“If you put your hand on the piano, you play a note. It's in tune. But if you put it on the violin, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. You have to figure it out.” - Itzhak Perlman

Most string instruments are for right handed musicians, but with one in 10 people left handed, where does that leave left handed violinists?

When it comes to the left handed violin it is simply a mirrored version of the right handed instrument: the brass bar, bridge, nut and strings are all in the opposite order.

Right or left handed, if you want to play the fiddle or violin correctly, remember that you will need certain accessories to help you play.

So is there a special left hand violin technique?

In this article, we will look at the left hand violin position, how to make playing violin left handed easy, as well as the left hand violin technique.

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Holding Your Instrument in the Conventional Right Hand Position

Famed as being one of the most challenging instruments to learn, left handed violinists will need determination, tenacity and rigour. If you know your way around other stringed instruments, one of the things you will notice is that there are no frets on the neck. This can make playing out of tune easier.

You could have the most beautifully crafted Stradivarius violin in the world, but if you don’t know how to play it, it will never sound good. If you are one of the world’s left handed violinists, you will need to adopt the right position for playing violin left handed so that you can make musical poetry.

The first thing that you will have to do is stand up straight while you relax your arms, shoulders and hands. On the right handed violin, your left hand is positioned on the neck to play notes while your right will be in charge of bowing. All this means is that you need to coordinate both arms in order to play your piece. Your left arm should be bent with your forearm pointing outwards.

Once you have placed your chin on your chin rest and violin on your shoulder, your instrument will remain in place even when you relax your left hand.

In this conventional right-hand position, the neck of the instrument will be placed between the index finger and thumb on your left hand.

Once your violin bow technique has been mastered, you’ll need to place four fingers on the neck. Each finger should be straight, with knuckles bent over the neck to keep your hand nimble and flexible. In this position, your hand will be parallel to the neck in order to maintain dexterity.

Now, all of this needs to be swapped around for left handed violin!

What are violins made of?
Could you make a violin out of this? (Source: jplenio)

The Left Hand Violin Position  

In the left hand violin position, there are certain rules as to where and how to place your fingers on the fingerboard. Before you know it, even as a left handed violin player, you will be ready to begin playing a few simple pieces.

Positioning the Fingers on Your Right Hand for Playing Violin Left Handed

One of the first concerns about violin for left handed players is when the musician thinks that their fingers are too big.  If this is you, remember that it is not the size of your fingers that matter, it’s how precisely they are able to play!

Not unlike the guitar, left handed violinists, will use their right hand to press down the strings on the fingerboard to change the length of the string and thereby change the pitch of the note as the string vibrates.

Remember that your index finger base is the critical point of contact and will ensure that your hand remains stable. The base of your index finger is the essential point of contact that ensures that your hand position stays stable. To ace your left handed violin playing, remember that you will need to know the basics of the left hand violin position.

These positions are what determine your fingering technique when improvising or playing sheet music. There’s no doubt that having the confidence to play clean notes will mean that your elbow has to point inwards.

When your hand is positioned too low on a fingerboard, it will make placing your index finger in the right place difficult and will result in your notes being played all over the place.

Remember that your fingers are numbered from 1 to 4 for all traditional string quartet instruments (viola, violin, cello and double bass) and that your thumb should hold the neck. Note that your first digit is considered to be your index finger.

Your middle finger is the second digit, your ring finger, the third and the last digit is your baby finger. However, when you see a 0 in violin tabs, note that this means ‘open strings’ – in other words, played with no fingers on it.

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Moving Fingers Along a String for Left Handed Violinists

When moving your fingers along the neck, your middle and index finger will move towards the lower-left notes while your ring and baby fingers will move towards the higher notes on the right.  

For this, and other tips to perfect your left hand violin technique, consider the help of a private violin tutor on Superprof.

Where can you find violin music?

You can find lots of inspiration in a record store. (Source: Free-Photos)

More About the Left Hand Violin Technique

“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you're telling a story.” - Joshua Bell

Are you interested in playing jazz music or classical music on the violin?

Whether you are playing violin for left handed or not, technique is important.

After learning how to read sheet music and understanding your treble clef from your bass clef, there are 8 techniques to be learnt that are the same for left handed violinists.

  • Trills
  • Harmonics
  • Double stops
  • Hand shifts
  • Pizzicato
  • Glissando
  • Harmonic Glissando
  • Vibrato

For both right and left handed violinists, Hand Shifts are one of the most common techniques taught. This entails moving your hand along the entire lengths of the strings in order to play a range of notes on the same string.

To achieve Vibrato, you will use your forearm, wrist and tip of your finger to move back and forth on the string which will alter the pitch.

To do a trill, alternate quickly between notes that are separated by one to six semitones. Allow your finger to press down on the string while another finger releases a higher note.

A harmonic is when a finger is placed on a string without pressing it down in a precise position. Doing this creates a distinct sound.

A double stop is achieved when a violinist simultaneously plays two different notes on two strings.

Pizzicato is achieved with a bow in your hand, but can also be performed by using a baby finger to press down on the strings of the preceding finger.

Glissando is when your finger glides along the string while pressing down on it. It allows you to slide both up and down on the fingerboard.

How do you read sheet music?
To get the most out of your violin, you should learn to read sheet music. (Source: Barni1)

Learning Music Theory

Reading sheet music and playing violin scales is a fundamental part of learning violin for left handed and right handed players.

Part of this is understanding major, minor, pentatonic, and harmonic scales, all of which will drastically improve your ability. Scales, which are descending and ascending notes are used for creating melody.

Regardless of whether you have any questions on how to play the violin, or just want to know how long it takes to learn to play the violin, a private tutor or other resources like violin books or online violin lessons could all add to your musical journey.

Remember that you can get private violin lessons in the comfort of your own home, whether you are an absolute beginner or an advanced player who wants to know how to progress in violin, there are Superprof tutors available for everyone.

Not only that, it doesn’t matter how old you are, while we do have advice about when to begin violin lessons, remember it is never too late to start, even if you are going to be learning violin for left handed players!

Finally, don’t forget to include a violin mute when you invest in your accessories at a leading retailer, like Marshall Music for instance. This will make sure that you can practice away without feeling self-conscious and without annoying your family or neighbours.

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Niki

Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.