Mutant Pinky

June 14, 2015 at 01:20 AM ·

Replies (28)

June 14, 2015 at 11:18 AM · I use a "cat's paw" hold with a bent pinky.

Perhaps you could try the same hold with a straight pinky?

PS My pinky straightens when required, and is very active.

June 14, 2015 at 11:29 AM · I hope you have it on the pill for safety's sake ...

June 14, 2015 at 02:59 PM ·

June 14, 2015 at 07:26 PM · Contrary to most of my French colleagues, my hand is very cat's-paw at the heel, and a bit more wolf's-muzzle at the tip.

Plus being a bit cattish on downbows and wolfish on upbows. But not too much.

June 14, 2015 at 07:40 PM · You are the cat`s whiskers.

June 14, 2015 at 07:57 PM · How does he cope with pawses? Hope he doesn't hold them fur too long.

June 15, 2015 at 01:30 AM ·

June 15, 2015 at 05:28 AM · Forego the pinky altogether with a Russian bow hold (it sometimes works... long shot), or attach something to the bow at that point. What I had to do (all my fingers are pretty short, but my palm is huge, so I have sausage fingers is sink my other fingers lower in. With that, I also had my teacher teach mea bit of his Russian bow hold; my pinky was straight, and at the tip, sometimes lost contact at first (till I got used to it), but trying the Russian hold helped with holding the bow deeper down. Now when I play violin, sometimes I use a hybrid hand shape. It depends.

However, I eventually switched to cello altogether, so I'm probably talking nonsense, and there's probably something else to do.

June 15, 2015 at 09:45 AM · "C'mon guys. Help me here"

I was trying to!


First, I don't "hold" my bow, I "hold it up" from underneath with the corner of my thumb tip, which points towards the middle section of my middle finger (through the stick), or even between the middle and ring fingers. All four fingers "balance" the bow on the thumb. (BTW there is no need for the pinky to touch the screw nut.)

At the tip, my pinky may not reach the stick, its role taken over by the ring finger.

In a word, I support the bow from underneath rather than lift it from above.

June 15, 2015 at 11:05 AM ·

June 15, 2015 at 11:14 AM · Greetings,

loss of contact from the pinky? Not necessarily, although I prefer it to stay on personally. It sounds like you could benifit from a much deeper hold. Yfrah Neaman used to call the fingertip hold, playing by telephone and he chastized people for it all the time.

The Russian idea is good.

In the way they play volume 2 ther is a chinese violinist called Lim who had extremely short pinkies. The photos of him in the middle of the bow clearly show the pinkya considrsble disatnce from the stick Its not quite a russian style as far as I can see, but the stick is definitely lower down the index finger than someone with more balanced finge rlength(like myself would need to do)




June 15, 2015 at 01:01 PM · Sounds to me like your main choices are to change your bow hold altogether, e.g., to a Russian style, which sounds like kind of a nuclear option, but who knows?; or to forgo pinky contact, but I was taught you really need that for balance and control especially in the lower half of the bow; or to modify your bow in some way as Mark also mentioned.

To experiment with the latter, go to the hardware and buy a piece of vinyl tubing that is 1/4" inside diameter and 1/16" wall thickness for an outside diameter of 3/8"), and one piece that is 1/4" ID, 1/8" wall thickness, and OD of 1/2"). Get clear tubing, the stuff with nylon reinforcement is much harder to work with. Cut a 1/2" to 3/4" length of the tubing, slit it once lengthwise and wrap it over the area of your frog where your pinky rests. If this fails, then you're out $5 and an hour's time. If it works, then you can try different dimensions, different materials, and if you are handy you could probably even shave a "flat" off of the shim to resemble where your pinky would rest on the octagonal frog surface. Obviously it will add weight to your bow but may still be worth trying.

June 15, 2015 at 01:40 PM · I struggled early on with meaty fingers and shortish pinky that could not comfortably contact the stick. Simply copying the teacher's grip was a loosing and painful proposition.

After I read a book by Auer and the writings of some older pedagogues, what struck me is their focus on adapting the stick to the hand shape and not the other way around.

You will sometimes see pictures and a description of a "standard" bow grip in their writings, but you should take this as a reasonable starting point. It must then be adapted to your hand.

Try the following:

Turn your right hand so the palm is facing upwards and the pinky is extended but has a gentle, comfortable curve in it.

Now hold the bow in the left hand and place it on the tip of the pinky somewhere between the frog and the screw.

Now let the bow contact the index finger near where you would like to play. Typically this can be anywhere from the knuckle crease closest to the finger tip, to somewhere between the creases of the other two knuckles.

This "two-point' contact is then secured with the thumb. Just let the thump fold in towards the stick until you get a comfortable grip.

This "three-point" contact defines the basic relationship among the pinky, thumb and index finger. You can then slide the stick along your hand until you get the thumb as close to the frog hair ferrule as you like.

Let the middle and ring fingers rest naturally on the stick.

The hold is secure and stress free. I can bow for hours without pain or excessive fatigue.

You may have to place the stick quite deep on the index finger (more towards the base knuckle than the finger tip). If this happens be aware that you loose some finger spring and the ability to throw the bow towards the strings for some advanced techniques. But pinching motion between thumb and index finger, quick wrist flex and forearm pronation can all be used as a substitute.

June 15, 2015 at 02:04 PM · Hi Liz

Are you in London or am I mixing you up with someone else?

Anyway, you do need the pinky as a counterbalance sometimes but do try the Russian bow hold as it might just do the trick. I can use both holds if my brain is in gear, which it usually isn't. (But not both at the same time).

If you want me to send a short video link about this do let me know by email, but I won't promise, and it might be rubbish anyway.

in the meantime I will get my dog to eat the cat so no more furry stories. I think I need a cat-nap. Oh no, my Lurcher wants to go out ... No peace for the wicked jokers ...

June 15, 2015 at 02:36 PM · Very interesting discussion. I, too, have short little fingers compare to my others. I've never had a problem with the bow hold, however.

My problem has been the left hand. My pinky is so short that to keep my left hand in a proper position (with the fingers curving and coming down at the top part of the finger pads near the nail), so that they come down naturally in tune, I have to bring my little finger down almost flat, so it touches the string squarely on the finger pad.

But then with a straight finger it's tougher to do a vibrato.

Yet if I try to curve the little finger, it throws my left hand out of position.

To make matters a little more complicated, my index fingers of both hands are not straight, but curve in towards the middle finger, in a slight arc, starting from just above the middle joint and most noticeably from the joint just below the fingernail to the nail.

The result is that using correct left-hand position (whatever "correct" means), my index finger comes down slightly sharp, and my little finger comes down slightly flat.

Somehow, I've found ways to adjust to it all these years, but I never really paid much attention to it until I read this thread (even though you guys are talking about the bow hand).

Anyway, very interesting.



June 15, 2015 at 04:25 PM ·

June 15, 2015 at 04:32 PM · That's interesting Liz. I used to live in Wales and I worked there in Cardiff with WNO and the BBC Sqwelch orchestra.

If you were in London I could have had a look at your bow hand. Maybe a video would work?

June 15, 2015 at 06:27 PM ·

June 19, 2015 at 10:50 PM · This video may help:

And here is an example of an inactive pinkie: (but not necessarily a good example)

June 20, 2015 at 06:23 AM · Sent you a pinky email Liz. (Typed with my pinky ...)

June 20, 2015 at 10:22 PM ·

June 22, 2015 at 10:23 AM ·

June 22, 2015 at 11:26 AM · I can and do use both holds. I find the FB best at the heel whereas the Russian is great at the point.

It's good to find out what works best for each individual player. Depending on the desired result one can also change between flat hair or a slightly angled stick. Playing the fiddle is always a journey of experimentation.

June 25, 2015 at 09:42 PM ·

June 26, 2015 at 07:44 AM · You do need to persevere with the new hold as it took me about three weeks to feel at ease with it, and I had in the past used it.

However, it should not reduce the finger and hand flexibility. Practice fast off the string semiquavers on one or two notes in the middle of the bow. The fingers should be flexible and do all the work.

The only area where you might feel less flexible control is very near the heel, say the last six inches. You can do excercises to help this, or maybe avoid this area of the bow. Scales played at the heel are always a good practise method.

June 26, 2015 at 05:48 PM ·

June 26, 2015 at 06:54 PM · If you keep a free and relaxed hold and use plenty of bow (don't starve the sound) it should get even better.

Good luck!

January 9, 2017 at 06:39 PM · Glad to "see" you back, Liz! Some of us take things seriously...

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

ARIA International Summer Academy

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine