Pain in 1st finger when playing low 1

February 24, 2016 at 06:01 AM · I'm a fiddler and I'm getting a sharp pain in my 1st finger when I play a "low 1" on the E string -- that is, when I play an F natural on the E string.

In particular, I really only get the pain when I try to hold down a D and F double stop, with the F being my 1st finger (E string) and the D being my 3rd finger (A string). Oddly enough, I have no pain when playing a similar 1st-3rd finger pattern on other strings (e.g., holding B-flat and G is totally fine.)

The pain I'm getting is along the top of my 1st finger. It feels like I'm curling my 1st finger too sharply or something.

The three things I've been doing to stop the pain are:

1) Lower my hand so that my 1st finger is much lower than usual to the fingerboard

2) Put a large-ish gap between the side of my left hand and the neck of the violin

3) Turn my hand so that my fingers are more perpendicular to the fingerboard than usual

Anyway ... is this normal? What can I do to fix this? Are my solutions good ones or not?

Replies (20)

February 24, 2016 at 10:20 AM · All your solutions are valid: there is no "normal" way, since hands are as different as noses!

Personally (and especially on the viola,) in tese cses my index touches the string near the corner of the nail rather than its tip.

Another solution is sometimes to move the hand back ("half position") allowing a "square" index, and extending the third finger as for a D#.

In double stops it is not always possible (or necessary) to press the "hidden" finger right down; even a sloghtly sideways pressure (with a very hooked inde)x can work.

Another point: if the nut, or at leasts its E-string groove, are too high, the necessary finger pressure is excessive.

February 24, 2016 at 01:50 PM · Last year I had similar pain. My solution was along the lines of Adrian Heath's suggestion. I found that adjusting so that the first finger did not have to bend so much provided relief.

February 24, 2016 at 03:29 PM · Generally these kinds of problems are solved by finding a better hand position and discovering the minimum amount of pressure need to make the stops.

February 25, 2016 at 12:45 AM · Hi,

I agree with Adrian. The answer is actually not only to move the hand back, but especially the thumb. If your thumb is staying at the position of a "high" 1, for lack of a better term, then your hand is contracted, and reaching back with the first finger will cause pain on top of it.

Do not move the hand lower, introduce a gap or additional rotation as this will only add problems, and solve nothing.


February 25, 2016 at 02:15 AM · I had first finger knuckle pain that came on suddenly while playing and wouldn't go away. Finally went to the doctor and discovered I had arthritis in that one knuckle.

It sounds like you are getting a nerve pinched somehow. It might be worth it to go see your doc. It could be a bone spur or something similar that only gets aggrevated in a particular hand position.

February 25, 2016 at 03:29 AM · 1st finger needs to face you when playing on the e string. If it is in the same angle as G or D string, you will have trouble with intonation, pain.....


-keep third finger on A string though exercise - D note, but in harmonic position.

-Move 1st finger from D sting(e note) to E string( F# note), and then back to D. Notes must be in tune.

-Make sure you 'TWIST' the first finger, no hand or wrist movement, to get to the E string. Finger nail needs to face you, or is in line with E string. Finger nail is at an angle when moved back to the D string.

- don't over practice this, because it takes time to develop.

February 25, 2016 at 09:10 AM · I agree with charles about the "twist": this is often done by the teacher, but poorly taught, and is so vital for playing arpeggios in tune, let alone double-stops.

But I find there are two other strategies for E-string difficulties:

- turning elbow and hand like a (loose!) monkey-wrench (= "adjustable spanner" over here..); or,

- The Gap!, moving the whole hand away from the neck to keep a similar hand shape on each string.

But Twist remains vital for many 2-,3-,or 4-note chords.

In other words, we can learn from both guitarists and 'cellists..

Once a strategy has been chosen for a given passage, it must be memorised, mentally and physically.

February 25, 2016 at 02:29 PM · Adrian,

I have to disagree with you. Turning the elbow and hand actually make it harder to play on the E, while the gap loses the relationship to the neck.

I think that both of these "solutions" don't remember the real problems:

1- hand not set-up correctly; most often not resting on the base of the first finger as the balancing point.

2- thumb not correctly placed for the natural shape of the hand; forced too low (or less rarely too high), too far forward or too far back (which is less injurious) instead of opposite the base of the first finger.

3- over-rotation of the left elbow to the right; creates problems of tension and imbalances from the back/neck/shoulders all the way down to the hand and fingers.

Fingers move forward or backwards on the string and should be able to do so easily. If there is a problem, it is often caused by incorrect position or solutions that are actually either causing or amplifying the problems.


February 25, 2016 at 02:57 PM ·

I don't teach the GAP type hold, because I find there is no release in tension when playing on the E string. Playing on the E string should be a Zero Tension Zone, and I find it is when the hand is in contact with the neck.

I really doubt poor left hand technique can be corrected with words; it requires a very good teacher.

February 25, 2016 at 05:11 PM · Christian, I meant turning the elbow to the left, of course, so the hand shape is similar on the E to that on the lower stings. For double stops and fast arpeggios, I use Charles' Twist.

And without setting rules, I certainly do not rest the violin neck on the base of the index, only against it. Or I would not get the supple vibrato that my inner ear yearns for!

Charles, I find the Gap, when playing on the E string, allows me a more flexible, less bunched-up "low 1" (I ply viola wth short fingers.)

I dont "hold" my violin/viola - I "hold it up" with thumb and shoulder. But as I say often, hands/shoulders/jaws/brains are as varied as noses!

February 25, 2016 at 05:17 PM · Oops!

February 25, 2016 at 05:22 PM · Hi Adrian,

I see what you mean. I use the base of the first finger as a base point for the balance of the hand, but it never presses against the neck, and it does release at times. However, I don't introduce the gap that many people advocate. I never use the twist either; probably because I don't need it...


February 27, 2016 at 04:50 PM · The best solution is to stop playing Blugrass and switch to the best fiddle music on the planet, Irish. In addition to great music, you will almost never need to flatten your first finger. Problem solved. ;-)

February 27, 2016 at 06:09 PM · Or lower the E-string to D. Lovely resonance, too!

February 27, 2016 at 06:09 PM · Oops!

February 27, 2016 at 06:09 PM · 'Nother oops!

February 27, 2016 at 06:09 PM · Stupid computer! Sorry!

February 27, 2016 at 06:09 PM · ²&é"'(-è_çà)=^!

March 1, 2016 at 03:13 PM · The simplest fix for this problem is to make sure that the E peg is rotated correctly (perpendicular to the fingerboard)so the first finger's third bone has the most space to move in when in "half position". You may have to slightly change how the E string is first engaged by it's peg to make this happen, but the remaining tension will be adjusted by the E tuner anyway.

The balance of this problem is to gently warm up your left hand fingers to minimize the stress on those joints. They do stiffen with age, at 72 you can ask how I know...


March 12, 2016 at 03:41 PM · I have been dealing with this as well. I went to PT with little help (the first place actually made it worse and ended up inflaming my entire arm). A very sharp pain right over that first joint. Double stops are especially problematic. I have been working hard on keeping relaxed and light.

For now I am avoiding low 1 as much as I can. My acupuncturist said that every time I feel pain I am doing damage. Tendons and ligaments are the slowest in healing. I backed off my playing until the pain subsided and have been slowing increasing my daily play time, stopping when I feel any hint of pain.

The problem is also not just in the finger. You may notice a tight tender spot just under the first finger knuckle bone on the palm side of the hand. The tension extends down the arm (both sides) and up to the shoulder and neck. Trying to just fix the finger won't completely fix the problem.

One thing I have been doing is wrapping my first finger from the base to just over the first joint with 1" stretchy bandage. The wrap isn't tight, but enough to prevent me from completely bending the finger back. I am also wearing a compression sleeve on my arm. I massage and stretch my arms, wrists, fingers frequently during the day.

For me it will be a matter of finding what is easiest for my hand. Nothing like some Sevcik Op 1 to try and figure it out.

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