Short Pinky Problems

October 23, 2017, 8:27 PM · Does anyone have any experience dealing with short pinkies as it relates to playing? My pinky is significantly shorter than the first (top) joint of my third finger and as a result, intonation & position playing are quite difficult for me. In every position, including 1st, I have to completely change my hand and arm position to get an in tune note with my 4th finger. That of course is not conducive to fast playing, especially in the upper positions. I know there's not a way to really lengthen my pinky, but are there any exercises that might help? Also, what to do about tenths, ninths, and even exercises (like Schradieck) where you're supposed to extend your fourth a step above the position? I literally can't reach that far.

Replies (17)

October 23, 2017, 9:14 PM · Yes, Hannah, thanks for the question. Erik here to the rescue.

Please cut off your pinky finger so you're not tempted to use it in the future, and your 3 will take over the job that the pinky previously had.

In seriousness, can you post a picture of your hand holding a B on the a-string while attempting to reach an E on the same string?

In addition, if your pinky is CRAZY short, you may benefit from a 7/8 violin.

October 23, 2017, 9:25 PM · You can search for similar threads on this site. They're plentiful, I think. Also, a hand-position tweak might be in order, and, az Eric suggested, post a picture so we V.commers can see and give you tips and tricks to deal with your unusually short pinky finger.
October 23, 2017, 11:25 PM · If it gets harder in higher positions your left hand is positioned wrong.
Ninths and tenths are played by extending the first finger, not the fozrth.
October 23, 2017, 11:38 PM · Probably unnecessary to add but what Marc meant is extending the first finger downwards. Key is actually not thinking of extending at all but about opening up the gap between first and second finger. Your hand can open very widely there! If I am allowed to say so, looking at your very nice profile photo your pinkie looks fine to me? The book "The Violin Lesson" by Simon Fischer is a great book addressed to people like you, people with a lot of violin experience but possibly not having been exposed to certain points of view or perspectives about violin technique. For example your situation is almost verbatim described in that book, along with many others. Highly recommended!
October 24, 2017, 1:17 AM · Jean of course is right about gapping instead of extending.
Looking at your profile picture I too suggest looking for left hand technic. Positionioning of shoulder, left arm and a relaxed left hand are key. My pinky is shorter than yours, both relative to my other fingers and in total and I can easily play c on the e string in first position, with a bit of technic of course also higher.
Most importantly, keep it relaxed when practising. I had a (Russian) violin teacher as a kid that physically "helped" my fingers gap until I cried (she made me cry a lot with her methods, luckily I got a very good teacher after painfull two years with that one). I needed years to overcome that and get a relaxed hand. When I finally managed it suddenly worked.
October 24, 2017, 2:23 AM · Hi Hannah,
You could try to move slightly your bridge a bit forward (direction is the fingerboard). With this action you will make strings length smaller. A small difference in the string length will make significant change in intonation and you shold be able to play normally. I used this method with my friends violinists with same problem as you many many thimes, always works.
If you don´t wanna to go to luthier to do that, you could do that by your self of course be carefull. You could place your violin in lap, lose the strings a bit and with two hands move bridge a bit forward. After tune the violin simply try if it´s now better for you. If not move a bit more till you find better or at least closer position. I suggest each movment of half millimeter. Hope you will get there with this method. (sorry about my poor english)
October 24, 2017, 3:16 AM · I think the bridge should be atanding where it sounds best. If you move it at least move the soundpost too.
October 24, 2017, 4:55 AM · Well Marc,
i agree with you about position of the bridge, but as luthier I always have to deal with balance. Make a perfect sound and make a instrument maximum playable for violinist. If bridge is for example 1 mm moved forward, it´s not neccery to move soundpost. Just the result could be warmer and darker sound, becouse the soundpost is now more farther from the right foot of the bridge. Anyway, it's a nice journey and when you meet your violin and find that everithig have influence, even slightly movement can make change in sound but also very important: make improvement to instrument playibelity.
October 24, 2017, 10:10 AM · I'd be happy to post a picture (of my hand in play position), but I'm not seeing an option to do so. Am I missing something?
October 24, 2017, 11:12 AM · Hannah, From that picture, your 4th finger doesn't look short at all!, definitely longer than mine, which is even with the crease of the top joint of the 3rd finger. Anyway, extending the first finger instead of the fourth has already been mentioned. For very high positions, I don't usually use my fourth finger; because I notice that my 3rd finger reaches farther up there. Exception to that would be the 1-4 extension, with 2&3 off of the wood. Observing other instruments: cellists don't do fourth finger extensions, they do first finger extensions. Bassists use 3rd and 4th fingers together in low positions, then don't use 4th at all in high positions. The solo jazz guitarist Django Rheinhardt had only two functioning fingers on his left hand. When playing Viola I do not use stretches or extensions, I use 1/2 and 2nd positions more often, and a lot of 1/2 step shifts. Try this; on the A string find E with 4th finger, comfortable and curved, then extend back with the other fingers by whole-steps, E-D-C-Bb, then release the thumb and put it back where it is most comfortable. This could be your personal version of 1st position. Don't move the bridge. Instead, if the full-size violin feels large, consider the 7/8 size. Ignore all those 4th finger extensions in the older editions of etudes and repertoire. Until you get this sorted out, don't try 10ths, fingered octaves, or the "Gemeniani grip" ~jq
October 24, 2017, 12:11 PM · I can't do anything until you post a picture of your hand playing both B and E on the A-string.
October 24, 2017, 9:07 PM · Erik, I'm not seeing a way to post a pic. If you know how, please let me know.
October 24, 2017, 9:51 PM · You could post it to a file/image sharing site and paste the URL here. There's a code to embed it, but it's kind of technical.
October 25, 2017, 6:23 PM · Hannah, you're a Williams. You should know how to Google "embed photo in html" or "put picture in forum post" or something to that effect. Be resourceful! Google is an amazing tool.
October 25, 2017, 6:36 PM · Sometimes moving the elbow to your left would help more with the 4th finger issue
October 25, 2017, 7:32 PM · I think you mean moving it to the right, Violin Kiddu?
October 25, 2017, 9:19 PM · I think so. Also, a hand position that brings fingers closer to the string would help.

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