing the job of holding your violin nice and level. (if you don’t use this equipment, are you sure that you don’t need it?) Secondly, the best “cure” for this problem is to play scales and etudes with NO THUMB AT ALL! In other words, don’t let your thumb touch the neck at all, so there can be no “opposable” action. This is torture, and it makes you sound kinda crappy, but it really helps.
After you spend a good solid week or more with NO THUMB, re-introduce the thumb with “light as a feather” contact. You do this by stroking, or petting the violin neck with your thumb as you play. Do this CONSTANTLY at first. (it’s hard to play in tune) Then, start stroking the side of the neck every 30 seconds, ever minute, every 5 minutes, etc. If you thumb is ever STUCK, you will quickly realize it, and may have to back up to previous steps.
One final thought: Make sure you are using the minimum finger pressure to get a clean stopped note. Most people press too hard with their fingers, which creates the need for opposition from the thumb. Lighten up with the fingers! They say Sarasate played with such light fingers that he never even had string impressions on his fingertips. That’s a pretty light touch!