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Fiddle Lovers Online


Nov 5, 2022 - 9:00:03 AM
83 posts since 12/26/2021

Never really thought much about my thumb. It doesn't play any notes, it just goes right there like that, and that's all there is to it.

I saw a video (Murphy Academy) a while back on the high thumb position. Interesting, but I was doing fine with the thumb position I was taught in my early teens. Until I started working on double stops, that is. I was struggling getting a good arch to get rid of the squeals when fingering the G and droning on the D. I noticed on my better efforts that my thumb was sticking way up there. I "corrected" it and recommenced with the squeals. Fingering on the D and A aren't as much problem, I can move my fingers over out of the way. With the G and E there's really not much room to move over being on the edge of the fingerboard and all. The high thumb works on the E string as well. Doesn't seem to be a binary either this way or that way thing, I seem to be able to switch back and forth as long as I don't think overmuch about it. From the high thumb position it's easy to switch to supporting the fiddle with my palm.

I've seen a number of fiddlers who switch around from strict classical to palming the fiddle to playing down low and back again at will. I kind of figured that at my early stage of relearning the violin I should stick as much as possible to the way I was taught so long ago, but maybe that's counterproductive.

Anyhow, I'd like to hear from others about their experiences with the thumb positions and whether they do it one way for everything or switch it up for the situation or comfort, etc.

Nov 5, 2022 - 10:09:42 AM

970 posts since 3/1/2020

There are different thumb positions among players, even in the classical style. I’d say that it’s generally not ideal to have the neck so low in the hand that there’s no space between the neck and the skin between the thumb and hand, as that limits the ability to reach.

I think what’s more important than the height of the thumb above the neck is that it’s kept straight.

Nov 5, 2022 - 12:16:10 PM
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667 posts since 7/30/2021

Hmm, I just tried bowing with fingers on G + open D (drone) and I had to kind of rock my arm / shift elbow inward towards center of body.
What that does, is better enable fingering on the G string without touching the D string. You could see if that helps...?

With the thumb, I never thought about it, just left it where it feels comfortable!  I'm probably in the "one way for everything" camp.

Edited by - NCnotes on 11/05/2022 12:26:46

Nov 5, 2022 - 12:56:54 PM

Hector

UK

37 posts since 11/1/2018

I guess I must be another high thumb person but I don't regard it as a problem. I often use ithe thumb to note the low A on the G string because it just seems to be in the right place. Occasionally I even use it to double stop the A and the E on the D string. I know it's bad technique but I get by.

Nov 5, 2022 - 1:09:36 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

1087 posts since 6/22/2016

I do that on guitar - never thought to try it on fiddle ... !

Nov 7, 2022 - 7:06:38 AM
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83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

Hmm, I just tried bowing with fingers on G + open D (drone) and I had to kind of rock my arm / shift elbow inward towards center of body.
What that does, is better enable fingering on the G string without touching the D string. You could see if that helps...?

With the thumb, I never thought about it, just left it where it feels comfortable!  I'm probably in the "one way for everything" camp.


 Thanks, I checked and with the low thumb my elbow is cocked way in towards my center. With the high thumb it's less so but still quite a bit. It does help. The elbow seems to go where it has to because of my wrist position.  What I'm seeing with the high thumb is I can curl my hand easier and put my fingers more edgewise on the strings which gives more clearance. Funny thing I just noticed, the tips of my left hand fingers are noticeably wider than on my right hand.  I'm also trying Megan's suggestion of putting my  fingers over onto the the D for droning on the E and fingering the A, and G for droning the A and fingering D. I'm getting a lot less squeals. It's coming along. :-)

Nov 7, 2022 - 2:02:52 PM

667 posts since 7/30/2021

Good news!

That is weird about bigger left fingertips...are you a guitar player?
( I used to have problems with callouses that built up on my left fingertips...switched to nylon string guitar, then my left fingertips went back to normal size :-)

Nov 7, 2022 - 2:10:52 PM

14110 posts since 9/23/2009

I can speak better for fretted instruments, I guess, but as NC said, rocking your elbow, arm angle (not measuring or anthing, just rocking or repositioning as necessary for reach, especially with the awareness of where you need to go from one note to another, etc.) seems to be just a natural thing a person will gradually find for themselves, their bodies, their own unique thumbs, etc. I admire the classical world of musicians and the feats they are able to accomplish, but all the persnickety measurements and configurations are kind of way out there for those of us who just play down home type stuff. That's speaking for fretted instruments...someone once showed me how to hold guitar neck classical style, after I had been playing my own way for maybe 20 years...no way...I could never get comfortable fussing with all of that...not for the stuff I play anyway. As far as fiddle...which I have a whole lot less experience on...I still usually find what works, what works easily for me, and what doesn't hurt to do...and then, that's what I do...lol.

Nov 7, 2022 - 5:59:56 PM
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83 posts since 12/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

Good news!

That is weird about bigger left fingertips...are you a guitar player?
( I used to have problems with callouses that built up on my left fingertips...switched to nylon string guitar, then my left fingertips went back to normal size :-)


Yep, steel strings,  but I haven't played much since I started fiddlin' in January. Probably was more pronounced but I just never noticed. 

Nov 8, 2022 - 10:59:11 AM

14 posts since 12/28/2020

I would say put three fingers (pinky's a whole different world) down on the D string. Adjust your hand so your fingers are curved and comfortable on the string, they can hop over to the G string no problem, and also play on A and E. That's your thumb position. The space under the fiddle neck and the height of your thumb will depend on the size of your hand and how your fingers feel most comfortable on the strings. An exercise for loosening your thumb if you're squeezing the neck: stop before, after, in the middle of a tune and rub the neck back and forth a few times with your thumb to "unlock" your hand. Keep your fingers heavy on the strings, but don't press your thumb hard into the fiddle.

Nov 8, 2022 - 6:40:53 PM

gapbob

USA

858 posts since 4/20/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

There are different thumb positions among players, even in the classical style. I’d say that it’s generally not ideal to have the neck so low in the hand that there’s no space between the neck and the skin between the thumb and hand, as that limits the ability to reach.

I think what’s more important than the height of the thumb above the neck is that it’s kept straight.


I agree with you about not having the palm against the neck for a number of reasons, but I must add that many of the finest fiddlers I have ever seen have done so.  

I have come to hold the fiddle such that I have space between the thumb joint and the neck, in such a way that the lowest finger crease, where it joins the palm, is level with the fingerboard.  If that matters.

Edited by - gapbob on 11/08/2022 18:43:10

Nov 8, 2022 - 10:09:54 PM
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2146 posts since 12/11/2008

I'd never thought about how I held my left hand, so I gave it a look. I seem to brace/support the back of the neck on the first segment of the index finger and use that as the fulcrum for that finger and the other ones. It seems to work fine for me. It's comfortable, natural and flexible. I can hit every note, with only the usual stretch needed for the pinkie to reach the fifth. Yeah, I'm talkin' first position here, but it's easy to slide up the neck to the other positions. By the same token, though, of course I have yet to reliably hit those higher notes on pitch and to be able to reliably get good tone.

Nov 9, 2022 - 11:54:53 AM

2066 posts since 4/6/2014
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quote:
Originally posted by gapbob
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

There are different thumb positions among players, even in the classical style. I’d say that it’s generally not ideal to have the neck so low in the hand that there’s no space between the neck and the skin between the thumb and hand, as that limits the ability to reach.

I think what’s more important than the height of the thumb above the neck is that it’s kept straight.


I agree with you about not having the palm against the neck for a number of reasons, but I must add that many of the finest fiddlers I have ever seen have done so.  

I have come to hold the fiddle such that I have space between the thumb joint and the neck, in such a way that the lowest finger crease, where it joins the palm, is level with the fingerboard.  If that matters.


Johnny Cunningham ?  Wow!...Thought of him as soon as i read "Palm against the neck".

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 11/09/2022 11:57:50

Nov 9, 2022 - 5:05:08 PM

3217 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

I'd never thought about how I held my left hand, so I gave it a look. I seem to brace/support the back of the neck on the first segment of the index finger and use that as the fulcrum for that finger and the other ones. It seems to work fine for me. It's comfortable, natural and flexible. I can hit every note, with only the usual stretch needed for the pinkie to reach the fifth. Yeah, I'm talkin' first position here, but it's easy to slide up the neck to the other positions. By the same token, though, of course I have yet to reliably hit those higher notes on pitch and to be able to reliably get good tone.


That's pretty much what I do. I rest the fiddle on around/above the base knuckle of first finger, one of the points of contact, which balances/supports weight of neck; similar guitar, helps prevents gravity, neck dive. Doesn't interfere with the E string. Same resting contact even as go up to higher positions.

With that, thumb, around upper part/joint; just rests on the side/curve of the neck. Mostly just the weight of thumb resting; perhaps offering counter stability. Doesn't get in way of G string. I don't really overly examine what I do, but seems thumb height/angle just rotates a bit with wrist.. for string and position up neck. 

This combination leaves pretty good window or air gap under neck.

I think what some describe is putting the neck all way deep in that skin pocket between thumb index? Maybe some relates to with idea of "holding" or gripping the fiddle; rather than just resting/balance/supporting the fiddle neck? Reminds me of how some guitar, bass or banjo players grab the neck, kind of death grip. 

As far as the palm/pancake; it's not necessarily the latter; some folks are doing former (base of index), but the collapsing wrist has fiddle upper bout rests on wrist joint. That is, the neck isn't really resting deep in the palm... and with that might go back and forth from collapsed wrist or not... same index/thumb contact doesn't really change. 

Nov 9, 2022 - 7:31:37 PM

6081 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:

... upper bout rests on wrist joint. That is, the neck isn't really resting deep in the palm... and with that might go back and forth from collapsed wrist or not... same index/thumb contact doesn't really change. 


This is pretty much exactly what I do, not exactly pancake wrist, but likely looks a lot like it is. Shifting is not an issue. 

Nov 9, 2022 - 10:09:12 PM

345 posts since 6/3/2016

I have never heard of "high thumb position", so it's interesting to learn what that is.

I do not do that. My thumb contact is more "distal" (towards the thumb tip), on the distal pad but near the joint crease. Whereas from the video it appears that the "high thumb position" has a more "proximal" (towards the palm) contact (one bone down).

I try to minimize the contact area to make it easier to rotate and shift around. I think my thumb is pretty straight.

I tried playing briefly without a shoulder rest and it did not seem to change much.

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