Stretching hand to play fifths?

September 19, 2016 at 02:37 AM · Near the beginning of the second violin portion of Dvorak 9 there is a bit of an ugly broken chord to be played legato (G4 E4 B4 C4). Originally I was playing it in 2nd position, and it remained quite sloppy with the multiple string crossings. Such technique is quite frankly above my skill level at the moment and it will take some time to get it down. It was recommended to me that, if I can, I should reach for that B while in first position to avoid crossing strings every note.

Is this what you would do, and, if so, how did you build up your hand flexibility to make such a reach?

Replies (14)

September 19, 2016 at 02:52 AM · If you're referring to the 5th bar of the Allegro Molto in the first movement, I shift back and forth between first and second position. G and E are 3 - 1 in first, shift up to 4 - 1 for the B - B octave, back to first position for the next G, etc. In other words, I shift every half bar.

Trying to play the upper B with a stretch sounds like a good way to guarantee you are out of tune. I wouldn't do it, and I have large hands.

Edited to add that the chord is certainly not ugly!

September 19, 2016 at 09:45 AM · just want to say how great this forum is, where you can get great to the point and professional answers to almost all questions on violin playing. thanks Mary Ellen and everyone else!

September 19, 2016 at 01:58 PM · Could you perhaps just stay in 2nd or 3rd position?

September 19, 2016 at 02:06 PM · To add to Mary Ellen's good advice: Unless your hands are huge and you do a lot of extension practice, avoid extensions in lower positions.

To do extensions, your left-hand position needs to be nicely centered -- balanced more towards the 2nd finger than the 1st finger. You can practice extensions by playing triads as 1-3-4 on the same string.

You can do a hand stretch exercise by setting the hand normally, 1st finger down, 4th finger where it normally goes, and then moving the 4th finger a half-step up at a time. Normal solo repertoire generally does not demand a stretch beyond a tenth, and even that you don't reach until very advanced music.

Be very very careful when you work on extensions. Stop the instant you feel any fatigue. Improperly prepared extensions can hurt your hand.

September 19, 2016 at 02:38 PM · First learn the cello . . . :)

September 19, 2016 at 02:58 PM · Second, learn viola....;)

September 19, 2016 at 03:44 PM · Even first violinists should learn viola ;-)

September 19, 2016 at 04:00 PM · Staying in 2nd position is not advisable due to string crossing pattern on a 4 - 4; staying in 3rd position is not even possible unless you mean to extend back for the lower B. This is not quite as terrible an extension as the idea of stretching up for the upper B, but I would still not do it.

Editing to add that staying in third position is also a bad idea due to string crossings.

September 20, 2016 at 03:17 PM · There are spots in the literature where I do stretch for a fifth on rapid passages like this. I'll have to think about what they are. I think a good general rule is that the higher the position, the more likely you can do it. I'd think most advanced players could manage in 4th or 5th position. It just depends--often you have to pick the least worst solution. Especially for Dvorak.

Someone should shoot that guy.

September 20, 2016 at 04:00 PM · But this isn't a particularly rapid passage.

September 20, 2016 at 04:51 PM · Also don't forget, that even if an extension may not cause pain, the first finger may bend sharp as you reach, giving the illusion of a well placed anchor.

September 21, 2016 at 02:07 AM · Another weirder option is to stay in second position but stretch back to catch the E on the D string: 2-1-4 on the D and 1 for the bottom of the octave. That's probably better left for etudes, though, unless you have a very flexible hand.

The 3-1 (shift) 4-1 is more trouble-free once you get the shift down. Think of replacing your third finger with the second on the D string in order to have the octave sit correctly. You could silently play the G (2) and A (3), which would make the shift up more of a crawling motion.

To make the stretch from first position up to the B, see if you can play a B octave (2 on G, 4 on D) with your first finger on the E. That may well require bigger hands than you have, though, so don't be afraid to wait until later for that.

September 21, 2016 at 02:16 AM ·

September 21, 2016 at 07:13 AM · Try the recitativo from Kreisler's Recitativo and Scherzo. Not a fifth - octave b flats across two strings. There is time to plan for it in the piece which may help. My hands are big for a 5 ft 5 Caucasian female, but no more than that.

Warm up nicely before you think about it and make sure you have no index finger pain. You will have to place the one back as much as you will have to reach for the four.

Keep stretching. Good look.

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