Fourth finger too far from finger board

October 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM · My teacher says my fourth finger is too far from the fingerboard and this is stopping me from playing faster passages fluently. Any tips on how to retrain it to stay closer in?

Replies (24)

October 23, 2012 at 06:18 PM · sevcics or schradiecks first position exercises and simply correcting the movement may be an answer. But there is not much of learning through this forum in this aspect. Just watch your pinky every time you play and keep it as close as possible to the string. You obviously have to start this practicing slowly and most careful!also ask you teacher for specific exercises and do them regularly.

Hands are so different that everybody has its own strengths and weaknesses. Galamian sais you have to keep the left hand always in the position of playing the fourth finger, even if you play other/lower finger that means.

Working on this can give you a lot of technical security and therefore more freedom. But really: Your teacher is the best adress for questions!

October 23, 2012 at 09:50 PM · Practice without the bow

October 23, 2012 at 10:43 PM · I guess this is kind of a question, but I wonder if there is a limit to how close you can have the "neutral position" of your 4th finger be without bringing tension in (depending on the layout of your hand of course). I wonder if it may be more important to find a hand position for the 4th that is relaxed and working at dropping and lifting the finger as quickly as possible?

October 24, 2012 at 04:24 PM · hi Kate, the best way in my experience is to player earlier etudes that you already mastered, play them very slowly, paying top attention to your pinky hovering nicely over its place above the string. especially when playing a note with 3rd finger you will find that difficult. so as Simon writes above, just practice on it slowly and with much attention until it becomes automatic (can take a long time, but is worth it, because your teacher is right about it).

October 24, 2012 at 07:17 PM · Thanks. I'll see what I can do. I think it is going to be difficult though as I subconsciously curl it out of the way when it is not in use and my brain can't seem to connect with it to bring it back in line unless it is needed to play!

October 24, 2012 at 08:12 PM · "... my brain can't seem to connect with it to bring it back in line unless it is needed to play!" and that, in a nutshell, is why we practice! Good working to you.

October 24, 2012 at 08:34 PM · Kate that's why I wrote SLOWLY, do it so slow that your brain can follow and you do not wrap away your pinky. you will probably feel new muscles too, so if you start to become tired in your hand, stop with it for the day (or for an hour).

October 24, 2012 at 09:11 PM · Administer electric shocks and keep it locked in a closet?

October 24, 2012 at 09:53 PM · Bruce, I advice the same for vibrato!

October 25, 2012 at 04:15 AM · Practice playing passages (pick an etude or scale for this) with your pinky firmly down on an adjacent string. For example, play ABCD on the A string while keeping your 4th finger on the D string.

Start playing it as a double stop, and slowly start lifting the pinky from the string until it is a harmonic. Then stop playing it as a double stop, but still keeping the pinky on the string.

Hard as all getup to do at first, but your pinky WILL learn to stay close to the string.

October 25, 2012 at 09:34 AM · or simply play 343434 watching the hand position.

October 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM · I often find that if I'm noticing a problem that seems to involve a certain body part.... the solution is actually a body part or 2 'higher up'. Problem with the finger? How's your hand position?

October 25, 2012 at 09:06 PM · as I said: position the hand after the 4th finger...

October 29, 2012 at 11:03 PM · I set up my left hand by placing the fourth finger in a fairly curved shape, the moving the others backwards (even more on the viola..).

Having a short pinky, I have the viola well to the left to avoid over-twisting my wrist. I also have a side mounted chinrest not too near the tailpiece, and the instruments are sufficiently tilted to allow good fourth finger vibrato on the lowest string.

If the fourth can't reach the strings, it may be the fault of the other fingers being too extended, or of a protruding wrist pulling the 3rd and 4th fingers away .

October 30, 2012 at 01:54 AM · so glad to find this post - I have the same pinky problem!

November 5, 2012 at 02:50 AM · Simon - I agree with you 100% It is so important to position the hand after the fourth fingr is down. The problem may not be entirely the fourth finger but actually some of the problem is in the hand postion. The first two pages of Schradieck are excellent for this. Most importantly practice slowly 343434, 242424, 141414, 04040404, on all strings with the correct hand position and fourth finger position then move to Schradieck - slowly one line at a time and listen to the intonation.

Happy Practicing!!!

Heather Broadbent

November 5, 2012 at 04:20 AM · I'd first say that the advice and specific exercises here are generally quite good.

I'd only add that training your 4th finger, like training any muscle/physical movement, takes time. Make it something that is on your menu of things to observe and correct when you're playing anything at any time, just like intonation, straight bowing, violin hold, etc. Not just something you try to focus on for a couple minutes each practice session. You'll likely have to make hundreds, maybe thousands of corrections until it becomes a habit and part of your technique. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Best of luck to you!

November 6, 2012 at 07:39 PM · Speaking of Itzhak Perlman, a teacher once showed me a YouTube video of him playing Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen in a live performance with James Levine as conductor. It's worth watching as much for the clowning around at the beginning as for the actual performance.

Throughout the piece, Perlman's fourth finger often sticks straight out, along with his long, spatula-like thumb. My teacher despaired over the thought that students could be picking up technique from such an example, especially since Perlman's playing was impeccable throughout. Perhaps the recording should be prefaced by the disclaimer: "This is a trained professional; do not attempt this at home."

November 6, 2012 at 08:52 PM · its easy to explain: He gives himself and its hand freedom for the best vibrato (very wide). In the fast passages his fingers are close to the strings. You can clearly see his basis in older videos.

Keeping the fingers close to the strings is not everything, but if you see someones pinky or index finger flying high it doesn't mean this fits every playing situation and I am sure Mr. Perlman knows this too.

Also there is a difference in performing and practicing. As a violin student you should try to get information about how the great stars practice and not practice like they play on stage. There is also a little show involved and much more freedom.

Midori wrote in her book that she was so crazy for keeping her technique clean, that she would practice after a concert to get everything back in perfect shape and position. A lot of teachers advice this too. Especially after playing in an orchestra one can benefit from some slow and careful practice.

November 8, 2012 at 08:53 AM · I used to have this issue and much of it was attributed to my simple refusal to get my elbow underneath the instrument on lower strings. These other methods sound great and you should use them as well but this may be useful.

November 9, 2012 at 08:46 PM · Thanks everybody. All these comments have been useful. I think a combination of adjusting the position of my hand so the fourth finger is in a more natural position and slow careful practice of early etudes will be the answer. I like the idea of keeping the fourth finger on a lower string or harmonic as well. Here's hoping I have the patience to fix it. It feels very odd with my hand in the new position and I can't vibrato as easily but I'll keep at it!

November 11, 2012 at 02:45 AM · Hello Miss Day,

This 'visualization' has worked with some of my students. I'll try to explain it here in words...

Try laying your bow across the fingerboard to create a an imaginary visual 'plane,' as it were. Remove the bow. Now place your left hand in the proper position, (ask your teacher about this.

Make sure the 'bendy' part of your left hand (the place where you see a line across the inside of your palm) is at least on the same plane as the imaginary bow plane, if not a bit higher if doing position work.

This creates the ability for your ligaments, tendons, and muscles to all stretch and move in a way that allows your pinky to curve.

Your left hand fingers should almost always be curved, with the exception of the flat pinky needed to do harmonics etc...

This is also assuming that your 'set up' is all in order too. Chin rest, shoulder rest, violin angle placement, etc...

Hope this helps!

Good Luck!



November 13, 2012 at 02:12 AM · I would recommend three things:

1) Practice octaves.More firmness with the 4th finger than the first, but heavier bow pressure on the bottom string.

2) Practice two "exaggerated" (very fast, grace-note-like) dotted rhythms (the dotted eight/sixteenth, and the sixteenth/dotted eighth). On the dotted eighth/sixteenth, lift the fourth finger high from the string (I know this seems contrary to your problem, but do it anyway). On the sixteenth/dotted eighth, keep the fourth finger very close to the string (but always playing clearly).

3) MOST importantly, practice descending scales placing ALL of your fingers at once at the string crossing, then lift each one away to produce the next note. If this becomes your "norm", you will not have the problem of the fourth finger sticking up too high because it will integrate more naturally into your hand frame. In fact, I suspect that if you develop your hand frame to a greater extent, this will not be an issue at all in the future.

On a side-note, sometimes lifting the finger higher is DESIRABLE if you want more left hand articulation, but it seems that your description is more one of a habit in need of change.

Good practicing.:-)

November 13, 2012 at 01:52 PM · Sometimes this is a sign of first finger dominance. Practice the reverse Geminiani chord. The first finger should feel like this much of the time. i.e it shouldn't be your go-to finger.

You should feel slightly like you are always reaching back to place the first finger. When this becomes so, your hand will be rotated properly and the 4th finger will be much closer to the finger board.

Also practice placing the fourth finger on the string without collapsing the knuckle. Then practice one and two octave scales on one string using only the 4th finger (one it is placed).

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