November 24, 2011 at 10:10 AMLet me explain (and let this be a lesson to all you young folk out there who think it's no big deal to play with bad habits): Until college, I played with the second joint of my left pinky collapsed. Then, in college, my professor made me quit that habit, but by then, the tip joint had been abused for so long that it lacked the ability to flex gently like the other tips, and remains more or less frozen when I try to use vibrato. Moreover, the base knuckle acts rather double jointed and pops in and out of good form as I play. By sheer will power, I've forced that stupid fourth finger to be more reliable, at least in fast passages and simple phrases. However, it gets stuck on double stops and flails rather miserably for trills. Basically, my hand runs along like a car in need of a good alignment.
You'd be surprised at how long you can gimp along with a junky pinky. For instance, over the years, I've invented the most amazing fingerings. Entire pages of lyrical passages in my Brahms sonata contain not a single four. (Yampolsky would be proud.) Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. I'm pretty embarrassed about it--and yet, slightly proud of the fact that I've managed to come as far as I have, despite my handicap. Maybe it runs in the family: my grandpa was completely missing the tip of his third finger, to the first joint, yet he could sing like a lark with his fiddle. Just goes to show, there's more than one way to play the violin.
Nevertheless, there's passable, and then there's efficient. I'm craving fluent double stops and trills, and you just can't manage that kind of skill without absolute mastery of the fourth finger. So this is why I've spent the last two days staring at the shape of my hand and sorting out its muscle structure, pondering training plans, imagining a minuscule gym, complete with bench presses and resistance training. I want a focused, precise, articulate pinky, and I will try anything at this point; I'm that desperate. (Either that, or I'm that bored.)
Pinky pull-ups. Maybe that'll do it...
Regarding vibrato, I'm currently doing a lot of loose, slow work with the motions, making it mimic the same motions the other fingers use. It's very light right now, hardly any pressure on the string.
Regarding Dounis, I'm only on exercise one, and this is to encourage finger independence and form. It's fun. I feel like a spider.
See, I know what I'm doing. Baby steps, baby steps...
I might post a video for you to laugh at. Maybe not.
PS Nothing I do causes pain. I want no more than light muscle fatigue at the end of the day, preferably not even that.
PPS This is mostly a mental game, but you know that, don't you? ;)
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