13

Whenever I play the violin a lot my fingertips start to hurt to a point at which it is painful to keep playing and this is just from around 3 to 4 hour a day practice which I don't consider to be excessive. Then come the calluses.

From what I hear people saying it seems that for guitarists it seems to be something normal, expected and even encouraged. See this question for example. However, for violinists I hear mixed things, most of them saying that it is not normal and it is probably a sign of using too much pressure on the strings.

Are these calluses normal or not ? Should I decrease the pressure on the strings ? Do great violinists have calluses on their fingers ? Do you ?

  • It seems like it would be possible not to develop calluses with violin, but I very much doubt that it's uncommon. – Matthew Read Jun 13 '11 at 16:32
8

As other answerers have already remarked, calluses are not a mandatory consequence of violin playing, and in fact many professional violinists have hard fingertips but no calluses.

The way you describe your situation, it seems that you lose your calluses regularly. Are they always at the same place on your finger? Do you swim or take long baths?

Set-up aspects you can check, or have checked with an experienced friend or professional:

  • string clearance at nut and end of fingerboard. They can be too high or not well shaped.

  • width and thickness of the violin's neck, compared to your hand and classical measurement : if the neck is ill-dimensioned, this will push you in bad directions in left hand position.

  • tension and gauge of your strings. Usually these are of "medium" gauge, but the feel and suppleness can be a little different from one brand to another. Certain soft gauge strings, especially A strings can be a good idea. With smaller width usually comes some ease to bow and start the sound. If you do not play in an orchestra, you will have some liberty to test different strings gauges and makes.

  • allergy or irritation to one or several components of the string. The most common is nickel intolerance, but you might discover that certain strings allow you to work longer without pain than others.

Technique:

  • try to shift your left hand a little higher on the strings by raising slightly the arm and curving the wrist a little more. It can give you more control on the strength of your fingers on the strings and make the point of contact more in line with the end bone of your fingertip.

  • try, when possible, to apply a little transversal shift to the string (as if you were trying to bend it), for the A and D string: toward the G or E string as appropriate to the situation. It will require less direct pressure of the finger on the string. But it must be incorporated in your fingering and intonation exercices. Experiment to discover the limit points of finger stress, contact point and bow pressure when you can produce a musical sound.

  • focus a lot on bowing: if your bowing is inadequate, you will have a tendency to press more on the string to make the sound happen. In fact many people are battling against their bow. This is something easier to do with some help by a teacher. Control and variety of the right wrist is a key. Focus on using the tip and upper half of the bow as often as possible in a first time.

10

Yes, it's common, but yes, it's the result of pressing too hard, at least for violin.

Here's a really effective practice technique that I use with my students, which I picked up from this video:

Put a small piece of paper under between the fingerboard and strings, and play a note with proper sound (ignoring the buzz from the paper) using a finger placed on the string-paper-board sandwich. Then have someone, maybe the teacher, pull the paper out. If you can't pull the paper out, you're pressing too hard.

I actually do this with the paper above the string, which although it doesn't give as good an indication of tone quality, has the added advantage that it'll tell you not only if you're pressing too hard, but also if you're not pressing hard enough -- which, amusingly, does seem to happen.

8

It's very normal to get calluses when playing violin, especially if you play for such extended periods of time. However, I would expect that the pain should go away after the calluses have built up. If you are still getting pain after this point perhaps you are using too much pressure. A number of violinists have told me that the left hand should be using as little pressure as possible in order to be effortless and quick.

This is just anecdotal evidence from a double bass player, by the way. It can take months to build up double bass calluses because of the tremendous pressure needed to press down orchestral double bass strings, especially if the strings are an inch away from the fingerboard in some places. But the pain should definitely be going away once your calluses have formed.

5

In my knowledge great violonits don't have calluses! I used to have calluses until I met a great teacher who showed me how to play relaxed and not squeeze or press too much. Remember if you press too much it is even hard to change positions. Another thing to check is that your strings are not too high (the bridge may have to be lower).

2

I'm not a fantastic violinist, but I have been playing for something like 8 years. I am currently a senior in high school. For the past few years, I have been only practicing for once a week for an hour (this is only because that is when the after school program was held... there was no class). But this, year, there is a class in school, and I am in it. I have learned that I cant just play for that amount of time and expect to sound good and get good grades on my playing tests. As a result, I practice every day for at least 30 min. and because of that, i can no longer feel the tip of my finger. And it has begun to start hurting when I put my hand on the string to play. So, my personal experience is that developing this feeling in your finger is normal. You might want to take a few days off from playing and let your fingers rest. I am finding that to be extremely helpful.

2

When I develop calluses, I start to file them down a bit after a bath (when skin gets soft) with a fine nail file. Then put cream on them. I find that with calluses I don't "feel" the sound, it is much harder to do vibrato, because the hard surface of my skin slips on the strings. With calluses I press harder. But when my fingertips are soft and moisturized, I produce a much nicer sound more effortlessly. That's why I take a day or two off weekly to care for my fingertips. When I practice, it is usually 2-4 hours/day. Hope this tip helps.

0

i play viola, and my fingers hurt when i play for a long time, one thing i learned from one of my teachers is if you put a small amount of vasoline or chapstick on the tips of your fingers before you play it will help your fingers stop hurting, but a very small amount not too much where it would bamage the strings

0

I'm a violin player; I used to have calluses. The thing is that, after few years of practice, the calluses pretty much combined with my fingertip, forming a little harder surface (you can barely notice anything weird just by looking at it). Feel no pain, fingertips don't hurt. So the simple idea is that just keep practice and they will change. how I feel? If you press your thumb nail onto you violin fingertips, it feels barely anything, regardless of pressure. But if you try it with your other hand's fingertips, it hurts.

  • Welcome to Music.SE and thanks for joining this site! To complete your answer, could you add a sentence on Lilitu88's related question about pressure? Do you think Lilitu88 should continue using a normal amount of pressure, or is it best to use less pressure given that Lilitu88 is still building up the calluses? Thanks for sharing your expertise on this site! – jdjazz Jul 9 '17 at 14:34

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