Do you play with a curved fourth finger? Does it really matter that much?

Edited: August 7, 2017, 8:36 PM · For the professionals and advanced players out there:
- Do you play with a curved fourth finger as opposed to a flatter one or a locked one? If you do, did it come naturally to you or did you have to work to get it? If you don't, how much do you think it affects your playing?

I've heard a lot about the importance of a curved fourth finger, but I've also heard of people who don't have one and manage just fine.

- Is this really something every hand is capable of?
- What aspects of technique are harder/not possible for someone without a curved fourth finger?

Replies (12)

August 7, 2017, 4:14 PM · My 4 is curved. As a kid I didn't have to work on it besides being constantly reminded by my Suzuki teacher! As I got older, it started straightening imperceptibly and finally at about age 22 I had to work on it again. Then again at age 35...

I've personally only taught one or two players whose 4th fingers were so short that they couldn't curve. The vast majority can, although some people play with their palms far enough away from the neck that it becomes practically impossible.

It's not a make-or-break thing, although many people whose 4th fingers are straight have other weaknesses in their left hands as well. Why not have the four fingers behave the same way?

As for what you can/can't do, great players have shown that you can do just about anything in any way. That said, vibrato on 4 is never easy with a straight finger. And most people find that they can't use 4 in fast passages as easily with a straight finger either. The path up and down tends to be longer than for the other fingers. Finally, at a high level, the point of contact for a straight 4 tends to be more on the pad than for the other fingers. This can give a softer articulation on that finger, which is again a problem in fast passages.

It's something worth working for, I believe... I made a youtube video on it, after all. But not the first priority!

August 7, 2017, 5:36 PM · I think this depends partly on physique. My pinky is partially curved when playing, generally speaking. When I say partially curved, I'm saying that the joint closest to the tip is almost always curved while the joint closest to the palm is only occasionally curved.
Edited: August 7, 2017, 7:56 PM · If I understand the question right, it refers to normal placement on the fingerboard in typical use. And if that IS the question, then, yes, mine is curved to a certain extent, if somewhat less than the others. Perhaps someone with a really short 4th finger would have trouble with this.

But placing the elbow properly well-under the violin will support the 4th finger (as well as the hand in general) for better positioning, stretches in double-stops, etc.

But there is something else: at rest, away from the violin, my left-hand 4th finger curves quite a bit more than its right-hand counterpart - and even more than the other left-hand fingers. I suspect that this is from many years of playing - and especially from double-stops. Anyone else have that?

August 7, 2017, 9:29 PM · I think it depends on physique, too. If you have a short fourth finger, and you can't play a whole step without making it straight, you just play that way. Think of all the poor violists without a huge hand span who have had to suffer because someone insisted that they curve their fourth fingers while playing a 16+inch instrument. It's baloney.

Raphael, I have the exact same behavior of fingers in hand.

August 7, 2017, 10:17 PM · I got the bad luck of a really short fourth finger. I worked a lot on getting it curved, but there are positions where I dont have any chance but making it flat. Luckily for double stops my index finger is quite flexible, so I can still manage those big ones.
When its flat the sound seems to be worse, same for vibrato. So if you somehow can manage to curve it, do it.
Raphael, my fingers seem to be symetric, as you asked. But I got a part in my beard, where the usual violin mark would be, where I dont grow any hair. I think this might be caused by my playing in my youth.
August 8, 2017, 4:21 AM · Fourth finger rules! To be flexible for vibrato, and to make extensions without provoking Violin Elbow, it should probably stay curved. The othe fingers should make way for it.
Edited: August 8, 2017, 7:17 AM · I play with a curved 4th finger. It is the natural shape for the hand to grip a handle. A curved finger (any finger) helps a lot with vibrato.

However, one of my teachers has a small hand and uses a flat 4th finger. She plays beautifully. She tried to teach me to use a flattened 4th finger for stretch notes, e.g. C on the E string from 1st position. I did not have the patience to develop that different set of muscles and flexibility, so I just decided to shift more often.

Bottom line: it does not make a difference, if you practice enough.

August 8, 2017, 1:38 PM · Nathan, I haven't actually tried the tissue trick yet, but I watched your video and I've been thinking about it while playing, and trying to keep my 4th finger curved. That in itself seems to be helping my 4th finger become more effective, and even get a bit of vibrato. Thanks for the tip!
August 8, 2017, 1:49 PM · Curved 4th finger is a must. Every hand can accomplish this as it is not about physiology but technique. Turn the palm towards the violin and bring the elbow forward. Job done.

Cheers Carlo

August 8, 2017, 2:03 PM · Barring physical anomalies, the ways I can imagined someone's pinky being flat all involve very poor left hand position.
August 8, 2017, 7:50 PM · For me, the knuckle collapses no matter what I do. I have tried everything, and I physiologically cannot make it different. I get by anyway.
August 8, 2017, 7:52 PM · I try pretty hard to play with a curved 4th finger, but sometimes it just doesn't happen when reaching. Part of the fun of having your 4th finger be barely over half as long as your 3rd (ignoring knuckle slant) :)

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