long fingers

November 30, 2004 at 07:14 AM · After 1.5 years of beginner violin, I've only just realised that i've been holding the bow wrong all this time. My thumb and pinky have been straight. I'm finding it really difficult to change my hold and nearly impossible to bend my thumb and use only my thumb, index and ring finger! Long fingers seem to be getting in the way and i feel the need to 'wrap around' the bow to get a good hold. Any ideas?

Replies (5)

November 30, 2004 at 01:16 PM · Hi Neptune. You have taken a very important first step in realizing what needs to be changed and trying to change it. Going from one habit to another takes some time because you are not just learning how to do something, but how not to do something else - but the rewards when you get through that invisible door are immense, so hang in there. In all probability your fingers are not too long, but if you have been playing for that long with your fingers the way you describe, the whole WAY in which you handle the bow will have been governed by your bow hold. You might be transporting the bow with your thumb, or any number of things. Of course when you try to change to a conventional bow hold, your hand will still try to bow the old way and relate to the bow the old way so you feel "all thumbs" or in your case "long fingered". I would recommend a good teacher to guide you through the first steps especially of your new bow hold and show you just how your fingers relate to the bow. My own teacher had me do nothing but manipulate the bow through the air for a week using only the thumb and the two middle fingers (making certain the thumb was bent) to get feeling for the core of the hold before adding the other fingers or placing the bow onto the instrument. I'm sure that there are many other methods out there to get you to "know your fingers". The manipulation of the bow is as subtle and as "simple" as using a pencil in writing - We don't think about that, but if you see a small child or an illiterate adult trying to use one for the first time, possibly in full fist, we begin to appreciate how beautifully the "pencil hold" we were taught as young children lets thumb and fingers work together. Oh, and think what big hands some people have who use those tiny writing implements called pens and pencils - so much thinner than a bow.

There is some useful advice on Violinmasterclass.com but I would still recommend hands-on guidance. I have found it a useful site, but for any real ingrained habits where the position itself is wrong, it has been easier to relate to on-line advice AFTER having the gist of it through one-on-one help with either a competent teacher or violinist.

November 30, 2004 at 03:48 PM · I agree wholeheartedly with Inge S, and I have very long fingers. Have your teacher help you with a "hands on" lesson and look at www.masterclass.com. Like most good website violin tutorials, it gives a verbal explanation which is so long and complex that it is intimidating. However, there is one very good, large photo of a hand on the bow which you could look at right away and then try it yourself. Be patient with yourself and you'll get it right. Let us know how you're doing.

November 30, 2004 at 07:15 PM ·

December 1, 2004 at 01:49 AM · I have really long fingers also, and am also noticing that I have a hard time keeping my thumb curved. I just try to fix it whenever I notice it. I guess it's like any bad habit- to fix it, you have to do it right many more times than you've done it wrong.

December 2, 2004 at 06:27 PM · One thing you might look at readily, since you mentioned your thumb, is if you are rotating your thumb to allow the hold you are currently using. In a hold where the thumb is not naturally curved, to some extent and straight, it is necessary for the hand to make adjustments to allow the thumb to apply the proper pressure that opposes the fingers to maintain a grip. You may find that you are actually rotating the base joint of your thumb. In more traditional holds, where the fingers are in a more natural position for "gripping," the thumb does not rotate in the same manner, as the natural curve of the thumb places the force needed to oppose the fingers in the proper alignment.

A possible way to discover what you need to change is to try the "thumbless hold" that at one time was a popular parlor trick and sometimes used to illustrate what the fingers and wrist of the hand should be naturally doing in holding the bow, witout the thumb crashing the party.

Menuhin and Primrose both speak of this technique in their writings (in fact, Menuhin quotes Primrose on this) so they may be a pictorial source for how to perform this exercise. You can find this information in some of the turn of the 19th century pedagogy books, as well--when, apparently it was the thing to do for amusement.

Once you have an idea of where your fingers should be, the thumb should naturally follow.

Assuming your hand's parts are proportionate to each other, having long fingers should not be the source of your problem, as the parts work to gether to form the hold. What you may be experiencing is that the lenght of your fingers is allowing you to notice the problem you have in your hold. Consider that a gift. A person like myslef, of peasant stock can hide a lot with thier short stubby fingers - never realizing that their hold actually has a hidden problem.

Good luck!

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