A student asked me during a recent office hours session, “Do you have any exercises to help me from tensing up my left hand?”

In general, I encourage you to bring awareness to your body. Every once in a while, pause to check in and inquire. Ask yourself:

“What is happening now?”

“What hurts or is uncomfortable?”

“Am I breathing evenly?”

“Am I thinking of other things besides the music?

Though I am teaching this, I am also actively trying to learn and practice this on my own. I’ve noticed that when I play shows I have a lot less back and neck stiffness. I think it’s because I’m moving around a lot more. Maybe I should pretend like I’m putting on a show when I practice? 

This is yet another way in which you can learn to fiddle with things. If you can bring more ease to the body as you practice, your sessions will be more enjoyable.

How to practice this

Some actionable tips for playing with less left-hand tension:

  • Use a shoulder rest.
    • This will help to relieve left-hand tension because it will free the left hand from having to hold the fiddle. This will allow more focus on the right posture and the music.
    • I like the Bonmusica.
  • Stretch and take a few breaths before playing.
    • Connect with the body.
    • Gently shake the hands.
    • Do this throughout a practice session.
  • Take short breaks.
  • Practice lightly lifting fingers up and down without making a sound.
    • Things like D0-1, D1-2, D1-L2, D2-3
  • Do the same practice but this time making a sound.
    • Either plucking or bowing.
    • See if you can keep the relaxed left hand with scales.
    • Then see if you can it relaxed on tune phrases.
    • And then keep the relaxed left hand on tunes.
  • Practice little lift.
    • Here’s a lesson on this.

Maintain this relaxed awarenes as you practice. Start this with easy things:


Try to keep your hand relaxed on easy tunes like Bile ’em Cabbage

First quarter: D2-2-2-2 3 3

Second quarter: D2-2-2-2 1 1

Third quarter: D2-2-2-2 3 3

Fourth quarter: D2-2-1-1 0 0

Further learning

I recommend you practice other easy tunes as a way to connect your body, breath and mind with the music:

Then, see if you can maintain the relaxed left-hand fingering with something that is challenging for you.

This micro-lesson is an excerpt from an office hours webinar I gave on February 25, 2020. View the entire live-stream with indexed questions here.

Do you have a fiddle or violin question? The office hours live-stream happens on the last Tuesday of the month. 

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