Trouble keeping first finger close to second

January 9, 2020, 2:24 AM · I am having a lot of trouble placing down my first finger while my second one is holding a low position. For example, when I descend from E string to play D-C-B-A, I'm unable to place my first finger on B while my third and second fingers are holding D and C.

I've also tried getting my hand set up in the correct placement of 12-3-4, on the fingerboard, then loosen my grip, but as soon as my fingers lose contact with the board, the middle and index fingers fly apart from each other. Either the index finger goes flat or the middle finger goes sharp. Is this a musculature/tightness problem, or more fundamental with the positioning of the hand/fingers?

I'm an adult beginner, will be consulting my teacher about this next week.

Replies (15)

Edited: January 9, 2020, 2:47 AM · You don’t need to place the 1 while holding 3 and 2 in a descending pattern. If you’re playing with low 2, you’re ready to work with independent fingers. Place the 3 just before leaving the E. Put your 2 down just before leaving the 3. If you must, you could put 2 and 1 down together though I wouldn’t. You could also put 3 and 2 down together and then place 1 while playing 2.

It makes my hand cramp up just thinking about placing 12 3 down at the same time before playing 3.

January 9, 2020, 3:08 AM · I am indeed already using independent fingers, but even when I place fingers independently, I am still unable to put my 1 down right next to my 2. I have to place it down in a low 1 position, then slide it up to be next to my 2. All while doing this, I have to press down fairly hard on my 2 to ensure it doesn't slide sharp as my 1 approaches. I don't think this is the correct movement to learn, since it is both very tense and has wasteful motions which would fall apart fairly quickly at even moderate speeds.

The problem is also a lot more evident when I have to reach back to place a low 2 while holding a 3. This leaves my hand/wrist in a more tense than usual spot even after the 3 is released, which makes the problem of placing the 1 even harder.

January 9, 2020, 5:56 AM · Have you fat fingers?!
Otherwise, keep trying: I'm very much right-handed, but thanks to the violin & viola, my left hand can do things which my right hand cannot...
Edited: January 9, 2020, 6:37 AM · Wilson when you play "air violin", so just position your left arm, hand, and fingers as if in playing position but without a violin, can you comfortably move your 2nd finger between the 1st and the 3rd, back and forth, without the other fingers moving much?
January 9, 2020, 9:08 AM · Check out the video (DVD or whatever) of the Woody Allen movie "Everybody Says I Love You." Somewhere in the first 5 minutes or so is a closeup of Itzhak Perlman playing some simple thing and you can see how a violinist moves his fingers when they are too large to play the violin.
Edited: January 9, 2020, 9:58 AM · It's possible your left wrist isn't straight enough, or possibly your thumb needs repositioning. I have a similar problem, but with my 2nd finger.
January 9, 2020, 10:01 AM · If you put your four fingers on the table in front of you, can you tap your first finger away from your second finger, and then next to it, in succession? If not then this suggests you may have some kind of underlying physical or neurological issue. The first (index) finger should be quite independent of the others.
Edited: January 9, 2020, 10:18 AM · Finger flexibility and independence is "the" big problem for the adult beginner.

May I add to Paul's suggestion of lifting each finger off the table in turn, by adding a rotation with the lifted finger.

I ask my right handed beginners to do everything (possible and impossible..) with their left hand for several weeks: typing, cleaning teeth, cutting stuff etc, etc.

January 9, 2020, 10:40 AM · Are your fingers independent when playing the piano ? You don't need any real piano technique to test this, just access to a keyboard.
Posture of the left hand: "Round Hand". Grab a baseball, tennis ball, or small orange firmly. The knuckles of the fingers will be separated, the thumb will be slightly in front of the first finger. Then turn your arm counter-clockwise until it stops, palm towards the ceiling, don't force it any farther, then bring it in to about a 90 o angle.
January 9, 2020, 11:17 AM · Adrian wrote, "I ask my right handed beginners to do everything (possible and impossible..) with their left hand for several weeks"...

You can buy left-handed scissors ... but try finding a left-handed traditional pencil sharpener!!

Any common object that does not have bilateral (mirror-plane) symmetry is "handed" (aka chiral). So if the electrical cord comes out the center of your steam iron, then the iron can be used equally with either hand. If the cord comes out the "back" of the iron, then it will be harder to use with one hand than with the other. Scissors have rotational but not mirror-plane symmetry, so they work better with one hand than the other, regardless of the shape of the handles.

Edited: January 9, 2020, 11:35 AM · I am not a beginner, but a returnee after 25+ years away, and I can sympathize that finger independence has been an issue for me too. I've noticed some improvement working slowly through Kreutzer etudes. As a beginner, Kreutzer is not the place to start, though. If you've been playing for a year or so, you might ask your teacher to assign some Wohlfahrt etudes. I wonder if children have these problems, but just don't notice them, or if there is something about adult coordination and neural wiring that makes this particularly difficult?
January 9, 2020, 12:04 PM · Nothing wrong with Wohlfahrt.
January 9, 2020, 4:04 PM · Wilson,

Try these simple exercises with the left hand:

Fingers together then move the index finger away from the other fingers by itself and return, next index and middle finger, Then the fist three fingers. Next start with the fourth finger and go in the opposite direction.

Next do an "air violin" position and hold your fingers with half step between 2 & 3, then 3&4, then 1&2, then whole steps for all four fingers.

This should train the muscles to create all four basic finger positions.

Just curious: Do you by chance have a short fourth finger? I do and I find that I have to do a micro shift to get 1 and 2 in the correct location. Yes, I do these exercises myself and teach them to my students for practice without the violin.

January 9, 2020, 4:40 PM · Here is a link to the video of the Woody Allen movie "Everybody Says I Love You" that Andrew referenced a few posts back, in which Itzhak Perlmann can be seen playing a little tune from the 1920s:
Perlmann is playing from 4:50 - 5:35

There are dozens of videos on YouTube of Perlmann. Here is a small selection. The last one is of especial interest in that he talks about how he copes with his large hands when playing the violin. I have large hands (I'm also a cellist), although not as large as Perlmann's, and I got some useful tips from that particular video.

Schindler's List

Chopin Nocturne in C#minor

Fiddler on the Roof

Dvorak Humoresque (with Yo-Yo Ma)

Saint-Saens Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso

Perlmann's "large hands"

January 9, 2020, 5:39 PM · Actually, I got it wrong. It is "Everyone Says I Love You."

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