A reader recently asked for some tips on how to play the violin with big fingers. I think it’s a great question that many other people are wondering. So here are some tips.
I know it seems impossible, and is very difficult, but take a close look at Itzhak Perlman’s hands. You’ll notice that his fingers are like sausages….very large and clunky hands, and yet his playing is as clean and agile as can be.
Here is the key:
1. Work slowly and precisely. If you are working on something with 2 tones, say on the D and A, then adjust your hand gently around until you can hit the notes precisely. Some ways of adjusting your hand around include:
- try adjusting the angle of the violin on your shoulder. Perhaps if you let your violin tilt so that the f-holes are facing more to your RIGHT, it can relieve the angle, and your hand will be more pliable.
- try MINIMIZING the pressure of your fingers onto the fingerboard. (most of us press too hard anyway, and it was said that Sarasate never EVER had dents in his fingers from the strings. He would barely touch with enough pressure to make the note sound.) Think of it: if you don’t press your finger down all the way, your fingertip will not “spread out”.
- try adjusting your elbow. Bring it more to the left or more to the right. And as you do that, try to also adjust the tilt of your violin, as well as the ANGLE that it protrudes from your neck. So you can tilt the violin by changing the angle of the f-holes, and you can also change the angle by moving the scroll to the left or to the right.
I know this seems like alot, and it’s a HUGE upheaval, and frustrating, but it can be done. And if you can find the position that works just ONCE in a hundred attempts….that is GOOD! Eventually, you will be able to find the position once every 50 tries, then once every 10 tries. I can sort of relate to you, in my frustrating search for a shoulder rest that worked for me. (Click here to learn a great position for most violinists’ shoulder rests.) It took a long time, but I eventually nailed it. And all the time spent in the meantime is NOT a waste of time. It’s not like your progress must come to a halt as you are trying to solve the puzzle! You will continue to progress, and there will be some passages you can’t play yet, because of your fingers, but keep working at it.
There is one other, easier solution, and that is to get a viola and play the tunes on viola. That opens up a whole world of harmony to you. And if you play in fiddle bands, it will be harder for you to play the traditional fiddle songs. But you could harmonize, and IMPROVISE your OWN solos or ask your band to take the song down a 5th. Then the fingerings would ALL be the same as for a violin. But this is just a suggestion.
Here’s a couple Perlman videos…..look at his hands….watch the angle of his violin….watch the tilt of his violin….watch his elbow…..
Now, I realize your fingers may be even larger than Perlman’s. I had a student whose fingers were literally about the size of small Bratwurst. But, if you see what he is able to play, in all that complexity and precision, then hopefully you will realize that you can play something of less complexity with some precision as well.
I also noticed on these videos that he NEVER has all his fingers on the strings at the same time. I think for people with LARGE fingers, the concept of “finger glue” is out of the question. You only have room for 1-2 fingers at at time.
Also, his violin is held at a downward sloping angle, more towards his front than his side, and the f-holes are tilting to the right. Some of this has to do with the fact that he SITS to play….but it’s also to accommodate his large hands.
Good luck! You gotta have patience and perseverance, but most of all, you’ve gotta have fun along the way.