Fat Cats and Fourth Finger

Yesterday’s lesson was jam-packed.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m getting a new song every week – Suzuki songs are sequenced to be skill-building, and this week’s is not only the longest to date, but it also brings in fourth (my pinkie) finger.  I still find it quite strange how little I remember from my three years playing as a child, but one thing I do remember is basic first position fingering.  I have a concrete memory of my old Wichita Public Schools rental violin being marked off with the same tapes that my current rental has, except it also had a fourth finger tape.  So in my mind, first position has always included that pinkie.  And now I have it back.  My new violin, free of the gauche fingering tapes of my rental, is begging me to be better in tune even with the first three, so I might as well get all the fingers that need training into their invisible “grooves” on the fingerboard as soon as possible!

Shifting gears into Music Proper, I’ve struggled, though I have neither looked it up nor dedicated much energy to it, with memorizing the notes of the three scales Teacher has given me to date.  They start on the G, C, and A open strings, and all are major scales.  Yesterday, Teacher helped me out kindly with a mnemonic device, and golly those really work for me – they always have!  The point of the mnemonic is to remember the order of the sharps indicated by the major scales, the ones that begin with open strings on the violin.  It goes, “Fat cats go downtown to eat bagels.”  There’s a chance I’m messing up words at the end because the only ones I need right now are “Fat cats go.”  That tells me the first scale, G major, takes a sharp on the F, which in this scale is played on the second finger of the D string.  For D major, starting on open D string, there are two sharps – we keep F(at) and add C(ats).  In A major it’s three, keeping F(at) and C(ats), then adding G(o).  All this makes no sense to those who don’t play, but to me it made instant sense of the alphabet and sharp soup that was stagnating in my head.

Mnemonics make a lot of sense when you know a little about how the mind stores memories.  We’re finding that all memory is basically associative – we remember things by connecting them to other things that we already know.  So if we have the principle of letters at the beginnings of words standing for other, unrelated things stashed in our heads and we just make a little shift in what those initial letters signify, in this case note names, then they can be much more efficiently stored in our minds than they can be when we see them as isolated, unconnected data points.  Memory likes bang for the buck.

Finally, I’ve been testing shoulder rests and was charmed to learn that the one I settled on is the cheapest of the bunch.  It’s unlike me to pick the low end model, so that was a pleasant surprise.  Teacher assures me it’s all about comfort for now.

If only all of my ½ hour chunks of time could be as productive as my violin lessons.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Super close! Fat Cats Go Down And Eat Bagels 🙂 But in my teaching, the Cats usually Go Down and eat Barley or Breakfast. I’ve never heard Bagels before, but I like it, and it suits you since you like bagels so much!

  2. Thanks for the clarification – and it makes sense! I needed an A and thought I must have had it wrong – but I’m sticking with Bagels for sure.

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