Fat fingers on strings

Edited: October 6, 2017, 2:27 PM · Good day all:

I have been playing violin for quite a few years now. When I play, my finger pads slightly touch the strings that are not used. This has not caused any problems with my playing so far.

Recently, I wondered if all players with fatter fingers do this.

To experiment not touching any other strings, I placed the tip of my third finger on D string (G note), and tried bowing G, D and A strings separately. I only get a clear sound on 2 of the 3 strings and not all 3. Either, the pad of my finger touches A string or if I adjust it, my finger nail touches the G string. I have done this experiment very slowly and meticulously, still I cannot get a clear sound on all 3 strings. Any ideas?

Replies (9)

October 6, 2017, 3:32 PM · You can make, or have made for you, a new nut and/or bridge in order to increase the spacing between the strings. I did this on one of my fiddles when I wanted to play intensely chordal music such as Bach solos.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 5:14 PM · You'll find some useful help in this important little discussion:
http://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=534, fingertip point of contact.

I don't think it's at all necessary to alter the string spacing. Doing so can be a bit expensive (a new bridge for example) and it would make playing awkward for anyone else who may use the violin.

There are really great players around with fat fingers (Itzhak Perlman, for instance) who don't have a problem.

October 6, 2017, 5:17 PM · Trevor, do you know whether or not Perlman uses a custom set-up?
October 6, 2017, 7:31 PM · Jiggle & Wiggle!

I have this problem too and it makes playing chords a problem because a finger may have to be moved while the chord is being played to avoid hitting another string. I've had big hands for so long that this is not a problem, but there are times I may have to work out the motions (as opposed to sight reading).

Cellists (maybe not all of them) place their fingers on the fingerboard to the right of the string being played so their finger pad is moved (or dropped) a bit to the left to contact the string. The equivalent thing for a violinist would be to place the finger on the fingerboard slightly to the left of the string. To play a clean double stop you just be sure that each finger only touches one of the strings being played - except that the lower finger doesn't matter.

Enough years and it just seems to work out! Wiggle & Jiggle!

October 6, 2017, 7:54 PM · Perlman doesn't need a special setup because he has gradually adapted from early childhood. Adult beginners and even returners, we just have to figure this out. Andrew Victor is right, you just have to move them around so they're not in the way, sometimes up and down the fingerboard for intonation purposes, sometimes side to side so that and open-string double-stop doesn't whistle, etc.
October 9, 2017, 2:41 PM · Trevor, yes the modifications could cost some money all right; I did the work myself. (I forgot to mention that you might also need to replace the fingerboard with a wider one). As for it being awkward for others that use my violin, screw 'em, it's *my* violin! (It's actually an easy adjustment to make). My new spacing is 17.5mm center G to center E at the nut, and 36mm at the bridge.

Andrew, yes, I could have 'Wiggled and Jiggled', but why go through those contortions when just a small increase in string spacing allows me to play clean triple and quadruple stops? (Remember that the OP was specifically concerned with playing clean 3 note chords). And when you wiggle and jiggle while arpeggiating a chord you will mute the bass note-- to me it's much more satisfying to still hear the bass note vibrating after the bow leaves it than to have it get damped out by a wiggling finger.

Paul, do you actually know that Perlman doesn't use a custom setup?

October 9, 2017, 2:53 PM · The limiting factor for increasing string spacing, as far as I can see, is the ability to execute a one-finger fifth.
October 9, 2017, 3:41 PM · You can't widen the fingerboard without increasing the width of the neck - and that is a major bit of work. Also a wider neck than the standard can be injurious to many players' hand health.

Installing a new nut with more widely spaced grooves would require less work and might not be a serious detriment on resale. My violins' string spans are about 16.5 mm at the nut and 36 at the bridge. The extra width Carinius uses at the nut should be no problem on any violin.


October 9, 2017, 4:12 PM · "You can't widen the fingerboard without increasing the width of the neck"

This particular violin that I worked on has a rather skinny neck. I made a new fingerboard with the top of it wider than the bottom-- sort of wedge shaped in cross-section rather than with the sides parallel to each other. Feels fine to me when playing.


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