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4th Finger difference on the Viola compared to Violin
Would there be people who can give me the differences between
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Elwin
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April 3, 2021 - 4:13 am
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I am aware that for Viola, it's recommended to not use 4th finger as much as one would for the Violin, because of reasons such as the pinky is not naturally strong enough to press down the string by itself.

What I was wondering is what exactly the fourth-finger differences are between Viola and Violin. I know the Suzuki Viola method has the student use 4th finger almost like a Violin, minus the stretches. (3rd finger on D, and then Stretch the 4th finger to F, or things like that). I am unsure about other methods. From what I have seen other professional violists do, is that they use the first 3 fingers most of the time, and shift a lot, but they only use 4th finger in occasions such as if the note would go to fast, and there isn't time to shift, or if the 4th-finger note was just a half-step from the 3rd finger. Is that generally how using 4th finger playing Viola differs from using 4th finger while playing Violin? How would it be different if that's not the case?

I am aware that usually violists balance their thumb across the middle finger or even ring finger. My hand can stretch pretty far, so that's not necessary for most of the time. My viola-major friend told me that bringing the elbow in more helps with 4th finger.

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AndrewH
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April 3, 2021 - 5:11 am
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I'm a violist, and I have the smallest hands of any adult I know, about the same size as those of an average 11-year-old. I can still manage 4th-finger stretches most of the time on a violin, but on viola I only use 4th finger stretches in 3rd through 7th positions. (Below 3rd position, the notes are too far apart; above 7th position, it's hard to stretch with the 4th finger.)

In general, the viola uses internal extensions more than external ones, i.e. stretching with the 2nd and 3rd fingers. If it's not inconvenient, I prefer to shift rather than use 4th finger. When in higher positions, if I have time, I may even stretch with the 3rd finger rather than use the 4th finger in its normal position, because the 3rd finger can actually reach farther.

That said, if you absolutely must use the 4th finger, consider placing your 4th finger first and then stretching back with the 1st finger. That balances the hand differently and gives you a little bit more range.

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AndrewH
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April 3, 2021 - 5:12 am
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Kim Kashkashian has some useful thoughts on the subject in the video I posted here:

https://fiddlerman.com/forum/l.....n-seminar/

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 25, 2021 - 1:45 pm
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I recommend that you use the forth finger as much as possible to strengthen those joints. Also to get used to the stretches. As long as you don't overdo the stretches and hurt yourself in any way.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Mouse
June 25, 2021 - 2:40 pm
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@Fiddlerman When I try to use my 4th finger instead of the next open string, I have problems keeping my instrument secure. It wobbles or something. Not sure how to stop that. Happens with the violin, also. I really want to use my 4th finger.

The Bumblebee Flies!

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JohnG
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June 25, 2021 - 3:13 pm
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I have fairly large hands and, on my viola, I find I can reach 4th finger on the D string, but been having problems on the G string. Guess I just need to work on it. That and trying to keep some semblance of an arch in my little finger.

The old curmudgeon!

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Elwin
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June 25, 2021 - 3:21 pm
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JohnG said
I have fairly large hands and, on my viola, I find I can reach 4th finger on the D string, but been having problems on the G string. Guess I just need to work on it. That and trying to keep some semblance of an arch in my little finger.

  

Bring your elbow in a little more if you're having trouble. A viola-major friend of mine told me that.  Oh, and make sure that your elbow is under the instrument and not far back. Those things helped me with stretching. Now, when I spread my fingers out, my left-hand fingers spread more than my right-hand fingers.

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JohnG
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June 25, 2021 - 3:57 pm
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@Elwin - Good tips, will have to try tucking my elbow under more!

The old curmudgeon!

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AndrewH
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June 25, 2021 - 7:26 pm
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One more thing: on the viola, there are some things commonly taught to violin students that need to be dispensed with.

First, ignore violin teachers who say the thumb should be opposite the first finger. The thumb needs to be more mobile on viola. You may find you can reach farther if your thumb is opposite your second finger; in general, you should have your hand balanced closer to its center.

Also, there is no need to maintain a straight wrist on the viola. While the wrist should not be pancaked against the neck of the instrument, it is perfectly acceptable to have a somewhat rounded wrist or adjust it as needed, which also allows the fingers to reach farther.

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Mouse
June 26, 2021 - 7:03 am
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@AndrewH Thank you for that information in post #9. I really appreciated it. I appreciate all the viola information you provide. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Gordon Shumway
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June 26, 2021 - 10:07 am
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I find that my thumb needs to be mobile on the violin. For stretching the 4th or half-shifting, I need the thumb to be more in line with my middle finger. I wouldn't like a teacher who was dogmatic about it. Perhaps it's because she's a violist that mine isn't dogmatic!

There are words on the subject in Fischer and Galamian. I must re-read them.

Andrew

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JohnG
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June 26, 2021 - 11:14 am
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Somewhere, @Fiddlerman had stated placing the thumb at the scroll would allow repeat positioning and I've found it helpful. However, in my case it means that the thumb is not perpendicular to the neck, but more aligned with the neck, thus moving my hand away from the nut. It may not be right, but it works (so far). Guess I'll have to try opposite 2nd or 3rd finger.

The old curmudgeon!

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ELCBK
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June 26, 2021 - 11:50 am
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I'm always ready for a rude awakening, so here it goes. (lol) 

If I need to stretch, I want my hand free to move.  So, my thumb is my enemy - it better just stay attached to my hand, like a passenger - no creeping into a potential death grip! 

Isn't it really the rest of the hand/fingers & arm that should be the focus? 

If you tilt your instrument a little, swing your elbow under your instrument, position your hand around enough so all of your fingers easily reach all over the fingerboard - your thumb will follow.   

Our hands are all different shapes & sizes, don't we all need to compensate a little?  I'll never be able to stretch my fingers apart like some of you, so I'll jump or leap, whatever it takes.

Does it really matter exactly where your thumb is, as long as it's relaxed, out of the way & doesn't prevent your hand from moving freely? 

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- Emily

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Mouse
June 26, 2021 - 12:22 pm
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@ELCBK That was a big point if contention between me and my instructors. They were all old school and you have to do it this way, you have to hold it that way, you have to stretch. 

My hands may not be petite, but that does not mean they are flexible, that my joints are not stiff due to age. They have stretched about as much as they will at my age. My little finger is actually shorter in comparison to my other fingers, than a lot of people’s. They feel really weird, and actually have never felt like they belong on my hand, just kind of weird. So, no, I cannot stretch to 4th. I can with my cello, but that is a different angle. My hand is not contorted. 

I was constantly told I could do the stretch. I could not and it was extremely painful to force it. I do not believe that is physically sound to do, force yourself to do something that is extremely painful. I think that that is why, even with really good instructors, I still had issues and reached that point where I was moving beyond 1st position and starting the stretching, I never progressed. I have to scootch forward a little to reach that E on the 3rd string on a violin and then scootch back. They would not allow that. I had to stop because I was not progressing, and not allowed to do it a way that I could do it. 

I read and article and watched a video by the same violinist who wrote the article, instead of stretching forward, she has had to move to 2nd and then reach back with her first finger. She didn’t start out and remain in that position, she shifted to 2nd when most people would do that stretch. 

As you can see, this is one of my pet peeves with music lessons. Accommodationing to learner’s physical abilities and so many instructors stuck in, “This is how it has been done for centuries, and the only way,” mode. 

 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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Mouse
June 26, 2021 - 1:39 pm
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AndrewH’s comment about the thumb, for some reason, has really helped with my thinking, and when I get my viola out again, I am going to re-read it and pay attention. 

The Bumblebee Flies!

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AndrewH
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June 26, 2021 - 2:31 pm
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ELCBK said
I'm always ready for a rude awakening, so here it goes. (lol) 

If I need to stretch, I want my hand free to move.  So, my thumb is my enemy - it better just stay attached to my hand, like a passenger - no creeping into a potential death grip! 

Isn't it really the rest of the hand/fingers & arm that should be the focus? 

If you tilt your instrument a little, swing your elbow under your instrument, position your hand up & around enough so all of your fingers easily reach all over the fingerboard - your thumb will follow.   

Our hands are all different shapes & sizes, don't we all need to compensate a little?  I'll never be able to stretch my fingers apart like some of you, so I'll jump or leap, whatever it takes.

Does it really matter exactly where your thumb is, as long as it's relaxed, out of the way & doesn't prevent your hand from moving freely? 

  

That's really what I'm saying. There are old-school violin teachers (generally not violists, and the approach is falling out of favor among violinists too) who insist on the thumb staying opposite the first finger, and I'm in favor of letting the thumb move more freely.

That said, rebalancing toward the center of the hand is an option that may need to be learned consciously because it's not intuitive for most people. Like @JohnG I also tend to push my thumb back, which works for stretching a single finger quickly, but I've found it limiting at times. It's good to be able to move the thumb in either direction as needed without thinking about it.

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ELCBK
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June 26, 2021 - 2:52 pm
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@AndrewH -

I see, now - good. 

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