Problems with the little finger.

April 26, 2015 at 04:12 AM · My little finger gives me problems :

A. It sometimes drags across the other strings when coming down the scale because I do not lift it high enough. eg. in the third position, first finger on A of the E string, trying to play the G on the A string with the little finger...worse when trying to do it in one slow bow stroke. (The problem is not just on the E to A string but it is worse on those two strings.)

B. It sometimes drops below the fingerboard/neck when changing position on the E string. Again this is because I am not holding it high enough !

C. It is almost useless for vibrato unless I reinforce it with the third finger.

So...

1. Is it acceptable to change the fingering of a piece so you avoid using the little finger for vibrato ?

2. Do violinists change the fingering of a piece to suit their own playing for any reason ?

3. Any suggestions to train the little finger to stay raised until needed ? I have tried everything I can think of but I am not solving this problem.

NOTE : How do I edit the incorrect spelling in the title ?

Replies (24)

April 26, 2015 at 08:25 AM · 1. Yes!

2. Yes!

3. The little finger was never designed to play the violin, but simply to stablise what the other fingers are doing! It needs patient and frequent work, preferable away from the violin.

I ask my right-handed beginners to do everyday tasks with their right hands tucked in thier pockets, and even to invert knife and fork at table.

Or put a temporarey bandage on the first two fingers to oblge the weaker two to "wake up'.

April 26, 2015 at 10:27 AM · It could help to learn the cello for a little while. This will strengthen the muscles controlling the fingers, which are mainly in the forearm. The cello uses the little finger (aka fourth finger, pinky, etc) as a matter of course, on an equality with the other fingers right from the start. For example, on the cello open string scales use the fingering 1-3-4 for major and 1-2-4 for minor.

I was a cellist long before I became a violinist, and I found as a beginner on the violin that using the little finger was among the least of my problems.

April 26, 2015 at 10:41 AM · The little finger began giving me problems about 18 months ago. Prior to this there was never a problem. I never used to think about the little finger at all. It just did what it was supposed to do without any effort.

I think the problem began as I concentrated on relaxing the left hand to improve the vibrato. This resulted in the left hand fingers splaying out too much and the little finger dropping. I did not have a teacher to correct me at the time.

April 26, 2015 at 12:41 PM · hi Brian, when playing slow "cantilena" pieces it is fine to avoid the fourth finger. but for steady passagework its use is often unavoidable so you must train it. the way I did it is as follows. the principle is that during the faster passagework your fourth finger should hover nicely over the string in its proper position, ready to go down. but due to the dependency between the third and fourth fingers this is much easier said than done. play easy etudes or other pieces you know by heart very slowly. every time you use the third finger make sure your fourth stays nicely hovering in place. more generally every time you use a finger make sure the other fingers nicely stay in their place. it's called finger independence. in the beginning it will be hard to do and you will think that you will never be able to play fast in this way. but do it every day and give it a few months. you will see how fast it develops. a real workout for the fourth finger is etude #9 by Kreutzer. play it as slow as needed. best regards!

April 26, 2015 at 07:33 PM · Greetings,

not sure if Brian is ready for Kreutzer yet.

A good way to train the fourth finger is to keep it down on a -lower- stringand play exercises that involve using the fingers on the upper string. Another important point is to keep the finger down until after a string crossing has been made rather than automaticaly releasing it.

cheers,

buri

April 26, 2015 at 10:22 PM · PS Kreisler in particular avoided the 4th finger on expressive notes,

Cheers,

Buri

May 3, 2015 at 10:18 AM · Use your fourth finger straight!

May 3, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Sune, what is this? The fourth finger often has to play sharps, without advancing the whole hand, and be flexible enough for vibrato. Its usual position must be curved.

And I don't often use the word "must"!

It's the other fingers that should allow this.

Exercising it in various ways is another matter.

May 3, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Great help for pinky problems is video by Lora of reddesertviolin.com - Left Hand Pinky Exercises for Violinists

May 4, 2015 at 02:29 AM ·

May 6, 2015 at 05:03 PM · Dear Adrian. Many great violinist play and play with straight or almost straight fourth finger. Oistrakh, F.P Zimmermann and so on. Of course you need to bend it when you play chords, but it comes natural if you practice chords. Vibrato is better and easier with straight 4. More flesh on the string. And stretching is no problem either. Just do it sidewise.

If you have a short 4 it's much more natural to play with I straight,instead of ruin the other 3 fingers natural falling down.

And take a look at the best mmusicians. None of them look alike.

May 6, 2015 at 07:39 PM · Well, I'll give it a try!

May 6, 2015 at 07:55 PM · Greetings,

the following statement is, with all due respect, incorrect.

`Oistrakh played with a straight fourth finger.`

Rather than get in a meaningless debate in the style of the ancient Greeks I suggest anyone who considered this might be true simply go to youtube and watch Oistrakh playing, for example Ravel`s Tzigane.

Cheers,

Buri

May 6, 2015 at 11:51 PM · My teacher is encouraging me to keep a curve in my 4th finger, specifically, but not limited to vibrato. It's straight for harmonics, but for all other notes, the sound is noticeably better when my finger is curved (it seems like I'm able to really get my hand behind the motion when the finger is curved and relaxed) . Just my experience.

Perhaps some very relaxed and slow work with Schradieck would help, just focusing on moving the finger quickly and lightly from the base joint. Honestly, it sounds like your hand position may be off if your finger is dropping under the neck.

May 7, 2015 at 03:18 AM · My teacher says to curve the little finger which I am trying to do. Part of the problem is that I tend to straighten it out but that is not the whole problem.

My teacher says the left hand position is correct and I think it looks okay. I keep an eye on it in the mirror while I practise. When the second and third finger are in play then there does now seems to be a problem ; it is only when moving from first to fourth (little finger) that I experience problems.

May 7, 2015 at 04:10 AM · Greetingd,

Christian et al, it can help to remind oneself of the sensation of isolating the finger from the forearm muscles as much a spossible many times during practice. Simply rest the palm of the hand against the upper bout of the violin and tap the finger anywhere you like on the e string or even on the violin itself. Then go back to your Scradieck , wh

inch incidentally, is an excellent suggestion.

Regards,

Buri

May 7, 2015 at 02:30 PM · Mr Britain. I've looked at Ravel with David, and that's what I would call a fairly straight 4! I didn't say collapsed...

May 7, 2015 at 03:44 PM · Also, regarding the Schradieck, I think I would have been lost on it without my teacher showing me how to use it, and specifically what sort of motion and feeling I was going for. I know that there are some instructions, but it helps for your teacher to go through the exact motions (the isolated action of the finger in a relaxed hand-frame, with a rapid pulling-up motion that is essentially the reverse of putting the finger down).

I think of it like a hammer on a piano, but always coming down with no more force than is needed for the sound you want - I could see using the book mindlessly leading to a heavy and inflexible left hand articulation.

I find myself continuously having to remind myself to articulate in passage work with the same feeling as in the Schradieck, as sometimes my passages can get blurry and sloppy.

May 7, 2015 at 07:32 PM · Hi Brian,

It seems that you have got a ton of good advice already.... let me just tell you that this is one of many situations when the best solution to this problem will come from you.

You can approach violin playing as a constant problem solving; it never ends!

The best skill you can achieve is problem solving - applied to specifics of violin playing.

Observation, paying intention what is going inside your body, trying out different things, keeping and repeating what works... things like that.

You can build on common knowledge and save a lot of time by getting a good advice... and, at the end of the day - the solution is always within you.

May 7, 2015 at 07:46 PM · Greetings,

regrading the Oistrakh fourth finger, it doesnt seem worthwhile disagreeing over what we interpret as straight versus curve but that`s neve r stopped me. The only reason I respond at all here is in case a beginner here does accept the conventional difference between curved and straight and blindly goes ahead and uses a flat fingerwhich is, I`m afraid what your language is advocating even though your intention is clearly different a s you are now saying. The video in question shows Oistrakhs hand from the perspective of look at it down the fingerboard and the shape is, frankly speaking, according to any dictionary, any field of mathematics and for lawks sake, just plain commonsense, nicely curved. Not sure what else I can say except that not quite straight (straight actually means flat) means curved.

As Lewis Carroll put it in The Hunting of the Snark

I said it in Hebrew

I said it in Dutch

I said it in Latin and Greek

But I wholly forgot

At the end of the day

English is the language we speak

I think IV@e got that straight at least in my mind although someone may well throw me a curve ball .

Cheers,

Buri

Ps I would have been Mr Britain but I am ,curved wher I should be straight and vice versa

May 7, 2015 at 10:13 PM · It's good to practice the energetic lifting of the 4th finger as well, in other words starting with the finger nicely curved and on the string. Then lifting it as fast and as far back as you can. This saves "wear and tear" on the hand, as it's basically impossible to use too much force lifting up as opposed to coming down.

June 8, 2015 at 12:57 AM · The Teaching of Action in String Playing, Rolland and Mutschler, will help with building a balanced left hand as will the Harmonic etudes in Stanley Fletcher's New Tunes. The problems that you describe are symptomatic of technical misunderstandings.

June 10, 2015 at 11:59 AM · One exercise that might help from Simon Fischer that I currently do is to keep the pinky down on a string, and go up a diatonic or chromatic scale on the string(s) above it. Say you keep the E down on A string, and do a G major scale on G/D string. The idea is to basically reach back for the other fingers from the fourth, rather than extend from the first. It sets the hand in a better position. Also, a personal add-on to this exercise is doing scales starting with placing the fourth finger to setup the "frame" as Galamian called it.

I'm very new to violin so I can't speak with much experience, but in the two weeks I've been doing that I feel my left hand position improved well already. My intonation starts to improve already from a better hand position, more relaxed hand and more comfortable playing all together.

June 10, 2015 at 02:01 PM · The little finger should be raised when drinking tea in polite society.

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