Advice from Colburn students – that darn fourth fingerPosted: March 30, 2011
Normal humans call it a pinky, but to a violinist, it’s a fourth finger. That little, almost insignificant finger in everyday life is absolutely essential to playing the violin. Both the right and left hand pinkies are vital in their roles, and unfortunately, taming that left hand fourth finger is extremely difficult.
When picking up the violin for the first time, using the fourth finger at all is almost impossible. Danielle started me out with scales that only went up to my third finger and then hopped on over to the next open string. When using the fourth finger for the first time, it feels absolutely useless, like it won’t be able to push the string down at all. After a while, it becomes usable, but sometimes it does thing it isn’t supposed to. You see, the fourth finger is supposed to be curved the whole time:
Except, oftentimes, especially with high notes, the fourth finger tends to lock in a straight position that has no power to press firmly or (which I’ll get to later, hopefully) vibrate:
So the other day, as I walked through the Colburn Cafe, I ran into students Francesca, Radu, and Jeremy (violin, violin, viola) sitting at a table. I said hello, and they asked me how the blog and violin playing was coming. We chatted for a bit and then Radu asked how my fourth finger was coming. I lamented that it wasn’t perfect, that it unfortunately locked at the wrong time, but once in a while I have a good looking pinky. So he showed me this exercise called a “pinky pushup” designed to strengthen the fourth finger so it locks less: