Violin for Gorilla

October 6, 2015 at 03:10 AM · My preliminary observations:

My limited supply of literature does not depict men's hands (let alone men's large hands) for examples. I intend no gender bias or prejudice against any size hand. I simply don't see depictions of larger size people even when describing differences between say small and large hand frames.

I believe Mr. Fischer distinguishes between centering hand frame around first finger for large hands and second finger for small hands.

I have searched this site and found limited content on frame and intonation aspects for large hands. Often the focus drifts to shoulder rest debates.

My concern:

As a POLH (person of large hands) I am trying to sort out any modifications that need to be made to relate the available information to suit my size. My hands are about 8 ins long from wrist crease to finger tip and 3 3/4" wide a palm. Not giant but hard to find gloves that fit.

My question:

Does anyone have advice for hand frame and playing in tune for those with large hands?

Stay pawsitave


Replies (33)

October 6, 2015 at 03:21 AM · You just have to move your fingers out of each other's way when you play. I don't think there's a magic solution out there. Where I live there's a shortage of good upright bass players, maybe that's something to consider.

October 6, 2015 at 04:07 AM · Perlman has very large hands. And I have a slightly larger than average 19th cent, French violin to sell you! ;-)

October 6, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Dave, my LH measurements are 7.75" long, and 3.5" wide - not quite your size but in the same ballpark, and I have no size-related problems in playing the violin (plenty of other problems, of course!).

Other useful hand measurements include, from the tip of the index finger to the tip of the pinky when the fingers are spread out (6.25" in my case), lengths of individual fingers (for instance my LH pinky is fairly short at 2.5" whereas the others are all 3"+), and perhaps the distance from thumb-tip to the pinky tip when the hand is fully stretched (9"). Corresponding measurements on my RH are smaller, but I put this down to having been a cellist for most of my life.

October 6, 2015 at 01:26 PM · Thanks folks. Perhaps I might need clearance sooner as I go up the fingerboard perhaps not. There are wonderful pictures of hand frames for say first position G string. Scaling these up to larger hands, do we require more finger curvature? Or is it a different elbow position? Perhaps (more) clearance between the index finger and the side of the neck?

Are the mechanics changed to avoid hitting the E peghead with the back of the index finger?

October 6, 2015 at 01:27 PM · David,

My left hand measurements match yours exactly (XL glove size). Paul is right, you have to move your fingers out of each others' way much of the time, especially in higher positions. But I started playing at age 4 when this was not a problem, and as I grew I automatically circumvented the problem.

My larger problem has been arm length that forces

me to hold the violin ttoo much to the left and this compromises vibrato motion.

If you are at an early stage of learning, it might pay to study viola instead, the longer, wider fingerboard might be a perfect match. And then there is the 'CELLO - it will definitely not be too small!

I play all 3 and as I get older and older I am tending to favor the larger instruments.


October 6, 2015 at 01:40 PM · Hi Andrew. Do you contact the side of the neck with your index finger when in first position? How does this change from E to G string?

Do you tend to hold the violin more left to untwist the forearm?

October 6, 2015 at 02:38 PM · Yup: viola





October 6, 2015 at 02:52 PM · Your hand measurements are basically the same as mine David and my fingers are thickish. The only difference this makes to me as I have to change my fingering somewhat as I move up the neck playing scales. Sometimes I find it easier to slide one finger for consecutive notes instead of the typical 1234 fingering pattern.

October 6, 2015 at 03:23 PM · Hi Jeff. Any comments on my last post?

I don't have a situation to address in upper positions yet, maybe I just haven't detected one yet. I'm trying to focus on my hand frame in lower positions and not finding much help in the way of larger hand examples.

I'm not interested in taking up another instrument. Made that decision 20 years ago.

October 6, 2015 at 04:45 PM · I say, go to the ape house at your local zoo and see what they are using.

Seriously, though, for a violin, Maggini copies tend to be larger than normal ones. And, with violas, you can get a really big-*ssed one and be the envy of all the violists you know because they want it but cannot play it without injuring themselves.

October 6, 2015 at 05:24 PM · I surmise as you do, that your elbow will compensate for your hand size in setting the right position for your fingers in low positions. I don't think you can solve it by curling your fingers more.

It's always been rumored that guys with big hands play the viola ...

October 6, 2015 at 06:39 PM · I think Erik Friedman was quite tall and had large hands as did one of my teachers, Nell Gotkovsky. Her fingers were like Perlman's.

October 6, 2015 at 07:06 PM · Observe violinist with long fingers. Try. Observe. Try again. Change. Keep what works.

October 6, 2015 at 09:06 PM · I've never measured my hands before. I always thought I had average hands. Mine is 8" long and 4" wide at the palm. I don't have any problems playing 4 octave scales. I must be doing at least one thing right.

October 6, 2015 at 09:31 PM · My French violin is a Maggini model. OK, I promise that's my last sales pitch on this thread! But it's interesting how there have been great players in many sizes.

October 7, 2015 at 10:41 PM · People with large hands do manage to play the violin by moving fingers out of the way or perhaps finding some alternate fingerings in higher positions. If you feel it is a bigger issue than that, you can tune a 15 inch viola as a violin, or there is a luthier on this site who makes 5/4 violins. I have no idea what his price range is. His name is Nick Roubas. The first link is where he talks about the larger violins. The second link is his contact form.

October 8, 2015 at 04:30 AM · Obviously this gorilla is not communicating clearly. Looking for tips or advice in translating the usual hand frame instructions from pictures of small/medium size hands to larger hands. My goal is to improve my left hand frame. Don't have a noticeable difficulty in say 5th position. More focused on lower positions. Will not be switching instruments and not interested in any purchases.

An example of confusion would be something like the following:

First position.

If I place all 4 fingers on the G string, the base knuckle of my index finger touches the side of the pegbox just behind the nut.

Moving to the E string, I can either

keep the base joint of the index touching the pegbox (contact point moves slightly farther from nut and frame shape changes a little)


Keep the same hand shape and create a space between the base joint of the index finger and pegbox.

One scheme might make intonation more consistent, one might make better vibrato.

Any advice?

October 8, 2015 at 04:37 AM · I'm curious David, how do you perform vibrato say, in first position?

I found that the first note after open string in first position caused my index fingers to hit the peg for E string everytime I performed vibrato, I eventually adapted by lowering my thumb and lifting the rest of my fingers higher in the 1st position, thumb up and fingers low up to 4th position, basically variable curl in my left hand depending on which note I want to get.

October 8, 2015 at 05:15 AM · Vibrato on note F on the E string is not fun. I have my E peghead aligned for maximum clearance. My violin has max space between the nut and E peg.

Vibrato on this note is either:

with lots of space between neck and side of index finger, say 1/2 inch with index base knuckle sliding on peghead or,

drop below the fingerboard and middle index finger joint touches pegbox, note fingered with pad and hand frame way out of place.

October 9, 2015 at 12:35 AM · The first finger vibrato is a simple issue that has nothing to do with the size of your hand. For vibrato with the first finger on the E string, release your index finger knuckle from the neck.

October 9, 2015 at 01:20 AM · My vibrato in the first position for first finger is somewhat like pinching and wiggling the wrist back such that the left knuckle is almost touching the peg for E string. On E string, the first E# and F (I practice everyday playing Salut d'amour), I use the very tip of my index finger to give myself more room.

October 9, 2015 at 01:27 AM · This is a difficult condition for me to describe. Perhaps it boils down to how much the forearm is twisted. More twist delivers the fingers more square to the strings with resultant more open space from the neck to the base of the index finger. If that much makes sense, do I maintain this shape for other strings in first position or release the twist in the forearm to a more relaxed orientation when possible?

October 9, 2015 at 02:22 AM · David, I was going to take pictures on how I do it, then it ended up being an hour practice... I couldn't put it down...

I think the best way for me to describe is that my middle finger is aligned with my forearm for 1st and 2nd position, then index finger for 3rd position, then 4th and 5th position, my thumb is aligned with my forearm.

In the 1st position, often my middle finger is placed on top of my index finger to save more room and keep it in line.

I avoid hand/wrist twist as much as possible, but sometimes I try to play a piece too fast and my hand locks up after getting a bit of twist.

October 9, 2015 at 03:01 PM · David,

To answer your question of me 3 days ago. I have noticed for most of the 76 years I've been playing the violin that the base of my left index finger always seemed to touch the neck at the nut. I recall the first time I noticed this and realized I was using the feel of it to land my "first" note in tune in 1st position at some time when my age was still in single digits.

I have tried to move the violin to point the scroll more to the right but my right arm is too long to bow "squarely" in that position - which would also free my left hand for a freer wrist vibrato.

Since I also play viola and cello, I have long noticed how I have developed a natural-feeling relationship between finger spacing and arm extension. That is, the further my hand is from my shoulder the further apart my fingers seem to naturally space themselves on the string - on violin and viola, so I seem to have no trouble scaling finger spacing to playing position. For cello (which is played with the hand facing down instead of up) it seems to work just as well in the opposite way: the further my left hand is from my shoulder on the cello, the closer together my fingers seem to naturally space themselves.

I mean, it better work this way for any string player, and obviously does for any we have ever heard perform.


October 9, 2015 at 04:36 PM · Hi Andrew. I agree that it feels very natural and comfortable for the index finger to touch the side of the neck somewhere near the base joint. Fingers can extend or contract to move between low fingers and high fingers. And vibrato is more agreeable to finger straightening and bending. This is my natural M O with the thumb contacting the neck toward inside pad above nail joint. Back of wrist is usually in line with back of forearm. I'm trying to improve my consistency moving across strings.

October 9, 2015 at 06:10 PM · Flexibility is key. For vibrato on first finger, first position E string, release the base joint from the neck--imperative for chords in Bach S&P and advanced playing in general. Not a stagnant position, but a flexibility that allows a violinist to choose which contact points are necessary (and when) based on the demands of the music.

October 9, 2015 at 08:42 PM · I am not sure gorilla has long fingers 8-;

October 9, 2015 at 09:17 PM · Hi Rocky. I'm not sure if I have long fingers. But I am having some difficulty relating the photos and video common in most media. All I've seen are not gorillas. Children, check. Ladies, check. Men with long arms and larger hands, maybe in masterclass or recorded performances. Part of my confusion over a consistent frame may be related to 2 months of renewed practice of scales in higher position. Might be rebuilding.

October 10, 2015 at 03:24 AM · okay,

1st: the shape of violin neck; the depth and curvature can make a huge difference in "feel"

2nd: the placement of your hand; players with longer fingers tend to place the neck "deeper" so the thumb will stick out.

October 10, 2015 at 12:27 PM · That's interesting. I don't feel comfortable with that. The neck slips down to the web between thumb and index and I have way to much fingers above the board. Reaching back with the index is a hyper-contraction. The neck in the web restricts my vibrato. Can't seem to establish an intermediate thumb/neck situation. Might be useful for certain situations though.

March 12, 2016 at 01:34 AM · Try Viola and go back to violin, it'll feel even smaller, but it actually helps my intonation and fingering a LOT.

March 12, 2016 at 11:09 AM · Try a viola and NEVER go back....

Just sayin'....

March 14, 2016 at 09:00 PM · 3rd vote for viola. :)

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