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  #1  
Old 09-22-2013, 02:34 AM
Jamstrings Jamstrings is offline
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Default Alto Violin Posture found best so far

After watching the Youtube clip and read up others' advice and some trials (not always following their advice ), I went a little further and was pleasantly surprised to end up with what suits me beyond expectation.

The vertical playing is sooooo comfortable as you don't crook anything like with the violin (which I still love and play). The Alto's middle size, the perfect size, means you don't have to lean it vertically to one side like a cello. You can hold it straight from under your chin (like on Bob Spear’s Youtube clip) but slanting mostly forward of your knees like I believe Altoviolinist recommended (even without a bent endpin -I position my straight endpin on a block/foot-stool and often rest my feet on this). I just use my Edwardian dining chairs with cloth covered seat rounded at edges. My piano stool is good too.

This whole posture I figure is a (the?) best compromise for me for:
  1. the fingering hand (if scroll were to your right the fingers fall more easily straight down on the fingerboard –try it!, but if to your left like a cello your left fingers/wrist cramp more),
  2. the bowing hand (if scroll were to your right the right bow hand would cramp),
  3. the spine/body posture (I can sit all the way back in the chair, resting against the backrest, and with knees closer together than for a cello, left foot and knee slightly more forward to support when bowing the A string). This is very important. From what I’ve read, the best seated angle of spine to legs is 135 degrees and poor cellists have to sit rather on the edge of their seats –perhaps because of the knees needing to spread apart and the thighs needing to slope down.
  4. bow weight, the more slanted out instrument means you bow is supported gravity-wise that little more than with a cello. If you have an engineering or similar background you can see the vectors clearly.
  5. bow hold, because of d) the bow hold does not need to be too forward. My hold is now closer back towards the frog.
  6. endpin support, I rather like using the block/foot-stool and think that the endpin spins more naturally like this although I have not tried a bent endpin.
  7. the scroll can touch the body for the through-my-bones sonic effects, or not (Yehudi Manuhin, in 'The Violin: An Illustrated History', says not to touch the varnish of violins). This is a bonus surprise for me when resonate-singing while playing. [I can't sing well, just having fun.]

I am still exploring and would enjoy learning what others have found, other than what was already discussed on this forum. Thank you.
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  #2  
Old 09-13-2014, 02:59 AM
Evan_G Evan_G is offline
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I've been experimenting a bit with posture lately. My first teacher was a cello and viol teacher and I've found that an adapted treble/tenor viol posture is working for me at the moment. I say 'adapted', because of two major differences between the viols and the new violin family.

The most obvious difference is that the alto violin has an endpin so you don't need to support it with your calves. But another difference that is more subtle is that vibrato is more common in modern music, so the viol approach of having the instrument more vertical with the neck/scroll not touching the chest or shoulder leads to a very shaky instrument when you try a lot of vibrato (at least in my experience). Holding the instrument away from the body is, however, really comfortable if you're not doing much vibrato.

So, I sit on a relatively high piano stool so my thighs slope slightly downward. My left foot is further forward than my right, pointing outwards towards the left. My right foot is also pointing outwards, to the right, but less than the left. I sit closer to the edge of the stool, but not uncomfortably so.

I position the alto so that it is fairly vertical. The alto's waist/bridge is just high enough that I can bow the A string without rubbing against my left leg. I find keeping the instrument lower makes good bowing technique easier, i.e. keeping the bow parallel to the bridge becomes easier and more natural.

I hold the whole instrument slightly to the left of centre. The scroll rests gently against my left shoulder bone, just to the left of my sternum. The alto is facing slightly to the right (which helps with bowing on the A string), so that the lower bouts are touching my left thigh, towards the knee, and my right thigh more towards the centre. I don't grip the instrument with my legs, just support it. I find draping a small bit anti-slip rubber mat (the kind of stuff you put under rugs) over my left thigh helps avoid the instrument rotating without needing to apply pressure.

I hold my left hand with my thumb gently touching the left side of the neck, around about the position of my second finger, and not gripping. I use cello fingering. For my right hand, I use a conventional cello bow hold using a 3/4 cello bow.

Using this approach I find I have about 15cm of end pin to spare.

It's kind of fun to experiment with an instrument for which there is as yet no conventional technique!

Evan
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Old 10-16-2014, 03:02 AM
Evan_G Evan_G is offline
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Jamstrings, I've had a quick go of your alto hold and I can see how it could be quite comfortable. How high is the footstool or box that you rest your endpin on? I used a small side table with a very short endpin and found that fingering was fine, but I felt like I was really stretching my right arms to keep the bow in a good position for the A string.

Evan
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Old 01-30-2015, 11:32 AM
Jamstrings Jamstrings is offline
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Oops sorry, Evans, for a late reply.
13 cm high works for me.
I think it might just be equivalent to whatever the lower (bent) section of the bent end pin other people use...?

Am planning on making a setup which incorporates a slightly slant up footrest for the left foot -woodwork project still on paper.

Cheers
Jamstrings
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Old 02-01-2015, 07:16 PM
ASL4U ASL4U is offline
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Default foot rest

Hi. I'm new here. I just bought my alto and have actually held it - and made noise... (no music yet) once. Jamstrings, I would very much like a copy of the plans for the foot rest you're coming up with - might be handy!
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  #6  
Old 09-23-2016, 11:37 AM
Jamstrings Jamstrings is offline
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Hello ASL4U, Evan_G and other readers,

2 updates for you...

My posture and holds have recently changed and I'm playing more comfortably and making better sounds (also because of my non-traditional teacher). The scroll end of the Alto is now held slightly to my left; this caters for how the right bow arm moves. I will have to start another thread on several things I picked up that have worked for me.

On the floor in front of me is now a light piece of plywood about 60 cm left to right and 50 cm deep ((please, America, go metric)). It has an 18 x 18 mm cross-sectional piece glued and screwed right along the far side -one on the top edge and another down the bottom edge; this acts to stop a case sliding forward. This black case is an old-fashioned CD box with 4 compartments inside; in the compartment closest to my left foot I cobbled up some timber (makeshift at the moment, but I'll do better in a few decades when I play better) which is where the end pin rests securely enough for me -the same 13 cm above the floor level. (My makeshift has another spot if ever required.)

The soft top of this case flops forward and could be tucked away if it would get in anyone's way. Both of my feet are on the plywood which then wouldn't slide anywhere. My left foot goes a bit further forward and rests on a 'grain-filled heat-pack' that is just right and is carried in one compartment -other bits and pieces are in the other two. The back left compartment I turn upside down just to give it better rigidity.

I found this arrangement simple and effective enough for me, to pack away and to carry to my music lessons [the plywood piece actually has another shallower piece attached on 3 hinges made of ropes (because I want to reduce the use of manufactured metal) used when open out as a door threshold ramp for moving heavy gear]. So I did not construct the woodwork project mentioned in an earlier post -which I do have to apologise about for the vicious circle I found myself in, of the desire to draw the plan properly for you, the delay, other things in life, the embarrassment about the delay, procrastination, etc :-)

But... as per a sign at the back of a car I saw.... please don't follow me, I'm lost too.

Regards
Jamstrings
PS I still love the Alto to bits, the best.

Last edited by Jamstrings; 09-24-2016 at 06:57 AM.
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