Pinky on left hand and right hand question

September 12, 2019, 5:49 PM · I have a few questions that I hope can be answered:

1. Is it okay for my right hand pinky to be dangling off the bow instead of on it? Why is it bad or okay to do so?

2. Is it okay to do a trill on the left hand with a pinky? Or is it better to avoid it and to shift up/down to trill with the middle finger instead?

Replies (12)

September 12, 2019, 6:15 PM · 1: Noooo. You will lose all control of your bow.
The pinky will sometimes lift off the bow naturally during spiccato or maybe when you are at the tip, but you should try to keep it on the bow at all times. If you feel you must lift your pinky, your bow might be too biased towards the frog end.

2. If it sounds good, then it's ok. Most people have a terrible fourth-finger trill, though.

September 12, 2019, 7:40 PM · Some players have bow holds where the pinky floats off pretty naturally. It depends on your overall hold and right-hand technique whether or not that works for you.

You can do a 4th finger trill but most people prefer not to do so. I've got a good, quick 4th finger trill but I will usually not use it unless it's inconvenient to do something else.

Edited: September 13, 2019, 12:02 AM · Fourth finger trills, if they are fast enough, helps in a few spots.
Right hand fourth finger; depending on how you hold the bow, and the length of the finger, it is OK to let it leave the stick when playing on the string in the upper third of the bow. That is better than letting it go straight and locked up. But for off-the-string techniques and below the balance point, you need the support of the fourth finger. I see the straight, locked fourth finger in a lot of other peoples' students, especially when they try to do the Russian hold.
The bow is held up by three things; the thumb, the little finger, and-(!)-the string.
Edited: September 13, 2019, 9:56 AM · An excellent pro violinist (and dear friend) heard me perform one time. Afterward he pulled me aside and told me (paraphrasing): "Paul, you're letting your pinky off your bow and you shouldn't do that." He explained why I need it to be there for control and how I need to get in the habit of it now because later I'll learn more subtle bow strokes that will require it, etc. Then I heard him perform in a chamber group and I watched him closely. His pinky stayed on his bow, pretty much all the time -- his is quite a standard Franco-Belgian hold and his hand looks unbelievably relaxed.
Edited: September 13, 2019, 12:09 PM · @Cotton, "Most people have a terrible fourth-finger trill".

From what I see in the amateur sector I couldn't agree more! Two things - first and foremost the fourth finger (i.e. the entire left hand) has to be sufficiently relaxed, and secondly, the muscles in the forearm and hand which actuate the fourth finger should be up to the task. It occurs to me that if that musculature needs developing then left-hand scale practice on the piano may very well help - as will playing the cello (the cellist's LH fourth finger does a lot of work due to the fingering system on that instrument).
September 18, 2019, 10:02 PM · Mandolin worked very well for me for 4th finger strengthening, it still took years to build up strength and dexterity on the mando. I credit mandolin with curing trigger-finger on the left-pinky too.
Edited: September 19, 2019, 2:31 AM · 1. I've seen Perlman videos where his pinky is rarely on his bow. How you use your ring finger affects how much you need your pinky.

2. Depends on how long the trill lasts, and its speed. I've read of musicians typing with old-fashioned typewriters to strengthen their pinkies. And get some trill studies and practise pinky trills.

Edited: September 19, 2019, 3:58 PM · Much as I like Perlman, I would NOT use his technique as an example.

The pinkie should always be in contact with the bow if possible (although I realize that this is an ideal state and that the reality may be different for most of us). And it must be bent and NOT placed on the top of the bow. It should be on the next facet down towards the player so that the bow is slightly on its side.

It's amazing how many players come to me who have always assumed the pinkie should be on the very top facet, or were never told explicitly exactly where it should make contact.

Edited: September 19, 2019, 11:29 AM · When I was a young child, I protested to my violin teacher, "But Mr. Perlman doesn't keep his pinky on the bow!" Her reply was, "Well, when you play like him, you don't have to keep your pinky on the bow either!"
September 19, 2019, 11:49 PM · @ Gordan S. -- Interesting. I consider the right hand third finger (ring finger) to be my enemy. If you apply any force to it, the tip of the bow pivots over the finger board, which I rarely, maybe never, need to do. I am tempted to cut it off, (not really). Since the the third and fourth finger are partially connected, share the same tendon, I suspect that I am not the only one with that problem. Scott is right about the 4th finger; it belongs on the next facet over. When playing at the frog, with the proper bow tilt, it feels like it is on top. When playing at the tip, the 4th finger is off to the side, where it won't cause trouble.
September 20, 2019, 5:36 AM · I would recommend watching a video of a symphony orchestra and observing how many of them have their pinkies in the air.

I have been taught the same as what Scott Cole said.

October 10, 2019, 6:15 AM · BTW, for pinky trills, you could look at Kreutzer 17.

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