Curly pinkie in left hand

said: Nov 17, 2012
 145 posts

I have a 6yr old pupil learning lightly row and when he puts his 2nd finger down he’s one of these pupils that curls his little finger and pulls it away from the fingerboard. I’ve seen this with so many students in the past. Why does this happen,I presume it is a weakness somewhere and the hand is compensating for it, but where is the weakness? I’d also like some ideas to correct it. I thought maybe I should just get him to learn lightly row using the 4th finger this might help. Thank you, nelly

Paula Bird said: Nov 17, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Cello or violin?
With violin, usually the shoulder rest needs some adjustment.

When I learned bluegrass banjo, I had trouble keeping my pinkie and ring finger together on the drumhead. An old timer told me to tape my 2 fingers together. It worked! We have used tape for fun on occasion in the studio to keep the fingers over the fingerboard. Pinkie would help too but only if student kept fingers over fingerboard thereafter.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

said: Nov 17, 2012
 145 posts

Hi Paula thanjs for your reply. It’s for violin. So I need to check his shoulder rest. I don’t think it is that as he uses a wedge shaped sponge which is very supportive. I do find though it slips away from his neck when he plays.What do you do once you’ve taped the fingers? Best wishes, nelly

JoAnn said: Nov 17, 2012
 Violin, Viola
20 posts

I find that keeping the 4th (and 3rd finger for that matter) stretched over the note while lower fingers are playing is a very difficult thing for many children (or adults for that matter) to do, especially if they have not been bouncing the pinky on the fingerboard from the very beginning.

First you must make sure that the left thumb is balanced and not squeezing (set all 4 fingers and let thumb land where it naturally and comfortably falls- probably somewhere between the 1st and 2nd finger). Of course, that means they are also secure with the violin sitting on the shoulder “shelf” and not holding with the left hand.

I then tell the child that the 4th finger is always the “leader”- even when it is not the finger pressing down. It always leads in front of everyone else. That also goes for the 3rd finger (especially eventually when 4 starts playing and it likes to curl back and under). The 3 is the leader of 2- etc.

If this is difficult for the child, then I have the parent gently hold the 4th finger stretched in front while the child plays. This allows the student to feel the fingers going down without the 4th finger “helping” by curling back.

Depending on how old the child is they should be able to put down the finger while stretching the 4th out themselves after a while of this help. Once they have had the experience of successfully doing it on their own (usually they have to “catch” themselves curling it and then stretching it up a few times) they can usually do it. Of course they need constant gentle reminders to keep the pinky “leading” (be the scout, etc.) and perhaps some special practicing repetition places which they must do while keeping pinky over the fingerboard.

I think part of the problem is that the students aren’t thinking of the action of the fingers coming from the base knuckle and just bouncing down and springing back up- but of peeling them back and stretching them forward.

Doing lots of tapping of the fingers on the fingerboard with a good released hand position and all of the fingers hovering over the stripes will help.

Regarding that- even at the beginning, when the student is not using the 4th finger- I always have a stripe for it and they are always tapping the 4th finger along with the others- and I always do the Monkey Song-BEFORE TWINKLE (basically a scale up and down on either E or A string with the first variation with the bow) and after the 3rd finger plays, the student taps the 4th finger (nice and round) on the stripe to get the “bananas” as many times as the child chooses for the monkey. The 3rd finger is down while this is happening. I find that if the students do this they do not tend to have this problem of curling fingers and are able to keep the fingers stretched in front.
The monkey song of course just turns into an A major scale- but I always have them tap the 4th finger after the 3rd plays and also on the way down before the 3rd finger plays. This helps set the hand position, helps strengthen the pinky before it starts playing on it’s own and keeps the pinky stretched in front.

Best wishes,

Sue Hunt said: Nov 18, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

I love the idea of tapping the pinkie after the 3rd finger on the Monkey Song. I’m going to experiment tapping between all of the notes.

Have you noticed that if you try to stop a child from doing something, he will physically resist. Why don’t you capitalise on this by ever so gently lifting the pinkie up and back. Prime the instinct to resist, by telling the child that you are going to try to mess up his beautiful hand position and praise every indication of resistance.

said: Nov 18, 2012
 145 posts

Hi joAnn, this is so helpful thank you. I do left hand pizzicato so need to include more tapping. That’s a great idea to include it in ‘ I’m a little monkey’.

Thank you again, Nellie

Carol Gwen said: Nov 19, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
75 posts

Great conversation!
Curled up pinkies seem to be everywhere, even in older students.
I like to tap both pinkies, left and right. Have you noticed a student learning 4th fingers picks their 4th finger off the bow, as well? May want to check toes, too, for grabbing. Somehow, it’s all connected.
Thanks, everyone! Keep tapping at any age at any point in the repertoire.

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