Fourth finger placement on a new violin
I'm trying out a new violin for purchase. My teacher told me the fourth finger placement in the first position on this violin is quite a bit higher on the fingerboard (towards the bridge) than normal - and compared to my current and other violins.
I find this stretch quite difficult, but otherwise like the violin.
What could cause this, and could a luthier make adjustments so that it is not such a stretch for the fourth finger?
Main reason is a longer distance between the nut and the bridge, effectively making the vibrating length of the string longer.
Your statement doesn't make any sense. All notes on the violin are relative to one another. If your 4th finger feels like it needs to be higher, the only reasonable explanation would be Carmen's -- that the whole vibrating string length is long. But in that case, ALL of your fingers would be spaced further apart, not just the 4th.
As Carmen said - but I'd say it's not the main reason. It's the only reason. Be it a larger instrument or not (or simply a uncommonly placed bridge), the determining factor for how far you have to spread your left hand is the vibrating string length. (If you want more of that, simply get a viola!)
It is possible that the cross-sectional curvature of the neck** or the thickness of the neck are different than you are used to (or also from standard dimensions) so that the stretch of the 4th finger (which tends to be felt in different ligaments than stretching the other fingers) feels different. This will be noted especially if you do not move your thumb when placing the 4th finger.
Phil, you said you like the violin... but is there a really special reason why it should be this violin?
Simple solution. Put the violin back in the case and return it to the shop. No one wants a goofy violin, whatever the reason is.
Lydia, you are right of course. The thing is though: The fourth finger, already in a disadvantaged situation compared to the other three (the hardest working slave among them), takes the brunt of the impact. The other three fingers make a minor adjustment one might not even notice as a beginner. The fourth, already stretched, has to stretch that extra millimeter that costs so much effort (and pain).
I have advice contrary to that given:
I agree with Scott.
If you're having trouble with your fourth finger, forget ever playing a piece like Faust Fantasy, where you have to stretch that pinky an entire whole step higher. Just make your life easier and disregard the weird instruments you come across.
Honestly, why you need to adjust to the peculiarities of a certain violin and then need to adjust again when playing other violins. Especially when you don't really have a long pinky. And violinists generally don't play with just one instrument at any time.
There is another, less common situation that can impact the 4th finger from first position: string clearance above the finger board.
I just switched from a violin that was a bit on the long side to a smaller full sized violin and this new violin is a dream to play on. I was getting pain in my fourth finger and elbow from the hulk of my original violin, and just could not manage it anymore. (I also desired a more refined sound, which I got in spades with my new purchase.) If my new violin were the same size as my original, I would not have purchased it - even with "ticking all the boxes" sound and price-wise. Within 10 minutes into a lesson with my new violin my teacher commented how much more at ease my playing was. Totally worth it to specifically look for a violin that fit me and my idea of my sound more than the other way around.
Sorry for getting off topic. Just out of curiosity: for those who play fractional size violins, do you play viola at all or basically it is just out of question?