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?
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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