Four Tips for Improving Fourth Finger Strength

When you’re first learning to play the violin, mastering finger coordination can prove to be difficult, but not impossible. However, for many violinists, it’s a challenge to increase the strength as well as the agility of the pinky or fourth finger of the left hand. This is especially true for violinists with small hands.

Your pinky is not only the shortest finger on your left hand, but it’s also relatively weak in comparison to the other digits. The goal is to strengthen it and increase its flexibility, which will contribute to producing a better sound. 

There are a number of exercises that you can do to develop strength and dexterity in your fourth finger. And, while the goal for most violinists is to develop a curved pinky, the priority should be to develop a pinky that is both strong and flexible. 

What are some valuable tips to help you improve the strength and dexterity of your pinky?

Our Tips

Four basic tips that our staff at Johnson String Instrument offer to help you to improve your fourth finger include:

1. Give it time

2. Exercise with and without your violin

3. Try different positions

4. Don’t just strengthen, stretch!

Remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Be patient! Learning new techniques is challenging. It takes time to build muscle memory in your pinky. Overdoing exercises for your fourth finger can result in injury rather than improvement. Practice for a moderate amount of time each to prevent overuse injuries.

Practicing your chromatic scales and arpeggios over and over at a very slow tempo is one the best ways to strengthen your fourth finger and improve your dexterity. In addition, try left-handed pizzicato exercises and independent finger raises on your violin.  

And remember you do not need your violin to exercise. An example is the “pencil reach.” Grip a pencil or regular pen in your left hand, using only your fingertips. Slowly, “walk” your pinky finger away from the other fingers as far as you can and then slowly walk it back. Use a portable fingerboard or print one for free so you can practice scales and arpeggios when your violin isn’t readily available. 

Make time for stretching exercises before you practice. Stretching the muscles of your fingers as well as flexing your joints has a big impact on your range of motion and the dexterity of your fingers. Take breaks when playing, to perform some stretching exercises, as this can help prevent cramping and/or sprains.

Your Hands Can Handle It

If you have small hands, a short pinky finger, or if your hands are still growing, it may be challenging to develop your pinky finger strength for playing the violin. You may find that some of the fourth finger exercises are difficult at first. 

But don’t let small hands or short fingers stop you from playing the violin. Check out our website for tips on playing a violin with small hands.

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The Most Common Violin Scales and How to Play Them

When you are learning how to play the violin, it’s important to understand scales. Learning scales will give you a solid foundation as you start to explore new and more challenging pieces of music.

What is a scale? A violin scale is a series of notes, ordered by their frequency or pitch, which span eight notes or an octave. Each scale on the violin is accompanied by a set of naturals, sharps, and flats which determine the type of scale. While there are many different types of scales, including major, natural minor, harmonic minor and more, as a beginner playing violin, you have to first focus on and master the major scales. 

Whether you are a beginning or advanced violinist, practicing scales helps to develop the correct finger and arm muscle memory which are essential factors to making progress in your playing. Set aside a specific amount of time during each of your practice sessions to focus on playing different scales on your violin. 

Don’t just mindlessly speed through your scales. Be deliberate in your practicing of scales; play them with an exaggerated slow tempo to work on improving the accuracy of your playing as well as improving your timing and rhythm. Repeated practice of your violin scales also helps to improve your ability to detect and then correct problems with your tone, articulation, and consistency.

And don’t forget about using your sheet music because focusing on each note that you play is critical to helping build your ability to read music. “Saying” the notes to yourself as you play them helps to improve intonation as well as sight reading skills.

Starting With a Major Scale

The five most common violin scales that are useful for any violinist to master are:

1. A Major

2. G Major

3. D Major

4. C Major

5. B-Flat Major

When you have mastered these five scales, you’ll be prepared for almost any piece of music that you would like to play.

Practice in Style

Practicing violin scales as part of a consistent routine is invaluable in developing and maintaining every facet of your playing technique. By mastering scales, your fingers will have the opportunity to “learn” the correct spacing in every position on the violin. 

Start at a very slow tempo, using a metronome, and focus on your sound, pitch, and tone. 

The Boss DB-90 Metronome, the flagship of the Dr. Beat Metronome line, lets you practice in style. The most advanced metronome available, the Boss DB-90 has an astounding number of functions and features packed into its compact, lightweight chassis. With a tempo range from 30-250 beats per minute, the Boss DB-90 Metronome will help you improve your timing and rhythm as you work on developing your own playing style.

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