How to Use the 4th Finger When Playing the Fiddle - dummies

By Michael John Sanchez

In case you didn’t know, you can place the 4th finger, or pinkie, on the fiddle fingerboard too. You can place a sticker in this spot, which would apply to all the 4th fingers on each string. Notice how the space between the 1st and 2nd fingers is similar to the space between the 3rd and 4th fingers.

[Credit: Figure by Rashell Smith]
Credit: Figure by Rashell Smith

Understanding when and why to use your 4th finger

So why haven’t you used the 4th finger up to this point? The reason is because it’s the weakest/hardest finger to use, and it also isn’t necessary to learn basic songs on the fiddle. Your 4th finger note is actually the same thing as playing the open string next to it:

  • G4 = D0: The 4th finger on the G string is D, which should sound the same as your open D string.

  • D4 = A0: The 4th finger on the D string is A, which should sound the same as your open A string.

  • A4 = E0: The 4th finger on the A string is E, which should sound the same as your open E string.

So why would you use the 4th finger instead of the open string? The answer is to avoid crossovers in various fiddle passages. Right now it may seem hard to stretch your 4th finger far enough to be in the right spot, but eventually, doing so will seem much easier and will take a lot less energy than crossing over to another string for just one note.

Here are a few instances when you should use the 4th finger to avoid crossover:

D0, D1, D2, D3, D4, D3, D2, D1, D0

D2, D3, D3, D1, D4, D0, A3

In the following passage, playing your 4th finger is unnecessary because you have to cross strings anyway:

D0, D1, D2, D3, E0, E1, E2, E3

The number 4 is put over notes to tell you when you should use your 4th finger. If you don’t see a number 4, that means you should use the open string.

Grasping the fundamentals of using your 4th finger

It’s important for you to understand the fundamentals of using the 4th finger when playing the fiddle.

It will take a while to establish the muscles in your pinkie to stretch far enough comfortably. Typically it takes at least two weeks. You should definitely watch the video to make sure you aren’t restricting yourself in any way.

There are a lot of ways to cheat to find the 4th finger, which will make things a lot harder for you down the road. Follow the tips in the video to make sure you establish a great fundamental 4th finger that allows you to play very fast and accurately in the future.

“Home on the Range,” is a great fiddle song that has some spots where you should use your 4th finger. Those spots are indicated by the 4 above the notes in the music.

[Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez]
Credit: Figure by Michael Sanchez