November 2014

5 Tips on How To Do Vibrato with Your Pinky on the Violin or Viola

November 27, 2014 04:45

Bernard writes...

“I can use my pinky pretty confidently, but I have to avoid it on longer notes. Sometimes I have trouble getting a pretty vibrato sound with my fourth finger. It’s odd, because sometimes I get a good vibrato, but sometimes it sounds dead. Could you give any tips on how to work on this? Vibrato seems so much more difficult with the pinky, because there’s not much finger to use to begin with.”

Let’s talk about pinky vibrato.

Lots of violinist and violists manage to make a vibrato or even a good vibrato with their fourth finger (left pinky), but it will always sound better when they do vibrato with (for example) their third finger.

You might make the choice to play long notes with a nice vibrato with the third finger in a higher position instead of the fourth finger. This is very normall. I see violin and viola players do this all the time: when I look at soloists playing pieces and when I look at fingerings in pieces.

It’s ok to use your third finger instead of your fourth finger to make a better vibrato, but don’t always avoid your fourth finger. It’s possible to make a beautiful vibrato, also with your fourth finger.

What players experience as difficult in pinky vibrato, is the lack of freedom of movement.

Here are some tips to increase the freedom of movement and to improve your pinky vibrato:

1) When your pinky is straight, it’s very hard to make a good vibrato. You hardly have the freedom to make a vibrato movement. To solve this pivot your lower arm a little more, so your knuckles are almost aligned with the strings. This brings your pinky closer to the string. In this way it’s possible to make a round pinky. Vibrato will be easier when your pinky is not stretched. What also helps your pinky is to have the neck of your violin or viola a little more in your hand.

2) Lift your other fingers: your first and second finger, maybe even your third finger. This gives your hand the freedom to move around your pinky making the vibrato movement.

3) Bernard writes that sometimes the pinky vibrato works out and sometimes not. This can differ when you have to play a low, normal, high or stretched fourth finger. Try to identify for yourself when you can do vibrato and when not. The rounder you can place your pinky, the easier the vibrato gets. Try to have a flexible and round pinky in all positions. 

4) Practice vibrato with the violin or viola on your lap. The position of your lower arm and hand will be more natural. You can do vibrato easier and enhance your vibrato skills when practicing in this way.

5) Change between arm, wrist and finger vibrato to find out which one or which combination works best for your pinky vibrato.

Would you like to watch more vibrato tutorial videos for free? Click here!

Would you like to learn vibrato beautifully? Do my 'Free Your Vibrato' module in the Violin Lounge Academy with daily vibrato exercises for 15 weeks.

Good luck implementing these tips. Please let me know in the comments below what your experiences and results are so far.



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

Archive link

Differences between Out of Tune, Wrong Note and Bad Tone

November 19, 2014 02:22

When you play a note that doesn’t sound good, there are three possible causes:

  • it can be out of tune

  • it can be a wrong note

  • the note can have a bad tone

The solutions to these three possible problems are very different. To be able to correct yourself you need to know what goes wrong. That’s why I explain the difference in this episode of Violin Lounge TV.

What is playing out of tune?

You might play the right note and you might play with a good tone. Playing out of tune is caused by not placing your finger exactly on the right spot on the fingerboard. The note is either too low or too high. In the video I demonstrate what I mean. This is a left hand technique issue. You need to train yourself to hear it and to place your fingers on the right spot.

What is playing the wrong note?

When you play an F instead of an F sharp, the tune you play can sound very weird. The F you play can be in tune and can have a good tone, but you are playing the wrong note. This is most of the times a reading mistake. When you are improvising, you might be in the wrong key, chord or scale. It’s not a technique thing (the ‘how' of your playing), but lies in ‘what’ your are playing. Most of the times this is quite easy to solve.

In improvising I’ve got a nice quote for you:

‘When you play a wrong note... play it again!'

What is playing with a bad tone?

Lots of people say or think they are playing out of tune or they are playing the wrong note, while they are actually playing with a bad tone. A bad tone is most of the times caused by your bowing technique. When this happens, you can better start correcting your right hand than your left hand.

Theses are three different problems with three different solutions. I hope this video will help you identify the difference, so you can find the solution to your problem more quickly.

Please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

Archive link

How to Prevent Your Pinky from Slipping off the Bow

November 13, 2014 01:06

In your violin or viola lesson your teacher might have instructed you to make your pinky round and set it on top the bow. This is easier said than done. Loads of violin and viola players struggle with this.

Pamela writes:

I am learning to play beginning violin at 66 years of age and the challenge of the pinky bow finger is tremendous. My pinky is very weak when I am trying to learn the bow hold. It slips off the bow and the knuckle sometimes straightens and locks up on me. Like you say it is probably due to weak pinkies! I will attempt the pinky exercises (click here to see them too)! At this point I would not like to lose my confidence. No pain no gain I suppose. My bow (right) pinky is definitely aching!

In my FREE Pinky Training Program you will learn how to improve the strength, flexibility and balance of your pinkies so you can lose your fourth finger phobia and improve your bowing (tone) and intonation. Click here to see it!

My mantra is ‘pain... no gain’.

In daily life... when do you ever use your pinky specifically? You can imagine that a beginning violinist’s pinkies are not trained at all. You didn’t need them much in your life and when you start playing the violin or viola, they (your pinkies) suddenly play a big part.

Your pinkies have to become stronger, but also the coordination of your pinkies need to improve, so they actually do what you want them to do.

In the video I will explain what causes your pinky to slip of the bow so easily. It’s not only because of the lack of strength.

A lot of beginner players hold their bow with their fingers stretched. This makes it very difficult to keep your pinky round: it wants to stretch too along with the other right hand fingers. It will lock more quickly and because of this it will slip of the bow.

You need to relax your pinky, so it can move along with the bow movement: stretch on the down bow movement and bend on the up bow movement.

Make your pinky more round, so it will not easily stretch. It helps to have your other fingers more over the frog, so it’s almost impossible for your pinky to stretch. As soon as the balance, flexibility and strength of your pinky have improved, you can let the bow go a bit.

The first part of your bow (at the frog) is octagonal, even if you have a round bow. When you put your pinky on the highest side (so on the top), it can easily slip of to the back or to the front.

When you place your pinky a couple of millimeters to the back, on the side of the bow just before the top (watch the video to see exactly what I mean), the pinky will not slip of so easy.

This is a very small adjustment (just some millimeters) and very easy to implement, but it can make a big difference! It solved the pinky issue for me years ago and has helped my private students a lot.

Now I’d like to hear from you! Did you implement these tips and did it work? Or do you have other tips to share on this topic? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

Archive link

What Tailpiece and How Many Fine Tuners Should You Have on Your Violin or Viola?

November 6, 2014 03:30

You might be wondering why some violinists and violists have one fine tuner, others two and some even four. What is the difference? What should you choose? Which tailpiece should you pick?

I’ve just discovered shortly that the choice of fine tuners and tailpiece makes a big difference in the sound of your violin or viola. 

In this episode of Violin Lounge TV, I give you the complete guide to fine tuners and tailpieces.

First, for beginners, let’s go into what a fine tuner does... When you tune your violin or viola you can do this with the tuning pegs. When you just want to tune a bit, you can better use the fine tuners. There are different types of fine tuners, so yours can look a little different than the ones in the video.

For beginners I recommend to have four fine tuners, so a fine tuner for every string. Tuning your violin or viola can be difficult in the beginning. When you have four fine tuners you can easily tune every string very precisely.

When it’s so easy to have four fine tuners, why don’t all violin and viola players have all four?

On a wooden tailpiece you can put as many loose fine tuners on it as you prefer. These loose fine tuners are quite heavy. When you have four loose fine tuners on a wooden tailpiece, the whole thing becomes very heavy. The downside of this is that it mutes the tone of your violin or viola and can alternate the sound. This is why lots of violin and viola players just have one or two fine tuners.

These fine tuners are mostly placed on the E string and perhaps the A string. The E string is very tight and thin, therefore hard to tune with the pegs and it can easily snap when you turn it just a little too high. The G and D strings are easier to tune with the pegs only. The fine tuner is optionally placed on the A string.

When you want to have four fine tuners for easy tuning, but you also want to keep the beautiful sound of your violin or viola, consider a plastic tailpiece with integrated fine tuners. These type of tailpieces are light, so they won’t mute the sound of your violin or viola. It will even mute less than a wooden tailpiece with one fine tuner. A plastic tailpiece goes very well with most violins.

Click here to see what I recommend!

Personally I have a wooden tailpiece with two integrated fine tuners.

I choose for two fine tuners, because I really don’t need the fine tuners on the G and D strings.

I prefer a wooden tailpiece, because on my violin the sound is better (warmer) than with a plastic tailpiece.

I prefer integrated fine tuners above loose finetuners, because with integrated fine tuners the distance between the bridge and the tuner is larger. This distance should be 1/6 of the vibrating string length to reach an optimal sound. With loose fine tuners this distance is most of the times to short.

The choice for a tailpiece and fine tuners makes a big difference for the sound of your violin or viola. Experiment with it and find out what is best for you.

Would you like to know how to replace a tailpiece yourself? It’s not so difficult. Just watch this video I made (click here).

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!



PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

Archive link

More entries: October 2014

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine