Cannot Reach the Fourth Position

March 13, 2007 at 11:14 PM · Hello, everyone.

I am 46 years old and am finally fulfilling the dream I have had since I was 15 to learn to play the violin. I have had two private lessons so far, with two lessons to make up by the end of May.

Currently, I am in the section of 'Orchestra Expressions: Violin - Book One' on finger patterns on the D-string. (I received a donated copy of this book, which is used by the local school district for violin students.)

I have found, and told my teacher, that it is anatomically impossible for me to reach the fourth position (with my fourth finger, of course) in order to play A on the D-string. For now (my last lesson was a bit rushed, because my teacher had to leave), I am playing A on the A-string and not in the fourth position on the D-string.

I am playing D (of course), F#, and G on the D-string, but I cannot come anywhere remotely close to the finger position for playing A.

Am I facing an insurmountable obstacle (stretching exercises do not help) or could my left-handed technique be flawed? (I will not have a private lesson this week, because my teacher is in rehearsals for a performance, so I will not be able to discuss this problem in depth with her until next week.)

I realize that I cannot adequately describe my left-hand technique in words, but I would appreciate any advice and/or encouragement. If I am having this problem on the D-string, I will have it with the fourth position on every other string!

Thank you, very much, in advance!

Cordially,

David

P.S. -- My 19th-century, German-made 4/4 violin has been in my family for at least four generations. It is priceless to me and I cannot afford to purchase a smaller violin (if any of you think, perhaps, that a smaller violin might solve my problem).

I feel as if my fourth finger is too short or that my skeletal structure will not allow me to stretch the distance between my third and fourth fingers properly.

Replies (48)

March 13, 2007 at 11:51 PM · It's 1st pos. 4th finger, not 4th pos. After your one and a half lessons, you're lucky you even know where the 4th is supposed to go, much less put it there. If you think you can't do something, never insist on it to your teacher. Instead, ask your teacher to help you do it. In 6 mos. you'll see an improvement, and in a year, a huge improvement. You have to have faith.

March 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM · david, i have a suggestion for you. pay attention at your own risk:)

lets try work it backward.

instead of trying hard to do 1st finger, 2nd fig, 3rd fig and ouch, 4th,,,,

lets try to realign the hand by putting down the 4th fig down by itself and leave it there,,,,and feel and see how the hand and other fingers react to that. it will be tense in the first try i presume. try that again and again and pretend it is easy:) and no tension.

later, or way later:), 4th, then going down to 3rd. again, appreciate the pinkie and ring fig having a little get together, you step one time, i step one time. you will see that if your hand and wrist relax, the motions seem easier and the entire unit seems to be LONGER.

then, 4, 3, 2.

then 4,3,2,1 and that is pretty much the shape of the hand for you during fingering.

then you learn to reverse with the same shape of hand, 1,2,3,4.

bottom line, if your pinkie is really that short, your wrist needs to loosen up more to accomodate some range of motion.

March 14, 2007 at 02:17 AM · Hello, Jim!

On 13 March 13 2007 at 4:51 PM (MST), you wrote:

> It's 1st pos. 4th finger, not 4th pos. After your one and a half

> lessons, you're lucky you even know where the 4th is supposed to

> go, much less put it there. If you think you can't do something,

> never insist on it to your teacher. Instead, ask your teacher to

> help you do it. In 6 mos. you'll see an improvement, and in a

> year, a huge improvement. You have to have faith.

Thank you for your reply and for the clarification that it is first position, fourth finger, and not fourth finger. (I am using the violin book used by Nashville (TN) Metro schools for middle school and the explanations are frequently too brief for me; I definitely need supplementary materials, and I've already raided the Nashville Public Library system.

(Perhaps it is time for me to ask for suggestions in this discussion section, and request some books via interlibrary loan.) :-)

I told my teacher during my second lesson (which was rushed, whereas the first thirty-minute lesson lasted over 1.75 hours!) that I could not reach the position with my fourth finger to play A on the G-string, so she told me to play the open A-string. This suggestion works, of course, but I do need to find a way to put my fourth finger in the correct position.

Perhaps the problem is my technique and not my anatomy. As you point out, I have had only two violin lessons and my teacher was amazed at my progress between the first and second lessons, not because I am gifted or innately talented, but because I practice about four hours every single day.

I did not have a lesson this week, because my teacher is rehearsing for a performance. I definitely plan to ask her about this problem next Tuesday night, 30 March. She may have different priorities and want to postpone tackling this issue, but I would like to follow and learn the material in the order in which the book presents it.

Thank you, in addition, Jim, for the encouragement and for the advice to have faith. I do have faith: I have wanted to play the violin for over 31 years, and the fact that my late uncle gave me his 19th-century, German-made violin inspires me to want to honor his sacred memory.

Cordially,

David

March 14, 2007 at 02:21 AM · That's good I'm glad you are liking to play the violin the more practice the better. But when you do try to reach notes with your 4 finger it will get easier. Your hand is just not used to it.

March 14, 2007 at 02:21 AM · You said that you practiced about 4 hours every day. Be very careful with that. I've had some wrist problems the past year or so, and because of that I've learned a lot about wrist injuries. I realize you're enthusiastic, but if you just jump in 4 hours every day, you'll end up injuring yourself. Work it up slowly. Start with 30 minutes for a few days, then go up to 45 minutes, or even an hour. Do that for a few days, and keep up that pattern until you're at your goal. Think of it like working out. If you've never in your life played a single sport or gone to a gym for any amount of time, then all of a sudden you want to start working out, would you go to the gym and stay there working out for 4 hours every day? No, you'll hurt yourself and do your body harm. It's the same basic concept, but on a smaller scale.

I have to second the working backwards. I've been working on reaching fingered octaves, and compound intervals (9ths and 10ths), but I'm not quite big enough to do that yet. I start small and easy and work backwards, bringing my fingers back further and further. Doing this will not only save you strain (further decreasing your risk of injury), but make it much easier to reach and play. Good luck!

March 14, 2007 at 02:35 AM · oo yeah the 10ths kinda hurt.

March 14, 2007 at 02:45 AM · I'm pretty sure that's the way it's supposd to be. After awhile of playing, your finger will naturally stretch out and strengthen, allowing you to play the A. The same deal will happen while learning vibrato; most likely you will be able to vibrate all your fingers but the fourth at first.

Oh, and dang four hours is a bunch of time. I have the most expensive and I guess best teacher in the area and I only do around 2. I only get up to 4-5 when I have a recital coming up.

March 14, 2007 at 03:44 AM · Greetings, al ku!

Thank you very much for your time and advice!

I will definitely give your suggestion a try.

My teacher put tape on the fingerboard at the start of my first lesson, but I can tell by ear (and verify by my Korg electronic tuner) that the three strips of tape are a bit two low. When I am playing an exercise during practice on the D-string that involves the third, second, and first finger, as well as the open string, shifting my fingers about results in (usually) flat tones.

I can adjust the position of each finger before I begin a piece, but then I have to remember each time I place a finger back on the fingerboard that I must not place it directly on the tape; instead, I must try to remember where each finger *should* go.

Perhaps not blindly following the three strips of tape, which makes practicing harder, is actually helping me to learn where my fingers should go, but I end up "peeking" at the placement of my fingers on the fingerboard, rather than feeling the tape until I can position my fingers correctly without the tape.

At my lesson next week, my teacher said that she will replace the tape and place it correctly. She is very gracious when I point out that I think a particular string on her violin is a little flat or sharp, and she checks with her electronic tuner and makes the correct adjustments.

Perhaps being concerned with playing the right note as accurately as possible is not supposed to be a major priority for a student who is "old" and has had only two lessons, but hearing and/or playing music off-pitch really bothers me (like the proverbial fingernails scraped across a chalkboard). :-)

I have experimented with positioning my fourth finger only on the D-string to play an A. It is very far below the correct position on the fingerboard for my third finger (particularly when I want the correct pitch).

To summarize the major point of your message, al ku, my problem may be tension caused by putting my fingers in totally new positions from me. I must learn to relax my left hand (and I have the same problem with tension in the wrist and hand of my right [bowing] hand) and practice exercises such as those you suggest, being patient with myself -- and asking my teacher for guidance.

(Perhaps, for example, because she was very rushed last week, it was better simply to have me play an open A, rather than take time -- which she simply did not have that night -- to try to address my concern about playing A with my fourth finger on the D-string.)

Thank you, again, al ku, for your time, message, patience, and advice!

I would be deeply grateful for any additional suggestions, particularly if you teach violin!

Thank you!

Cordially,

David

Hermitage (Nashville), Tennessee

United States

----------------------------------------------------------------------

On 13 March 13 2007 at 5:00 PM (MST), al ku wrote:

> david, i have a suggestion for you. pay attention at your own

> risk:)

>

> lets try work it backward.

>

> instead of trying hard to do 1st finger, 2nd fig, 3rd fig and

> ouch, 4th,,,,

>

> lets try to realign the hand by putting down the 4th fig down by

> itself and leave it there,,,,and feel and see how the hand and

> other fingers react to that. it will be tense in the first try

> i presume. try that again and again and pretend it is easy:) and

> no tension.

>

> later, or way later:), 4th, then going down to 3rd. again, appreciate

> the pinkie and ring fig having a little get together, you step one

> time, i step one time. you will see that if your hand and wrist relax,

> the motions seem easier and the entire unit seems to be LONGER.

>

> then, 4, 3, 2.

>

> then 4,3,2,1 and that is pretty much the shape of the hand for you

> during fingering.

>

> then you learn to reverse with the same shape of hand, 1,2,3,4.

>

> bottom line, if your pinkie is really that short, your wrist needs

> to loosen up more to accomodate some range of motion.

March 14, 2007 at 02:53 AM · Hello, Sean!

On 13 March 13, 2007 at 7:21 PM (MST), Sean Themar wrote:

> That's good I'm glad you are liking to play the violin the

> more practice the better. But when you do try to reach notes

> with your 4 finger it will get easier. Your hand is just not

> used to it.

Thank you for time and your response.

I truly enjoy practicing the violin. I have wanted to play for over 31 years and the fact that my late uncle gave me his violin makes it priceless to me.

You are quite correct, of course, that my hand simply is not used to trying to reach positions on the fingerboard with my fourth finger.

In fact, I have never played a note with my fourth finger, except in tests when the other three fingers were not on the fingerboard -- which is not the way to play the violin properly! ;-)

I am very patient and know that I am learning the violin for my own enjoyment and that the learning process is long and difficult.

Except for the problem with the fourth finger, however, I wish that I had more material to practice during the week between lessons, but I am sure that my teacher does not want to overwhelm me. I find, however, that I have basically memorized all of the exercises before the next lesson.

I have told my teacher that I want to study music theory (and I cannot see how I can learn the violin without studying music theory and reading music). She agrees strongly with me that I should study music theory, but I assume that she wants to reach a certain benchmark before I start studying music theory.

(I played to cornet two years in elementary school, took a few violin lessons, and could read music, but too much time has passed, although I have been reading in some music theory books and am surprised at how much I remember.)

Thank you, again, Sean!

Cordially,

David

March 14, 2007 at 02:57 AM · No problem just keep working at it and you'll have it no time. Just don't wear your self out. I had the same problem with piano, i'm just not used to it. And having a good musical background is good to that means you know the notes. Good luck and have fun with it or it'll be just playing

March 14, 2007 at 02:59 AM · David - Welcome to the world of adult beginers! I am a very small (5"2") person playing on a "full sized" 16" viola, so I can truly sympathize with stretching the 4th finger!!! I'll third the motion to start on the 4th finger then work your way down to the 1st finger. It is easier to stretch down than to stretch up. Remember, what you are now trying to do is to do fine muscle control in a very ackward and un-natural arm position. Also remember that your hand should not be in a static position, but you should be able to rock gently up and down the fingerboard (think of your 3rd finger as the fulcrum). This will help you alot later with vibrato and fingered octaves (and 10ths!)

March 14, 2007 at 03:58 AM · Hello, Julia!

Thank you for your message, time, concern, and advice!

You are right about my practicing four hours every day and the corresponding risk of injury. (I do take breaks when I practice, however, and some days I have time to practice two or three hours, because of other obligations.)

I do, however, seriously have to consider the risk of injury and strain, Julia. I have been a technical writer for twenty-two years and have also hand-coded HTML for Web sites since 1994, not to mention the hours at the computer keyboard dealing with e-mail!

Most significantly, I have been diagnosed twice, via nerve-conduction studies, with bilateral carpal-tunnel syndrome. I am free of pain in that area right now, but I would be crushed if I injured myself or exacerbated the carpal-tunnel syndrome to the point that I had to stop learning the violin (not to mention my professional career)!

I will discuss a practice regimen with my violin teacher next week. I have told her that I have carpal-tunnel syndrome, but I find that I have to ask her if I am holding the violin correctly, fingering correctly, and bowing correctly (from the perspectives of proper technique and my health). I suspect that she is used to younger students, mostly children to teenagers. I had also read so much about the violin before my first lesson that she may assume that I know more that I do! ;-)

Plus, I have had a chronic, severe headache for almost two solid months now. A CTA scan Friday reveals that I do not have a brain aneurysm, so I am having another test soon for viral meningitis. My neurologist is stumped. I take pain medication with great care, so when I take a tablet in order to practice my violin (for a headache that never goes away), I do not want to "waste" the medication when I am enjoying practicing so much. As you say, howeve, I must be concerned about the risk of injury! (Needless to say, this headache is a major concern, and the neurologist is stumped.)

Thank you, in addition, Julia, for the advice about positioning my fourth finger. I have to remind myself that I have had two lessons only, but I am picking up things very quickly, so the "issue" of the fourth finger was like hitting a brick wall. I know that things will come with time and effort. I am using muscles, ligaments, and tendons in ways that I have never used them, and the training and learning processes will take much time.

Thank you very much, again, Julia!

Cordially,

David

On 13 March 13 2007 at 7:21 PM (MST), Julia Alexander wrote:

> You said that you practiced about 4 hours every day. Be very careful

> with that. I've had some wrist problems the past year or so, and

> because of that I've learned a lot about wrist injuries. I realize

> you're enthusiastic, but if you just jump in 4 hours every day, you'll

> end up injuring yourself. Work it up slowly. Start with 30 minutes for

> a few days, then go up to 45 minutes, or even an hour. Do that for a

> few days, and keep up that pattern until you're at your goal. Think of

> it like working out. If you've never in your life played a single sport

> or gone to a gym for any amount of time, then all of a sudden you want

> to start working out, would you go to the gym and stay there working

> out for 4 hours every day? No, you'll hurt yourself and do your body

> harm. It's the same basic concept, but on a smaller scale.

>

> I have to second the working backwards. I've been working on reaching

> fingered octaves, and compound intervals (9ths and 10ths), but I'm not

> quite big enough to do that yet. I start small and easy and work

> backwards, bringing my fingers back further and further. Doing this

> will not only save you strain (further decreasing your risk of injury),

> but make it much easier to reach and play. Good luck!

March 14, 2007 at 03:15 AM · david, you are such a nice guy:)

teach violin i do not do:), but screaming and yelling when i hear a bad note,,,i do:)

i am curious, when you say you cannot reach the desired spot with your 4th finger,,,where is your first finger when that happens? in other words, is your first finger still on the fingerboard, or off in the air?

March 14, 2007 at 03:23 AM · Hello, Bobby!

Thank you very much for your time and response!

On 13 March 13 2007 at 7:45 PM (MST), Bobby Ni wrote:

> I'm pretty sure that's the way it's supposd to be. After

> awhile of playing, your finger will naturally stretch out

> and strengthen, allowing you to play the A. The same deal

> will happen while learning vibrato; most likely you will

> be able to vibrate all your fingers but the fourth at first.

>

> Oh, and dang four hours is a bunch of time. I have the most

> expensive and I guess best teacher in the area and I only

> do around 2. I only get up to 4-5 when I have a recital

> coming up.

Thank you for the reassurance. Apparently, my experience is normal for a beginning violin student.

You are correct about the average of four hours of practicing each day, but I literally lose track of time. As challenging as learning to play the violin is, I am fulfilling a dream that has been dormant for 31 years.

At age forty-six, I don't suspect that I will have any recitals, but there is the issue of injury to consider -- an important one that several people have warned me, based upon their personal experience.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I have had a chronic, severe headache for almost two months. (The headache never goes away, but is eased by medication, which I use sparingly.) Once I am rid of this torment, I will return to work and it will be hard for me to find time to practice, and I seriously doubt that I will be able to practice each day -- and certainly not for four hours! ;-)

Thank you, again, Bobby!

Cordially,

David

March 14, 2007 at 03:36 AM · Hello, Mendy!

Thank you for your time, advice, and welcome!

On 13 March 2007 at 7:59 PM (MST), Mendy Smith wrote:

> David - Welcome to the world of adult beginers! I am a

> very small (5"2") person playing on a "full sized" 16"

> viola, so I can truly sympathize with stretching the 4th

> finger!!! I'll third the motion to start on the 4th finger

> then work your way down to the 1st finger. It is easier to

> stretch down than to stretch up. Remember, what you are

> now trying to do is to do fine muscle control in a very

> ackward and un-natural arm position. Also remember that

> your hand should not be in a static position, but you

> should be able to rock gently up and down the fingerboard

> (think of your 3rd finger as the fulcrum). This will help

> you alot later with vibrato and fingered octaves (and 10ths!)

When you write that I should "start on the 4th finger then work your way down to the 1st finger," I am a bit confused (perhaps because everyone has been so kind with helpful responses).

You write "down to the first finger," so I guess I am thinking upside-down, because I consider the first finger (after two whole lessons) ;-), to be at the "top," for purposes of our discussion. Am I thinking upside-down?

You are correct, Mendy, so much feels awkward and unnatural, because I have never used my arms, wrists, and fingers in this manner. It is confusing, for example, to read in the same exercise book to press your fingers firmly on the fingerboard, but (also) to keep your hand relaxed!

Thank you also for the tip about using the third finger as a fulcrum.

I cannot imagine the time when I will be ready for vibrato, because I am overwhelmed by my own ignorance and realize that this undertaking will last for the rest of my life (I hope).

I have read about fingered octaves, but virtually nothing about tenths (but tenths are a subject for another discussion).

Thank you very much, again, Mendy!

Cordially,

David

March 14, 2007 at 03:44 AM · Hello, al!

On 13 March 13 2007 at 8:15 PM (MST), al ku wrote:

> david, you are such a nice guy:)

>

> teach violin i do not do:), but screaming and yelling

> when i hear a bad note,,,i do:)

>

> i am curious, when you say you cannot reach the desired

> spot with your 4th finger,,,where is your first finger

> when that happens? in other words, is your first finger

> still on the fingerboard, or off in the air?

Thank you for your additional message and your kind words, al. I try to be nice, because it beats the alternative! ;-) You are very gracious to describe me in this manner.

Although I do not have perfect pitch, as my uncle did (and he constantly criticized one world-acclaimed, classical violinist for frequently playing off-key), I have found that I can tell, at least at this early stage, if a string is flat or sharp. (Fortunately, tuning is getting easier and easier!)

To answer your question, al, when I cannot reach the proper position with my fourth finger, my first, second, and third fingers are on the correct spots on the fingerboard. With those fingers on the fingerboard, reaching the desired position with the fourth finger is impossible.

Thank you, al ku! You are a "gentleman and a prince"! :-)

Cordially,

David

March 14, 2007 at 03:46 AM · David - what I and other recommend is to start with the placement of your 4th finger (get the fingered A and then check it against the open A). Then put your 3rd finger down, check it against the open D (it should be a perfect octave). Then place down your 2nd finger, then first. By working backwards this way (vs. starting with your first finger placement on up), you can focus that stretch on your stronger fingers.

Also, you mentioned "pressing your fingers on the fingerboard". This is an early stage of building in tension which is a bad thing. Try to put as little "pressure" as possible to make a note. Start with your fingers just lightly touching the string, then gradually (and painfully to the ears) let gravity take over until you get a good tone. That will be your "perfect" pressure. Again, starting now with this technique will help you later on in your musical life.

March 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM · Hi, again, Mendy!

On 13 March 2007 at 8:42 PM (MST), Mendy Smith wrote:

> David - what I and other recommend is to start with the placement

> of your 4th finger (get the fingered A and then check it against

> the open A). Then put your 3rd finger down, check it against the

> open D (it should be a perfect octave). Then place down your 2nd

> finger, then first. By working backwards this way (vs. starting

> with your first finger placement on up), you can focus that

> stretch on your stronger fingers.

Thank you very much for your additional advice, Mendy!

Actually, I have tried this approach in several experiments, but when I put the third finger down (after checking the fourth finger's position against the open A), it is less than an inch from the fourth finger -- and I am stretching as far as I can!

Clearly, I need to follow the advice that you and others have so kindly taken the time to offer, but to make my "experiments" into regular exercises!

I will go ahead and start these exercises, Mendy, although I will not get the chance to talk to my violin teacher until Tuesday night at 7:00 PM Central. I plan to discuss the "fourth-finger issue" with her then anyway; perhaps she is not concerned about it now, but playing an A on the D-string is in the book, and we avoided my problem by having me play an open A-string. (Again, my violin teacher was very rushed during my second lesson, when I brought up this issue, and I did not get a lesson this week; something had obviously come up and she was pressed for time.)

Thank you, yet again, Mendy!

Cordially,

David

P.S. -- Mendy, in addition, thank you for your advice to "try to put as little 'pressure' as possible to make a note." I will certainly heed your suggestion. (I think that I need a beginning violin book for adults, not students in middle school!) ;-)

March 14, 2007 at 09:29 AM · Wow 4 hours a day is suicide. You will injure yourself and then never be able to play much at all. Stop. 1/2 hour a day, for a week or two, then 45 min., and so on.

I know whereof I speak. I started out in archery in about 2001 or so, was going to try for the Olympics in 2004 or at least the pan-ams in 03, did too much too soon, and "sprung" the tendons in my right hand. Could not pull the bow. I rested for a month, then went back, did 3 shots then SPROING ouch! Could not begin to pull the bow. I put my archery stuff on Ebay and forgot about it, and much later, in late 2003 was working on something that required gripping some parts with that hand with finger tips, wow could still feel the injury - it's there and always will be there. I can type fine, I can play violin fine, but no archery for me. I did too much too soon, if I were to go back and do it again I'd start out with rediculously light "tackle" and shoot that way for a year. I'd come up in weight very very slowly, planned over a course of years. And I'd never listen to coaches!

I'm an adult learner myself and in cases of daily lessons with kids, often the violin is kept with the teacher to keep the kid from overdoing it (or parents etc making him overdo it). I think you and your teacher are being highly irresponsible in letting you practice this much.

March 14, 2007 at 09:36 AM · David all you need is Simply for Strings and a good teacher. And LESS practice! Look up "overtraining".

March 14, 2007 at 12:49 PM · david, i see you are courting the field from several different directions and i hope mine is not confusing you or be in conflict with what the pros are telling you. with my luck, the latter will be the case in no time:)

you said, "al, when I cannot reach the proper position with my fourth finger, my first, second, and third fingers are on the correct spots on the fingerboard. With those fingers on the fingerboard, reaching the desired position with the fourth finger is impossible."

to be able to put both your first finger and your 4th finger down at the same time, at the spacing you are trying, will be nice because eventually you will go on to double stops which employ such position often. with your practice schedule, that may happen on next tuesday afternoon round 5:30 pm:)

i would stick my neck out by suggesting that the only correct way for you is the one that works the best for you. there are many thoughts out there about the proper way to do this and that,,,those are all nice, but bear in mind, those are the general direction and you need to carve out your own individual path, with those principles as reference, but based on your anatomy, your level of physical proficiency right now, not unlike if you ask me to run a marathon and i complain about wanting to die after 2 miles...

specifically, i would say that it is ok, if not recommended, that you lift off your 1st finger from the fingerboard while you try to reach the 4 th figure spot, which means the 2nd fig and 3rd fig are still on the fingerboard. this positioning, coupled with a relaxed wrist, should allow more flexibility. if not, even lift off the 2nd fig along with the 1st, only leave the 3rd on the fingerboard to provide some reference for the 4th fig.

FROM THERE, you GRADUALLY build on stretching, etc so that you can be more fluid in execution.

bear in mind the shape of the hand should be maintained; otherwise, your hand may look all over the place, like crab legs, like what my kid is good at:) too busy and not efficient.

also, try to maintain some angle of the last joint of the 4th figure, that is, bend it a little, so that when the finger lands on the fingerboard, it is directly (or close to) on the flesh pad of the fingertip. otherwise, it will be tough to intonate nicely.

you will notice that murphy's law applies here very well, that is, at this level, the most correct way to do something seems to be the one that is more difficult to relax about. (the pros will tell you, well, it does not have to be that way,,,well, it does, that is why they give lessons to tell people how:) so there will be some viscious cycle of getting to know yourself, a learning curve if you will. the faster you can get the mental pic, the easier it is for the body to execute. boy, that sounds so corny.

one thing to watch out for is your ability to adapt to the stretching/physical requirement. often, 1 hour per day over 1 month to achieve something is not the same as 4 hour per day in one week. watch out for overexertion. the body has its own limits and ideas and we have to respect those. if not, the violin gods may punish you with soft tissue injuries:) pay attention now or pay later.

good luck and good stretching a finger!

March 14, 2007 at 06:28 PM · Didn't have time (am multi-tasking at the moment) to read the whole thread but a couple of questions might lead to the correct answer. I should point out that in my teaching experience I have never encountered anyone with a fourth finger physiologically INCAPABLE of reaching a normal position on the fingerboard. The problem is usually one of wrist/thumb placement or finger placement, or unnecessary tension.

Questions to determine the above:

1) Do you have your middle or ring fingers lifted and, perhaps, pulled back when placing the pinky? This common mistakes forces the tips of the index and pinky to point at each other in converging lines, which greatly reduces the span between them.

2) If this does not address your problem, do you have your wrist in a straight line or, when placing the pinky, do you make the common error of bending it back (or forward) of the line made by the forearm? The pinky should DROP onto the strings; if the wrist is being used to force it down, it may also reduce the distance up the fingerboard the finger can reach. After all, if you stand straight and stretch out your arm you can reach further than if you lean BACK and stretch your arm forward. Same thing with the hand: if the wrist is pulled back it is only normal that the pinky is shortened by the distance the wrist has created. In effect, the wrist has then made the pinky start its forward angle from a further-back place.

3) If not, is your thumb-pad on the neck of the violin? Is the base of the thumb contacting the neck? (It shouldn't, for the record). This will be a good litmus test for whether the wrist is straight in the back-forward plane, which it SHOULD be. If it isn't, point 2 above addresses why this limits pinky "jurisdiction".

4) Is the thumb placed roughly opposite the index finger, or between index and middle fingers? Or is the thumb pulled back strongly (or pushed forward of the middle finger)? Again, a good place to look for wrist positioning which, in turn, significantly affects the angle at which fingers land on the string and the extent of the fourth finger's natural scope.

5) Is the line made by the left hand, from the base knuckles of the fingers to the wrist bones, aligned with the line of the wrist-elbow in the horizontal plane? Or does your wrist - while, perhaps, remaining straight vis-a-vis the forearm - twist laterally, left or right (left being more common) to the forearm line? If the lateral line is not straight, stretching the pinky will move it across the fingerboard, instead of UP the fingerboard.

6) Are all your fingers on the left hand parallel, lined up and pointing roughly to your left eye/ear? If the fingertips/pads land so that the second and third knuckles are tilted AHEAD of the fingertip/pad, this is incorrect and will lead to a severely decreased stretch. The fingers should intersect the strings on the corners of the fingers closer to the thumb, with the fingernails facing the bottom corner of the left-hand C-bout, in a sort of three-quarter profile to your line of sight. In other words, exactly as they would on a semi-rotated hand. To see what I'm talking about, hold up your left hand with the palm facing you. Fold your fingers down onto the palm, as though holding a sheet of paper between fingerPADS and palm. Note that all the fingertips are now aligned, parallel, and the tips all pointed slightly AWAY from the thumb's base knuckle. This is the way they should land on the fingerboard, though since the fingerboard is not as far down as the palm - the fingers will not have as far to go before encountering the fingerboard with the violin in hand as opposed to the hand by itself - they will be positioned on the fingerboard in a rounded shape, as opposed to the straight line you're seeing when just folding your fingers onto your palm.

With everything set up correctly, you should be able to drop your fingers onto the fingerboard without pushing, squeezing them one against another, or making any finger non-parallel to the rest. And in this position, the pinky naturally falls onto the a on the D string, just like a normal human hand - regardless of the relatively minor vatiations between a tall or short person - will fall onto a piano. Basically, ANYONE dropping their right thumb onto middle C will have each finger naturally occupy each successive white key, with the pinky dropping onto a G. Rachmaninoff had a much bigger stretch than the average bear, but even he would occupy one key per finger without stretching, not two or three. And even the slenderest of fingers don't NATURALLY fall two fingers to a key. It's the stretch where human variables count. The BASE position, the hand's FRAME, is universal whether on piano or on violin.

After all, please bear in mind that the violin was made for man, not man for the violin. The e-a span on the D string, thus, is not a stretch. It is made to fit the human hand as that hand would naturally fall (FALL, not tensely push down) onto the fingerboard. If we're talking about wide stretches of tenths or more, then I can well believe someone's individual physiology making a given interval impossible or not easily possible. But the basics are accessible to all, and on a full-size instrument for a normal adult (i.e. anywhere between 4'10" to 7'00").

March 14, 2007 at 07:15 PM · Hey, if I can reach a 10th, anybody can. Well just about anybody.

March 14, 2007 at 08:05 PM · Ahhh . . . insurmountable . . . impossible . . . cannot . . . ??? Seems like good fodder for a budding violinist!

Welcome to the club! Step by step. Inch by inch. Bite by bite. And watch out--it'll catch you! Before long, you'll be as obsessed with pushing down barriers as the rest of us are. Take a lesson from Heifetz who said "there is no top." Geesh, I'd like to know what HE thought was impossible.

March 14, 2007 at 08:36 PM · Greetings,

he said the Mozart and Beethoven concertos. A useful meassure of his depth.

Cheers,

Buri

March 14, 2007 at 08:53 PM · Kimberlee, it's a good pep talk, no question. And it's true, too. But I quibble with its application. Knowing there's an obstacle which will require work to remove is one thing, and demands one approach. But there are times when the obstacles are self-created, needing NO work to remove and needing only an accurate evaluation of what the actual task is and what's actually standing in the way. In those cases, it's reevaluation that's necessary, not hard work or even an unyielding, can-do mentality. The fourth finger question is one of the latter, I hold. It's not impossible, or difficult or even requiring work. Just logic and self-perception.

To use an analogy, think of all the lateral-thinking puzzles I'm sure we all know. Fr'instance: Sandy and Bobby lie dead in a pool of water and broken glass. What killed them? To determine the answer, we ask questions of the puzzle-giver through which questions we rapidly realize that those mere two sentences of set-up have encouraged us to assume something that makes the puzzle difficult. They forced an assumption that is automatic yet makes the solution difficult. An assumption the absence of which would have made the solution self-evident. Or the other famous puzzle of giving the subject six toothpicks and asking them to make four identical triangles out of those toothpicks without bending, breaking or crossing them. People will fiddle endlessly with all sorts of combinations, but the solution is instantly apparent when the subject realizes that they assumed a precondition which was not, in fact, given.

The original question is similar. Somewhere in the set-up there is something that limits the fourth finger's NATURAL abilities and span. After all, if the poster can reach a G, the A is only a centimeter away. Unless, of course, the fourth finger is descending in some direction COUNTER to the fingerboard's layout (wherein higher finger=higher pitch). First guess: his first, second and third fingers are on the right spots on the fingerboard (barely) but are pointing tips-towards-scroll. In such a case, the pinky will indeed descend onto a lower pitch on the fingerboard than normal and stretching it will be a) unnecessary and b) incredibly difficult as it will be trying to contravene normal anatomical funtctions.

(I'll leave the lateral-thinking puzzle answers blank for now, just in case anyone doesn't know these already and wants a little brain-aerobics.)

March 14, 2007 at 11:50 PM ·

March 14, 2007 at 11:55 PM · Kimberlee just fell into that damn black hole...

March 15, 2007 at 03:32 PM · Wait, Buri, don't lose hope! Sorry, everyone. I had to leave unexpectedly to battle alien Woodwind invaders. So, um, hmmm . . . where was I . . . the role of silly putty in society? No, wait, ah . . . there it is . . . puzzle pieces! Right then.

Thanks Emil. You put your points very well, and you're right--breaking down barriers isn't always painful or difficult. Sometimes it merely involves a paradigm shift. I think that's what you were saying, right? When I read David's question, I thought, like you, the most probable solution to his difficulty lay within his left hand orientation. But, you guys were already giving him those hints.

The reason I wanted to respond, actually, was to give myself the pep talk. David's question was stated so well, it reminded me how "impossible" and "insurmountable" things can seem, even when the answer is right in front of you. I'm struggling with things I think are impossible too. His question put things into perspective, reminded me that each one of us is learning, and that the learning never really ends.

Oh, and back to puzzles . . . for me, sometimes it seems like you go along picking up puzzle pieces and putting them together and before long, you start seeing a picture, and you think you know what the puzzle is, but it keeps going. And eventually you start to see that the puzzle is never ending, and there are new pictures at every turn, and each piece brings new possibilities. At least, that's the way I like to think of it.

I love this place, there are puzzle pieces lying around all over.

March 15, 2007 at 03:19 PM · Hello, everyone!

Thank you very much for your overwhelming kindness, time, and advice!

I would like to be courteous and respond to each suggestion individually, but you have all been so kind. I especially appreciate your concern for my health.

In response to your detailed message, al ku, I tried your suggestion during my practice session yesterday and I actually did play an A on the D-string using my fourth finger. I then lifted my fourth finger to play a G. I then had a frustrating problem: My violin teacher has not put tape on the position for the fourth finger, so I did not know where to put my fourth finger again to play an A.

Following the steps that you have described, al ku, I realize that with stretching and practice that I will be able to play an A with my fourth finger.

The tape needs to be placed correctly on the fingerboard. (All notes are a bit flat.) Second of all, I need my teacher's approval and then I simply need to continue the exercises during my practice sessions.

I am overjoyed, however, that after only two lessons, I am able to get even this far. Perhaps I am trying to advance to much, too soon, but the book has this position listed.

Emil, thank you for your very detailed questions. I will take the time to answer each one in a separate response.

I do know that I have some problems with the alignment of my fingers, which are slender. For example, when playing with my fingers on the fingerboard on the D-string, I had a problem for a while of feeling the open A-string vibrating slighly against the fingers on the D-string. With practice, this problem has disappeared, but I obviously need to ensure that the angle of my fingers is correct.

I assume, Emil, based upon your third question, that the neck of the violin should be resting on the pad of my thumb. Forgive my ignorance, Emil, but could you describe where the base of the thumb is? I do not think that the neck of the violin is resting on the base of my thumb, but I may be wrong. (I have yet to see clear photographs of the correct way to hold the violin and the bow; for example, there are three photographs in my 'Orchestra Expressions: Violin - Book One' illustrating the correct way to hold the bow. The second and third pictures, taken from two different angles, contradict each other.)

Regarding my practicing, I agree with everyone that four hours of practice every single day is excessive, but my teacher has not made any statements about how often I should practice or for how long per session. I practice for three to four hours because my enthusiasm causes me to lose track of the time -- not because my teacher has dictated such excessive practice.

One disadvantage that I am seeing with practicing so much, aside from the risk of injury, is that I have the practice exercises memorized by the time I have a lesson. I know that my teacher wants me to learn at a pace that is not overwhelming, but -- because I have each piece memorized -- I feel that when my teacher and I play them together that I am somehow cheating myself.

Perhaps, after my teacher places the tape in the correct positions, she will feel comfortable adding the fourth tape, given my desire to start training myself to use my fourth finger. Obviously, it will take me much time and practice to play the fourth finger with any proficiency, but I would love the additional challenge, even if it is a supplement to the "standard" material that I am to cover each week.

In addition, I am going to ask my violin teacher on Tuesday to observe critically my posture and technique. I don't want to develop bad habits (which may already be the case), but posture and technique are not discussed during my lessons unless I bring them up. While I am on this subject, can anyone recommend any books on this subject, such as How Muscles Learn: Teaching Violin With The Body In Mind, by Susan Kempter?

I will revisit this discussion again shortly, because people deserve answers to their questions (such as Emil's) and because I am driven to advance my ability to learn the violin properly.

Thank you, very much, again!

Cordially,

David

March 15, 2007 at 03:34 PM · David, the thumb-pad should be against the SIDE of the neck. The neck does NOT rest upon anything, in fact. The thumb-pad offers a sort of counter-force to the (eventual) impact of the fingers onto the fingerboard. After all, they're falling from above AND a little to the right. But the thing holding the violin up - the way I teach it - is the weight of the head (not the PRESSURE of the head made by a contracting neck) on the chinrest with the shoulder rest upon the TOP of the shoulder, like an epaulette rotated 90 degrees. The base of the thumb, in this scenario, is about an inch below the neck of the instrument.

Now, what you describe of feeling the A string's vibration while having slender fingers suggests to me that your fingers are lying almost flat across the strings. They should not be. The fingers should fall onto the area slightly lower than the fingertip, an area often misleadingly called the fingerpad (which area I think of as lower still on the final fingerjoint). If that is being done correctly, one can still have the hand TOO LOW vis-a-vis the neck of the instrument, allowing the fingers to lay there across the strings instead of dropping down ONTO a specific string. The whole finger should be arched, with the base knuckles ROUGHLY on the same level as the neck, the second knuckles highest above the fingerboard (and tilted, as I pointed out, towards the scroll) and the third knuckle slightly curved outwards. NEVER collapsed inwards and usually not straight - except in instances of slight pinky stretches such as playing an A sharp or B on the D string with the rest of the hand completely in first position.

I would also suggest avoiding tapes. Tapes stay put while strings can be either out of tune or in tune with one another but slightly lower or slightly higher than a 440 or 442 A. Tapes train eyes but allow ears to avoid working. Tapes do not address the issues of HOW fingers fall, how consistently, how naturally, how relaxedly. They only give a target that most beginners hit with difficulty (which they themselves create), with tension, and frequently with a complete disregard to maintaining a hand frame. If, as you write, you couldn't find the G after playing the A, this means that you are lifting "old" fingers - those fingers which have already played - when you place "new" fingers. This is a duplication of effort (after all, why lift the ring finger when you'll be lowering it again in a moment). It is also an indication, if you're having difficulty keeping "old" fingers down, that you may be lowering each "new" finger from the wrist, rather than from the finger's base knuckle. Finally, it encourages you to grope for each finger, for each note, individually rather than gaining a sense of the whole hand's position and where ALL the notes are under ALL the fingers. As an illustration, look at how your hand falls onto piano keys. Notice that when your right thumb is on middle C, your index finger may play either D or C sharp or D sharp. In effect, the index finger has its own "jurisdiction", as it were. As do all of the fingers. Each can naturally play two to three different keys, without the hand needing to move at all. Try to do the same on the violin's fingerboard.

March 15, 2007 at 03:44 PM · David,

Just a comment about your memorizing your exercises between lessons. With violin playing, and particularly with exercises, quality is much more important than quantity. Just because you know how the song goes doesn't mean that you are playing it as well as you can. You are dealing with acquiring a set of very specific tasks, and the process is more circular than linear. As you progress, you'll find yourself coming back to things you'd 'learnt' and discovering them all over again.

In a way, I think this is one place where children have a huge advantage to adults. They learn the basics intuitively and don't usually have the whole plan in front of them so they know what's coming. They just play - at least at the beginning. (*Disclaimer* There are many advantages to being a learner with a mature mind, I know, and being able to think analytically and is certainly one of them!)

I think this intuitive approach is something we grown-ups should strive to find again. I spent a large part of my college education relearning how to hear a sound and make it - not to *think* about what sound I wanted to make, *decide* what I was going to do to make it, and then *try* to implement what I'd decided. A lot of it has to do with trust - trusting what you hear and do, and imagine, trusting what your body tells you, and learning to listen to it.

This has gone off-topic a bit, but my point is this: learning an instrument, whatever your background, provokes you to think in new ways. Learning a musical instrument involves thinking in so many ways, if not in more ways than anything else. Take the exercises you've been given and ask yourself what they're doing. What else? Great that you can learn the notes quickly, and great that you can memorise. How's your sound? Is your bow straight? How do your shoulders feel? Your wrists? The balls of your thumbs? There's so much to do when you stop thinking in a straight line.

Have fun exploring!

March 15, 2007 at 04:40 PM · david, if you truely find what i have said helpful, that is a signal that i need to remember to buy some lottery today:)

there have been some very good advices from people and as usual, you may want to pay closer attention to what emil has to say. to start, check his profile and click and listen to a recording he has there,,,devil's march or something. better yet, email him and get his CD which has some of the most beloved violin pieces in there and he played it mean, like a devil. it is kinda refreshing that people who are not dead yet can actually play:)

agree that taping on the fingerboard, esp for you, is,,,stupid unless the student is 2 yo and needs reminder to put the spoon into the mouth instead the nostril. you can check 3rd finger against open string, 4th finger against open string, only 1st and 2nd fingers to figure out, come on!:)

the taping is very deceiving because it is actually a target that is too big and imprecise, very much dependent on the angle of attack, thus something that is right to your teacher may not work for you. your fingers need to FEEL AND DEVELOP that homing instinct, a very very small spot to land safely. this is particularly harmful when someone has not fully developed the ears and proudly announce: mom, look, i got the finger right on the tape!

how about breaking that habit by playing some scales real slow with your eyes CLOSED? it is amazing all of a sudden you hear so much more...

PS. it usually takes about 2 years to completely get the sticky stuff off the fingerboard when you remove the tape.

March 15, 2007 at 05:47 PM · Al, the eyes closed suggestion is a great one. I use it frequently for the intonationally-challenged students I have. But as for the sticky stuff, some vodka on a handkerchief which is used as a cleaning cloth usually does the trick. Just make sure that not the smallest drop of alcohol, even wrung out of the cloth, comes anywhere near the top plate of the instrument. (and thanks again for your kind words!)

March 15, 2007 at 06:46 PM · I'll second, Al, Emil. Your playing speaks for itself, and I can tell you're a thoughtful teacher. You and Al have made me rethink the tape issue. That's a toughie. I, personally, will use tapes if the student is intonationally taking a trip to outer space and cannot come in contact with earth.

March 15, 2007 at 07:18 PM · kimberlee, if only big stripes of white will do, try piano:)))) just kidding.

with regard to using etoh for the sticky stuff, make sure the fingerboard is really ebony and not stained fire wood:)))))

March 15, 2007 at 07:39 PM · Funny, Al. Firewood. heh heh. Oh, BTW . . . if I resort to tapes I use black electrical tape. It's much more difficult to see. It forces my students to rely on their sense of touch. Lesser of two evils maybe.

March 15, 2007 at 08:27 PM · Nice variation! Tactile reliance is not the end goal, of course, but definitely somewhat better than the visual. At least the students are being taught to FEEL the fingerboard, instead of staring at it, semi-hypnotized, and utterly unaware of the pitch being produced or the manner in which it's being produced. Such focus can have dire consequences.

Before I make the following analogy, I beg to stress that what follows is a GROTESQUE exaggeration and is not meant to make parallels between unspeakable evils and understandable mistakes in a much more inconsequential matter. But it does say something of human nature and the two-edged sword of concentration. Right, enough preamble:

A few days ago, I was having dinner with a rabbi from Chicago who recounted the following interview to me. I don't know the source, and it could well be one of those incredulity-inducing pieces of apocrypha. However, according to the rabbi, some sociological journal recently wrote up an interview with a former Nazi, a man who worked on the railways that took millions of victims to the concentration camps. In the interview, the Nazi couldn't quite understand why he was being demonized. His job, he stressed, was to make the trains run on time. Had the interviewer any idea, he wondered, of the incredible logistics involved with getting all those trains from points A, B and C (etc.) to their final destinations? Without delays, dealing with breakdowns efficiently and so forth. Why were people, the Nazi wondered, not giving him due credit for doing his job - the one involving making the trains run on time - so well?

The facts that the trains ran to death camps, that he was part of a demoniacal machine of death, that the lack of delays was fairly easy to ensure when the passengers don't have to arrive healthy or even alive completely escaped his notice. He was so engrossed in the minutae of his job that he forgot the actual nature of his job.

Now, if a person can be so utterly blind when associated facts are so impossible to ignore, how much easier to ignore peripheral matters like finger angle or the SOUND of the correct pitch when the "main" task is, on some level, perceived as landing on a target? We're all prone to oblivion on occasion, so one should always try to avoid it in teaching and to help the student avoid it in learning.

March 15, 2007 at 09:15 PM · ah, the concept and act of conscious avoidance.

March 16, 2007 at 03:46 AM · I guess one ought to be sure to see the grand picture and state of things before one charges ahead into the dark abyss? Is that the idea?

Much of life is blindness, I think. The only "seeing" I manage is within the context of listening, appreciating, learning. So, today, at least, I hope I'm opening my eyes to your experience with tapes, Emil. And that minutae is part of the big picture, right?

March 15, 2007 at 09:50 PM · It's like yoga. You have to keep doing it until you can just stretch enough to make you look like a contortionist.

Why don't you just scrunch up your thumb, index, middle, and the ring finger and just stretch out your pinkie in the other direction?

Keep doing it and someday you will reach it.

...

My mom buying me an 18th century German violin made me practice more. I'm glad you are inspired.

But I don't think it's only inspiration that will get you through the difficult phases. It's love (I could never love my violin until recently) and like I was, if you do not love to play violin, you will only improve as those who memorize phrases by rote.

Well, have fun playing and I'm glad you

are finally fulfilling your 15 year old dream...hey! I'm 15! Do you think I can become a medical lawyer and play in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on the side? my dream's a little idealistic...non?

March 15, 2007 at 10:37 PM · Greetings,

>It's like yoga. You have to keep doing it until you can just stretch enough to make you look like a contortionist.

Actually I think Emil`s point is more the opposite. One should stop doing what is preventing the hand from doing what it is quite capable of doing naturally. He is a born Alexander teacher, just doesn`t know it yet.

I`m off to shoot myself,

Cheers,

Buri

March 16, 2007 at 01:27 AM · Buri, are you serious? I know, let's put a TAPE on your HEAD so you can aim better!! Yay!!! Just kidding, Buri, we love you.

Seriously, the tapes are for a limited time and just to give the idea of how big half and whole steps are, and where on the fingerboard the first few notes 'live'. They are an aid to forming a mental map of the fingerboard and the distances involved and should be used for a very short time, i.e. a few weeks maybe. People (even students) aren't stupid, and they soon and naturally begin to use proprioception and hearing once the scaffolding of the tapes has done its job and is taken away. The tapes just show the students that the notes they are playing are near the scroll (as opposed to the other end of the fingerboard, under the fingerboard, up their noses etc.)

As for tapes making the fingerboard sticky, get auto detailing tape- it stays on for a long time, is thin, comes in many colors and doesn't leave a sticky residue.

David- did I read correctly that you've had TWO lessons? Why the fuss already? Don't think so much, just do a little bit of practice everyday. You shouldn't be thinking about your fourth finger or theorizing about, or ANYTHING about it based on two lessons! Just relax and enjoy what the teacher has to say and I'm sure it will all become clear soon.

March 16, 2007 at 02:31 AM · Greetings,

Howard, brilliant! I`ll put the tapes around my head (and groin) immediately, thus ensuring that all the people taking pot shots at me miss entirely,

Thanks for the heads up,

Buri

March 16, 2007 at 03:39 AM · I've had my 4th lesson now and we're not using the 4th finger yet.....

I know from another sport, that you have to feel your body from the inside sometimes. But I got a mirror to watch my external form too! Bed Bath & Beyond $30 and worth every penny!

March 16, 2007 at 05:01 AM · Greetings,

>I know from another sport, that you have to feel your body from the inside sometimes.

Gee, I think I`ve heard of that one!

Cheers,

Buri

March 16, 2007 at 03:16 PM · Sorry Buri, I really was just kidding...

Maybe instead of tapes on the fingerboard, everybody should just be required to have piano lessons first. When I play I have a sort of mental image of notches along a line that goes along with the feel of the violin/fingers etc. There is also the sense that this "line with notches" zigzags a little, accounting for the fact that the violin has four strings instead of one giant string that goes from the lowest note to the highest note. Passagework (again for me) is realized in this schema as a sort of spiderweb tracery between points on this zigzag line. The point is, I don't look at the fingerboard when I play, and yet there is a kind of mental image that is indispensible to my getting around the violin.

So, the tapes are not targets, but rather the the beginning of guidance towards the sort of imagery that I'm describing above. By the way, I've noticed that students who haven't had some experience with piano first tend to have what seems to me to be a "blurrier" image of the violin fingerboard- although they understand the basic linear metaphor, the "resolution" of the notes is not as clear as early to these student as it is to students who have studied piano first.

Also in thinking about tapes, here's a little thought experiment. Imagine you are a piano teacher but instead of a regular piano, you have one without keys, but instead just one giant blank, ivory colored surface from one end of where the normal keyboard would be to the other. If you touch this special keyboard in places corrosponding to the normal keyboard, you get the pitch that normally occurs there (let's say it even kind of feels like a regular piano..) So what's the first thing you do at the first lesson? I'd think you'd put a sticker where middle C is! You might even mark off the space between middle C and and G above it, right? You might even talk about mentally dividing this special piano's keyboard into subdivisions a little bigger than the finger. Perhaps you'd even use tape to show how big one of these spaces is, or to show the difference between a half step and a whole step.

(Hey, actually, now that I think about it, piano teachers do speak to beginners about "hand frame" and "block chords" and other visual, organizing metaphors...)

So, again, tapes are for establishing this basic "distance on the fingerboard = distance in pitch" metaphor in a very visual, basic and easily assimilated way. They also orient the student in first position quickly and easily in the first few lessons. They are NOT finger targets, substitues for listening, proprioception or thinking, nor are they supposed to be left on for years.

March 16, 2007 at 04:13 PM · Oh, sorry. My last post was more than a little off topic. I was responding to Emil's post about tapes. I'll say again to David though, that you shouldn't worry so much in the beginning about what you can and cannot do because it will distract you from listening to the teacher and following the teacher's program for you. For the time being, let the teacher worry about what intermediate steps need to happen to bring about a more functional fourth finger. It could be that by perseverating on your fourth finger, you'll miss the teacher's focus on, say, making a good sound with a "straight" bow. This is such a common type of problem in adults (trying to second guess the teacher) that I'm sure there's a book or dissertation there to be written. How many times, for example, have I told an adult student to do x, y or z, only to have them tell me that it's "just like golf" or something else? I always have to tell adults not to make too many associations in the beginning, but instead just watch, notice, copy and be patient. Sometimes all that adult knowledge just gets in the way of following simple directions or, as a great man once said, "Knowing is often the enemy of learning". Oh wait, that was my quote...

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