7/8 Violin Test & 4th Finger
As some may remember, this 6-month along returnee has very small arthritic hands and I've asked for 4th finger related ideas here over the last few months. I was looking for ideas to add to the drills my teacher provided. In the course of that discussion someone here suggested I look at a 7/8 size violin as it might be a better fit.
Recently I was at my violin shop and they had a master-level 7/8 size used violin. It certainly wasn't in my budget nor am I near advanced enough for it but asked to try it on "for size", just to see what it felt like. Two things became immediately apparent:
1. Wow, this sounds better than my workshop intermediate level violin (no surprise there - not at +3xs the cost)
2. MAN THIS IS TINY! I did not expect to notice such a pronounced difference in size... I really felt on the cramped side with it.
So when my teacher & I agree it's time for an upgrade it won't be a smaller violin. Sadly. I liked the idea.
4th Finger? Outside of the E string and when my 3rd is high I do have to modify how I use my 4th (can't leave any other fingers down). That's fine, still working on making that happen, but also working on accuracy and then speed when shifting my hand back after leaving X4 note. Modified or not consistancy is my goal - and that's coming along in scales and drills. Next step is to replace those open notes in my current pieces. Helps being stubborn. This is a much easier issue to solve than what Django faced!
How do you place your left thumb?
Andrew - I try to get my thumb down by my 3rd finger, and to swing my elbow across my body. Left hand tension is easing but it's still an issue. It may not help the tension that my left thumb is rather crooked but I think that's more related to my current level than anything.
Try moving your thumb to match your needs when you have to stretch any of your fingers. You might experiment with this to see what works for you. Of course there are limits to what you can do with this sort of thumb movement, but it might give you greater flexibility.
Thanks Andrew! I think part of the problem is tension and am working on that. If nothing else the little glitch (what my teacher calls it) I'm currently using when there is a low 3 IS working and I've gotten much better at hitting the following notes in tune. The fact I can do it properly with a high 3 does have me hopeful that I will eventually get there with patience and persistence.
Besides what Andrew mentioned above, I would like to mention another thing about thumb placement. Those with smaller hands mmay find it easier to reach for notes if the thumb is more on the underside of the neck. Many people have the thumb much higher and not so far under the neck. I hope you understand what I mean. It's hard for me to locate pictures or videos demonstrating this clearly. Also, when you do upgrade your violin, I would also try to find one with a narrower neck. Violins with narrower necks aren't the easiest to find, but they're out there.
Ella, I've seen some videos about that. Several women on YouTube discuss this very thing along with other options for small hands. So far I can't seem to actually get my thumb underneath the neck- which may be from overall LH tension, a fear of dropping my violin, or both. Thanks for the reminder though, I had pretty much given up on it but it's worth revisiting it.
As discussed in another thread, I decided to replace my chin rest with an adjustable one so I can lower my SR - a far kinder option for my shoulder problems. It arrived last night, and successfully managed my first change of chin rest. I KNOW it's easy, but it was daunting for the first time.
Catherine, I think your left hand problems might have something to do with the high shoulder rest because your violin is raised far off your collarbone, which means you must raise your left arm (and your right arm as well) quite high which is not natural or healthy.
I've been thinking the same thing today Ella - and that would be if I had normal shoulders and I do not - one has been reconstructed and the other is very arthritic. My neck (which has been fused) doesn't seem to notice that anything has changed - which is good. I also noticed today that my playing felt different...more expressive. Likely only my imagination though as I'm more comfortable. My teacher will tell me if this has actually impacted my playing style.
Another thing which has not been mentioned, aside from thumb placement, for us with small hands is the (subtle) movement of the elbow in order to allow the fourth finger to "swing" into position. If your elbow is stiff and does not move in accordance with your hand, then you will not be able to use the fourth finger comfortably.
The elbow moves, unsure if it moves across my body enough. It HAS been broken, along with multiple other parts of my left arm and wrist at different times in my 59 years. A bit amazing I can play at all, and hadn't thought about it in this way.
I've a couple of other threads focused on 4th finger issues, so decided to add to this one rather than to create a new one. This one is different through - yet more progress but from an unexpected direction.
Catherine--for me a more center mounted position definitely helps. My shoulder and arm are freer to support without feeling twisted. I'm a somewhat short-armed, smallish handed person. I like a Berber/Ohrenform CR. You might also try a Flesch (w/o hump probably).
Thanks Kathryn, my left arm has indeed been through the wringer over the years and have noticed that sometimes it does feel a bit twisted, hadn't thought it might be CR related. I'm also in the shorter arm club along with my small hands. Hopefully the Augsburg will tick the box for me - I really need the ability to adjust the height. Will research the CRs you've mentioned just in case.
Yes, the centermount chinrests can make a difference. You might try holding the violin with the scroll more towards the center of your body vs to the left with your current chinrest. I often move my violin a bit inward/more centered/even lifting the scroll higher according to the shifts that are required - although this method is controversial (my teacher is okay with it, but others are opposed to doing so.) Will let the other more experienced players and teachers that visit v.com continue the discussion on this issue ;)
Yes, center-mounted chinrests do benefit those with shorter arms and smaller hands because side mounts (especially those that sit completely to the left of the tailpiece as opposed to those that reach slightly over the tailpiece) tend to point the violin very far to the left. This is a very awkward position for a short-armed person because the left arm becomes twisted and pulled out of its natural range of motion, and the player may have difficulty reaching the tip of the bow. Side mounts work well for those with longer arms because a chinrest that is too centered will leave them with a alack of room to bow at the frog, and the left arm may feel cramped as well. For short-armed players, pointing the violin more in front brings the violin closer to the arms and hands, which is a much more natural and healthy position, and center mounts are good at putting the violin in this angle. Center mount chinrests also move the violin higher on the shoulder, which makes reaching for notes a bit easier for those with smaller hands or short fingers. Side mounts move the violin lower on the shoulder, giving large-handed people more room to place their hands.
Thanks Joel! I need my height from the CR as I've major neck and shoulder issues - the high SR causes problems with my shoulder. A low CR really stresses my fused neck - but everything seems happy with the low SR and high CR, but time will tell. I'm just thankful that I can play at all, and am able to progress as I've been able to in a short 6 months.
Thanks Catherine, and good look with the experimenting. Medical or anatomic issues change everything. I've been there too. I think that all players should do some experimenting with the C.R--S.R. set-up at various stages in their training; like when they start shifting, vibrato, and the very high positions. Age is another factor. And- the angle of the bow (Russian vs. F.-B.) coming out of the right hand needs to match the horizontal angle of the violin.
I'm getting ready to start shifting- right now my teacher is only having me do it for several scales. Good tip on the angle of the bow - guess I hadn't thought about an angle difference between the two bow holds, something to consider and discuss with my teacher.
continued-- That bow-hold debate; Russian vs. Franco-Belgian is another big topic here on previous discussions. It's relation to the angle of the violin is best demonstrated at the incorrect extremes;
Very interesting Joel! I learned the F.B. hold 45 years ago and it stuck with me.