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Weak Pinkie


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I'm having some issues with my lame 4th finger lately.  The

vibrato on that finger has never sounded consistent with other

fingers, all notes I play with the 4th finger seem to "smudge" into

others, if that makes sense at all.  I'm constantly re-working

fingerings to avoid the 4th finger, but I'm ready to attack it.

 Any suggested etudes, etc?  Any tricks, practicing

techniques that anyone can suggest?  It's driving me crazy,

and I'm ready to put it behind me.

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Hi adzarkos,

I know this problem all too well.

The technique I teach is for the hand to be set quite high on the neck of the violin (the base of the 1st finger is level with the top of the fingerboard*), so when the fingers curl over to play notes the 1st is a tiny bit downwards, the second approx level to the f'board and so on. The "attitude" of your hand to the fingerboard is crucial. With my young players, I often get them to bring (turn) the hand more in towards the f'board and tap a few pinkies (roughly in place) before playing scales or the 4-5 notes patterns that all my pupils are drilled in.

Try, if possible to maintain the arched shape in the pinkie and actually watch it go down when practising a few notes out of a passage. Having a small surface area means you have to be really accurate putting the finger down.

Do whatever you need to get some "wiggle" even if it's not textbook vibrato and don't forget that many good players swap the 4th for 3rd when resting on long expressive notes high on the violin.


* good/experienced players know the value of not having the fingers too high, I know, but more arched = more clean press.

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I too have labored under a weak pinkie. I've strengthened mine a lot by squeezing the exercise balls you can buy from sports stores and the sporting goods sections of places like Wal Mart. Don't expect results overnight. If you set up a schedule of squeezing several times a day, with emphasis on pushing the pinkie into the squeeze ball as hard as you can, you should start tp see results in a month.

Good luck!

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There are great "hard" etudes out there for fourth finger work,

but I also like using easier ones played faster -- or even simple

etudes that were originally meant for open strings, with fourth

substituted in.

Wohlfart is great -- start with the third one in the Schirmer

Op.75, the one that starts gbed cbag #fgag #fdef....

Play it wicked fast and really get that fourth finger clicking.

If you do it with slurred bowings, you won't be able to hide mushy

fourth action with a bow change.

Actually, pick any etude or even a fiddle tune you like --

find something with that you truly know, with lots of eighth notes

that run along at a good clip, that flows easily from your mind so

you have mental/physical room to work on the 4th finger issue.

One of my students licked this by playing celtic tunes with NO OPEN

STRINGS for a solid week. Sorta torturous but it worked.

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  • 10 years later...

I agree with Dounis that the concept should be to acquire the "feeling of balance" between all the fingers, instead of directly trying to strengthen weak fingers.  I think Dounis Op. 23 is good for that, if you follow his instructions exactly.  Also those exercises where you leave some fingers down and raise and drop others are good.   There are many of them.   Some of the more strenuous ones you should only do once a day, and last thing of the day.  A 4th finger that works is very handy!

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On 2/12/2007 at 0:04 PM, Shirl said:

Ad - a violist once told me that it acceptable to use the third finger along with the "pinkie" for vibrato, if necessary. 

This was the way I was going to address the question too. It doesn't mean you will have to use the two fingers in tandem indefinitely but may just give you a sense of support and security. (I presume we are talking violin here? It's more an issue for me on viola.)

I would like to here a cellist  or bassist's view on this because it occurs to me it is more a part of their regular technique? Am I right?

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