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Squaring off
How to assess and re-align the violin position


Removing the shoulder rest, the player places the instrument on the collar bone, keeping the head up off the chin rest. Using the right hand to put the instrument in place means that the left arm and shoulder are at rest, and not predetermining the position of the instrument out of habit. The player then swings the left hand up towards the instrument, and holds the instrument balanced on the collar bone with the left hand on the body of the instrument and during the “squaring off” procedure.

Observing the violin position using two mirrors.

squaring2 squaring3

Watching herself in the mirror, the player bows an up-bow from the tip until her elbow forms a right angle. She then positions the instrument so that the bow and the strings also form a right angle. It helps to have the bow arm freely hanging at the side of the body before you begin, and to start the up bow on the e-string. This helps you bend the elbow with the least amount of tension, avoiding interference of bowing habits.


1. Elbow at right angle
2. Bow and string at right angle

Use the right hand to re-position the instrument around. This helps avoid any contractions in the left arm and shoulder. Correcting the angle of the instrument by pushing the left shoulder forward and twisting the back are common habits that should be avoided. A simple nudge on the body of the instrument with the right hand will rotate the instrument into the desired position.


1. Adjust the position of the violin using the right hand.
2. Rotating violin into desired position for smaller arms. (Taller players may need to rotate the instrument in the opposite direction.)

Measure the angle of the violin to the arm:

By squaring off the right arm at the elbow joint, we can then see if the violin is in a good position for bowing straight. When the bow arm is squared off, the angle of the bow on the string indicates how far out of alignment the violin is to the arm of the player.


1. Squaring off: elbow, hand, bow and strings making three sides of a square
2. After squaring off: bow is straight

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