All About Your Fingertips

OK – the idea here is to play IN TUNE!

If you’re a classical player, you work forever to play in tune. From China to Vancouver to Chile – everyone agrees on what the notes sound like. So – we have to get it RIGHT! 

Every day, it’s the same old thing – TUNE those notes. Casals, the famous cellist said: after sixty years, every morning I still go out on the balcony (this is in sunny Italy),  pick up my cello and remind myself where the notes are.

You’d think that after years of lessons and a hundred thousand exercises (or half a million fiddle tunes), the fingers would know just where to go. So why don’t they always go there?

Here’s the deal: a fingertip that touches the string one millimeter (1/16 inch) out of place is OUT OF TUNE!  Arrgghh! How so?

Consider the shape of your fingertip:   The end is round, right

Now – I’m assuming you know the spacings between the fingers: you can get close to the right pitch, but sometimes, the note is a bit off. Why so? 

Take a closer look:  See the fingertips?

CLUE: If your finger lands on its point and touches the string in the EXACT CENTRE of your fingertip, you’re very, very close to being in tune. BUT if you land on the curved part of your fingertip, it’s touching a different place on the string. Get it? QUIZ: if you land on the curved part, will it be sharp or flat?

LAST CLUE: What about being perfectly in tune? Uh-oh – this takes a good ear. What’s that? It’s this: (see next post).

SO – pay attention. Like painting a wall, or maybe mounting a butterfly –

it’s in the details.   


By the way: you need very short fingernails.                                                                         These are too long.   Sorry, ladies …

These are cut very nicely:                                                                    ATTENTION! If the nail touches the string: Too Long!

These, other the other hand,  just won’t do ….                                                 …. makes for jerky notes … maybe some weird effects?

Bye now.



About violinworks

Peter M. Dunn is a career teacher of violin. He specializes in teaching young children, preparing students for university, and helping adults to 'get started'. His principles are: learn to listen, learn to relax the muscles, learn how to work at home, and will enjoy a long and successful journey with the violin.
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