About Hilary Hahn’s pinky… (because it’s practical)

by | May 27, 2022 | 0 comments

Do you follow TwoSet Violin and seen the episodes with Hilary Hahn?

If not probably you’ve seen Hilary Hahn playing the Mendelssohn concerto. If not, do so now and just watch her fingering in the first measures.

Doesn’t that freak you out? All those fourth fingers? What? Even shifting with four four.

‘Because it’s practical’ she explains. Brett and Eddy freak out. That phrase has become a meme since, but let’s explore it a bit further…

In her masterclasses Hilary Hahn often stresses how important it is for reliable intonation to have a strong and arched  pinky

Sure, you train this with practicing a lot, but most violin players take a detour. A collapsed pinky is an issue many of Hahn’s high level masterclass participants have despite of a lot of practice.

Here’s the problem:

The limitation of practicing scales and Schradieck for left hand technique: with scales fingered 12 12 or 123 123 for shifts and Schradieck exercises fingered 1232 2343 you mainly train the strong part of your hand and don’t train the weaker third finger and pinky. Also your left hand posture moves to a position that mainly facilitates the first and second finger.

If you look at Hilary Hahn’s left hand, you’ll see that the knuckles are nice and aligned with the neck of the violin and that it facilitates the pinky to be placed in a secure way. Also her pinky is strong and flexible enough to be placed beautifully arched.

The fastest way to practice a strong pinky is left hand pizzicato

With left hand pizzicato you train MOSTLY the weaker part of your hand as you pluck with the fourth and third finger. It’s autocorrection for your posture as with a collapsed pinky you can’t pluck. Just as with the right hand, you need to curl the finger and use a bit of strength to pluck. In my Instagram live some time ago I give some exercises that will get you result in a few minutes a day.

What also helps a ton to train a strong pinky are stretches

Sometimes students play out of tune, not because they don’t hear, but because their fingers can’t really reach the notes. Stretches widen the knuckles a bit. Also by playing stretches with an arched pinky, playing repertoire with an arched pinky suddenly feels easy.

The goal of exercises is that they are so difficult that they increase your level, so that your repertoire will feel easy… even with lots of fourth fingers.

This should be taught right at the start and not, like for Hilary Hahn’s masterclass participants, very far in their violin journey.

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

In my brand new program Paganini’s Secret my teacher Vivien Hoffman teaches concepts like left hand pizzicato and stretches on all levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced.

I just started practicing ‘Paganini style’ some weeks ago and I realized that I could have saved thousands of hours becoming a professional violinist or could have achieved a higher level much earlier in my career.

Are you interested to learn Paganini’s Secret?

Click here to read more and join when the program is open for enrollment.

No more pinky problems!

Paganini’s Secret has been a blessing to my journey in playing the violin. My fourth finger has always struggled to make it far enough to have good intonation without sliding my entire hand which just made it less accurate so I would have to adjust for intonation anyway.

The Paganini style exercises I have learned so far have really improved my flexibility between each of my other left-hand fingers and my pinky. One amazing struggle I have overcome is going down on a scale and transitioning from first finger on the higher string and playing pinky on the next string instead of the open string. Now I can keep my first finger down and place my pinky on the lower string in the correct position for a much smoother scale.

Another thing I have started to improve is placing my left-hand fingers in a bent position that doesn’t touch the other strings, especially on the G-string. This has enabled me to have an easier time playing double stops.

All in all, my left-hand feels much more relaxed and in control. It’s a great compliment to Bow Like a Pro because it really tackles all the left-hand technique issues for the whole package.

I can’t wait to get to the next modules and I am super excited to learn how to play Paganini’s 24th caprice. What an accomplishment that will be!


Jenn Reynolds (USA)

after just 6 weeks in Paganini's Secret


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