4th finger problem

Connie Sunday said: Sep 10, 2008
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have a student, plays beautifully, but I am worried about this crooked 4th finger. See photo:


He’s just not able to round it. I know that people play the violin with all sorts of not-quite-perfect physical configurations, but is anyone else familiar with this sort of problem?


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Jennifer Visick said: Feb 12, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Looks like a collapsed knuckle?

Possible helps:

  1. get a smaller (i.e. shorter string length) instrument

  2. adjust whatever shoulder support the student is using, along with adjusting to a different chinrest if necessary, so that the fingerboard is slightly farther to the left and/or the bass side of the instrument is slightly higher

  3. re-adjust the student’s left arm and wrist so that the fourth finger is both in tune and un-collapsed. (adjustments could include bring them closer to the student’s body, bringing the elbow farther forward, bringing the elbow higher so that the base of the student’s pinky is level with and not below the e or a string) Then make the other (longer, stronger) fingers do the work of stretching backwards to get in tune.

  4. check which part of the pad of the finger is touching the string. If it’s not slightly to the “thumb side” of the finger then changing this might help.

Lynn said: Feb 12, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Looks like my 4th finger, actually. Can’t see from the photo if it’s the same for this student, but the top part of my finger has a rather pronounced curve in towards the 3rd finger— I inherited it from my Dad :)—and playing thumbside is physically impossible. (I actually had a teacher tell me that because my finger was crooked, I’d never be able to play it in tune. :evil: ) I have experimented with wrist/hand/elbow adjustments, and I have tried different exercises at various times that were “supposed to” strengthen the knuckle so that it wouldn’t collapse, all without success. All I accomplished was pain and fatigue. Meanwhile, my flat knuckle and I are holding our own in the orchestra, and keeping pretty active on the local gig scene. I avoid extended trills and vibrato with that finger, but otherwise the vibrato blends with the other fingers, and I can toss off quick ornaments without too much difficulty. In other words, it functions like I need it to.

That’s not to say that I give my students a pass on curving their pinkies, and I try the things that Jenny suggested, but if the student plays beautifully, the hand is relaxed and well balanced, and the only thing wrong is the knuckle is flat, I suppose you could make a decision on whether to go after it based on whether it interferes with his playing. What does it “look like” with your eyes closed?

Mary said: Feb 15, 2009
1 posts

I have just read this, as I just joined. But I have a student with a similar problem, and it is a problem
I have dealth with as well. I believe it is a strength issue in the pinky muscle on the outside of your
hand that controls that finger. I also believe it is actually a tensing of the left shoulder that then pulls
the wrist back too far. I have fixed it myself with relaxing my shoulders, yet holding them square, and
then allowing my arm to be more relaxed. My wrist can then come slightly forward, and my pinky can
then curve. That muscle being weak is only fixed by finger exercizes, of course.—Mary

Linda said: Feb 25, 2009
 2 posts

I learnt the violin rather later! I had that problem with my 4th finger. The knuckle collapsed and that finger could not do vibrato.
Then, my teacher saw that my elbow was not tucked under the violin, my thumb was left behind at the scroll and was not in line with my index finger. These factors resulted in tension. I bought a mirror and corrected myself. I practice lifting up the 4th finger high and land it on the string ensuring that each time i do that, my knuckle does not collapse. I started without the bow first. Before long, it is now curved and it can do a vibrato for long notes. Don’t be discouraged!

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