can you be a exceptional player if you have exceptionally short fingers?

July 2, 2007 at 06:56 PM · my fingers are very short (my pinky is only 4.7 cm!) but i really want to be a violinist. is it possible? i once saw this concert of a four-fingered pianist (two on her left hand, two on her right) who actually played chopin's fantasie impromptu. i don't know how she did that. but as motivating as it is, i'm still not sure if i should still pursue my dream. any advice/opinion/suggestion? and do you know if there is any professional player who has small fingers?

thanks.

pauline

Replies (29)

July 2, 2007 at 10:26 PM · Bush can be president with a small brain,

so I guess you can play in a wonderful way also with small fingers.

:)

July 3, 2007 at 05:09 AM · Greetings,

yes,I know a top professional with -exceptionally- short fngers. It can be a curse for oriental women. But basiclaly it is about efficiency and finding the way of playing that works for you. Kyung wha Chung and Anne Sophie Mutte rhad relatively small hands.

Incidentally there are other problems which are more serious. I had a woman come to me recently who was about 1 meter tall, incredibly short arms (actually I suspect she was suffering from dwarfism) and an absolutely huge chest. She simply couldn@t hold the instrument and bow and I encouraged her to try a more realistic instrument.

Cheers,

Buri

July 3, 2007 at 05:16 AM · you should have no problem. in fact, there are certain advantages to having small fingers as a violinist. good luck!

July 3, 2007 at 05:22 AM · Amy:

just wondering what kind of advantage are there?

I mean... if it's small enough to cause trouble to do 10th, and finger octive, then there're a few pieces unplayable...

For me, I barely can do 10th, but I cannot do finger octive. 1-3 is ok for me but not 2-4...

July 3, 2007 at 05:40 AM · Especially if your teacher is on the jury, yes!

July 3, 2007 at 07:10 AM · Amy,

i'm just curious, what are the advantages? haha i'm probably too busy thinking about all the disadvantages and i'm not that great at thinking positive haha.

as for the disadvantages, i have quite some. it's hard to play double stops, especially those that involve my 4th finger. and true, there are some pieces that i may not be able to play.

btw, thanks all for the responses. glad to know that i do have a chance.

July 3, 2007 at 11:50 AM · Using the 4th finger in doublestops is relatively hard to everyone...

July 3, 2007 at 12:48 PM · Hi, Well, we know that in general, people have gotten bigger over the last couple centuries, and we're playing on their violins, so you could call yourself a throwback to 'authentic" proportions between person and violin. It does raise the question for some scholarly research about the body and hand size of the guys who wrote the great pedagogical works of the 1800's. Any more, you need something weird-ish like that for theses. :) Sue

July 3, 2007 at 01:22 PM · 4.7cm can't be short for a woman's pinkie. My pinkie is 5.5cm and I'm 6 ft tall.

July 3, 2007 at 02:47 PM · there are advantages, i assure you. mine i think are even shorter than the original poster, but i have no problems with fingered octaves and tenths. that is something that you will just have to keep working on and will eventually come. i am not sure that anyone can easily do those techniques at first without a little daily effort and practice.

one advantage to having smaller fingers is that you can play half steps without displacing fingers, like people have to do if they have fatter or larger hands. this is a very good advantage in the upper registers in particular for intonation.

July 3, 2007 at 03:14 PM · Pauline,

Being a violinist isn't just about your fingers--there are many other skills and psychological traits needed as well. You have to have rhythmic timing, and an ear for intonation. A good memory.

Emotional stability. A stomach for the stage. Persistence. Motor memory. Concentration. Most people have deficits in the above even with perfect fingers.

July 4, 2007 at 02:26 AM · I know some fantastic players with very short fingers. This one girl I know who is great, is so short that she needs small supports for her feet because her feet don't touch the floor! But her fingers are strong and flexible, which may be even more important than length.

July 3, 2007 at 11:39 PM · Tartini had small fingers.

July 4, 2007 at 02:07 AM · Pauline,

Not to worry, I am just a beginner but I already have learned (as others have mentioned) that there is a lot more to this than the size of one's hands. I would guess that in some aspects of playing the violin smaller hands would be of benefit, whereas in others larger hands would be a benefit. My instructor, a professional of course, has very small hands, probably even smaller than my six year old son's, and from what I hear it certainly does not stand in the way of her ability.

To have a heart you are willing to put on display and the determination needed to acquire the skills that will enable you to do so are most important. It may be true that, all things considered, larger hands are a benefit, but such cannot stand in place of a determination to see it through. In closing I'd say "good luck", that is if luck has anything to do with it, but it does not. Keep at it and let your heart be your guide, the needle in your compass.

Chris

July 4, 2007 at 08:14 AM · chris,

my goodness, your words are beautiful. i think i'll save your last sentence on my computer.

thanks very much. ^^

pauline

July 4, 2007 at 01:36 PM · I have relatively short fingers too. I tend to stretch my pinky quite a bit. As a result the left pinky has been aching ever since, at the knuckle. The ache has been there everyday (for about 2 years). I cant seem to recover from the ache.

Is there a problem? I practise everyday.

July 4, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Greetings,

yes. There is a problem. Stop practiicng. Get it looked at . Follow the advice of your physio or whatever. Playing with pain is wrong and another word beginning with s I won`t use.

Cheers,

Buri

July 4, 2007 at 10:44 PM ·

July 4, 2007 at 10:54 PM · Sarasate had absolutely tiny hands--apparently he couldn't even reach a tenth at all.

I sometimes have trouble with tenths and fingered octaves too--my hands aren't absurdly tiny, but they are small. It's not a big hindrance really, we just might have to work a bit harder. The upshot is, when we small-handed ones get up into really high positions where everything is really close together, it's easier to play in tune (compared to someone with big sausage fingers, our small fingers are nicely maneuverable!) Haha!

July 4, 2007 at 11:58 PM · Maura beat me to it about Sarasate. He apparently didn't perform Paganini. On the other hand, there are 8-year olds who do play Paganini. Their hands can't be very big.

Kevin

July 5, 2007 at 12:22 AM · neither are their violins...

July 5, 2007 at 05:46 AM · Midori's a small woman and I imagine her fingers aren't monstrously large....

I have a freakishly short pinky as well, measuring under the 4.7 cm, but I am able to play most works (well, I can physically reach the notes, I may not be able to actually play them very well....) Tenths are a stretch but you learn to cope. Make sure your hand is favoring the pinky- don't leave your wrist behind with your first finger. Fingered octaves are tough... after about 3rd position I can do them but I can't do half steps with fingered octaves below that point without some weird noises inbetween (caused by my whole hand having to shift positions). Thankfully, I have never seen a piece where you HAVE to use fingered octaves in half steps in first position. :)

Be sure to take lots of breaks if working with extensions. Your hand can get very tight or even get slight muscle pulls if you aren't careful.

July 5, 2007 at 12:21 PM · Thanks Buri. I'll get it looked at....

July 5, 2007 at 09:04 PM · Christina wrote:

"Midori's a small woman and I imagine her fingers aren't monstrously large...."

Her hands are freaky! Small but flexible and strong - you really see that she's trained them for violin playing. I toured in an orchestra with her playing Beethoven and Prokofiev, and she would wander round backstage warming up before the concert!

July 6, 2007 at 02:45 AM · If you go on YouTube, there's a video of Midori playing the Tchaikovsky. I think it was around 1990 or 1991. It even has a short clip of her walking around while warming up backstage!!

July 6, 2007 at 07:29 PM · Christina:

I believe the person who upload the video turn the video into private... hope I can watch it again... or knowing where to purchase that video...

July 7, 2007 at 04:29 AM · well, i have short, stubby fingers...my pinky is about 5 cm too...(though, im only a teen, so i hope it grows later on xp)

advantage: u can move your fingers faster (i think)...if yours is kind of stubby, like mine...then it should be a little stronger than a skinny pinky...(well i guess, it still depends though)

disadvantage: hard to play 4th finger double-stops; hard to reach higher positions; gets easily hurt/tired after a long practice session...and more

i guess there are more dis. than advantages...well, sucks for us w/ short finders...:p

July 9, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Pauline,

My pinky is also about 4.7 cm, which I found is a challenge but not an impossibility for playing the violin well. I am also a size 0 or size 00 person. Per Buri's recommendation, I use a smaller violin (LOB 352 mm, Guarneri model), and I don't find "small" is a real problem with a smaller full size violin.

July 8, 2007 at 06:35 PM · I believe Mischa Elman had short, stubby fingers. Sorry, no meaurements available ;)

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