Exercises for the fourth finger?

December 28, 2022, 9:29 AM · Hi everybody! This must be one of the most common questions asked but still I haven't found any answer. I hope that I will be able to solve it still.
My pinky feels not just weak but unable to curve the tip of it making it very difficult to play any doble stops or just to do vibrato with it. Do you guys know any book or oxercises that work on the muscular development of the fourth finger? I'm sure it is not just the muscles but something related to psychomotricity. If you guys can help me what material I can use. Thanks a lot!


Replies (21)

December 28, 2022, 9:50 AM · Charles Dancla's École du mécanisme (Opus 74) would be helpful in developing finger strength, indepedence, and dexterity.
You can download it free on IMSLP.org

Wohlfahrt studies would also be useful.

I don't think I would necessarily work on the fourth finger in isolation , but instead try to build up its strength along with the other fingers at the same time.

Edited: December 28, 2022, 10:47 AM · Corelli Op.5,#1,movemnt 3.

And double-stopped 6th scales

Edited: December 28, 2022, 10:05 AM · The pinky was never designed for this!
Normally, the thumb, index and middle finger do the work, while the ring and little fingers stabilise what we are manipulating.

First we poor right-handers must awaken the left hand: spend a week with the bright hand in a pocket, and eat, draw, write with the "wrong" hand..
Then, wrap up the 1st & 2nd fingers and use only the 3rd & 4th with the thumb.

Then, with cupped hands face down on the table, trace patterns and tap rhythms with the 3rd & 4th fingers fo both hands.

Finally, on the violin, The Fourth Finger Rules!
Place the 3rd (alone) on e.g the A string to make an octave with open D, and pivot or tilt it enough to allow a curved pinky to play an A to match the open A.
Only now can we adjust the 1st & 2nd fingers by curling or leaning back.

If the index is then too stiff for a supple vibrato, we can shift the hand back a little for a rounder index (if there is time..)

Edited: December 28, 2022, 10:07 AM · You might start with the first page of Schradieck, which has more and less intensive lines for the 4th finger, and then you could use different Kreutzer trill studies, but it's really more about how you use the finger properly, and the real issue might precede that. How relaxed your handframe is, and the length of your fingers, might be the first step in determining how you are going to get your pinky down curved.

If your handframe is relaxed and you can actually put your pinky down curved, then with Schradieck, you can start work putting the pinky down without pressing all the way into the fingerboard and practice quickly and fluently leaving the string, emphasizing the movement as coming from the big joint of the pinky finger.

Here's a good video that has a lot great basic concepts (it's for viola, but holds true exactly the same for violin)

December 28, 2022, 10:26 AM · Dont, Op. 35, No. 6


Edited: December 28, 2022, 10:31 AM · Like Adrian already writes, it is not your 4th finger in itself, but it is most probably a faulty left hand position that causes the trouble (been there myself!) Strength of the 4th finger is not the issue: you can easily lift a heavy suitcase just hanging it by your 4th finger. Instead, you need to position your hand so that your 4th finger is comfortable, nice and curved. Say, there is a piece involving only open strings and 4th finger: find a nice position of your left hand where you could play that naturally, with your 4th finger just falling down and lifting up naturally. *Then* add the other fingers, stretching them back as it were. Adapt your left hand position as needed. This way, find the classical left-hand shape. You can use the infamous Geminiani chord for this. (Of course, beginners, children are not taught to play the violin like that, and many people somehow adapt automatically later to find their shape, but also many many others stay stuck with a bad left hand: this is lamented in Simon Fischer's book "The Violin Lesson" which is highly recommended.) Once you found the shape, play various etudes, exercises, passages, slowly, concentrating on maintaining a shape that allows your fourth finger to just fall down and lift off in place as needed. It quickly becomes a new habit. Always staying aware of the hand position, you can then find in Kreutzer many good etudes that involve the 4th finger heavily.

(Edited to add: in all this, always make sure the final joint of your finger stays nice, supple, and flexible. (Check out: "Rivarde exercise".) The "strength" required of a 4th finger lies not in the tip but lies in the muscles *below* the base knucle, responsible for lifting: indeed, it is the *lifting* that needs strength, not the dropping of the finger.)

December 28, 2022, 10:45 AM · Two useful and very simple videos by an online violin teacher called Heather:

Left Hand Finger Strengthening Exercises for Violinists

3 Steps to a Healthier Fourth Finger on the Violin

Edited: December 28, 2022, 10:51 AM · Hey Hans. I've tried this book and it worked wonderfully. I also using it for my lessons. Good luck with it.

"Exercises for the Muscular Development of the Fourth Finger" by Tomas Cunsolo
(It's on Amazon)

Edited: December 28, 2022, 9:36 PM · The single biggest contribution to strength in my fourth finger has been extensions - lots of exercises that force your finger to stretch beyond its natural position. Rode, and Dont are full of them and has been my greatest source for this, but as stated above, there are many options.

The most recent "bugger" in my life for this is Dont OP35 #7. I'm having a heck of time trying to get this perfectly in tune - always missing ever so slightly, but it sure is strengthening my 4rth finger. I follow this in my recent practice sessions with Paganini Caprice #16, which also has many extensions.

(Edited to add: in all this, always make sure the final joint of your finger stays nice, supple, and flexible. (Check out: "Rivarde exercise".) The "strength" required of a 4th finger lies not in the tip but lies in the muscles *below* the base knucle, responsible for lifting: indeed, it is the *lifting* that needs strength, not the dropping of the finger.)

I agree, Jean. And this is exactly what extensions are doing. Pulling and stretching that muscle below the base knuckle.

December 29, 2022, 3:59 AM · You could also try Gavriloff "Special 4th Finger Exercises". You can find it on IMSLP.
Edited: December 29, 2022, 8:38 AM · Give it room to move.
Stop when it hurts.
Then learn to stop before it hurts.

And even if it looks straight, it should still feel curved, not kinked.

Edited: December 29, 2022, 8:48 AM · One should probably be careful about assuming muscles in our fingers - genuine muscle training with heavy apparatus might do more harm than good. It's probably more about training neural pathways to the tendons in our hands - speed and position are more important than strength.
Perhaps that's why psychologists tend to refer to it as "procedural memory" rather than "muscle memory"?
December 29, 2022, 3:50 PM ·
I'm always blown away, whenever I see a 4th finger trill. :-)
December 29, 2022, 4:10 PM · I’m not sure what Robert Schumann was doing as finger-strengthening training, but I get the impression that over-concentration on muscle strength rather than on coordination of the fingers and hand effectively ruined his concert career. Wholly off the point and as an extra, I recall that when I was seventeen I could recognize Sir Clifford Curzon’s recordings and radio broadcasts from his mathematically precise trills, but I don’t know whether pianists trill using ‘our’ fourth finger. Point is though, don’t take a bodybuilding approach to musicianly hands.
December 29, 2022, 4:35 PM · If you have played a woodwind instrument, then you will be used to 4th finger trills.
December 29, 2022, 6:42 PM · True, Gordon. As a recorder player (somewhat ‘resting’) I need to trill with the RH little finger. I don’t like it and avoid when possible!
December 29, 2022, 7:03 PM · Gordon and Richard, that's a much more natural position for the hand on a wind instrument. I think it's somewhat easier to trill in that position with your fourth finger.
Edited: December 29, 2022, 11:04 PM · Again, Bruce, if it's more about neurons, then it doesn't matter all that much. I'm happy with passing trills in baroque music. I'd find some other solution for a longer trill in something more modern.
I've seen in books on woodwind that using an old typewriter develops finger strength, but if it's only about finger control, then learning to touch type on a modern keybord is a good idea, although the little fingers don't come into it that much, but it's all grist for the mill. You can get touch-typing training software, and I assume there is some free online.
December 29, 2022, 11:11 PM · 4th finger action: The only exercise I need for that is what I call Taps and Lifts. A version of that can be found at Doflein, Vol. 4, pgs. 14-15. The finger hovers over its spot, about 1/2 inch high, and moves simply straight up and down. Maintain the curve of the finger. The lift is actually more strenuous than a tap. Put the taps and lifts together and you get a clean, fast trill.
The 3rd and 4th fingers are not completely, anatomically, independent, so be sure to have the 1st and 2nd fingers off of the fingerboard when doing a 4th finger trill. That will allow you to bend the wrist out a little to get a better angle for the 4th finger.
The muscles that lift the finger are actually weaker and slower than the muscles that close the hand. Musicians may be the only people that need to do that extension. To strengthen that finger lifting muscle there is an exercise away from the instrument: Pretend to swat flies with each finger nail and thumb. That's easier to demonstrate than describe.
December 31, 2022, 9:24 AM · I quite agree about the lift, and also the finger "tapping" rather than pressing, punching etc. The initial "tap" is vital, both to synchronise with the bow arm, and for clarity in slurred passages.
Cellists and violist can even add a slight l.h. pizzicato element to descending slurred notes.

Also, once the string is tapped, we don't need so much strength to keep it down.

December 31, 2022, 4:52 PM · Glad Adrian mentioned LH pizzicato…. You can add a slight element of this to your Schradieck practice. This approach is also mentioned by Galamian to be used in passage that require extra clarity.

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