I have flexor digitorum superficialis in my right hand but it is abscent in the left hand, meaning that my ring finger and my pinky finger on my left hand aren't independent. Since my right hand has flexor digitorum superficialis, i thought i could play a left-handed violin, but again i thought maybe that won't be a good idea since I'm right-handed.

I just want someone to tell me if i can be good at violin regardless of the missing FDS mentioned above, or if it would be a waste of time , or if i should go for the left-handed anyway.


What a missing flexor digitorum superficialis means:

Missing this muscle has very little effect on daily life. It's missing in something like 16-18% of the population, and most people will never know. The way to tell that you are missing this muscle is to hold your first three fingers straight against resistance, and flex your pinky. If your pinky does not flex, you have no flexor digitorum superficialis in that hand. If your third finger is flexed, you can flex your fourth finger to that degree.

  • Could you please describe your medical condition (and its implications for motor skills, etc.) in a bit more detail for me and others who aren't familiar with it? – jdjazz Aug 6 '17 at 3:06

It depends on what your goal for the instrument is. If you are looking to be a featured soloist of a large Orchestra, maybe not. If you want to play the instrument competently, then that is something you can achieve.

There are good examples of excellent musicians that are missing fingers, such as Django Reinhardt and Jerry Garcia. I personally know a Bass player that is missing an arm, and he plays better than many of the two armed players I know.

You can learn standard position violin, but there will be a challenge of having to learn to shift hand position earlier than someone using a four finger technique. There would probably be some fast all-finger runs that you would be unable to execute well, so again, it depends on the style of music you want to play and how much you are willing to re-arrange some parts of pieces.

If you decide to learn "left" handed, you shouldn't have any problem using the bow with your left hand. Learning the violin in the opposite position brings its own challenges however.

It is worth attempting, as anything you learn about music in the process can be applied to another instrument if you decide later you aren't able to accomplish what you want on the violin.

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    Just to add that if you do decide to play left handed, as well as swapping the strings over you really should get the sound-post inside the violin moved as well. That is a simple and inexpensive procedure for someone with experience, and the right tools, but you probably shouldn't try to do it yourself if you are a complete beginner! A music shop should be able to do the job (possibly even while you wait, if you phone them in advance), or advise you of someone else who can do the job.... – user19146 Aug 6 '17 at 5:46
  • ... Note that you can't really play left-handed in an orchestra because of the way the violins sections are seated (two players share each music stand) - there simply isn't enough space for a "leftie" to play properly without getting in the way of the other players. – user19146 Aug 6 '17 at 5:50
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    To be a left-handed soloist playing with an orchestra isn't a problem. That comes being left-handed amongst a bank of standard players. And learning to play left handed on a left handed (strung) violin will surely only have the same challenges as standard, won't it? – Tim Aug 6 '17 at 8:39
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    @alphzero actually, the bass bar on the violin gets in the way of moving the sound post to the proper position, and if you put it there anyway, you will be missing the bass bar on the bass side, causing structural problems. To have a proper "left" hand violin, you need a specially constructed one. (I use "left" in quotes, because in my opinion it is already left handed, since that is the hand you play it with) – Alphonso Balvenie Aug 7 '17 at 2:52

There is no compelling reason you couldn't become a good violinist if you learn it left-handed. Almost all actual lefties play right-handed, and many of these are very good; in fact I've read somewhere that the proportion of lefties amongst professional, righthanded-playing string players is higher than in the general populace. (I think this is explained with the general tendency that lefties are more excentric, more “outliers”, and that in turn correlates with the musical profession, notwithstanding any physical hurdles.) Anyway, turning this around, there's not much reason to believe a talented right-handed musician couldn't become just as good when playing left-handed.

I myself am a left-handed cellist and, unlike most of my colleages, I do in fact play left-handed, so I can say something about this.

  1. String instruments aren't build symmetrical. On violin this is most obvious in shoulder rests, which you would need to shift to the other side – but that's hardly a problem. But that's not all...
  2. You will have to decide whether to re-string the instrument. On cello, this is very much the way to go because the bow alignment has different requirements on the high- and low strings; using an instrument strung the other way around will result in both a feeble bass response and unflexible, inelegant treble action; also, the important high positions are awkward if the strings you need are on the opposite site of the fingerboard.
    But I'd reckon that all this is much less clear-cut on violin because the bow comes from the other side anyway; it might well be worth trying to play a standard-strung violin the other way around.
    If you do re-string the violin, you'll face the next construction-rooted problems:

    • The instrument body, while looking symmetric, isn't in fact. Namely, there is a bass bar underneath the top below the G-string, supporting one side of the bridge, and a sound post supporting the other side. However, contrary to what many players think, the bass bar is not specifically responsible for the bass strings nor the sound post for the treble strings; rather, both are needed for all strings. This means you can use a right-handed violin with inverted strings, it will not sould dramatically different. Not quite optimal perhaps so at some point you might want to have a violin custom-fitted, but for a start, a right-hand-body would be completely fine.
    • On the outside, you have the fingerboard, bridge and nut. All of these are filed to optimally match the thickness and required space of each string. To get a properly-playable instrument, you'll need at the very least turn around the bridge, but really that's hardly usable. Fitting a new bridge and nut and fine-adjusting the fingerboard is a pretty routine luther job anyway though, so that's something you should definitely get done.
  3. Playing “the wrong way” in a string section is a bit of a pain, there's no denying it. You'll have to sit on the side of your section with extra space, or get a lone desk at the back. This clearly tends to raise a few eyebrows, but the conductors I've played for didn't really mind. (But some may well mind; I obviously haven't worked with those...)
    Again, I figure it's probably less of a problem for violin than it is for cello, because the bow movement is somewhat more “up and down” rather than “left and right” anyway and also you have more freedom of movement to avoid clashing with other players.
    For chamber music, folk stuff and generally solo playing, none of this matters, you'll just move in whatever way you please.

I'd say, definitely give it a try!

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Presence or absence of the flexor digitorum superficialis will make little or no difference in your playing.

How to tell if you have it or not

The way to tell that you are missing this muscle is to hold your first three fingers straight against resistance, and flex your pinky. If your pinky does not flex, you have no flexor digitorum superficialis in that hand. If your third finger is flexed, you can flex your fourth finger to that degree.

My experience

I've yet to run into a situation on the violin where this affects my playing. I never, ever have my fingers perfectly straight while playing. It may mean that your fourth finger of the left hand is marginally more difficult to learn to fully use your fourth finger than for a player who has that muscle, but even that is very uncertain. In my experience, hand size and how much you practice are all more significant to fourth finger ability than the presence or absence of the flexor digitorum superficialis.

Any effects are likely to be so slight and subtle that they get lost in the noise of how much practice you put in and how much talent you have for music.


I'm missing that muscle in both hands, so I like to ask players to test if they have it. Most do, but I've never seen it significantly affect the musicianship of those who don't.

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