Why third and not fourth? (position)
Before I had a teacher and later when I would play silly things not in the lessons, I used to like getting out of the first position. In my ignorance, I decided that from the first position the most logical thing would be to go to what it actually is the fourth. That way one would get a whole scale-like in one string. When finally my teacher told me about shifting I showed him what I use to do (play 1st-4th-1st). He corrected me and put me in third, which is fine. I thought that it would be a warming before going to 4th and from time to time I "cheat" and go to fourth, which enfuriates him. He is adamant that the order to learn the positions is first-third-fifth-second and finally, fourth. When I asked the reason, he said "that's the way of the violin".
Is there any other reason for that order apart from the tradition? Any musical theory (subject that is my biggest Acchiles talon)?
I don't find 4th any more difficult than third (both need a lot of work, don't think I find them easy) and it seems more logical and natural.
I can suggest a practical reason: violin music at different difficulty levels is written with the conventional order of teaching positions in mind. So, if you insist on learning 4th position before 3rd, you'll be seeing a lot of awkward fingerings and string crossings.
My guess would be that third position has ringy notes that are easier to find and maybe that makes it easier to get comfortable with shifting at first, for most.
Well, it's quite an old practice. In his 1756 book Leopold Mozart refers to third, fifth etc as "full positions" while what we now know as second and fourth are "half positions".
Some mantain that in 3rd position our wrists make contact with the edge of of the back plate, which may be the case if we have short arms..
I don't think that anyone would find a big ergonomic difficulty between both positions and if it is about cheats on knowing where to place the fingers, 4th is the best one as you can check the first finger with the next open string (which was one of the reasons why I thought that it was the next "natural" position")
It took me a bit to figure out (just got started on 3rd position). I think this is what you (Timothy) mean. Notes on the D-string occuring in common keys:
I have found repeatedly that otherwise awkward orchestral passages become easy and straightforward if I play them in the 3rd position (sometimes 4th).
Once they understand what scales are supposed to sound like, I teach my students to do 1-finger Yost scales first, in major, minor, then chromatic, one octave, then two octaves. They have to have the tetrachords memorized to do this.
I think Adrian's statement is part of it, but also in the odd-numbered positions (1, 3, 5, etc.) the odd-numbered fingers play the notes on the staff (and ledger) lines. This creates a visual-mental-finger/digital link that makes for easy and consistent sight-reading. This may be part of the origin of this pedagogical approach for violin and viola playing.
I'm glad I was assigned a lot of studies that move you around among 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. You really learn a lot about the violin doing those.
"Some mantain that in 3rd position our wrists make contact with the edge of of the back plate"
Third position will put many passages more conveniently "under the fingers" than fourth will. And vice-versa. One is not inherently better or worse than the other. If you learn to be comfortable with both, it opens up opportunities.
Scott: "easier to shift from 1st to 3rd because we only have a 1/2 step shift from 2nd to 1st finger."
@Scott Then the real argument is that 3rd position is the smallest distance from 1st position that has a reference of the edge of the violin body. From the same argument, the logical next position to learn is 4th, not 5th. Is that the case?
@Chris Keating: I was intriged by Leopoldo Mozart's mention of Whole Positions and Half Positions and I found a thesis (http://scholarworks.csun.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.3/121329/Kolesnyk-Kateryna-thesis-2014.pdf;s) that proposes that "Whole positions" are those where the first and third finger correspond with notes that are in the line of the pentagram, while "half positions" are those where the first and the third fingers are notes in between spaces.
Yes, Andrew and Carlos, that is exactly the reason that Leopold Mozart cites for presenting 3rd position as 'Whole': that the first and third fingers follow the rule that their notes are on the lines of the staff, while the notes for the second and fourth are in the spaces between the lines, just like in 1st position.
The more you feel like 2nd and 4th are equally comfortable as 1st, 3rd, and 5th, the easier it will be for you to truly flexibly choose fingerings.
"@Scott Then the real argument is that 3rd position is the smallest distance from 1st position that has a reference of the edge of the violin body. From the same argument, the logical next position to learn is 4th, not 5th. Is that the case?"
I think it has to do with the odd fingers still being on lines and even fingers still being in between lines. It's just more intuitive to read 3rd position, not necessarily easier to play it.