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Drew Lecher

'GPS' –– 2.3 Shifting from an Open String

January 9, 2008 at 6:33 AM

Also see other GPS Shifting blogs

How do you think of, view and order the movement?

Plan actions > Accuracy, Fluidity > MASTERY

Your Global Positioning Satellite/Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important.

This is Shifting-Part 2 in a series of blogs dealing with:

1. Left Hand
2. Shifting
3. Right Arm
4. Right Hand
5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of ”GPS” for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope it is of benefit to you.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables — they will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into any setting for the left hand to accomplish the passage.


Everything affects everything.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the intervallic measurements set about for the left hand fingers and arm, and also the contact variables of the Bow Hair to the string — the 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to accomplish the desired dynamics and character of the music.

The above statement is also true of shifting. The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.

VIOLA — Shifting from open C to C-4 or 3 on A 2nd 8va:
(VIOLIN — a 5th higher or the same arrival position and note from the Open G.)

Try shifting from 3rd position to 6th position C-1 on the Ding. This will work as well from 1st or 2nd, etc. Also, if you really want the 3 to be set in 7th position shift to D-1 on D. (Yes, the shifts should be practiced with the respective notes on the Aing as well, but in this setting the Ding is often far better.)

Do an audible slide with the 1st finger. Upon arrival — make it a longer note initially — thoroughly practice the 8va interval with 4th finger (use a Hand Group setting appropriate to the passage and Key and/or the Beginning Hand Group — whole half whole (overall the best for 8vas). Additionally doing the shift with an 8va makes it even more secure and better in the long run.

Then use the extension 3rd finger. Note the change of angle in every part of your hand and the outward (counter-clockwise) rotation of the left forearm and hand. Here you can also shift the 1—4 8va opening into the 1—3 8va.

Practice the choice of 3rd and 4th finger separately, including the shift, as there will be other very noticeable balance and flow adjustments from one shift to the other. Do not go back and forth between the fingerings — MASTER ONE FIRST.

With each (4/3) and after numerous shifts in varied rhythms to develop flow, agility and speed with TOTAL BALANCE, add Repetition Hits. This is where you stay in the 6th position and release the 4th or 3rd finger as the case may be, and smartly set/sting/hit it down squarely on the same note — do this with 2 short 8ths followed by a sustained quarter, repeating at least 5 sets in a row without wavering or faulting pitch. If the placement is wondering do not even leave the string — simply lighten and set/hit again gradually and eventually releasing the string totally. You can feel if the finger is sliding around on this one. DO NOT LIFT THE FINGER AT ALL! Simply release the finger — a relaxing of the finger from the knuckle. It will pop off the string and all you need do is maintain shape and balance.

Do not use vibrato in the above until the note is consistently achieved, but do have the sense of balance, posture and energy flow knowing that you can vibrate and maintain the focused pitch and tone.

Note all the details of position and balance — where your left hand is, the thumb, wrist, forearm, upper-arm, shoulder, neck, head, et al. Everything is to be progressively balanced and proportioned as flawlessly as possible while shifting into position — having maintained it enroute and not adjust after you arrive. That is too late. With the finished product there should be no need of adjustment after the position arrival — the position arrival and note execution (perhaps achievement is a better word:-) should be one and the same.

Release the hand with the start of the Open C immediately progressing through the Bishops' move to the position — you will be floating the hand barely above the string (just enough to clear the pawns' heads:-) I know it's against the rules, but this is viola/violin playing and all is fair… Upon every arrival do at least 5 accurate hits of the note reapplying Rep Hits as needed. Also, practice the 2 possible Knights' shift moves — up the lower string and over (not used in this specific section, but most useful) and over to the Aing and up. The Bishop will be the actual move, but the Knights help guide and focus reference points as with a compass or Global Positioning Satellite.

I am assuming that during the shift you are supporting the instrument with your left hand lightly and securely balanced and with the head virtually weightless on the chin rest.

This probably sounds a wee bit intense, but remember you are learning these moves for life and they will all be used more then a few times in the repertoire.

The greater the thoroughness up front, the greater the success down the road.


Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Everything affects everything.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 9, 2008 at 8:13 PM
Thank you so much, Drew, for these generous and valuable contributions!
From Sung-Duk Song
Posted on January 10, 2008 at 2:53 AM
Very interesting advice. You're an excellent communicator of pedagogy through writing.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on January 10, 2008 at 5:05 AM
Thank you both.
As long as it helps people…
From Samuel Thompson
Posted on January 10, 2008 at 5:37 AM
Yes, you are an excellent communicator of pedagogy through writing. Teaching should be this detailed, and we all thank you for posting.
From Ray Randall
Posted on January 10, 2008 at 8:34 PM
Agree with the above, thank you very much for taking the time to impart your
extensive knowledge to us.
From Elizabeth Chan
Posted on January 11, 2008 at 3:17 AM
Thank you so much for your detailed instructions and comments. A fantastic help to those of us trying to better our musicianship. Sincere thanks.

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