How to play in 5th position?
Starting to learn 5th position and I have a couple questions.
Is 1st finger in 5th position on the E string normally C natural or C sharp?
Do you just have to basically slide your first finger from 3rd position to get to 5th because your thumb doesn't go any further?
Do you twist your hand so that the thumb is on the back of the neck?
Sorry if these are really stupid, but thank you for the help if you have answers
First finger in 5th position on the E string can be either C or C-sharp depending on key signature.
There are two fifth positions, just as there are first and half positions.
Those are not stupid questions at all, but rather important topics. The cellists and guitarists have a better system of labeling their positions; a separate position for each half-step. For me, 1st finger on C# is fifth position. 1st finger on C is 4 1/2 position. Another example; 1st finger on Db, A string, is 2 1/2 position, not third. 1st finger on C#, A string, is the same spot, 2 1/2 position, not second position. This confusion about where to place the 1st finger can cause much of our intonation problems. One approach to using the thumb, not the only way, is to let it gradually move diagonally under the neck until it hooks on to the saddle point of the neck block. Then leave it there, stretch between the thumb and 1st finger as you go higher. When you get to ultra-high notes, some players let the thumb slip over to edge of the top plate, but that is a little dangerous, as you lose support and shifting down from there is risky.
I'll speculate that the original designers of the violin were thinking of the interval of the 5th when they designed where to put what - in more than the tuning. I'm sure the heel of the neck was intended as a landmark for the interval of the 5th and was intended as a tactile beacon for the 5th above a note fingered in first position. The thing I don't understand is why no teacher ever told me this when I was learning. It's as if finding positions by touching, much as you can bump the ribs in 3rd and 4th, was frowned upon by some. I mean of course you have to still pitch the shift correctly but the heel is a big help.
One of the most important notes on the violin is the octave of each string--the exact midpoint. If you can memorize the position of that note using different fingers, you can find many other positions from it.
Violists, or violinists with small hands, need more elbow swing to negotiate the upper bout and align the fingertips in a reliable way, frmom 4th position upwards.
Scott's tip is good for all high positions. Instead of thinking about where to place your 1st finger, I would even suggest using whichever finger falls on a natural harmonic as a guide finger.
While I think Zoe's questions are good ones, when I think back to my first exposure to 5th position some 70 yeas ago (I was 14) I remember that I was asked by a couple of "church ladies" to solo Massenet's Meditation with harp and organ accompaniment - so I learned it and 5th position and started a lifetime of great musical adventures that have not yet ceased. My formal violin lessons had ended 3 years earlier and never resumed except for some wise coaching and 2-1/2 years of very good cello lessons during my mid teens.
Scott's comment is on point. When I was beginning to relearn the violin 2.5 years ago, I learned 5th position relative to the string octave harmonic. This was much better than when I was a kid and thought of it relative to third position only. If you think of fifth in terms of the harmonic, then the first finger's location is relative to this fixed point, and the key signature isn't nearly as critical for thinking about where to shift.
Oh, I see now! Thank you guys, all of your answers have been so helpful! ^_^
Wait a minute: Andrew V, what's the approach that doesn't work? I don't see any suggestion, posted by me or anyone else, about "finding the high note."
"There are two fifth positions, just as there are first and half positions."
continued-- finding those harmonics with any finger sounds totally reasonable, I'll have to try that approach. What I have been doing is thinking of the positions mentally labelled as: 1/2, 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2, 5, 6, 6 1/2, 7, 7 1/2, 8. Above that the position system breaks down and fingering becomes very personal. I don't care whether it is notated in sharps or flats. It can be demonstrated by doing a chromatic scale in 1-4 parallel octaves. The whole number positions just happen to be the same as a natural minor scale. That same numbering system will work for all the string instruments. The guitarists number the frets in whole numbers. For shifting I prefer to think of the interval distance
Scott's suggestion applies to every aspect of life. For example, driving a car. When you're driving in traffic, it's not your first finger that you need to be ready but your third.
"To me there's just 5th position. The hand is in the same position anyway."