Flat fingers?

December 2, 2004 at 08:23 AM · Do you ever play with flat fingers?

...either playing chords or when doing long stretches

just wondering...

(us muggle violinists have to ask alot of questions because we are not naturally talented)


Replies (26)

December 2, 2004 at 09:57 AM · Yes- some double-stopping requires a flatter finger stance; no worries!

December 3, 2004 at 01:04 AM · One of the pieces I'm currently working on has lots of 5ths in it, and they are impossible for me to play unless I flatten out my finger pads to some extent.

December 3, 2004 at 03:01 AM · I'm the same as Kelsey. When I do 5ths I flatten my fingers...seems to work just fine.

December 3, 2004 at 08:06 AM · Hi, there! I agree, I flatten my fingers just a bit when going for those fifths and other chords with stretches, etc. But the biggest thing I can remember my teacher helping me with once, was when I was first learning one of the Brahms Sonatas. I wasn't happy with my wimpy vibrato on my fourth finger, so she pointed out (lo, and behold!) that I try flattening my skinny pinky and vibrato-ing on the fatter, fleshy part. It took a bit of re-thinking (when to land on the tip vs. when to flatten out) but my vibrato was so much better -- good and schmaltzy!

December 3, 2004 at 08:07 AM · Wait, back to fifths. Is there any way you're SUPPOSED to play fifths? My fifths always have a terrible tone... and it's really quite annoying... usually if it's seperate notes I'll actually reach because going to the other string just sounds worse. Anyway to do this? Thanks!

December 3, 2004 at 08:32 AM · I used to think my fifths were broken. They were never in tune, though it seemed to me that if they were played by the same finger, they should automatically match each other. Flatter, yes, but not necessarily flat, as in knuckle straightened completely.

December 3, 2004 at 09:00 AM · Fifths are tricky to play well, for me. But I find I tend to do well when I "twist" (for lack of a much better word) my finger placement, with the aim of playing "higher" on the upper string. When I do that, both notes are in tune. Also, I watch the angle/pressure of my bow, to eliminate nasty squeaks, extra pull on a string that could contribute to intonation inaccuracy, etc. But sometimes unsettled finger-position will contribute to that, too.

In short, a combination of placing the finger securely in a position of slightly wider berth, pulling steady with the bow, and aiming higher for the upper string seems to help me.

December 3, 2004 at 09:11 AM · I have to flatten my fingers for chords that require a single finger across multiple strings... Like those Paganini chords in the 24th caprice or even the string-cross chords in Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro...

This is something guitarists do a lot (probably why their fingers are more callous than violinists)... which reminds me, NEVER let guitarists strum your violin, their fingers totally abuse your poor strings :)

Itzhak Perlman has pretty wide fingers so he can "flatten" them with less noticeable movement... just another thing he has in his technical arsenal :)

December 3, 2004 at 01:16 PM · Turning this around for a second - If you always try not to flatten your fingers and always try to have them round even for the fourth finger, you'll end up distorting the hand shape and bring it too close to the fingerboard etc., won't you? Which is where I'm at and deciding flat can be good.

December 3, 2004 at 06:21 PM · Perhaps it depends on physical hand shape? I have very long fingers (to go with my tall body-type) and I have no trouble with high and round fingers disrupting the natural tendencies of my hand. On the other hand (no pun intended!) I have seen violinists with countless slight "variations" in the shape of their hand and fingers, and they can get away with it because they've practiced and are simply adjusting to their physical shape.

Oh! And Iagree, Inge. I don't entirely round off the fourth finger like the others, either. Compared to the others, my pinky is pretty short. =)

December 3, 2004 at 11:35 PM · Using flat fingers can be great for certain tone qualities & glissandos -- you can get a relaly distant & soupy tone or a really rich, ultra-wide vibrato. I think it's a really useful technique--as long as you're also comfortable with using fingertips for more nimble & light passages.

December 4, 2004 at 05:43 AM · i have big fingers so i have never needed to flatten.

December 4, 2004 at 06:55 AM · I agree with Fiona.

My fingers are not that wide, but I never flatten them for chords, fifths or stretches. The only time I do so is on Glissandi, for tone in certain places and for harmonics.

In high positions and on pizzicati I do the opposite - try to have only the tip and from above.

December 4, 2004 at 03:33 PM · Physically I can't play 5ths without flattening out my fingers at least a little bit, otherwise I can get one string or right smack in the middle for a beautiful buzzing sound which is rarely a color that adds to a piece.

December 4, 2004 at 11:30 PM · what about "the bee"?

December 4, 2004 at 11:45 PM · Ok well it may add to SOME pieces. I personally have more experience with real bees adding to performances then playing songs that are supposed to depict a bee.

December 5, 2004 at 04:53 PM · When I was practicing a piece for a performance, I found out that getting a sequence of A and E string double stops in tune was forcing my left hand into all kinds of distortions.

I asked a friend (a violin repairman) and he suggested that I gently tap the top corner my bridge (at the E string side) so it became closer to the fingerboard and then retune the E string. This made the playable E string length a tiny bit shorter.

The fifths were better – but not quite in tune – another tap produced perfectly tuned fifths. This slight tapping of the E string bridge corner solved my problem. The bridge was slightly out of alignment but nobody noticed anything different during many performances of this piece.

Each violin has its own shape and slight imperfections and this solution may only apply to my violin. Luthiers hesitate to tell you about these fine nuances since they may or may not work.

Ted Kruzich

December 5, 2004 at 04:59 PM · lol @ kelsey

December 5, 2004 at 07:47 PM · i was of course, kidding but now i'm interested about your bee experience. I have a good one about a spider.

December 5, 2004 at 08:12 PM · I had a bee that continually kept landing in the palm of hand when I was trying to play. This was not working out so well and after some length of time the bee finally decided it would lash out at me, it bit me (the piece before the bride came down the isle) then a relative who happened to be there noticed I had a pesky bug making my life difficult, and squashed it for me. Anyways...character building was that experience was. Weddings always seem to provide me with really "interesting" experieinces. What happened with the spider experience??

December 6, 2004 at 03:06 AM · it wasn't actually me, but i was there. It was an outdoor chamber music concert, halfway through the first movement of the American, a spider decides to spin a web on the first violinist's violin. She was freaking out but wasn't about to stop, by the time they were done he had completed the foundation for a real nice web from the back of her violin to her shoulders and chest. At the end of the movement she jumped up and proceeded to give a funny little dance performance. It was quite funny.

April 30, 2005 at 07:35 AM · Random note: flattened (but not completely flat) fingers can be very helpful for seamless, continuous vibrato in expressive passages. Playing more with the fleshy part of your finger rather than squarely on the tip can soften the sound for lyrical spots.

May 2, 2005 at 01:06 AM · I play with flat fingers when its been 2 hours and 50 minutes at youth symphony rehearsal and I'm lazy and tired.

May 2, 2005 at 04:18 AM · Well, I don't think one excludes the other. Sometimes when doing extensions one must use the flatter part of the finger. Galamian wrote in his book about the different finger angles in relation to intervals. I don't really think the fingers being flatter help vibrato. Just look at Heifetz. He didn't change the position of his finger while playing slow sections. Finger placement is all about putting the finger in the right place in other words in tune. By not pressing the finger the vibrato stays constant and also faster while at the same time saving the tendons which are like rubber bands. An over worked tendon is as useless as an over stretched rubber band. That is why so many violinists after age 50 go down hill because of all the tension in the forearms due to finger pressure.

May 28, 2005 at 07:59 AM · My teacher says that your fingers must not be on the nail, but right on the middle of your finger, the pads. There are some times when you have to play with flat fingers, which defiantly includes playing octaves high on any strings to make a good sound, it is nessesory,( i think).

May 28, 2005 at 05:01 PM · I do think it affects the vibrato and the tone.

Playing with fingers on an angle rather than more vertical helps with intonation. The tendency to play sharp (and vibrato sharp) is enhanced with vertical fingers.

Vibrato should be constant but never the constantly the same. Changing the angle of the fingers can help change the way the vibrato sounds.

I usually save playing with verticle fingers when I am playing something I that requires a silvery and shimmery sound (ie: beginning of Mendelssohn Vln. concerto). Otherwise I tend to favour the flatter finger.


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