Printer-friendly version weekend vote: How strong is your fourth finger (left pinkie)?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: February 6, 2015 at 5:08 PM [UTC]

When it comes to our fingers, the pinkie can be a particularly weak link for us violinists. Today we are talking about the left-hand pinkie, our "fourth" finger, which is usually required to stretch at the same time as it is placed firmly on the string. It's usually the shortest finger, and in some people it's quite short!

Fortunately, pinkie strength can be developed. How strong is your pinkie? Please share with us any pinkie-strengthening wisdom or exercises that you have! And by the way, thanks to Buri for this weekend vote suggestion. Please e-mail me if you have other suggestions, I'm always looking for weekend vote ideas!

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From Trevor Jennings
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 6:33 PM
I put my strong pinky down to having been a cellist most of my life - the cellist uses the pinky where the violinist would use the 3rd. And being a pianist, I suppose.
From Angelica Cantu
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 6:43 PM
Surprisingly, I feel that my fourth finger trills are stronger than my third finger trills. Anyone in the same boat?
From Paul Deck
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 9:20 PM
It's interesting the comment about being a pianist. I also play the piano but I've never really made much of a connection between piano and violin in terms of their physicality. For example, my violin trills are pretty good (I won't claim they're great), but my piano trills are only good in the right hand. Having studied the piano is of great benefit in terms of musical understanding, however. I think anyone who has studied both instruments would say so.
From Kevin Keating
Posted on February 6, 2015 at 10:30 PM
Well I voted "strong" pinky, however I wouldn't actually call it strong and certainly not my best finger. BUT I use it where it's needed, where it's called for in whatever piece I'm playing. I force myself to use it even when it sounds weak. Use it and it'll get better over time. Without it, you're only playing at 75%. If that makes sense.
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on February 7, 2015 at 5:46 AM
I voted "strong" for exactly the same reason as Kevin. Maybe a better wording of that choice would be "I use it when it makes sense to".
Posted on February 7, 2015 at 12:23 PM
Mine is quite strong, and I owe it all to three years of endless finger excersises my Italian teacher had me do. I lived in Naples, Italy and Mrs D'Ascoli had me doing tons of mechanics. O Sevcik, Sitt, Schradieck, etc. I hated them all as a teen, but so thankful now. My fingers are strong and my fourth finger vibrato is strong. But seriously...3 years of mostly mechanics. I was going nuts.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on February 7, 2015 at 12:48 PM
Actually, it's not the fourth finger itself but the muscles in the hand (side of) and forearm that control it.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 7, 2015 at 5:15 PM
My 4th finger is strong in that I use it as confidently as the other fingers during fast passages, it fits naturally in the frame of my hand when playing, I don't have a problem with 4th finger extensions when necessary, and it doesn't tire easily.

But, I have trouble with 4th finger vibrato--as in, I generally replace it with another finger if I have to play a long note that needs vibrato. It doesn't feel like that problem is due to weakness as much as to rigidity. I feel like I am pressing down with the 4th finger quite hard in order to play the note confidently and in tune, and it does not then want to relax and wiggle back and forth. It's very tied to the rest of my hand and doesn't work well independently in that range of motion.

From Jim Hastings
Posted on February 7, 2015 at 5:45 PM
I voted STRONG, too -- although I can't say I use the 4th without a care. It depends on the passage. I will second Trevor's observation -- it's the side hand and forearm muscles that need attention. The fingers don't have their own muscles.

I start warm-ups with basic finger gymnastics on each string, E-A-D-G, starting in 3rd position, then going to 1st to open up the hand still more. I give equal time to each finger. Then I do the same in practicing vibrato -- equal time on 1-2-3-4.

Schradieck, Sevcik, Sitt, Dancla -- these are great; but I use them in small doses. The key with these drills isn't quantity but quality and consistency of practice.

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