Collapsing pinky joints

Elizabeth said: Apr 24, 2006
Elizabeth Jones
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Owensboro, KY
21 posts

One of my new students has pinky joints that collapse. When she tries to curve her pinky for bow hold, her middle joint falls flat. The end joint stays bent.

Today I had her place her pinky right next to her ring finger on the bow. With it “propped up” like that, she could keep her pinky curved. Her hand looked nice and round, and her bow arm stayed loose and flexible. Should I have her keep her pinky there?

I’ve seen some exercises in a master class (Roland Vamos or Heidi Castleman) to strengthen weak joints in the left hand. But my memory is fuzzy! Can anyone help me with these?

This 12 year old is such a diligent worker—she started in mid-January and is already learning Minuet 1. I want to make sure she has the right tools so she can keep flying along!

said: Apr 25, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
120 posts


I have exercises from studying with Roland and Almita Vamos called Korgeof, which they used for left hand position and strength. They are quite difficult, however, and I am not sure I would use them on someone who is not very developed. They would be too difficult for someone in Book 1 for sure. I have only used them with advanced students.

If this is what you’re looking for send me a personal email, and I can photcopy and mail you a copy. [javascript protected email address].

said: Apr 25, 2006
 5 posts

I highly advise against using Kerghoff (sp?) at this stage- or at least until Book 8. But you might try teaching her the first two pages of Schradieck Book 1, a line or two at a time. If this is taught carefully (try doing it without bow and with a low 4 to start, making sure that the hand stays still and relaxed and the movement comes from the base joint and all joints remain curved in the air), that can be very helpful.
Pinky push-ups are also fun for strengthening bowhold pinkies. I do these even with my beginners.

Cynthia Faisst said: Apr 28, 2006
Cynthia FaisstViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
126 posts

What a wonderful discovery. The pinky and ringfinger are freinds. While the pinky does not have a long job discription. I tell my kids that he is incharge of swerve controle when you get out to the tip of the bow. But in order for that to happen the ringfinger needs to have a healthy curve that can lift the tip of the bow from the string and release that tug to let the horsehair sit heavier. Most of the time these two fingers are busy going along for the ride in the back seat. When they become back seat drivers the other fingers get really frustrated with them. Thats when I ask pinky to take a vacation until he is willing to sit quietly in the back seat until he is needed. IF ring finger is extended and stiff pinky can’t even reach the stick to sit next to him.

In the left hand it is very hard for a child who has trouble ballancing on their 2nd and 3rd fingers to use their pinky. When 3rd finger pulls down on the string pinky wants to help. He often falls down below the first floor and into the dungeon. Before I have students using 4th finger I put two eyes on the pinky (with a smelly marker) and ask him to watch what the ring finger is doing each time ring finger sits on the string to play a note. By concentrating lifting the pinky while 3rd finger is down on the string, the pinky begins to get the strength and separation it needs from the 3rd finger.

Children with week fingers tend to squeeze the fingerboard more because the can’t get ballanced over the string with a good left hand shape. THey may also have trouble feeling that their hand is hanging from the finger board, and that this more than enough to pull the finger down. If their shoulder is week they will also have difficulty feeling weight coming from their elbo because they are using it to hold the whole left side of the body up along with the violin. They may solve the problem by squeezing up (with the palm or some other part of the hand.

Check for a pointer finger that is glued to the side of the finger board. A heavy over bearing 1st finger that is laying down on his back side makes it really difficult for a pinky to relax and get over the finger board on his side of the hand. The pinky actually wants to straighten and stick straight up, left to his own devices, boing!! when this is going on. Its the only clue I have that 1st finger is misbehaving like this. It may be a good time to review walking fingers.

You don’t need special music out side the the pieces a child is already working on. You can devise games to create awareness of their finger habits from pieces as simple as Perpetual Motion and Allegro. It is what they are doing with those pieces, even one measure of a piece that will help develop new habits and get a pinky working comfortably.

Our younger students are living in an environmemt that promotes week upper body skills and grasping skills. At the age when we were climbing trees on the way to school these kids are in the back seat of a car because mom and dad are terrified to let them walk to school.

I have devised all kinds of light lifting exersizes and games for new players who need to limber up and get flexibility in their muscles. THey need to be motivated to do them consistantly every day for several months at a time to get results.

Sometimes I wish they all had a job to do at home that envolved turning a crank on a pump or an ice cream maker every night. Before electric food processors arrived I remember when we helped mom turn things in the food grinder or turn the handle on the egg beater. You have to go to a special store to find those things now.

I started a list of these activities for parents to do with their children on this site a while back and I think it got lost when they restarted the forum.

Unlike the apes, our pinky and thumb are designed to cup around objects. To assist with holding objects. The tall finger, ringfinger and pinky are meant to work closely together in physical proximity. Their strength is in sharing the work load evenly.

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

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