William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Where to place the left-hand thumb on your violin

Learn the correct position of the left-hand thumb

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick shows you how and where to correctly place the left-hand thumb on the neck of your violin.

Released on July 4, 2018

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Recently, I was intrigued by a comment that was submitted to "Just Me and My Vibrato" by Arthur Mendez. His observation about where I placed my left-hand thumb and subsequent questions pushed me to produce those video on where I believe the left-hand thumb should actually be placed. So, let's start with the relationship between the thumb in my left-hand compared with the thumb in my right. You see if there is symmetry between the two then the placement of my right-hand thumb should be like the placement of my left-hand thumb and vice versa. What this allows for is the least amount of interference between the two sides. Now, can it be done in other ways? Of course, but it can...but theoretically there would be more interference or difficulty if they were placed in different spots.

So, with that in mind, let's have a look at how and where I place my left-hand thumb. You see here is where I put my thumb, right there. Here, have a look at another from another angle. Or look at it from the other side. Now, I have big hands, I really do. I once placed though my hands inside Perlman's, my hands would dwarfed. It was like my hand looked like this. This was my hand, his hand. It was like that inside his hand. So, you see it really depends on how big or how small your hands are, as the set up is totally dependent on this. What one has to look out for though is the placing of the thumb underneath the neck, as this would invite pushing up or squeezing with the thumb, which in my book is a definite no, no. As to how high or how low, again this depends entirely on your hand size, but do not, I repeat, do not force anything. I gave my thumb free range within the parameters that I've set.

Now, as we go up the neck to the body of the instrument, I don't dictate any movement of the thumb that is not related to the movement of the hand. In other ways, I don't say this way, then that way or...no, no, no. It all moves together. As for grabbing the neck, I believe we need to touch, not grab the neck. No squeezing allowed. You see, we need to be able to move on the thumb side and the index side, but absolutely no grabbing or squeezing, you know, between the thumb and the index. Once I'm at the body of the instrument to get how I slide my thumb around the bottom attachment, here. I believe that it's better to stay in touch with this area, but again, the size of the hand matter. So, to get higher notes someone with the smaller hand or some of the fingers would have been creative, maybe they would bring the thumb here. Or maybe they would bring their thumb here. What's important is to be able to slide back around without lifting the thumb off the instrument.

You see, we never want to lose contact with the thumb. So, you see everyone's placement of the thumb differs one...you know, one cannot, one should not take a cookie-cutter approach to this placement, or anything else for that matter. For example, I don't think it's a good idea to grab or squeeze with your right-hand thumb either. Have a great day. Oh, but wait. I've spoken about not being tense, but I've not shown you how to avoid that tension. So, why don't I show you some things to avoid that could lead to that kind of tension with your thumb. One thing to avoid is stretching your fingers this way. Stretching your fingers that way puts a lot of pressure here which can lead there again to pressure here, tension.

Another thing to avoid would be extending the wrist backwards like that because it puts pressure into the string, the pressure in the string will make you want to press up, push, and squeeze with the thumb. Obviously, one thing you want to avoid is squeezing between the thumb and the first finger, the index, obviously, that will get you some...a lot of tension. Another thing that you want to avoid is contorting the rest having the hand turned this way while you have the violin. That's putting a lot of pressure on this side over here which again puts pressure on the thumb. And of course, you really want to avoid using the bicep. The use really tightens up everything on the...muscularly over here, which again causes the thumb to be tight. So, those were a couple of ways... a couple of things to avoid. So, again, here's hoping you have a great day.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Kypros Christodoulides on May 18, 2020 @10:36 pm PST
Thank you again professor, this is a great confirmation of how I do it also. The only difficulty I face, is placing the 1st finger down in 1st position, in tune, as there is no guide post. I usually find my intonation in first position by placing down the third finger first and then the first finger, meaning my guide is the 3rd finger. Please, I ask for your expert guidance on this.
Eugenie Van Zyl * VSM MEMBER * on July 27, 2018 @10:51 am PST
Thank you Professor! We learn so much from you!
poicpi * VSM MEMBER * on July 4, 2018 @3:13 am PST
Hi,in first position I have difficulties for vibrate,is harder..but trying to place the thumb back(nearest to the fingerboard)I vibrate easier...Of course after I must move it back when I have to play the 4th finger because it sound low in tune..Hi,in first position I have difficulties for vibrate,is harder..but trying to place the thumb back(nearest to the fingerboard)I vibrate easier...Of course after I must move it back when I have to play the 4th finger because it sound low in tune..
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