Calluses

November 3, 2006 at 04:36 AM · Does having calluses on your fingertips improve your playing, or effect at all? And what are some quick ways to get calluses on the fingers? (Other than playing a lot) I use hand lotion a lot (obsession with soft hands) so I have trouble forming calluses...I try to lotion everything but my fingertips in the hopes of forming calluses there, but I always manage to forget!

Replies (64)

November 3, 2006 at 05:23 AM · Calluses are essential to a guitar player, and the best information that I have is that they are equally important to violinists as well.

IMHO the best way to get calluses is something you've already weeded out as an option--playing alot. A second though probably too similar approach would be to practice audible articulation with your left hand.

Audible articulation practice with your left hand--i.e. you apply enough quick pressure to hear the note without using the bow, I'm pretty sure would do it for you. The 'real' importance of calluses to a violinist I'm not really qualified to discuss, but feel pretty sure they help your hand withstand more taxing phrases, vibratos, and so forth as one goes along.

I have calluses from other guitar and banjo, soooo....

al

November 3, 2006 at 06:08 AM · Most violinists think of calluses as forming on the left hand.

In my case, I've got two calluses on my RIGHT hand - one on the tip of my thumb where it touches the thumb leather and the other on the first digit of my index finger (closest to the palm) as dictated by the old Russian bowgrip.

November 3, 2006 at 08:41 AM · I wouldn't worry about it a bit. They just become a part of you after a while. You don't do anything special to get them. If your fingers get tender, ease up on the practice until they heal, and you'll find that they've gotten calloused in the meantime. Lotion or lack of lotion has little to do with it. You don't want to be pressing hard on the strings or anything like that.

I don't remember geting callouses for the violin. I do remember getting thicker ones when I played the guitar. I played the guitar until my fingers kinda hurt, and about a week later I was peeling bits of skin off, and after that they were calloused.

That's a weird word. Callous.

November 3, 2006 at 01:25 PM · Interestingly, I used to get callouses, but now I've learnt how to play without pressing excessively and now I almost don't have anything at all. My skin is just a little harder on the index finger of my left hand, and a little on the second finger, but the others are soft. I also sometimes have a little hard skin on the index finger of my right hand, but I can't see that I have that now. I think I have more callouses immediately after I've finished playing, and then after washing my hands etc they just disappear.

I have a much bigger problem with the infamous violin hickey. I'm using a cloth between me and the violin, but I still have rather a bad red mark on my neck (on the neck itself, not almost at the chin, like many people have).

I think I can confidently say that you do not "need" callouses to play violin. If you play in a certain way, you will form callouses, to answer that "need". But it's not like the callouses help your playing (or your fingers) in any way. Of course, if you have callouses you must under no circumstances pull or cut them off!!! That'll just make things MUCH worse.

I remember I used to be very sensitive on my right finger to pizzicato, even forming a blister a couple of times due to practising pieces with pizzicato in them. Then I found that it stopped happening, and I don't have a callous on the finger at all. I think a lot of it has to do with technique, and to some extent the type of skin you have.

November 3, 2006 at 01:50 PM · I think that in different people they are or are not a natural predisposition. In my case, my fingers have never gotten more than slightly callused - though they are toughened somewhat from the inside. I think this may be due to my figertips having a good amount of padding. I'm glad about this, because I feel that I have more sensitivity to the strings sans calluses. On the other hand, one of my great former teachers, Glenn Dicterow, mentioned in an interview that his fingers were quite callused. I think he's managing pretty well!

November 3, 2006 at 01:54 PM · pertaining to any health related issues, always start with: it depends on the person...

it depends on the person...some people have skin that are more reactive than others. one observation is that some people scar nicely with only a line afterwards, some end up with a protruding kelloid. some form callouses easily, some never do and often have bouts of blisters.

may be it is callous of me to say that there may be a correlation between thick callous and good playing, but the former does not lead to the latter.

lotion does not prevent callous formation but to keep skin moisturized is a good idea, especially on the callouses to keep them from fissuring.

our kido is starting to develop some, a sign i am afraid may be construed as animal cruelty.

personally, i think finger callouses are bearable but the blob under the chin is another story.

November 3, 2006 at 01:47 PM · I used to have them (on my left hand) and viewed them as a sort of badge of honor, a way to demonstrate to people that I did too practice enough. But I don't think I noticed any actual benefit to them other than that sort of psychological pseudo-boost: look ma, I'm sacrificing!

Then I took a 7-year break from playing and they mostly went away (although if I look closely enough and compare my right and left fingertips they still aren't quite the same). They haven't really come back yet.

November 3, 2006 at 10:39 PM · Well, as I said, I'm not qualified to discuss this on violin--but I do feel they help with guitar. Callus on guitar is more an after-thought: 'when you get your callus built up', than something one does on purpose though.

I have a coach/friend who when she started getting back in shape on violin kept referring to getting her calluses built back up.

Violin notes are extremely less pressure intensive, so I can see where they might not be included in 'all these' elements I'm trying to keep together as a pre-requisite.

Be all that as it may, I have calluses and have never had any tenderness in my left fingers; and, I not so much recently, but use to play for literally hours. I've had to slow way down to get serious with technique.

al

November 3, 2006 at 10:45 PM · I have never gotten them, even when playing a lot. And I always kind of play a lot! I have friends and colleagues for whom it's a different story though. Like the chin mark, it's pretty arbitrary and not a kind of "secret handshake"!

November 4, 2006 at 08:51 AM · Greetings,

I don`t get them either. The ends of my gfingers have a slight feeling of built up resistnace under the surface from years of playing but I am still slightly limited in the strings I can use because the pads are always comepltely soft. For example, I cannot use the Titanium strings,

Cheers,

Buri

November 5, 2006 at 12:58 PM · Get a guitar and bend the G and B strings a step up. That's how I got mine quickly.

November 5, 2006 at 06:45 PM · I am getting these even though I have not played for long. After close examination of my finger tips of the left hand, I think pressing the fingers too excessively will contribute to calluses for sure. I only got them on my first and second fingers (not the 3rd and 4th ones), and I know for sure that I press my 1st and 2nd fingers very firmly and these two fingers are almost always in position except for open strings...So one might also add duration as one of the factor in acquiring calluses.

But heck, I want to get rid of this "callus" thingy...

November 5, 2006 at 08:35 PM · Greetings,

one of the things that beginner material stresses is 'keeping the fingers down'. Ubnfortunately although this is correct it has a dangerous side effect. Playing the violin is about matching eveyr application of tension with acommensurate or greater release. Keeping fingers pressed down is basically a tensed position which has litlte value. The fingers can release the presuure whileremainng down. This is worth practiing very slowly with pauses on virtually every note in etudes like Wolfart 0op45 no1,

Also sensitize the fingetrtips to differnet pressures by bowing solidly but lifting and raising fingers whileremaining on the string so a regualr note becomes a harmonic and vice versa 9where possible)There will be quite a lot of fzz during the change if the release of pressur eup and down is slow wenough,

Cheers,

Buri

November 5, 2006 at 08:54 PM · I have fairly distinguished callouses, most of the time with a little dead skin schmack in the center of the callous where the string is actually contacting the finger the majority of the time. I think this might be a result of vibrato, for some strange reason. I agree that it is a personal health issue, and not one of technique. I have hard spots of skin under some of the fingernails that I have to trim, and some arthritic little deformations of sorts on the bones that are used constantly while playing (same spot as Kevin, I think, though just on the other side of the knuckle).

I love my hand lotions, and oils, and powders. I do worry, though, about the chemicals or solutions getting from my hands onto the instrument, so I usually rinse my hands after applying right before playing. I use the lotions for muscles and joints, though. And the oils, even if rinsed, still are in the skin. Just not slopping on the violin...

I find my callouses helpful when they are not "shedding", because they cause my fingers to glide more aptly over the string and not get sticky. I can still feel the string while shifting, but the finger contact is smoother. When they are flaking off, though, my finger can actually get stuck on the string.... That usually happens after washing the dishes or cleaning the floors....

Sals,

JW

November 5, 2006 at 11:16 PM · Greetings,

That`s why I eat off the floor.

Cheers,

Buri

November 6, 2006 at 01:54 AM · My personal goal is to relax my playing as much as possible. The less I press, the faster and more accurately I can play. This applies to left and right hands.

Sometimes, to reach a primary goal, it is useful to set a secondary goal. I is hard to think of relaxing, but it is easier to think of avoiding calluses, so preventing calluses and the "violin hickey" are two secondary goals that I have adopted.

So far, the results are promising. Shifting is easier, intonation is more reliable, back pain is much less of a problem than it has been in years past, and the neck irritation is dramatically less uncomfortable than ever before.

I don't think there are any positive benefits to callused fingers for violin playing. Obviously, guitar and banjo players live in a different world in that regard, but for the violin, I think anything more than a minor thickening create more problems than they solve.

That's my take on it, and others are free (and likely) to disagree.

November 6, 2006 at 02:03 AM · For those who have thick calluses, regular use of a pumice stone to grind away some of the thickened keratin layer can prevent fissuring and snagging the string. I use mine every day (usually in the shower) after the skin is waterlogged/softened.

November 6, 2006 at 03:26 AM · I think "callouses" have helped me whenever I have performed tricky left-hand pizzicato passages (example ziguenerweisen, tzigane, or caprice 24). Whenever i form callouses (from practicing such techniques), my left hand pizzicato sounds much more clear and does not hurt my fingers as much.

just my two-cents.

November 6, 2006 at 04:52 AM · Lots of left hand pizz(more than normally practiced), especially on the e string, usually gives me callouses. The hardest callouse I have is on my 4th finger, and it gets softer down the line where on my first finger it is just barely noticable. I only have them on the tips too- the pad is soft. I think this is because I probably use my 4th finger the most for left hand pizz and less so down to the 1st finger.

I usually practice it at the end of my practice time (especially if I do a pizz excercise and then have to practice a passage with it), otherwise shifting and slides become painful, even with the callouses.

November 6, 2006 at 06:27 AM · As an aside...the violin neck as you described..a nasty red mark on the neck and not up closer to the notch below the chin and upper neck...I get that too. It can get really bad in teh summer or when weather permits my skin to be worse. Is it bumpy and itchy at all? Is it perhaps in any way related to allergies from the metal on the violin? Mine is sort of a rash if looked at closely, and has benefited from a cream mixture of benedryl cream, cortizone cream, peppermint essential oil, glycerin, gold bond lotion, eucalyptus oil, rosemary oil, and menthol gel. Easy on most ingredients except for the peppermint oil and the benedryl and hydrocortizone cream. Just mix them all together in some bottle or lidded cup (? word escapes me momentarily) and dab some on the spot, rubbing it in as well as you can without irritating the sore...and also the surrounding area on the neck.

If it is not an allergic reaction and a sore from contact and rubbing of the instrument, my guess is that it is not from the chin rest, but the heel of the violin (where the button is). In that case, maybe some lavender oil or tea tree, which need not be diluted.

I don't know if you use a cloth or a strad pad to avoid this rubbing against sensitive skin in that area? I have found that it doesn't prevent the sore, that it is partly caused by sweat irritating the sore/rash that is already there.

Hope this is helpful.

Sals,

JW

November 10, 2006 at 06:58 PM · Hey

I play loads of instruments including guitar mandolin and banjo which all developed my callouses, but before playing those instruments playing violin never gave me callouses. If you do desperately want them though i would recommned getting surgical spirit and putting it on your fingers, works a treat. Instant callouses, also works well for when doing loads of pizzicato. I find when practicing pieces with lots of pizziacto in my right hand fingers get slightly sore. Add some surgical spirit and i can practice for hours.

And if anyone has anymore remedies for Violin hickey then please let me know!

November 10, 2006 at 11:30 PM · As a bass player playing more pizz than arco, calluses are crucial. I have used "NewSkin" on my RH fingertips and have heard of people using superglue. (You DO know not to touch your fingers together until they dry, right?)

The NewSkin doesn't eliminate your sense of tough or all the pain, but after playing for a week, I had very good calluses and never really had a lot of pain.

Both NS & SG wear/scrub off.

November 11, 2006 at 06:35 AM · When I was in grade-school we used to put a thin layer of white liquid glue on our palms. After it dried, we'd peel it off, thinking we were SO COOL because it looked like our skin was coming off.

Yea.

JW

November 11, 2006 at 01:49 PM · I remember my fingers burning when I tried a friend's guitar, so I can sort of see why a guitar player would want to have callouses. But violin strings are made of different material, and they are much gentler on the fingers.

I had callouses before I was told not to keep a death grip on the violin with my fingers when I put them down. I still get callouses, but I have to be doing a LOT of playing (ie, at summer music festivals). I don't feel like they help my playing at all, but actually make things a lot harder because they make the tip of my finger numb, and I can't really feel the string moving under my finger when I make a shift. And the shift doesn't go as smoothly because there isn't any friction under the finger to slow it down (kind of like driving on an icy road). It's not good for my vibrato either.

November 12, 2006 at 01:58 AM · My problem is that I've always had calluses... except you couldn't see them - only if you touched the tip of my fingers you could feel I guess.

Well recently I've noticed I can see them and grooved lines done each of my finger tips.

I've never had it like this before until recently.

Does anyone have like a slant down the tip of their index finger (it isn't rounded at the top) it's almost like a triangle shape...?

January 12, 2008 at 01:07 AM · are calluses good or bad? should violinists keep them or file them off smoothly?

January 12, 2008 at 01:09 AM · Are calluses good or bad? Should violinists keep them or file them off smoothly? Are they a sign of pressing too hard or a sign of good practicing?

January 14, 2008 at 04:06 AM · I used to hold a lighter up to my fingertips.Then I started shoving my fingers into a bucket of sand.Now they are like leather.I dont have any feeling in them,haven't for years.The actual calluses went away after about 7-8 years,now it's just a pad, like the foot of a dog or something.

January 14, 2008 at 08:49 AM · How do you feel the strings, Jay?

January 15, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Greetings,

perhaps he uses barbed wire strings. Callouses are not a good thing. The rgeta palyer soften had extremely soft pads.

Cheers,

Buri

January 15, 2008 at 06:09 AM · Hey, I've got soft fingertips! Does this mean I'M a great player too?? (sorry...it's one in the morning...)

January 15, 2008 at 06:19 AM · of course it does. 3.19 PM Japan Time

January 15, 2008 at 06:40 AM · My fingers are not soft. They are icicles. (9:38 pm and zero degrees under cloudy skies, light flurries and southwest breeze. Alaska time.)

January 15, 2008 at 04:01 PM · I try to use signs of wear, such as calluses and neck marks, as one more form of feedback to inform my playing. I believe that the more correctly one plays, the more a violin performance is done with maximum sensitivity and minimum physical effort. This goes with minimizing the signs of wear on the violinists skin. Heifetz seemed to have barely touched the violin while performing. He had a neck mark, but it was minimal. One of my favorite quotes is from Erick Friedman, who said that when he watched Heifetz at close range, it seemed that a breeze would blow the violin and bow out of his hands. I don't have calluses on my fingers, but I used to. I take this as a sign of progress. (It could also be a sign of little time spent playing and practicing the violin, but in my case it is not!) If I were to see a dramatic increase in the signs of wear on my skin, I would analytically scrutinize my playing to see if a correction of some sort might be needed. Having callused fingers does not mean that a correction in a person's playing is needed. There are other factors which come into it. Nonetheless, awareness of these signs may be instructive.

January 15, 2008 at 04:03 PM · Hah! So much for those Encore weirdos who took a huge nasty violin hickey as a badge of honor--the general consensus among the student body (at least the younger ones, when I was there) was the more sores, sprains, hickeys and tendonitis someone got, the more diligent a practicer and thus the more admirable student he was.

That reminds me of the time I was cloistered in my room there frantically practicing something (Dvorak maybe?) for an upcoming lesson with Mr. Danchenko. I turned a page rather quickly, and then about a minute later glanced at my left hand only to find it bleeding. I stared at it for a second and then nearly let out a whoop of triumph: "YES! I'm just like Jan Kubelik! I practiced so much my fingers started bleeding!" Of course, it was a paper cut. Really illustrates well the weird ways a place like Encore can mess with your mind though... ;-)

January 15, 2008 at 04:42 PM · agree with mara that mr steiner's post is worth some serious reflection before the army inflicts more bodily harm to self...

January 16, 2008 at 02:38 PM · Barbed wire?-not any more,I took the Red Lines off and put on Dominants .......

January 16, 2008 at 10:57 PM · lose a lot of sheep that way...

January 17, 2008 at 02:25 PM · Ah the drama of non violinists believe that if your fingers are banged up and bleeding then you're a good violinist. Personally I hate calluses, they interfere with my playing. If I can't feel the string it bothers me. I try to keep them moisturized and I cut calluses off. Everyone's skin reacts different to their violin so don't let a hicky bother you. It just means your skin is irritated by the varnish or the texture of your instrument that's all.

January 23, 2008 at 08:47 PM · Ack--I get callouses from playing guitar, and I HATE them for violin--I feel like they interfere with my feeling the strings--too coarse, or something. Plus they snag on my A string and make it unwind. I like the way my fingers feel on the strings much better when my guitar callouses go away (but then I can't play guitar--though I'm working on not pressing so hard for guitar as I used to).

January 28, 2008 at 03:25 AM · My former violin teacher used to get those violin hickeys a lot. I actually didn't know such things could happen until he, a complete stranger to me at the time, came into a rehearsal at my college one day (this was about two and a half years ago) when I noticed he was using a piece of cloth that went around both his shoulder and chin rest (or in some similar formation). Being one of the persons who has never really have seen music performances outside his or school besides seeing their music classmates, I thought it was to add an extra layer of height or to keep the violin from slipping. Boy was I wrong! I never completely learned the truth until at some point in the following year in either during one of those rehearsals, taking one of his classes he suggested I take, or during one of his performances when I saw a red mark on his neck-- and without his cloth! I finally put two and two together when he went into playing position and the button of the violin went to right where the red mark was.

I can get hickeys too when playing-- but on my chest from my shoulder rest, and it really does show the redness if I'm wearing a low-neckline top. The problem can be easily solved is if I can set up my shoulder rest properly adjusted with at least three minutes ahead of time before a rigorous performance with a conductor poised ready to rush through all the music faster that what was rehearsed and then quit conducting altogether soon after the performance is finished. (Believe it or not, it had actually happened.) So basically: being comfortable w/ the position of your shoulder rest equals no hickey at the chest versus not being comfortable equals improperly placed shoulder rest which may result a redness in an area of the chest where the rest was. I hope you guys see what I mean.

February 1, 2008 at 04:09 PM · Everyone seems to be overlooking a great reason to have and maintain calluses - they can alter your fingerprints significantly, so you can go commit rampant crime without concern of fingerprint evidence. Just make sure you alternate between playing on the tips of your fingers and playing on the pads of your fingers so you're really covered.

February 1, 2008 at 05:33 PM · SHH! They'll discover our secrets!

February 1, 2008 at 05:48 PM · When you accidentally poke yourself in the eye with your finger you finger doesn't get hurt.

A few years ago a had a stick smack me in the eye. You know th saying that goes "beats a stick in the eye!" Well, believe it.

February 2, 2008 at 04:49 AM · Greetings,

Sarah, unfortunately Homeland Security has been collecting bum prints in orchetsral seats.There is no escape.

Cheers,

Buri

February 2, 2008 at 05:02 AM · I KNEW IT

April 29, 2008 at 02:53 AM · Though I can develop my calluses fairly easily, I've always had trouble keeping them firm enough to avoid pain. I think the best thing you can do is avoid moisture on your fingertips as this softens calluses. I learned this from a site that sells a cream to guitarists that is supposed to build calluses . I never tried their product, but their tips were very useful. It mostly boils down to avoiding all contact with water, but you can also use alcohol to speed up callus development. I think there are more tips here: http://www.fingerstrong.com/callus_tips.html. Hope that helps!

April 29, 2008 at 10:44 PM · Greetings,

I don`t understand the previous psot at all. I have no callouses whatsoever and I have no pain either. They are not related. If you have pain and need callouses for protection then somethign is seriously wrong. Incidentally, neither Heifetz, Menuhin or Szeryng had callouses.

Cheers,Buri

April 30, 2008 at 06:12 PM · If you look carefully in the book "The Way They Play It", the chapter about Szeryng, it seems that he has callouses on all fingers(two sets of them, one more inside of the finger than the other).

April 30, 2008 at 07:07 PM · i have heavy callouses on my left hand. On my first and second finger having a callous is a benefit because it allows for the skin to become completely flat, thus fifths are always in tune :)

April 30, 2008 at 09:08 PM · I was reading somewhere...I don't remember who exactly...I am PRETTY sure it was Carl Flesch, and I'll look it up. But his view is that calluses are AWFUL and that it effects your tone. He suggested that if you already had them, to soak them and get a physician to cut them off. I do not know what I think of his view exactly, but I agree that calluses really do affect the sound.

April 30, 2008 at 10:36 PM · Greetings,

Julieta, I don`t have to look carefully at books. I knew Szeryng and shook hands with himn on a number of ocassions as well as observing his hands from a few feet away. Thank you anyway.

Cheers,

Buri

April 30, 2008 at 11:25 PM · Julieta, I do need to look carefully in books. I just never have. I've never really even looked at them. Thank you for the suggestion. I'll try it later tonight.

And Mr. Brivati, Senator, I didn't serve with Henryk Szeryng; I didn't know Henryk Szeryng. Henryk Szeryng was no friend of mine. And you might be a Henryk Szeryng. Or at minimum, a Senryk Hzeryng. And that's better than a smoked herring.

And by the way, if you look in "The Way they Play" at the chapter on Tossy Spivakovsky it appears he has some toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Which may explain why he was called "Tossy." (Instead of his real name, "Bubbles Spivakovsky".)

I'm planning a new book series, by the way, called, "They Way they'd Play if they Could Play." So far the only chapter is about me. But I'm open to any (tasteful) suggestions...

May 1, 2008 at 04:09 AM · nah,

he was called `tossy` because of his habit of cutting his toenail clippings into boomerang shapes and try to kill cockroaches with them.

Which reminds me, what is a boomerang that doesn`t work?

Alan, you should check out the series `The way they played` by samantha Applebum, the well known cognitive psychologist. She spent many years persuading the elite violnists of the 20c to sit in padded cells for hours at a time and play with the most popular toys of yore. They all agreed willingly because as child prodigie s they had been denied these simple pleasures and thus quickly relapsed into drooling childlike states.

The rare vidoes of these sessions show conlusively that Heifetz was the greatest violinit of all time, no shoulderest is needed by anyone and Milstein was crap at making lego fire engines.

Anything else I can help you with?

Buri.

PS A stick.

May 1, 2008 at 04:05 PM · I believe a boomerang that doesn't work is a stick.

I have guitar callouses but I don't feel they help me on the violin at all. OTOH, in the interview with Hilary Hahn, she mentioned taking a guitar on a camping trip to keep her callouses up.

September 24, 2008 at 10:41 PM · At first I didn't have them (obviously), but I kept playing just because I love playing my violin so much. I got to a point where the fingertips on my left hand got very sore just from practicing so much and so I rested it a little and had calluses just a few days later. It's mostly on my first 2 fingers though, but the reduced sensitivity on the tips feels kind of weird.

I do remember wanting to get them back when I was learning guitar (it's been a long time since I played it) and one thing I remember reading was putting rubbing alcohol on the fingertips to dry out the skin. I did that and got calluses, but due to not playing the guitar in so long they disappeared.

I actually wasn't really expecting them with the violin at first, but I don't mind having them. It just means I can practice more. :)

September 26, 2008 at 04:39 AM · I always end up biting my calluses off the tips of my fingers just like I bite my finger nails (yeah it's a horrible habit). I don't really notice the difference between playing with or without them. I'm sure it helps some people to practice longer amounts of time if they need to.

May 31, 2009 at 03:04 PM ·

Calluses make the tip of your fingers less sensible, so do don't feel pain when playing. I tried pressing the strings using my right hand fingers and after awhile I felt them cutting my finger tips. Your fingers will adapt and create those shields called calluses, but I don't think there are any ways other than playing alot.

September 27, 2010 at 08:40 PM ·

 I have callouses with grooves in them on my first two fingers, (index and middle fingers).  They've become a significant problem to me because when playing on the E string on a few notes, I get unsubstantial, airy sounds sometimes.  Then I play the same note on the fleshy part of that fingertip and the sound is clear.  Now I want to sell this violin, (note: very low action, fingerboard worked on in these spots where unsubstantial, airy sound occurs), since I found no unsubstantial, airy sounds on my cheap violin.  Can this callous problem be solved on my good violin?

September 27, 2010 at 08:59 PM ·

Callouses are not only the hardened skin on the surface, but they also include a change in the skin layers below the surface; althouth there may be some methods of speeding up the process, if the underlaying layers do not properly support the surface of the callous, then it will not act in the same way as a typical callous.
This is similar to painting without proper surface preparation; results will vary, but will generally be less than preferred.

So, the best way to get get them is to earn them, I guess.

September 27, 2010 at 09:37 PM ·

 Playing the cello or classical (nylon-strung) guitar will probably hurry up the process a little.

September 30, 2010 at 07:05 PM ·

My callouses have driven me nuts and have quite badly messed up my technique.

First of all: Could anyone tell me whether it is necessary to use the same contact surface each time for the same note in the same passage? (I know, for the sake of different vibrato and colour, you might want to use a different contact surface, but for the sake of secure intonation: would you say that secure intonation is dependent on using the same contact surface each time or could you be secure without it?)

Here's my callous story so far: I developed callouses during years of practice, never having been disturbed by them, until a line in each finger appeared that wouldn't even go away after practicing. A permanent cut thus. I don't know exactly why it appeared. It may have been purely a matter of time, maybe it was because I changed a few things in my technique. In any case, you don't want to end up like this. It causes a metallic sound, the cut interferes with vibrato and in the end what was happening to me from time to time was this: The cut was the size of the G string, so when playing on the E string, even though the finger was down on the fingerboard, the note didn't change at all! How awful! Imagine this: I put my first finger on Gsharp on the E string, then put my second finger on A and it still sounded purely like a Gsharp! Not even the merest hint of an A!

I found a few reasons for the cuts happening, but as I said before, maybe it was just a matter of time, so beware all of you!
It may have been that I was putting my fingers at too steep an angle. Given the fact that I have very skinny fingers, using the very tip of the finger, where there is little flesh, the cuts may have come about that way. Now, for the time being I'm using the finger pad instead, since the tip is ruined. I liked using the tip though since it gave me nice articulation.
The other reason may have been that my shoulder was falling slightly forward, which causes the elbow to be the heaviest point of the arm, which causes more weight hanging down from the fingers (I don't like using the word 'pressure', you cannot avoid using pressure from the fingers). Thus, I believe now that the elbow should never be the heaviest part of the arm, but should be suspended in the air, as if a heavy weight hanging from the back of the shoulder were counter-balancing the whole arm.

Well, that's my story. A minimum of callous might be necessary, but keep it to the minimum!

September 30, 2010 at 08:09 PM ·

It's already been said... the left hand pizzicato will help you develop them! Just don't do it obsessively like I did!  I played Paganini, pizz variations, sometimes using the bow, and sometimes using the right hand to pluck. Andd if I'm not mistaken there is a whole pizzicato section in the Sevick, I remember doing that, and currently the sauret violin school (it's on IMSLP) has a section of pizzicato. (If anybody ever finds the other two editions that belong with that, let me know, that and his caprices, there only seems to be one volume anywhere I look)

P.S. some people never develop them, and that's okay too! Try not to keep forcing it if you don't get them, or the technique, it's far better that you try to play it with the right hand then to play it with the left hand and it not produce any sound! People will wonder what you're trying to pull off! Just my two cents.

October 3, 2010 at 12:04 AM ·

I've never thought about it - my fingertips have always stayed soft. I think that if the tips started getting hard, I would view that as a sign that I was pressing too hard - I was brought up to only use just enough pressure for the sound. At school, I had a not very good teacher who taught me to bang the fingers down, but later when I went to a very good teacher, he transformed my playing. A key phrase - that I had to learn to walk around the violin, and not jump around it. Previously, if I missed a shift, the finger was absolutely locked down. Adjust it? You must be joking! It was clamped down as if in a vice. Now, I like to think I have much more control by staying relaxed with light fingers and control of the pressure.

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