How to Third finger!

February 22, 2015 at 06:52 AM · Hi everybody!

So because of the recent "Are these stretches difficult?" thread, I was reminded of an issue that I have DESPAIRED over...

But it's the exact opposite. When practicing Kreutzer no. 9 (the f major one), in places where my 4th and 3rd pinky are a semitones apart, for example on the a string d f e f d f e f where d is played 2nd finger and f and e are a semitone apart, ESPECIALLY since the fourth finger goes on the string before the third, I can't squish in the fourth on top of the third.

So, basically, unclear rambling explanations aside, my third finger can't get to the semitone under the f.

1. My third always wants to go on the Eb (referring to prev. Example) and goes flat,

2. When I do try to slide it under the fourth finger, it moves my second finger up too

3. This method of sliding it in is really time consuming and doesn't allow me to play it super fast in tune

Result: when I do try to play it fast, the third is always a little flat, not noticeably when fast, but when I stop and listen it is definitely flat.

Are there any exercises to help with the ability of the third finger to bend the other way (as in pointing down the fingerboard) and the ability to wedge itself between the pinky and the string diagonally?

Sorry this is a really confusing explanation, but I hope you guys can understand it.

Ps. 3rd= ring finger

4th = pinky

Just in case.

Replies (66)

February 22, 2015 at 11:23 AM · On my viola, I have small hands, so:

For me "High Three" is stretched along the string, not really opened at its base-joint; its contact with the string is further from the fingernail, on the fleshy bit.

With a firmly-placed s"square" 2nd finger try:

- sliding the 3rd fingertip up & down the string, or,

- lifting and stretching it before placing it further;

many times a day, before meals!

If I'm going to play "4" followed by "high 3", I place the 3 & 4 together, may be with the "2" lifted.

BTW,for a "low 2" I keep the nail very short so the finger can curl out of the way rather than lean back. I often think of the 2nd finger as a pivot, rather than an anchor..

February 22, 2015 at 09:11 PM · hi Katherine, in that etude, when having to play with fingers 24342434 where there is just a semitone between 3 and 4, it is best to place fingers 3 and 4 together as a whole, then just lift the 4th finger.

February 22, 2015 at 11:16 PM · Greetings,

while this study is one of the greatest studies ever written, I am not convinced playing it fast is going to do you any good if the basic mechanism is not correct. Speed is not important in the early stages. It is a question of practicing really slowly and checking for complete relaxation, removal of extraneous movements and twitches and absolutely accurate intonation. If necessary stop between note and think clearly what you are going to do , what it looks and sounds like and so on.

Having talked about your small hands on a number of occasions I suppose this is the issue that you will have to do deal with as a violinist. We all have one or two that become part of our practice routine for the rest of our days.

The fingers have a specific relationship. The first and fourth are connected and can stretch easily. But the stretch is always down form the fouRuth to the first. So we balance the hand mainly on the fourth finge rand then the first is responsible for pulling backwards slightly to it's correct note. The 2nd and third work together as a team and the amount of stretch between them is limited. Nontheless this need Sto be developed , especially in your case. You need to find specific exercises that address she problem by keeping fingers down and having only the third finger move, either to that position below the fourth or up against the second in quite a low position. Such exercises can be found in a lot of Dounis and also in Simon Fischer's book Warming Up. Shorter trill exercises might also be better for you than trying to develop speed and endurance through slogging at that Kreutzer and developing a marvelous send eof virtue alongside a great deal of tension.

I also recommend a lot of focus on scales in thirds with the fourth or third finger placed first and then the lower ones added so you get use dot the idea of stretching back from higher to lower as well as developing more flexibility and strenght,



February 23, 2015 at 01:18 AM · Maybe I didn't understand your problem correctly, but what happens if you are higher on the fingerboard and the notes are even closer together? If the problem is far worse, then I think your fingers have to learn how to get out of one another's way in a timely manner. I have this problem often. If it seems easier in higher positions, then it suggests the issue is the position of your left hand. Who was it who said that the purpose of left hand position is to reach the notes?

If you have Suzuki Book 7, try the last piece in the book, the Allegro by Corelli. It's not a super hard piece especially if you play it slowly but it's a good workout for the third and fourth fingers in relatively low positions, going between whole-step and half-step spacing.

K9 is a good study but it's long. I find I have to work up to playing something like that all the way through without fatigue, especially if I stop along the way and work on individual sections, which is pretty much always.

February 23, 2015 at 04:00 AM · Sorry -- I didn't clarify --

For me, I don't necessarily have small hands (I think) I just have a relatively short pinky which makes it land with almost - ALMOST straight knuckles when playing a D on the G string in first position. Trying to fix this, but the problem that it causes is that because it's at such a steep angle to the finger board

As in, more than 135 degrees on the unit circle to the fingerboard,

Third finger has no space to come from above and LAND on the Enatural, instead, it has to do a sliding motion or the pinky has to be on the very tip,

And also, the third doesn't seem to want to land right next to the pinky. When I do the sliding option, it's not because my hand is small that the second finger moves up, it's because of the impulse? That you guys have mentioned--the connection between the 2nd and 3rd fingers, but not necessarily stretch--that makes the second want to slide as well and go sharp.

Yes I Guess I shouldn't be playing super fast right now hehehe...but I couldn't resist. It was just one time...:)

But placing the third and fourth down together is a solution I hadn't thought of. The thing is, it's hard to keep them together as they are coming down because of the connection between 2nd and 3rd (isn't the connection caused by a shared nerve in the hand or something like that?). In general it's really awkward.

Are there any exercises to fix this problem specifically? :)

Thank you!

February 23, 2015 at 04:14 AM · Greetings,

placing fingers in blocks IE together is a vital technique , especially in rapid passages. However, I am not sure MIT is as good idea to emphasize this in this particular etude. The actual relationship between the third and fourth fingers is quite an important feature of this study . The fourth finger should be slightly closer to the string than the third when you are playing lower fingers. Block technique may have a certain aspect of fanning down to it. One does not not necessarily place them with equal weight simultaneously either.

I am not entirely clear at what point you are doing the sliding action, but if it when the finger is actually resting on the string this is a terrible habit and you need to stop and rethink what you are doing immediately.

The independence of the fingers is another problem so you are actually dealing with two issues here although they are probably related. It is quite possible that you have a hidden tension problem in the base of the first finger. That is something you might check out.

I have already mentioned specific exercises,



February 23, 2015 at 05:39 AM · albeit not very specifically....

February 23, 2015 at 06:56 AM · By sliding I mean..

I guess on contact/mid air, maybe a little on the fingerboard :(

That's why what I'm doin is cumbersome and I was wondering if there was a better way.

It's hard to explain, but this is my pinky on the fingerboard:


But the digonal is more slanted to the left because pinky short and has a short reach.

And when my third finger goes to a spot right under the slant which is represented by the period


It has to kind of glide in diagonally and slide into place. But with block fingering that issue will be fixed... I think. It's just a matter of coordinating the weird ring finger (it's so weird! It always wants to copy the middle finger...)

With the pinky rather than the middle finger.

Tension? :((((((( ;(((((((( ;___;

How do you know and hw do I fix it? Recently I changed my set up to supporting the violin with my left hand more and so my hand has been cramping up SO MUCH in the thumb : does the phantom index finger tension have anything to do with it?

February 23, 2015 at 07:37 AM · It sounds to me you are trying to stretch up with your pinkie. What you want to try is to bring your thumb closer to you. In other words, put your thumb somewhere between the second and third position and stretch back for the first and maybe the second fingers for their notes. This will decrease the slant on your pinkie, thus giving more room for the third finger. Another way to think about this is to use the thumb position for doing fingered octaves.

February 23, 2015 at 08:37 AM · It's reassuring to find everyone agreeing!

So, in a (few) word(s):

- Fourth finger rules (it's the others that let it);

- fourth finger more curved (to allow eventual extensions, and make room for the third);

- fourth and first as a team (working at mobility of the second & third, which is not what nature intended!)

February 23, 2015 at 03:28 PM · Hello Katherine,

There is a later Kreuzter etude with octaves that may be helpful in strengthening the third finger by using it to "push" against the fourth finger while shifting to the higher positions. I'm not sure if this exact solution. Curious as to what you and other folks think.


February 23, 2015 at 04:21 PM · For me the big issue is just getting my elbow far enough under my violin so that my pinky is not straight when I am playing notes like D on the G strong. It's especially important for thirds (e.g., the short section of thirds on the G string in K35 is very hard for me, I mean just physically reaching the notes). So, maybe it's your elbow too. Hold up your arm like you've just completed an arm curl with a dumbbell. Now drive your elbow 2-3 inches toward the right. Look what happens, your hand rotates and your pinky is more to the left.

What you describe (tension in your thumb) suggests that you've got overall setup issues that need to be corrected. Maybe the wrong SR.

February 23, 2015 at 04:27 PM · If we could see a picture of the hand shape of all four finger on A string stopping B-C#-D#-E, then we could tell what kind of correction (if any) is needed.

February 23, 2015 at 05:35 PM · SR? I hardly dare mention such a thing, but my CR & SR are adapted to give my viola a 45° tilt (30° on the violn) so my short pinky can do a decent vibrato on the lowest string.

February 23, 2015 at 05:59 PM · Katherine,

This exercise is designed for finger dexterity, finger independence and finger strength. Actually you really need to lift the fourth finger just a bit to make room for the third finger and the same with the third finger when placing the fourth finger next to it if you really want to be in tune. The lifting of the fingers before placing them on the fingerboard will develop finger strength. As discussed speed in the beginning should not be attempted until you have developed some finger strength in your left hand. This exercise if done carefully and correctly will develop that finger strength and finger independence needed to play certain passages on the violin. It's a very good exercise to strengthen the third and especially the fourth finger.

February 23, 2015 at 10:17 PM · Greetings,

I agree Joel. That is why I am anlittle wary of the notion of 'blocking' if it means trying to place both fingers as a kind of double stop on one string. Thisactually causes tension. The correct shape I was taught at college was to have bothe finger extremely close to the string but the fourth is a little closer. I was glad to see this is exactly the point Clayton Haslopnmakes primary in his DVD lessons of the Kreutzer etudes.

This corresponds to the relaxed fan shape of the fingers if you put your left hand in playing position without the violin and look at the shape. The little finger lands on the string a micro second before the fourth in most cases I think. Focusing on the rather difficult act of precise simultaneous placement cause tension in the hand and defeats the object of independence.

There is also a school of thought that Kreutzer did not actua

ly primarily intend this as a fourth finger exercise. Rather one uses it as a string crossing exercises with open strings, especially at the heel. It may have been Auer writing about it in his little book that lead to the general view that this is the non plus ultra of fourth finger studies (which it is....) and not much else.

But as far as the OP is concerned the general issue sof tension override concerns about the micro details of playing this etude. If there is that much tension in the hand then this urgent issue takes precedent over going through Kreutzer exudes just because they are good for you,



February 24, 2015 at 01:52 AM ·  photo IMG_0136_zpsac7582b0.jpg

 photo IMG_0135_zps17ebeae2.jpg

 photo IMG_0132_zpsfa2fac79.jpg

Here are the images, as requested, if this works.

So block fingering is NOT a good solution? confused.

Also, cringing as I mention this, but I don't use a shoulder rest. I changed a couple months ago...but I really want to learn how to really relax and support the violin with the left hand more without thumb-cramping as I really like playing without the shoulder rest. Sorry to bring this up guys. I realize the huge argument going on around this topic.

Thanks for all the helpful responses :)

February 24, 2015 at 02:37 AM · Hi Katherine, you've got a good looking frame. But some of us with shorter pinkies have to adjust the frame for different contexts. To help your pinky you just have to train your 2nd finger to give a little.

In your normal frame the 2nd base knuckle is flexed. Because it's strong it can easily over power and keep the 3rd and 4th base knuckles back with it (toward the scroll.) To give your pinky the advantage, curl 2 as much as you can. Notice in order to do this you have to open the 2nd base knuckle straight. This creates some tension in 2, but allows you to open the 3rd and 4th base knuckles, adds more curl giving a steeper finger placement, and gives the weaker fingers more leverage. This is how you balance your hand over the weaker fingers. If you had to use the 1st finger in this context it would need to extend back. If you're not used to this it'll feel weird at first, but distorting the frame is the basis of all extension and contraction fingerings. You just have to learn how to 'snap back' into frame when you need to.

A couple of other ways to help the pinky. Place 2 on the left side of the string (grab a fifth with D string if necessary) and leave 1 in the air.

To get more leverage with the fingers rotate the base knuckles over the strings more. You can achieve this by moving the elbow to the right (to roll the fingers over, you need to slide the thumb under.) If that adds too much strain leave your elbow and tilt your fiddle (to temporarily tilt you can tuck your chin on the right side of your chin rest.) You can also add leverage by flexing your wrist ever so slightly.

I also think that for speed you need independence rather than block fingering. I would start by exaggerating alternating motions. When 2 is down, lift 4 (into a curl) as high (far back) as it will go. When 4 goes down lift 2 high. Focus on simultaneously alternating the place and lift. Precision is key. Place 3, simultaneously lifting 4. Place 4, simultaneously lift 3, etc. When you've got the coordination make the place/lift quick and explosive. Of course this is just an exercise. When playing at speed you'd keep fingers close to the strings, but I would always feel these slight alternating motions for fast alternating fingerings. (If you haven't tried such calisthenics type exercises I can give you a list of materials.)

If playing a high 3 is pulling 2 with it you might need to adjust your default frame to balance a little more toward 3 and 4 at the expense of the stronger 2 and 1.

February 24, 2015 at 03:11 AM · Greetings,

there you have the necessary changes explained in detail.

In general I think this kind of hand does have t he thumb more under the neck . In this ase I don't think moving it forward is going to help.

Just curious. Are you jumping straight from rest to no rest? I would guess it seems very possible for you, but would it help to have as mall piec eof sponge under the left side for a while?

Here is Simon's basic exercise for improving hand shape and stretch back.

Play fourth finger a in fourth position. Keep the little finger comfortable and curved.

Now play sevcik style

a d ad (the d is on the e string double stop)

a csharp acsharp

a b ab

a a aa (That's a unison fourth position a and third position a)

You don't need to force these intervals if you can't get them in tune yet. The process is important.

after you double stop the two notes pause for a moment and check the roundness and ease of the little finger. Then try to move the base knuckle of the fourth finger in towards the violin.If necessary gently push it with the right hand. Stop between each double stop and do this small pressing action. Nkotice how the little finger fans out away from the third..

Now repeat starting with a fourth finger g in third position doing the same intervals and nudging in. Go all the way down to first position if you can. The stretches are big there.



February 24, 2015 at 11:32 AM · Blocking. Try the words "placing", or "grouping" to get the benefits without the parasitic tensions?

February 24, 2015 at 11:38 AM · But Im always happy when my parasites are suffering from tension. Especialy the cat.

February 24, 2015 at 02:48 PM · What Joel said is what I meant by your fingers needing to get out of each other's way. You *might* get away with "block" fingering (having both third and fourth fingers on the fingerboard at once) in first position if you have narrow finger tips, but there's no way this will be possible in higher positions (the stops are just too close together) so you might as well not teach yourself something that cannot be generalized to the whole fingerboard.

Buri mentioned the sponge. There is something in between rigid shoulder rests (like the famous Kun) and no shoulder rest at all. It's called the Poly-Pad and you can get it at Johnson String, just go to their website and type "polypad" into the search box. If you are trying to wean away from the SR quickly, try the "medium" size. If you want to do so more gradually, try the "large" size. Never mind what they say about the medium one being for a 3/4 violin. If you get one of each then you can experiment some. (Having done that experimentation, I know that I want something in between the large and the medium, so I ordered a large one, which I will cut down.)

I'm neither a professional nor a pedagogue but from your pictures I wonder if your elbow is far enough to the right and whether your wrist is having a tendency to collapse inward a little. Especially in your second picture the heel of your hand looks like it is very close to the button, maybe that's just the photo angle.

February 24, 2015 at 11:13 PM · Greetings,

Paul, what I mean by block fingering is the simultaneously placing as as double stop on one string. As you correctly observe two fingers together can be impossible in the nether regions but in this étude there is a point where the two fingers must be on the string at the same time simply because if you lift an upper finger and the lower is just beginning to contact the string the sound will not be clear.



February 25, 2015 at 12:53 AM · Something in the hand doesn't quite right in the last picture. But I am not quite sure how to describe it. I have to think about it.

February 25, 2015 at 01:05 AM · THANK YOU ALL FOR SO MUCH HELP!

But after reading through, I'm still confused about whether I should practice with block fingering or independent fingering in this scenario. There seems to be benefits of both methods?

Personally, I only realized that block fingering was a thing recently. I think I was subconsciously weaned off of it...because there was no transition from block to non-block. I realized that I use individual fingering most of the time (except the places where it makes sense to use block fingering?)...

So right now in the etude, I'm placing 4th finger before 3rd and not both together, but isn't it more reasonable to do both together so that the 3rd doesn't have to slide into position right next to 4th? The only thing is, like Paul said, what happens when you get to the screechy note areas, and you have some thing like a f e f e f e f e f where the top finger goes first-- since placing both fingers at the same time doesn't work (because of width of fingers compared to width of intonation) and sliding the 3rd into position (where you put the 4th on first then the 3rd) doesn't work, what to do?

so neither method works in high positions?

For shoulder rests etc, I DID jump directly from sr to no sr. A sponge would have been helpful, but I didn't know that intermediates existed oops. So I switched off and on, putting on the SR only when I got fatigued, etc.

I don't get tired anymore really (my shoulder hurts sometimes, but it's getting less and less) and my posture is pretty satisfactory, i think. Would it still help at this time to have a sponge or padding?

The only fear I have against it is that my arm might start sagging if I have something in the gap between shoulder and violin. Part of the reason I switched was because the SR was making my shoulder sore and also my left arm was not high, because I was depending on the shoulder rest that was not tall enough to bridge the gap. so the violin was low.

If I have padding there, I probably would have to lower my arm for the padding/to make contact (If i just stick my violin to the side of my neck right under my jaw, it doesn't even make contact with the base of my neck), would that be bad?

And actually, Paul, the reason for that was because I was taking the picture and holding the violin from the scroll side. No one was there to help me take a pic ;( so I mounted the phone on my stand and leaned the bottom of the violin against the window ledge. The only pic taken of me actually holding the violin correctly was the first photo (and even then my right arm was holding up the HEAVY CAMERA) -- that was hard work. :) maybe that also answers Kevin's instinct on the third photo.

February 25, 2015 at 10:24 AM · Greetings,

the idea of trying to place fingers in a bloc, im still not entirely convince this is what Adrian meant, was new to me in this study. With all due respect and apologies in advance I sat down tonite and tried `both ways.` I have to say that this idea, while intellectually appealing is technically incorrect. I did give it a fair hsot but within ten seconds it was very obvious that when one tries to drop two fingers simultaneously in a block that the rhythm becomes uneven, facility is inhibited and the wrong mental commands are being sent to the fingers. On the other hand playing it as a normally fingered rapid passage with good relationship between the fingers slightly alternating fingerings is electrifyingly fast and accurate as well as completely relaxed. With my hat off to an interesting idea I advise you to forget it as quickly as possible. It is a very fishy red herring.

I am sorry I cant offer a technical explanation for why this is so. But once you just play it it is patently obvious.



February 25, 2015 at 01:51 PM · Buri, I am used to Blocking, in descending passages,(just like a flautist...), and when starting a trill on the upper note, so it doesn't seem to affect my rhythm. But some younger (cheekier?) students pointed out that I lift my non-playing fingers more than I realised.

So we are both right?

February 25, 2015 at 05:04 PM · But the difference between a flute and strings is the pressure gradient. Violin fingering is not on/off.

Alternating pressure is important for countermotion. Keeping fingers down is like pushing the left arm forward while swinging a right forehand in tennis. For power and follow through you want to rotate the shoulders (from hips and torso.) Similarly, in punching you gain speed by countering with the opposite arm.

Timing is important for countermotion. You lose the transmission of force if you punch with the right arm, then pull back with the left. But more importantly it's only in feeling the seemingly separate motions as a single whole that you've truly got countermotion. If the timing is off, if you prevent countermotion, there is excess tension in the prevention, what could be described as 'heldness' for lack of a better word. Heldness prevents fluid motion. For fluid motion you gotta allow the countermotion, no matter how imperceptible it may be.

So for fast alternating fingering, to play a note the whole motion involves lifting the old finger (even if barely) while simultaneously placing the new.

The most difficult part of K9 is lifting 3-4, because of a tendency to hold 3 after placing 4, to get back to 2. But if placing 4 already involves the countermotion of releasing 3, it is then much easier to lift 4-3 while placing 2 (even if 2 is left on the string, it should remain released until its turn.)

February 25, 2015 at 05:39 PM · Buri, you wrote, "there is a point where the two fingers must be on the string at the same time simply because if you lift an upper finger and the lower is just beginning to contact the string the sound will not be clear."

That's what I struggle with, so I appreciate the attention that you've given to this problem. isn't the point figuring out how to do this little dance without losing clarity? There's no way I can put down both fingers all the way to the fingerboard and have both the E natural and the F natural in tune. And shouldn't the same problem exist for any pair of fingers, but we only concern ourselves with 3 and 4 because the 1 and 2 are stronger and more agile?

February 25, 2015 at 05:51 PM · "Pressure gradient".

I may have fingers ready, but not pressing as for playing the note.

All my bad habits (!) come partly from the viola, where the there is minimum pressure required to make the tone clear, and a certain fast "drop" on the string in ascending legato (and sometimes a mini L.H. pizz in descending legato) (and where my fingers don't touch each other at allin the lower positions..)

So everyone is right!


February 25, 2015 at 09:03 PM · Greetings,

AdrIan , I think we are probably talking about the same thing. I am absolutely sure you can sit down and bang out that étude at 180 or 200 or what ever in a fluid and accurate manner. There comes a point where if it's coming out correctly then it is correct......

The only concern I have here is the OP may have taken away the idea that two fingers are placed simultaneously on the string with roughly equal pressure. That is clearly wrong.

The key point is having the fingers close to the strings with the fourth slightly highe than the third. I don't think my third touchES the string until the fourth is released but it's certainly close. I enjoy the sensation of the contrary motion in the fingers.

Paul, as long as the position of the hand and fingers is correct in the highe repositions then really it is just a question of being relaxed enough to get stuff out the way when necessary. playing the violin has never been that easy.....



February 25, 2015 at 10:03 PM · I love this thread: it's making me re-think my ageing violist's hand!

In a 3rd-4th trill, my hand will roll onto, rather than press with, the 3rd. Thus the 4th will have less trouble articulating the less responsive viola strings. But I can still feel the alternating finger bit.

In K9, for 2-4-3-4, I'll roll onto the 2nd while the 3rd & 4th hop with merry freedom..

February 25, 2015 at 11:22 PM · little bit of built in vibrato probably helps to keep the hand relaxed as well.

With as little imagination I suppose open could play the whole étude with a huge vibrato.


February 26, 2015 at 02:26 AM · Since this conversation has clearly started talking about motions and stuff, here's a video of the me playing half of the first page.

I tried to zoom in as much as possible on the fingers

. Sorry in advance for the bad intonation (still working on it! I had a bad habit of sliding whenever I hit the note, and have been very strict with myself since I realized it) and mess-ups and bad moving around

It's for reference so that you guys don't have to describe whatever you're talking about in words (a video is worth 1000 x 1000 words right? (get it? picture squared). Anyway, is this the way you people are talking about? :)))

It seems there were many opinion changes

February 26, 2015 at 02:42 AM · Greetings,

sorry I haven't had time to look at the video yet. It's great you understand what a serious issue this finger sliding thing is. Some people go for years never realising. You might find it useful to check out Intonation hits on this site. This wa as concept invented by a very great teacher called Drew Lecher who doesn't appear on this site so much these days, sadly. Some people had trouble getting the idea behind these Repetition Hits so I wrote a blog called I think, 'A humble stab at Repetition hits' or something like that which may have helped to clarify things a bit. Anyway, they are an excellent supplement to ones practice.



February 26, 2015 at 08:36 AM · Opinion changes?

"At 33 I knew everything, at 66 I'm still learning" (quote from myself..)

I don't nomally read posts that need scrolling on my ancient screen, but Buri's descriptions make me "zoom in" on minute sensations that I was taking for granted.


Heifetz and Flesch mention the minute, on-the-fly adjustments involved in good intonation. (I do too, but..) but they shouldn't be audible.

Perhaps the sliding should be in the air, before landing on the string?


I like the Repetition Hits.

(But I don't like his bowing, with a ghastly "clunk" at both ends of the stroke..)

The video?

Not bad. Apart from those wicked slides you seem to be doing the right things. Which is why our posts are concerned with minutae that are audible rather than visible.

Maybe the line of knuckles could be a shade higher when playing on the lower strings, so that fingers 1&2 can give 3&4 more romm to breathe?

February 26, 2015 at 09:07 AM · You have a bad habit of bending your wrist back when using 4th finger. This is very, very, very counterproductive - I could put more 'very's' in here. You need to work on keeping the wrist straight or bending slightly forward when stretching the 4th finger.

February 26, 2015 at 09:18 AM · Very true. It may come from a smallish hand needing to open the fingers backward in a fan-like shape: the wrist tends to collapse instead of strengthening the finger-movements.

Better to lean on the near edge of the table to stretch for a distant object, rather than slide oneself under the table?

February 26, 2015 at 02:02 PM · Counterproductive to what specifically, Charles?

" on keeping the wrist straight or bending slightly forward when stretching the 4th finger."

But she's extending her 1st finger back while preserving the curl in her pinky. Even when stretching the 4th finger forward, pulling the wrist back toward the scroll pulls the base knuckle of the pinky back with it, away from its target. In that posture the pinky has no further stretching ability since it will be fully extended. If your hands are big enough to reach a big extension with a convex wrist, you may not understand that not everyone can do that in the lower positions.

Hand size is not the determining factor to concave v convex wrist but rather whether one likes to keep the hand more balanced or more oblique. Compare Perlman v Zukerman.

February 26, 2015 at 04:24 PM · Hi Katherine, I watched your video and I noticed a few things.

Whilst I think you have good mobility, I think firstly you are playing that exercise too fast. The timing is uneven, and you seem to be 'stabbing' at the notes, and maybe this is one reason why your intonation is a little bit out in places.

You also appear to be wasting energy by lifting your fingers too high after playing the notes. If you only lift off enough to clear the string, then there's less effort required to re-use them - plus there's less room for intonation error too.

Going back to your original post where you say you have difficulty using 3rd and 4th fingers and asking for an exercise that might help, I have a suggestion.

Sevcik Opus 1, part one, Ex 5 - an isolation exercise that with cover all combinations of fingers 2,3,4 in 1st position.

Sevcik Opus 1, part two, Ex 1 - same again, but covers 2nd position.

Here's the link

One last thing - you might want to think about 'clustering' - meaning, (eg) if you make a finger pattern of 1-2-3, whole tones apart, on the A string, and you need to repeat this pattern on the D string, move your whole hand *as a unit*, preserving the shape.

In other words, if you've created a cluster / shape, don't break it and re-make it again just because you move to an adjacent string.

I hope this is of help to you :)

February 26, 2015 at 04:25 PM · I watched the video with envy. I cannot yet hold down the B and reach the tritone (BFEF BFEF BFEF on the A string). My plan is to work on that once I am pretty darn sure I can play CFEF correctly, which is not yet.

I realize K9 is not a vibrato study (Buri's jests notwithstanding), but your vibrato is not very fluid, and I wonder if that's because you're clamping your violin between your first finger base knuckle and your thumb to hold up your violin with no SR. I realize there are plenty of restless players with gorgeous vibratos, but maybe that is something to ask your teacher about.

February 26, 2015 at 04:53 PM · As has been said before, taking it a lot slower would be helpful at this stage. It is important to have the hand frame settled before each group is played. (I see a lot of adjustments going on midflight.)

But I am actually going to suggest giving a 7/8 violin a try. Your hand looks a little uncomfortable on the neck.

February 26, 2015 at 08:05 PM · Here is a video to show you how the distance of the 4th finger is negatively effected by the bending back of the wrist, try it yourself.

When I hold the violin in the same way as Li at 048- 050 in her video, I find it near impossible to play this passage.

February 26, 2015 at 08:53 PM · Charles, I can't access your video.

But she can play it. Does it follow that because you can't do something a certain way no one should?

Having looked at the video more closely, I don't see a concave wrist anywhere--look how far away from the neck the palm remains throughout--except for the one place where she balances for the 2-4-3-4 pattern. That amount of inward bending doesn't look problematic to me, much less a bad habit (it only happens once). On the contrary, it produces the very result for which it is used.

Edit: I think I'm misunderstanding your terms Charles. By bending back, do you mean flexing the wrist (closing the palm-side angle smaller than 180 degrees) and by bending forward, extending the palm-side wrist greater than 180 degrees?

Katherine's wrist doesn't look extreme to me either way. There are pros and cons to everything. Keeping the wrist bent inward toward the neck (extension) is more relaxed for the wrist and allows more curl in the pinky but offers less leverage for the fingers. A slight bump on the back of the wrist (slight flexion) pulls the base knuckle of the pinky toward the scroll, adds a bit of tension to the wrist, but offers more leverage for the fingers.

February 26, 2015 at 10:22 PM · Greetings,

I agree, I don't feel the wrist is an issue here. As far as I can see the most immediate problem is the tension in the left hand thumb. When the going gets tough it starts to squeeze , collapses in slightly and you can see an increase in whiteness.

It did cross my mind this might also be feeding into the right hand thumb and vice versa although it is hard to tel from this angle.

Anyway its not half as bad as the build up suggests although it does demonstrate the adage that one should never finish on the last note one plays when making a video ;)



February 26, 2015 at 10:33 PM · Buri, it's funny but I had never thought about *not* putting two fingers down together in this exercise! I had always been taught that it was the key principle for this one. So just to test it out, I took out the violin and played it. It looks like my 3 and 4 always go down together and my 2 and 3 don't. So... I don't know. I suppose I always make a point of teaching with block fingerings because most students are completely unfamiliar with the technique. I love the detail on this thread! Let me know if a video would help anyone.

February 26, 2015 at 10:44 PM · Greetings

I think we need some tech guy to create a pressure sensitive fingerboard that can evaluate timing of contact and degree of pressure applied by each finger.

Playing block fingerInge is an essential aspect of efficient technique and it ia indeed alarming that so few students seem to be aware of the issue in scales and the like,



February 26, 2015 at 11:04 PM · Yes please on the video Nathan, if you have the time. The relative lengths of fingers makes a big difference (let's face it, size matters... :( Nathan you have a pretty ideal hand shape. I would guess your strong pinky allows for simultaneous placement, without the 3rd finger overpowering the 4th. But can you tell if they land with equal pressure? I'm finding my ring finger does sometimes touch down at the same time but it does not press until its turn. I think alternating strong fingers helps to keep it from locking up.


I agree with Buri re. thumb. I can't tell if it's a problem. It is not stuck, but it might impede further speed. Not that you should play this way, but during those passages where your thumb collapses inward, try curling the thumb so that it's joints move away from the side of first finger as an exercise.

February 26, 2015 at 11:19 PM · Greetings,

there might be another aspect of finge rpressure here which I dint think has been mentioned yet. We are assuming that 2nd finger stays down unchanged for the duration of the time that the third and fourth are playing tennis with each other. Would the hand be mor eof less relaxed or no change if this pressure was released slightly and then reapplied on each beat. I've never tried this but it might be fun to experiment with an exercise where 2nd releases and reappliES on the beat as it is used. That might be an interesting mind game to play at a slow tempo...;)



February 27, 2015 at 12:10 AM · Buri, I find that it helps to lift the pedal note periodically (for 2434 pattern.) If I try to do it every time it messes me up. If I try to keep it down, my hand seizes from time to time. Don't know the optimal switches back and forth, but maybe it can be choreographed. I would definitely practice that way in slow tempo. There's a great Yost book where he has a silent exercise like that, where he writes out every combination of lift/place between all the fingers and all strings. I also find it helps to pulse a little with the bow, applying little accents with each pedal note, in places where it's musically acceptable to do so.


Katherine, I would practice this much faster in chunks to see what limitations remain in your setup and motion, as well as much slower for intonation.

For chunks, take each group of 4 sixteenths and slur them with the next note. Play with a metronome. Accent each group, make sure you're precisely with the metronome and make sure the 5th note lands precisely on the next beat.

E. g. measure one: slur FAGAF, accent the first F with the metronome and land the last F on the next beat. Then permute the pattern. Play




Be precise. Even out the pressure for each pattern to make it sound even (even pressure means different strengths from the fingers.)

Once that feels pretty good, string two chunks together, then 3, working up to one measure at a time. Then string together measures, then phrases, etc. It doesn't really matter if you can play through at this faster tempo. When you go back to a more reasonable tempo I think you'll find it much easier. Speed is a different kind of strength (both in terms of the neuromuscular system and muscle recruitment--you recruit fast twitch muscle fibres and more bundles.) Getting strong at a given tempo doesn't translate to strength at a faster tempo. But strengthening a faster tempo does help slower tempos.

Separately, spend time on all the changes, whether string cross or shift.

E. g. between m2 and m3:


A, Bflat fast

then, GA, BflatD

AGA, BflatDC


Do this for all the changes, then plug them back in to phrases.

For slow practice, play position patterns. Leave out repeated patterns, play each different pattern in sequence using all four fingers. Starting at the beginning (if you're starting in 2nd posn) play

FGABflat (2nd posn = II)

BflatCDE (II)

FGABflat (II)

BflatCDE (II)


That is, play 1234 for each position for each pattern. Pay attention to the sequences where you extend back on 1.

Also play 4321 for each pattern. You can use any pattern you want, you can play all first fingers of each position, but make sure your hand/brain knows where every finger should go in every position. I would tune high, mostly to the upper open strings for this etude. It'll resonate more and you end up playing those open string later anyway.

P. S. and thanks for starting this thread. I haven't practiced this etude in a loooooong time and it's been great.

February 27, 2015 at 01:20 AM · I did a quick video just now, even wearing my Santa Barbara Suzuki T-shirt I realized! I'd be remiss not to mention that I usually do this kind of thing at my online school, but I thought this thread was important enough to warrant a special edition video.

February 27, 2015 at 02:06 AM · Wow, thanks Nathan! That was quick response time.

Having subscribed to for a year I highly recommend it, especially for those working on orchestral solos, excerpts and the standard concerti, and for technique. You can submit videos of yourself and Nathan will post a video response like he did above.

February 27, 2015 at 02:56 AM · Greetings,

many thanks Nathan.


I wrote a quick blog inspired by your attitude. Hope you like it.



February 27, 2015 at 03:13 AM · Great blog post Buri, I really like that idea of choice points. Make the choice when we have the time to make the choice.

When trying to change a habit I would get students to "stop and go." Play 4 notes, stop, think what you just did, think what you're going to do, play next 4 notes, stop, think, etc. Play a measure, stop and think, play next measure, etc. Focus on one thing at a time, learn how to bracket everything else. I think I drove them crazy, but the way you frame it is much more zen.

When I get into something I often have a hard time stopping to break and reflect. I think I need to choose to stop and make more choices.

February 27, 2015 at 04:18 AM · The bending of the wrist towards the scroll is the reason why the thumb is tense. If she keeps her wrist straight or brings the arm forward a bit, the thumb will not tense up.

Jeewon, I imitated the way she held her wrist and thumb, and found it very difficult to play this way; good intonation and speed were near impossible. This way of imitation is a teaching technique to find what the student is doing wrong. Yes, we modify technique to suit the student, but there are rights ways and wrong ways of doing things.

February 27, 2015 at 05:34 AM · Charles, it's difficult to be certain from video, but I disagree. I can reproduce what she does and play it in tune. I don't think the wrist or the thumb is causing poor intonation. The wrist doesn't look extreme to me. The thumb is not cooperating with the frame and it sometimes moves randomly. I'm guessing this is because of the sudden change to restless playing and it will take a while to sort out. The hand/thumb doesn't really know its position at times and some finger patterns are not quite secure yet. But it's a work in progress. The biggest clue pointing to the thumb as culprit is that the wrist moves to make room for the thumb (at which point she's playing a 2313 pattern, not 4th finger,) and in the final measure the wrist is straight while the thumb is thrust forward. The thumb ends up so far from the hand because in spite of its position the wrist straightens itself. That's what I see.

February 27, 2015 at 05:37 AM · Hi everybody! Sorry for the late response to all of your suggestions --


I read Repetition Hits and when I read it, I had an eureka moment! Because I was looking for a way to improve my finger/bow coordination. This exercise focuses on the coordination, correct? I WAS JUST LOOKING FOR THIS!!!:)

Thank you for the blog! I really agree on the awareness of physical that you talked about. Sometimes during violin practice, the focus hides how much you actually are uncomfortable. (Like my left thumb -wince-)

Hi Jim,

What do you mean by "stabbing" at the notes exactly? Is it the same thing as using too much pressure on the downwards motion?

February 27, 2015 at 05:58 AM · Although this thread started as a "third finger problem" thread, I find myself finding more and more problems to bring up with my hand, and questions to ask. I hope you guys don't mind!

As I said before, my left palm has been cramping up alot, most obviously during double stops(the thumb muscle side) and I was so happy to see responses to the video that addressed the thumb. It started when I began using the left hand to actually hold up the violin -- I have figured out (I think) that before I switched to restless, I was using the shoulder to clamp the violin and that's why my shoulder was sore all the time. Now it's my thumb! :(

But before, my fingers pulled down at the violin to press the strings, and my thumb was so relaxed it was amazing. Of course, I never appreciated that until now :)

Now, without support of the shoulder rest, my hand was finding a way to support the violin -- at first, I watched a ton of videos and did a lot of research, but none of the methods of holding the scroll up worked for me, (I tried the way of moving the thumb so high up that the violin settles deep into the V of the index and thumb, but there was so much traction that my violin was falling out whenever I shifted downwards. Also, the transition from lower positions to high screechy positions was not smooth, as the thumb had to come back down and under, round the neck, so that the fingers could reach up high) so I just settled with putting the thumb underneath in an awkward shape.

What exactly is the hand position supposed to be?

February 27, 2015 at 08:28 AM · "What exactly is the hand position supposed to be?"

There is absolutely no one answer! Helpful, am I not?

I now teach 11 to 14 yo girls, sometimes with full-sized fiddles that their parents bought too soon. Their hands are as different as their faces, and usually narrow across he palm. What helps me to help them is the fact that I switch back & forth from violin to viola, so I know that there is no one way to place hand wrist, & thumb, even though we all want the same result.

Even if, as Charles recommends, I copy their hand shape, our joints, tendons and muscles are all quite different.

Nathan's video is close to what I do and teach (although he looks much younger and obviously practices more!) He places fingers in advance, but without defining their pressure until playing. He was even surprised to find that prepared fingers actually lifted as speed increased... So I am not alone!

Like myself on the viola, Nathan can keep a curved 4th finger because his index and middle finger curl back.

Thumb tension? Thumb shapes and joints are so varied that it is quite impossible to be dogmatic. Without support from the shoulder, the violin neck has somehow to rest on some part of the thumb, and against, not on the base of the index. I don't "hold" my fiddle, I "hold it up". That said, the external appearance will vary immensely, from person to person, and even from moment to moment.

So I find there are no "correct" ways, only "best" ways for each of us..

February 27, 2015 at 12:32 PM · [*Hi Jim,

What do you mean by "stabbing" at the notes exactly? Is it the same thing as using too much pressure on the downwards motion?*]

Hi Katherine, yes that is what I meant. I think if your unused fingers were closer to the strings it would make things a lot easier and you'd expend less effort.

@Nathan Cole - excellent video. Thank you for sharing.

February 27, 2015 at 01:50 PM · It's hard to catch, and describe, how the finger can arrive on the string with sufficient energy to start the new slurred note cleanly, but without "jabbing" with excessive force.

Sometimes lifting the finger just a little higher can allow a clear "pop" at the beginning of the note, but without gripping the string hard for the note's duration. A "slap" rather than a "jab"? Very necessary on my viola, much less on my violin.

February 27, 2015 at 02:32 PM · As Nathan said, "lifting the fingers with energy, rather than thinking of dropping them or hitting them with energy," is the key.

I don't think it matters how high you lift fingers as long as you lift them into their curls, as Nathan also mentioned in the video.

Energetic lifting motion is the weak link in most students finger action, along with too much pressure on the placing. As I mentioned above, you want to incorporate the lifting action of the old finger as part of the placing of the new finger (take a look at Yost's "Studies in Finger Action and Position Playing" linked above.) The countermotion provided by the vigorous lift is transferred into the placing finger, so that the placement can be executed without compression.

Adding false accents with the bow to emphasize the lifting finger can help to time the motion.

I'm not promoting wild fingers in the air (though some concert violinists actually play that way) but you don't want to suppress the lifting action either. Neither do you want high fingers to be laboured; you don't want to 'muscle' through the lift. Release the palm-side, and engage those extensors.

My teacher was a fanatic about lifting action and he used to get us to flick paper with the back of our fingers (back of the second knuckle.) With all other fingers down, we'd have to lower the working finger gradually over 4 counts and as soon as the fingertip touched the surface of the string (with no pressure) we'd have to lift the finger fast enough to snap the paper on the count of 1, very difficult to do with the third finger (it taps more than snaps.)

I'm not sure you have to get that fanatical, but when you exercise the fingers it's good to place the fingers with harmonics pressure and make every lift as fast and high as possible. After a while, once the lift/place alternation is timed perfectly, you start to feel the lifting motion throw the new finger down with enough force and snap.

February 27, 2015 at 03:07 PM · And snappy lifting is vital in descending slurred passages

March 1, 2015 at 11:32 PM · Greetings,

to go back to the oPs latest question about what is the correct hand position or something like that....

As Adrian pointed out, it's something to do with Shakespear, chairs, and the shape of one's bottom.

There is a famous anecdote about Galamian at a teacher sconference where a heated debate about thumb position wa staking place. Apparently he got a little tired of it (ProbaBly wanted a smoke) and pointed out that the position of the thumb is dictated by the fingers and not the other way around.

So I think in your case, the position of he hand etc. is dictated by the comfort of the fourth and third finger which you balance the hand on as opposed to the first. After that the position of the thumb depends on personal opinions but I would guess in your case pointing backwards a little or opposite he first is more likely than the more forward position towards your nose. Don't get too hung up on it.

As far as playing with a spInge is concerned it is quite normal for players who say they don't use rests. Almost all those great players like Oistrakh, Stern etc had specially padded jackets or used a piec eof sponge. Gitlis too slips aince unde this jacket in some of his vidoes. It should not impinge on you placing the instrument on the collar bone and touching your neck. The contact with the neck creates friction which contributes to holding the violin up. That is why a piece of chamois is so useful. It increase stat function. You might try fitting chamois around your chin rest.

Using the sponge gives you just a little extra support without getting in the way or causing you to raise your shoulder. Hopefully. I sucumb every now and again but find it an irritant after a while.

So that still leaves the question of finding the balanced, floating feeling that Raphael talks about on his web site. It is helpful to remove some factors when dealing with an apparent tension problem. A classic violin exercise is silent tapping. IE get rid of the bow for a moment. You could then use the exercises from Dounis Daily Dozen, Carl Flesch Urstudien, or Fischer Warming up to practice finger training and independence. The main point for you is to simply train yourself out of gripping. Follow Galamians advice and let the position of the thumb be dictated by the relaxed position of the fingers. Practicealittle and the moment you begin to tense stop and reset what your are doing. avoid mental commands like 'don't tense up,' and stop tensing up' These have the opposite effect. I have found the useful mental command to your muscles to be a gentle 'Do less!' It is actually important to talk to your body.

in order to further develop the balance of playing restless one may need to do more big shifts up and down the length of the finger board. The sevcik arpeggio pattern is useful. However I think one can go back to Dounis for some of those real big shifts. Stay relaxed and do as much as you can. Don't be intimidated by those huge leaps. You can experiment with lifting the violin to the le and raising it as you go for the nose picking.

Also from the daily dozen is a fantastic finger substitution exercise on the same note, and from the artists technique the exercises starting on page 24 for scale playing is invaluable. Always you are just balancing the violin on the thumb which is part of the hand arm which is part of your whole body. The whole thing is just one unit with an energy helix in the center lifting you skyward.

Have a great day,


sorry , the first doubts referred to is the artists technique which is a truly excellent resource. Go reeeal easy on the stretches if you are tempted.

March 2, 2015 at 09:56 AM · I can't find any reference to "the shape of people's bottoms" in my posts...

March 2, 2015 at 10:46 AM · You provided the sensible input, I provided the related quote from I think, the merchant Of Venice.



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