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Thread: Help! Advice on how to play violin with a really short pinky

  1. #1
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    Default Help! Advice on how to play violin with a really short pinky

    So, I have been playing violin for about 9 years now, and I have faced a lot of challenges as a person with a short pinky. Double stops are difficult, but not impossible. I have been able to deal with most challenges relating to my short pinky up until recently. While working on the 3rd page of the Bach Partita Gavotte, I have been having a lot of trouble reaching the fourth finger E on the A string while keeping my second finger on the A and D string at the same time.

    Here are some pictures of my left hand for reference. My right hand's pinky is equally short, but it is straight, not bent. I believe when I was young I hurt my LH pinky by closing it in a door, but I never went to a doctor or used a splint and it healed wrong (this was a long time ago, before I played violin or when I was just starting, so I don't remember it clearly).
    I've noticed that most people's pinkies are at least a smidge shorter than the topmost line on the ring finger, but my pinky only comes up to just under halfway between the two lines. The difference in finger lengths for most people is minimal, and the joints of the fingers match up as well, but in my case they do not (see photo 4 for what I mean).

    image4.jpgimage3.jpgimage2.jpgimage1.jpg

    I'm wondering if anyone knows any tips for playing with a short, bent pinky? I have been stretching my first finger back to reach, which has been working fine, and rotating my elbow as far around the violin as possible, which I'm worried might cause me injuries in the future. I am also worried that I am hurting my pinky, because pressing down on the fingerboard, or even just bending it is uncomfortable (I can feel the bones don't line up properly) and sometimes mildly painful if I play for a long time.
    I plan on talking to my doctor about potential future injuries, but health complications due to playing violin with a short, bent, pinky seems like a pretty uncommon thing for someone to know about, so....
    What should I do?? Am I doomed to not be able to play certain passages? Should I get surgery? Am I freaking out and just need to practice more?
    I really want to improve at violin but sometimes I feel like my pinky is a barrier keeping me from progressing for my right hand as well but to a lesser extent.

  2. #2
    Senior Member vsm's Avatar
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    Don't panic! I have met several people in my violin career with short pinkies like yours or with injured pinkies, and they played beautifully anyway. It is not such an uncommon problem as you may think.

    What I suggest is to approach everything with a different perspective. First of all, acknowledge you have a different hand than most people, consequently approach any violin technique differently. To give you an example:

    1. Use more the 3rd finger than the 4th finger whenever possible.
    2. For double stops involving the 4th finger (and without the chance to replace it with a different finger), approach them gently focusing on placing the 4th finger first BUT without leveraging on it. Try to adjust the left elbow accordingly, but always in a relaxed fashion.
    3. Try to reinforce your pinky as much as you can, slowly and always step-by-step, by using methods like Sevcik Op. 7 (trill technique). Slowly and step-by-step, I can't stress that enough!
    4. Make your pinky more flexible and "extendible" by practicing extensions. Here too, slowly and step-by-step.

    What you need to be sure is to approach everything slowly and step-by-step, never rush, never get disappointed or upset, and mostly, never think you cannot do a passage. You can play everything, just with a different approach.

    Please, let me know if you have any more questions, even about specific passages or repertoire, I'll be glad to help.

    Don't let this problem limit your violin passion!

    All the best,
    Fabrizio Ferrari, supervisor
    Virtual Sheet Music
    https://www.virtualsheetmusic.com

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    Thank you very much for your advice! I will try out those methods and let you know how it goes

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    Junior Member Faville's Avatar
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    I realize the thread is old, but in addition to what vsm recommended, keep an eye on where your left thumb is resting on the side of the neck. Bringing it more forward can give the pinky a little more confidence and reach.

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