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…
When you first start learning how to play the violin, there are lots of different techniques you’ll need to master. Fortunately, there are all kinds of violin practice exercises and resources available to you online, from free violin sight reading exercises to violin shifting exercises and much, much more.
One area of learning how to play violin that you can’t ignore, however, is violin 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.
Violin exercises can help build your left hand finger strength so that you can play in tune as well as any tempo.
In this post, we’ll explore the best violin exercises for beginners who want to strengthen their fingers – and let you know why violin finger exercises are so important in the first place.
How Do I Strengthen My Fingers for Violin?
These violin finger exercises are some of the best for improving your strength and dexterity as you play violin:
- Four Little Monkeys
- Left Hand Pizzicato
- Finger Tapping on a Table
Ready to get started doing some of these violin exercises to strengthen your fingers and hands? Get warmed up – and be sure to tune your violin before you start practicing. Here’s a quick reminder of how to do just that:
Is Violin Hard on Your Fingers?
One of the most important parts of learning how to play violin is in building up calluses on your finger.s Like any string instrument, the strings can be rough on your skin. If you don’t take the time to build up calluses, playing the violin can be painful!
Not only that, but 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.
5 Great Violin Finger Exercises for Beginners
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:
More Advanced Violin Exercises
Here are some more violin exercises to help you become a master violinist in no time.
1. Violin First Finger Exercises
This advanced violin exercise will train both your first and third finger at the same time.
To do it, lift both fingers together and then put them down at the same time. Do this four times. You can then repeat with your second and fourth finger, if you’d like.
To take it one step further, do this without putting all your fingers down. Lift your first and third, then when you put them down, lift the second and fourth.
Another simple exercise you can do is to put your first finger on the A flat on the G string. Place your second finger on the F on the D string, the fourth finger on the B on the E string, and the third finger on the D on the A string.
Put down all of your fingers and make sure you’re in tune. This should stretch all of your fingers, but especially your first finger.
2. 2nd Finger Exercises
Here’s a video of some 2nd finger exercises violin players should master:
3. 4th Finger Exercises
Let’s talk about the top 4th finger exercises violin players should know.
The pinkie is considered the “fourth finger” by most violinists. Although the pinkie is often ignored, it’s just as important as the rest of the fingers. It’s also the weakest finger because it is neglected so often.
Here are some exercises that can help:
What Can I Practice to Get Better at Violin?
Any of the violin finger exercises listed above will help you become a violin player. Always warm up and practice as often as you can – at least half an hour a day for three to five days a week – to become a better violinist.
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