Part 1: Violin/Viola Set-Up

I had the wonderful opportunity to present a session with Dean Westman, Orchestra Director at Avon High School, and Glenn Fugett, Band and Orchestra Director at Nashville School of the Arts, at the Music for All Summer Symposium. The session topic included tips for directors teaching strings.

Ironically enough, I was the only string player in the group, but I just love sharing the tricks of the profession to help directors make themselves better teachers for their string students. These two gentlemen made me feel like “Wonder Woman” and I was just doing what I love, to help others!

First of all, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Paula Krupiczewicz and I am a violist, a teacher, a clinician, a runner, a triathlete, and a Cross-fitter. Yes, I’m a busy person, full of energy and speed. My three degrees are all in viola performance, but please don’t let that deter you from what I have to say. I’ve been teaching high school orchestra for 9 years in Cobb County, GA at North Cobb High School. I walked into the orchestra room my first day with big eyes, not knowing what to expect, or how my students would react to my teaching and me. I had all this knowledge to share with my students, but where to start!

Needless to say, I winged it the entire first year trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. Some things worked, some things did not. I kept trying and never gave up. I tell my students that I was not a natural on the viola, I had to work hard to get where I am today. Throughout my career, I have had to retrain my muscle memory on several technical areas and I understand the struggle to learn a new technique and remedy problem areas. I wanted my students to be the best musicians and persons they can be, but it was also important to do it right.

So part 1 of my blog will include a few tricks to get those young violins and violas set up correctly, but also to maintain proper playing positions. If students are set up correctly and attention is placed on making sure set up is proper, great things will begin to happen. Today, I am just going to address the proper position of holding the instrument and the left-hand position.

Holding the instrument:

  1. Start by sitting up straight with the instrument resting on your left thigh, holding onto the fingerboard with your left hand.

  2. Rotate your left hand and bring the instrument up to your shoulder. Remember: the fiddle is placed on your shoulder at a 45° horizontal angle from your face looking forward and your shoulders parallel.

  3. Set your jawbone on the chin rest. And know you are ready to go!


Setting up the Left Hand:

  1. Make a fist around the fingerboard.
  2. Relax fingers. Do not move the wrist. Fingers should be on their fingertips and a nice arch should in the in fingers.

  3. Thumb angled back towards the peg box. Make sure the interior portion of your thumb touches the side of the fingerboard.

  4. Base knuckles should be parallel to the fingerboard. Think of a  on the base knuckle of your pinky looking at you.

I truly hope these tips help with holding the instrument and the left-hand position. Stay tuned for tips on the bow grip!