Playing with Fat Fingers

“My hands are rather big for a violinist so my big, fat fingers have to struggle the further I move up the instrument.” ~Itzhak Perlman

I first learned I had “cadet” hands when I bought my first golf glove as a teenager. For those of you who don’t know this term, it means people with relatively short fingers coupled with wide palms. On top of that, as I have grown older and put on a couple lot of pounds, my hands have, ahem, gotten “chunkier”. I have a concern that this is going to be a problem as I learn the fiddle. I mean, I don’t expect to be another Itzhak Perlman, but maybe there are some things I can do to mitigate this situation.

Yes, I can lose some weight, and I did drop 50 pounds two years ago, but put 30 pounds back on last year. Perhaps it is time to lose some more weight. Less weight = thinner fingers. But what about “adjusting” this condition to the fiddle?

Not knowing any fat-fingered fiddlers, or any fiddlers for that matter, I turned to good old Google and began searching, and it seems there are a lot of violinists/fiddlers with the same problem. Looks like I will need to learn and incorporate some techniques to overcome the fat finger blues. This is what I found so far.

I will really have to concentrate on my left hand position more so than if I had long, slender fingers. The left thumb needs to be positioned roughly in the middle of the back of the neck directly behind where I will fret the strings. Then, I need to bend my wrist forward, or as Wayne Erbsen puts it, bend my wrist like I am trying to take off a wrist watch or bracelet from my left hand using the fingers of my left hand. I should bend my wrist this same way when I am playing my fiddle.

I will also have to try and remember to use the very tips of my fingers to fret the strings. A person with more slender fingers can cheat a little bit here. It will also help to try and minimize the pressure of my fingers against the fingerboard lessening “spread out” of my chubby digits.

I can also experiment with angling my fiddle on my shoulder, so the top of the fiddle is facing slightly right, until I find the position where my left hand is more pliable.

Heck, fat fingered fiddlers (say that 5 times fast) have been making adjustments for decades, so I should be able to do it, too! My guess is it will take some experimenting until I can find a comfortable and precise method that fits me, along with a lot of practice, so much that I will be able to do it without thinking about it. I’ll let you know.

Do you have fat fingers? If so, what have you done to help yourself when learning or playing the fiddle?

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