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I have the fiddlerman artist viola, 16.5". After about a month of lessons, I'm starting to notice an issue in regards to 4th finger stretching. It requires a stretch to the point that it hurts, sort of. Well, it was that way for a while. Throughout the course of about a month, it has become an issue. I don't play 4th finger in tune unless I stretch it. Even then, it's extremely hard to play 4th finger if my 2nd finger is in a low position. (I play 4th finger with my other 3 down as well, occasionally, just 1, or 3 down with it due to strength). I don't mind the viola size, I can fit it, it's just the stretch of the 4th finger. One more thing before I forget. with the 4th finger, I can't apply pressure on the left side, it's got to be on the right side for me if I ever have a chance of playing in tune.
Just today, I had a practice issue, where my 4th finger seemed to almost "pop". Or, it basically hurt quite a bit. I've heard that for viola, the 4th finger shouldn't be used as much, compared to violin due to the 4th finger not being strong enough. I was a bit worried that I'd damage my nerves on the pinky if I continued practicing, so I stopped.
I'm wondering, should I go ahead and trade in mine for maybe a 15.5" viola, or do I stretch even more? Is it possible for my 4th finger to obtain strength to be as strong as the other three?
I have rather small hands and a short pinky, so I can feel your pain, even though I play violin. My teacher started out on viola, and while her hands are bigger than mine, she has a short pinky, so she was teaching me viola playing tricks to reach my 4th finger. The one that works best for me is to use a finger (2nd or 3rd) as a pivot point and slightly roll/rock the hand forward to help the 4th finger reach without having to stretch. I don't always feel a need to do this (normal 1st finger position to 4th I don't seem to have an issue reaching) and don't always use a pivot finger unless I'm coming off that current note. You then just roll/rock the hand back down where it belongs and you play back down the fingerboard.
Have you spoke to your teacher about your thinking of going down a size? I would think they should be able to teach you some tricks for reaching without causing injury, my teacher implied the pinky reaching tricks are a common thing to learn with viola.
That said, over the course of my year and half of playing, my pinky has gotten stronger and reaches easier.
It may help you to downsize. There is a good chance that your pinky "pops" because you need to have it too straight and flat. Having your pinky too flat will bring it too close to loosing it's strength from having it slightly bent.
That being said, a smaller instrument won't sound as deep and powerful.
Well, my teacher does help in regards to using the 4th finger. She did instruct me in working on the angle that my pinky pushes down the string. I'm don't mind the size, though I'm thinking if I can find a 16.5" viola with a shorter string length, then that might help.
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