Pinky off stick at tip

October 25, 2006 at 04:44 AM · I was wondering if anyone can anatomically explain to me why some people (like myself) have to take the pinky off the stick as they go to the tip of the bow, while others can keep it on? I think it has to do with the length of the forearm, but I'm not sure. One of my previous teachers told me that playing at the tip without the pinky is "Russian"....Perhaps it is, but I know that in Fischer's "Basics", there is no mention of this, and the book asks the student to keep the pinky on the stick no matter what...Hope no one gets tendonitis!

Replies (20)

October 25, 2006 at 05:31 AM · "The fourth finger should stay on the stick in the upper half unless the hand is too small ..." Basics, p.5.

October 25, 2006 at 06:09 AM · Noel;

Simon Fischer should chill out and take out some time to consider that several players who are excellent take their pinkies off at the tip or the upper half for a variety of reasons. It isn't really needed at all in that region. Mine stays on most of the time, but if it comes off I don't fear for my life.

October 25, 2006 at 06:19 AM · I just happened to read it a short while before coming across the thread, and I thought I'd quote it so we know exactly what Fischer did and did not say. He does not seem to be insisting on keeping the finger on the bow - but he gives a reason why not to, that is, smallness of hand. Of course there are great players who let the pinky float in the air, and their hands are not notably small...

October 25, 2006 at 06:48 AM · It's handy to be able to keep it on if you choose, because you can jump to the frog without having to reposition your hand.

October 25, 2006 at 10:46 AM · Don't push the pinky into the stick; neither shalt thou arbitrarily and (here's the keyword) ACTIVELY lift it as that involves some muscle tension in hand and forearm. Use a springy finger, contacting the stick when natural and not seeking to maintain such contact unnaturally. Really, the pinky's main function is as a counterweight (e.g. string crossings at the frog, lightening weight for pianissimi, etc.) and when the bow is close to the tip there is really no need for an active counterweight.

But no, don't pull the finger back or up or anything of the sort. That's just tension manifesting itself. And, what's worse, INCREASING itself.

As for the anatomical reasons why your pinky lifts, think about the angle one's hand assumes as one moves it in a straight line away from the torso. Essentially, when you straighten your arm at 90 degrees from the torso, your pinky is either closest to the floor of all the fingers (if your thumb is pointing at the ceiling) or, if your arm is rotated the other way, the thumb is closest to the floor and the pinky to the ceiling. The first of these two scenarios would involve the tip of the bow pointing straight up at the ceiling - i.e. not making any contact with any string - while the latter scenario allows for a slightly tipped-forward hand to keep the bow on the string. But in the latter scenario, with the pinky closest to the ceiling, it would have to be ACTIVELY pushed down onto the stick which is, after all, PARALLEL to the ceiling (roughly). In short, to maintain contact, the pinky has to more or less move down 90 degrees to cross two roughly parallel lines. And that is not comfortable.

Sounds immensely confusing, now that I read all that. But it's sort of self-evident if you watch the lines of your bow, bowarm, and bow hold while mentally reducing all those elements to geometric lines.

October 25, 2006 at 11:05 AM · agree with emil's post.

when the bow is at the tip, shoulder internally rotates, forearm pronates and wrist extends. pronation, a movement of the elbow, was described in emil's post which is basically tilting thumb toward center of the body. in compensation, the pinkie is tilted away, away from the body and with bowing at the tip, away and possibly off from the stick. it is a natural anatomical response to a function: to strike a balance between proper pressure and control.

why some do, some don't? quite a few factors but it comes down to the degree of flexibility of the forearm flexors during wrist extension and elbow pronation. the coupled motion is further augmented by the anatomical advantage provided by the "off" pinkie.

October 25, 2006 at 02:16 PM · Hi,

I agree with Emil's post as well. I find several factors in this. Length of the Pinky. Some people have pinky fingers longer than others (like me). Some cannot reach the tip with an extended arm without lifting. Also, as you go to the tip, one pronates more the hand to balance its weight into the string.

In the end, I find like Emil that it depends on the strokes needed and the situation. I find that a flexible bow hold will find ways to balance the weight of the hand needed for different strokes and colours of sound in different parts of the bow. The pinky can take different roles.

That said, the position of the pinky can also be a signal that the players bow grip or geometry in violin setup is incorrect for the player. That is a different situation that should be addressed by the teacher.


October 25, 2006 at 09:21 PM · Daniel, take a look at this video of Mr. "H" and look at his pinky!!!



October 25, 2006 at 09:32 PM · Here's another interesting link:

October 25, 2006 at 11:02 PM · Greetings,

>when the bow is at the tip, shoulder internally rotates, forearm pronates and wrist extends. pronation, a movement of the elbow,

Actually some alarm bells go off when I read this. One of the genuine difficulties of elarning to play the violin is the language interaction between teacher and student. So for example, when the teacher says somethign regarding the shoudler or wrist the studnet may not actually have a cleaer notion of which part of the anatomy is being referred to and the teacher may then assume that the place -she- is referring too is stiff or unusual or whatever. In the case of the shoudler ther eis not precise definition . In this case I am asusming, please correct me if I am wrong, that you refer to the ball and socket joint thta connetcs the upper arm . One of the major misuses of the body I have found across the board in violinists of -all- levels including good prfessionals is a collapsing inwards of the generlaized area one might refer to as @the right shoulder@ This is a consequence of lack of indepence of parts of the arm. It is not corretc to asusme that as the lowe rarm pronates the upper arm goes with it (unless the violnist make sa consicous choice to do that)The most effiecnet use of the body occurs when the upper arm and forearm are actually going in -opposte directions, at least psychologically. I don`t know if there is some slight sypathetic roatation in the same direction as the forarm occuring in the humorous joint.

The effect of using the arms well is very clesar in for example high level Aikidokas who have a well expanded rib cage, very clear supination of the upper arm and a stronger than usual pronation of the forearm even when in a relaxed state.

It is very possible to make a rule of thumb assessment of a persosn overall coordiantion merely by observing the degree of indepencende and relative positions of the forearm and upper arm.

It is extremely beneficial for many viloinsts to practice something like following.

Stand in a relaxed state and stretch your arms out wide with palms pointing forward. This is a persons most vulnerable position. It is ideal for being gutted. Psycholigcally one is utterly defenceless. Slowly begin bringing the palms towards each other. When they are about shoulder width apart pronate the lower arms and hands while mentally rotating the upper arm s in the oppsite direction. A useful exercise.



October 25, 2006 at 11:53 PM · Peter - (and everyone else) - what's very interesting is that not once (maybe almost once) did Heifetz have a straight bow at the tip! I certainly cannot do this without taking the pinky off the stick, but if I do take it off, this is how I achieve this. It's just the way I was built. I've also seen a Milstein video where he was playing fast detache (a Bach movement that I've now forgotten) in the upper half, also without straight bow..Any comments?

I'll add that my current teacher (who studied with Oistrakh) definitely does not have his pinky on the stick in the upper half.


October 25, 2006 at 11:41 PM · steven, until your students get updated about the proper medical terminology with respect to what has been posted, keep the alarm:)

daniel, if you think heifeitz's bowing is inperfect (did i say that?), take a look of issac stern---his entire upper half is in a curve.

McEnroe has a very awkward tennis swing. still a champion.

if you are good, you get away with things.

October 26, 2006 at 12:10 AM · Greetings,

Hi al, (proper terminology- name is Buri).

Its interesitng to pose simpel questions like `where is your wrist?` Where does your thumb start?` Where is are your hip joints?`

Recognition of how detrimental incorretc awraness of such things can be led to the development of an interesitng field of study closely linked to Alexander Technique called `Bodymapping.`The pioneers were Barbara and William Conable.

You might find it worthwhile doing a quick Google on that one,



October 26, 2006 at 12:19 AM · Buri, thanks.

btw, pm to you sent.

October 26, 2006 at 01:31 AM · This is a great thread. In videotaping myself, I realized my pinky was off. But the other problems were much much better (like straight bow, high wrist etc.) My pinky comes to just above the middle joint of the finger beside it.

Also a reson in the left hand to use 3 instead of 4 when it is really a reach!

Glad to know that it is o.k. if that is what is needed, because I was scratching my head, feeling an uncomfortable pull in the top of the arm when trying to keep pinky down and wondering "how in the world!!!"?



October 26, 2006 at 12:34 PM · The writer, Somerset Maugham, once wrote that when he studied philosophy he found it often hard to understand what they were saying. He was heartened to read that some philosophers themselves, admitted to having difficulty understanding one another! Somehow, reading this thread reminds me of the above - ernest, intelligent, and somehow giving me trouble!

I feel that unless you have a really short pinky, it lends better balance to the hand for it to remain on the bow. On the other hand, one of my great teachers, Glenn Dicterow, usually has it off most of the time. What he accomplishes with 3 fingers few do with four!

October 26, 2006 at 01:24 PM · I think it has to do with your bowhold too...If you tend to hold the bow with the hand more pronated, the pinky might not reach...On the other hand, if the hand is flat, more Galamian style, it will rest on the bow all the time, I believe...


October 26, 2006 at 11:58 PM · I think it could be Russian cause I noticed the pinky thing when my Russian violin teacher was playing for me lol.

October 27, 2006 at 01:33 AM · Greetings,

that would be over generalization. The correct answer is that people who eat lots of prunes do it so it@s a prune thingy,



October 27, 2006 at 04:41 AM · What about chewing on an aloe vera plant while drinking prune juice? The whole hand would fly off the stick...



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