Pinky in the Basement!

Debbie said: Sep 22, 2006
Debbie MiViolin
138 posts


How do I help students keep their left pinkies over the strings along with their other fingers?


Lynn said: Sep 22, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Are the fingers and thumb squeezing?
Are the fingers, especially the 3rd, on thumbside corners?

Gabriel Villasurda said: Sep 22, 2006
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Lucy is right about having the left fingers touch the string on the corners closest to the thumb.. This will go a long way to fix the problem.

Why is keeping the pinky “in the basement” so bad?

  1. The pinky will be out of tune when it comes into place when needed.
  2. The pinky will be slow to cross to the A string (or lower) because the travel distance is farther.
  3. Double stops will be impossible—not only ones involving the pinky, but normal “tunnels” will be impossible.
  4. Octaves will be impossible.

My remedy: make them work on all four of these technicques.

Begin by getting left elbow under the violin. Check finger corners as Lucy suggests, Also check to see that the knuckle of the index finger are well above the string; the knuckle should look “square” with the nail facing the bridge. Look for the letter “Y” on the profile. Beware a tense thumb: sometimes tension here can be traced back to the shoulder rest (or lack thereof).

  1. Play Twinkle or Perpetual Motion with NO OPEN STRINGS. Also just do a 5 note scale pattern keeping pinky “above water”. Make them go fast so there’s no time to “go to the basement.”

  2. Do “Walking Exercises” such as (start on E)
    B G#/ (cross to A) E C# /(go to D) A F#/ (to G) D B REVERSE
    Keep pinky arched and LEADING to the new string.

    Invert: G# B/ C# E/ etc
    Now do F# B/ B E/ E A/etc

  3. Double stops:

    Play Twinkle (starting on open A) with a Drone open D
    (when to go to E, Drone the A) I call this “Drone on the left”

    Now play Twinkle starting on open D with a “Drone on the
    right”. The player needs to make a “tunnel” so that the
    higher string can sound. Arch fingers over the string.

    Perpetual Motion works as well. Try a Bariolage by putting
    an open E after every A string note and an open A after
    every E string note. Good string crossing etude as well.
    (Preparation for Seitz II.)

  4. Octaves: never too early to teach octaves. Start with a scale then
    go to Twinkle.

    Try it. Let me know if this helps.


Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Debbie said: Sep 23, 2006
Debbie MiViolin
138 posts

Thanks for the advice. These are excellent ideas and I will try them!

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