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I'm getting back into playing violin after many years away from the instrument. I haven't begun lessons (yet), but I'm already troubled by something that was a persistent problem for years of schooling previously. I have what my instructors called a "weak" pinky, meaning that when I depress the string the finger bends at the first joint but flattens at the second. This makes a wide vibrato more difficult because the straightened finger is too rigid compared to a nicely arched one.
If this was really due to weak musculature, then it seems it would have been alleviated by hours of practice, but such was never the case for me in school. I'm now wondering if it's more of a hand positioning problem, i.e. if I shift the thumb slightly up (toward the bridge) to alleviate stretching, then it is easier to relax the finger into an arch. Since it's inefficient to move the thumb, I'm wondering what else I should try.
This isn't an issue when I play guitar, FWIW.
Probably the best cure for a "weak pinky", so long as it isn't due to some sort of severe injury, is to work it until it is strong. Spend some time every day using it to pluck the strings and using the pinky instead of open strings when you play for a while..and when you play guitar, do scales and chords that use it as much as you can until it becomes one of the strong points of your hand.
On guitar at least, and I think also violin, the pinky is not something you can afford to leave "weak".. It has the most stretch range and is potentially considerably more agile than the ring finger for most people, once you "put it though boot camp".
But then, you *knew* somebody would tell you that, right? LOL
PS.. Oh, and if you come down more on the tip, the joints won't "flatten out" as easily.
"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman
That is a great video! I've seen some others of hers, and she does have a gift for teaching, but I had not seen that one.
I've learned that I have a wrist angle problem. As it turns out, I already crank my elbow pretty far under the instrument, and I treat my thumb like a "pillow" to avoid squeezing the neck. I have some difficulty relaxing my hand for wrist-only vibrato, and this is alleviated by tilting the f irst knuckle toward the scroll.
As a youngster, my scool orchestra teachers were more concerned about "broken wrist syndrome" than they were about hyperextension. I think I developed a habit of overcompensation.
Anyway, I think the challenge is going to be learning how to relax the hand just far enough toward the scroll to preserve the finger arch without the 3-4 finger knuckles resisting and "popping" the pinky down into place. If you notice what happens to her pinky during the 1.5-step extension in the video, that is exactly what happens to mine with a whole-step extension.
Everyone's anatomy is a little different, so thanks for the tips!
Just another note to say that I've found Fiddlerman's advice about the elbow helpful in combination with raising the arm/shoulder. What really prompted this was Menuhin's left hand excercise video on YouTube. In the video, he shows getting the left hand really high above the fingerboard in the upper positions. I thought this was interesting to adapt everywhere, and it helps a lot with all of the other issues.
So, for me it boils down to 1) neutral wrist position, 2) exaggerated elbow position, 3) elevated hand.
I'm practicing this at the beginning and end of my sessions to bracket the etudes, etc. I figure the motor memory will kick in eventually.
Thanks all for sharing.