Just like athletes, musicians must build certain muscles to help them better perform. Below, violin teacher Julie P. shares some fun violin exercises that help build finger strength…
Finger strength is very important for violinists. The fingers in the left hand control the pitches on the violin, while the fingers on the right hand control the bow.
For this article, we’ll focus on violin exercises that will help build your left hand finger strength so that you can play in tune as well as any tempo.
Students who haven’t developed finger strength in their left hand often struggle with pushing the string down all the way to the finger board.
When a string isn’t pushed fully down, the tone quality of the note suffers and it can sound scratchy.
This especially becomes a problem when students start using the fourth finger (pinky) as it is one of the weakest fingers.
Finger strength is also important for playing fast. So much is demanded of the left hand for fast passages of music that sometimes violinists will find that their left hand hurts after playing.
It’s important, therefore, to build up the proper finger strength so that you don’t fatigue your left hand to the point of injury.
Below are five violin exercises you can practice outside of your violin lessons to help build finger strength.
1. Four Little Monkeys
For young violin players, the nursery rhyme “4 Little Monkeys” is a great way to develop coordination and initial finger strength.
First, the student holds the violin in proper playing position and taps one of his or her fingers on a string to the beat of the chant.
The number of monkeys determines which finger gets tapped. As the song counts down from four to one, each finger on the left hand gets a turn.
If you’re not sure how the song goes, here’s a reminder:
“Four little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell down and bumped his head
Mamma called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
“Three little monkeys jumping on the bed…”
2. Left Hand Pizzicato
A great way to strengthen the third and fourth fingers on the left hand is to play pizzicato with the left hand.
This is usually done with just the third and fourth fingers, and requires a lot of control in those fingers to pluck only one string.
Make up plucking patterns on open strings, or play simple songs and insert left hand pizzicato notes whenever open strings come up in the music.
Harmonics are high notes that are created by dividing a string in a certain spot. The way you do this is by lightly resting a finger (usually the fourth finger) in a specific spot on the string without pushing it down.
Practicing harmonics will help you develop finger strength because it requires you to move out of first position, as well as use your fourth finger.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to play harmonics:
4. Finger Tapping on a Table
Here’s a violin exercise you can do without even using your violin! Try tapping different finger patterns on a table or hard surface, as if you were playing the piano.
Challenge yourself by writing out patterns to tap slow, and then fast. Or, try “playing” some of your music this way.
Try these patterns to start (index finger is 1 and pinky finger is 4):
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4
1 3 2 4 3 1 4 2
1 4 2 3 4 1 3 2
Trills are a great violin exercise to develop finger strength. To play a trill, you’ll play one note and then quickly alternate it with the note above.
The fast movement of the trilling note will challenge your finger strength. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to play trills:
The violin exercises above will help you build your left hand finger strength so that you can play the violin even better.
If you’re looking for more help with building your left hand finger strength, try asking your violin teacher for some more violin exercises and specific advice.
Photo by Changjin Lee