Violinists’ Hands: What You Need To Know [Your Questions Answered]

Can You Play The Violin With Big Hands & Fat Fingers

Having large hands can provide an advantage for violin players. Having a greater handspan helps violinists perfect more advanced techniques with less hand strain.

Having big hands is especially helpful for violinists’ pinky fingers. Fingerings (such as 10ths and fingered octaves) that require the use of the pinky finger are difficult. Being able to reach those fingerings makes learning them much easier.

If you have “fat” fingers that inhibit your ability to properly finger notes, you will have to adjust your finger positions, hand placement, and shoulder angle in relation to the violin. Learning to get the correct spacing on the fingerboard will present challenges, but using a tuning device can help with this problem.

Remember, it’s okay to get creative with your finger placement when playing. Itzhak Perlman talked about stacking his fingers to play certain notes because of the size of his fingers. (See the video below for more expert tips.)

No matter your hand size your playing will improve if you build finger dexterity, strength, and flexibility.

Tips For Improving Finger Strength & Flexibility

  • Tap your pinky finger whenever possible to strengthen it;
  • Practice scales often;
  • Perform finger stretches;
  • Use a hand exerciser (available on Amazon);
  • Practice finger exercises on a mock fingerboard, tabletop, or phone app;
  • Don’t overdo any of the exercises you’re doing to improve. Over exercising your fingers can cause injury.

If you are unable to train your hands to play the violin you own, you can consider changing instruments.

A few suggestions I have seen are switching to a larger violin. For example, move from a 3/4 to a 4/4 violin. Of course, this won’t help if you’re already using a 4/4 violin.

This takes me to another recommendation I’ve seen … re-string a viola using the violin string order. Since the viola is a larger instrument, it is easier for violinists with larger hands to play.

One final possibility is to have a violin maker customize your violin with a wider fingerboard to accommodate your hand size.

Itzhak Perlman Explains How He Plays Violin With Large Hands [Video]

Are Smaller Hands Better For Playing Violin

If by small hands you are referring to skinny fingers instead of short fingers, this is not usually a disadvantage. In fact, playing higher notes should be easier for individuals with thin fingers. However, it’s generally harder to play the violin with small hands with short fingers.

Despite the potential challenges of having short fingers, most deficiencies can be overcome with proper hand, wrist, and elbow placement.

Here are a few suggestions to help you play more comfortably if you have small hands:

  1. Use a smaller instrument. 3/4 or 7/8 size instruments may make playing easier.
  2. Bring your elbow in further and curve your first knuckle to absorb the pressure that is placed on the pinky finger.
  3. Move your chinrest to the right. A middle chinrest is also often a good choice for people with smaller hands.
  4. Curve your finger joints while playing instead of extending your fingers.
  5. Make sure you’re not playing in a position that is too tense. Try balancing your hand frame and using less finger pressure. Also, make sure your thumb is not too tight while you’re playing.

How Do You Play Violin With Short Fingers

Violinists with short fingers learn to play using posture adjustments and techniques that can help compensate for the length of their fingers. Check out the section above to read some of those methods.

Do Violinists Have Longer Fingers

Not all violinists have long fingers. There is nothing about playing the violin that will lengthen your fingers. However, practice and exercise can improve the flexibility of your fingers.

Related Questions

Does it hurt your fingers to play violin?

Beginning violinists usually experience pain when playing until callouses have built up on their fingers. The pain of playing should dissipate once those callouses are present.

If your fingers are hurting at the joints be sure you don’t just play through the pain. There is reason to be concerned if this type of pain persists. It is not uncommon for violin player to develop tendinitis so you don’t want to ignore the pain you feel when you’re playing.

How do I strengthen my pinky finger for violin?

Because the pinky finger is your weakest finger, that will need the most strengthening. A couple of suggestions offered by Dr. Lynn are (1) make sure the fourth finger has strength by using an arched shape and (2) place the pinky finger down first then form the rest of the violin hold in reverse order.

The video below contains more helpful tips for strengthening your fourth finger.

Can you play the violin with long nails?

Playing the violin with long nails is extremely difficult.

To achieve good intonation, the fleshy tip of your fingers has to be able to put adequate pressure on the strings. Sporting long nails make it impossible for the violinist to position your fingers properly.

Additionally, you will not be able to play fast runs and string-crossing patterns. Playing the violin with long nails can also leave scratches on the fingerboard and damage the instrument’s strings.