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The Role of the Left Elbow

violin lesson for advanced players

The left elbow is one of the most critical components of good technique for any violin or viola player. Yet the left elbow is frequently forgotten in the intense focus on fingering. Unfortunately, for many violinists and violists, the left elbow is a little bit like opening a door in your house: you don’t think about the hinges until they start squeaking.

Neglecting the left elbow can result in painful muscle strains, seemingly insurmountable difficulties in position changing and vibrato, and can even affect your bow arm and tone production.

The left elbow plays a critical role in so much more including:

  • Ensuring the correct finger placement relative to each string
  • Helping to position the hand so that little finger can remain curved
  • Developing a rich arm vibrato

Yes, your left elbow functions as a hinge but it is vitally important to remember that the range of movement is so much more than just a linear opening and closing action. In other words, your left elbow should be able to move at all times with a free swinging and rotating action that begins in the shoulder joint.

Elbow your way to optimal performance

A freely functioning left elbow enables the fingers to fall correctly onto the strings in higher positions. But you can also think of the elbow as the driving force that sweeps the hand up and down effortlessly through position changes.

This swinging rotating motion is also important in developing a good arm vibrato technique. Even if you choose not to use much arm vibrato, restricting the left elbow during finger vibrato can place excessive strain on the smaller muscles of the hand and forearm.

Setting up your violin or viola correctly relative to your arm length is important for freeing up both your left and right arm techniques. If you swing the scroll too far to the right or the left, your left elbow will be unable to rotate sufficiently for the higher positions without strain on the elbow and shoulder.

Of course, the position of the instrument will also affect the bow arm function. Too far to either side, and the right arm will be forced out of a healthy bow tracking range.

Are your elbows more like squeaky hinges?

Whether you’re looking for relief from a painful elbow or for ways to lift your playing to new heights this free Pro-am Strings free live online webinar is designed to help all advanced violin and viola students to elbow their way to optimal performance.

Join Henriette de Vrijer, your online violin/viola teacher and a wonderfully supportive violin/viola community, as she shares some priceless tips and techniques to help you liberate your left elbow before you develop any squeaky hinges. More information and Registration here.

This post was written by Stylus writer, a former professional violinist/ violist who has taken his gift for phrasing and tone into the world of words. You can learn more about his work at http://styluswriter.com/

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