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Pinky Length


Woody
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Dear Maestronetters,

No double entendre intended, and these might sound like silly questions, but . . .

As my playing progresses into the other positions, how much will a relatively short pinky finger hinder my development? I don't have lofty goals, but some things are more difficult for me as a result of my uncooperative pinky. Its tip is barely to the utmost knuckle on my ring finger, and even now in the first position I have some difficulty remaining in proper form while reaching some notes, considerable difficulty reaching others. Is this a matter that strength training can compensate for, or am I cursed by an insurmountable physical obstacle? Will the reaching get easier because the cause isn't my finger, but my skill-level that causes the difficulty?

Thanks for any feedback.

Sincerely,

Scott

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My little finger is at least an inch shorter than my ring finger, but it doesn't cause me any problems. I'd suggest that if you're having problems reaching notes with the little finger, it's because you have a faulty hand position, not a faulty hand. Then again, I don't know how recently you've begun playing, and maybe it's just that it's not a natural motion to be making until you play longer and get used to it (How many times do you reach out like that with your pinky when you're not playing violin? Not many, I'll bet). If you're basing your l.hand position on the index finger, that may have a tendency to interfere with the reach of all your other fingers. It's more natural and comfortable, at least for me, to base my hand position (especially in first position) on my ring finger. YMMV.

Hope that helps.

Bob (too many Scotts)

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It shouldn't be a problem. I have really small hands, and a small 4th finger, and once you play awhile, your hand is able to stretch more easily and you can reach with no problem. The hardest thing I run into with my short 4th finger is being able to do left hand pizz. For things like Paganini's 24th caprice (the left hand pizz variation) it's not a problem, but for things like Paganini's variations on Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento, 2nd half of the introduction, I have trouble (if you don't know the piece, it's a bowed melody with a simultaneous left hand pizz accompaniment thing) with reaching over for the left hand pizz. Anyway, my point to all of this is that it's not a big issue unless you are obsessed like me.

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I will gladly trade hands with you, you can shift and slide. With my ham hands I can play 10ths (some days 12ths) but playing Bach double stops can be a real bear sometimes.

Go with what you have, remember the poor viola players and you will do just fine. Good luck

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BobScott,

Thanks. I think all of my worry was just idiotic seeking for uncontrollable causes to my difficulty. I am a raw beginner, and I've noticed that many things about the violin feel totally unnatural the first time they're done, but with time, they come to feel less the result of contortion.

You've given me heart.

JohnScott

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Thanks,

I'll have no trouble remembering those Viola-niers; my girlfriend's father plays.

I had a chuckle imagining hams for fingers. You're right, I could have it a lot worse off. I probably shouldn't have wasted the space with the question, but I feel better now that I know the problem can be fixed.

Sincerely,

Scott

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I have fairly small hands and I've had problems with hitting tenths, octaves, etc. as well as extensions, but after a while I got used to it, and just practiced like mad. Anyone can overcome deficiencies of size...believe me!

One thing I would like to advise (you really don't have to try it) would be to learn viola. I've been playing viola for quite some time now, and I can barely hit octaves. However, my technique on violin has increased greatly.

So, good luck with that! As Mr. Zukerman said (random tangent), "Who do you think put the pinkie in Pinchas?!"

--Mazas

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I will take the opportunity to boast and say my hands are just the right size and I have no trouble or pain reaching tenths whatsoever!

On a more serious note, some of the most famous virtuosos in the world today have tiny hands or short pinkies. Take Kyung-wha Chung for example. A little practise and you should be fine.

Carlo.

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My 'little finger' is broken. I can't play octaves without pain, and tenths hardly at all. In the early days playing fourth fingers it's almost certain to seem like some serious stretching is needed - this eases in time as your strength builds and the hand settles down into a consistent shape. Playing in higher positions I find easier (because the notes are closer), and once the thumb is under the neck 1/2 way up, easier still. Don't panic - a 'pathetic pinky' never stopped me playing well.

T_D

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I also have a pitifully short pinky finger. My instructor has been working with me for months on different pieces that help stretch out the hand to give more range. They have definitely helped.

technique_doc's thumb suggestion is good and I find that it helps me. Also, making sure that you're not supporting the violin by the neck with the thumb or joint where the index finger meets the hand frees your hand to stretch to where it needs to be to hit the 4th finger note. And sometimes rotating the elbow under the violin for the G and D strings does wonder for the reach.

Just keep practicing is the best advice and talk to your instructor about it. They can help.

Sharon B.

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" Will the reaching get easier because the cause isn't my finger, but my skill-level that causes the difficulty?"

Most likely

I'd advice you, instead of taking the first finger as a reference and stretching upwards, use the pinky as a kind of reference and stretch backwards.

Paganini's capriccio number two has several passages where

the pinky is held in a fixed position and the other fingers must be stretched back to reach the lower notes, which are sometimes even more than a tenth away.

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