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Corwin Slack

First Position

February 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Remember when your teacher first showed you third position and then of course how to shift to get there? Over time shifting became a primary solution to most left hand problems. 

Then came double stops. Whoa, what is this?! You liked the sound but they were hard. I didn't practice them seriously.

Well shifting is a very important technique in modern violin playing. One can hardly do without it (unless you're Ruggiero Ricci perhaps.)

But at some point we need to go back to first position, so to speak. Instead of shifting to solve every problem by seeing what happens when you stay in position and cross strings. Try placing fingers in advance on adjacent strings when you have a difficult passage. Hmm. Suddenly it feels like we have our hand on a chord. Now we have a new skill to master -- string crossing. Frequently the left hand can stay almost immobile. 

Try playing Silent Night in first position. Keep as many fingers down as possible at all times. Prepare fingers as far in advance as possible. Voilà! Suddenly there is legato. Yes the left hand with prepared fingers is a key to good legato playing. And there are chords. We can test our pitch by playing double stops on the prepared fingers. Sometimes we are even holding fingers down on three strings.

The community orchestra I am playing in is performing Beethoven's 4th Symphony next month. There are some fast passages that, in the past, I would have shifted to play. Now I am finding that they are easier if I stay in position. 

So its back to challenging myself to see if a passage is better in one position or if I should shift.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 1:21 AM


in general Beethoven sounds better thta way!;)

I tend to follow this kind of thinking though by rea rranging the finger son one string so I know what the pattern (as per Drew`s bppk,  or Gerle for that matter) .  It really clarifies what one is doing.



From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM

 Hmm . . . I tend to like staying in position (especially first) and avoid shifting when/if I can help it.  I never thought of it as a "technique" before, I was afraid it was more akin to laziness in my case.  But that is great advice to do it intentionally, especially in terms of preparing your fingers and keeping them down.  I've been working on that lately and it has improved my intonation.

From Ray Randall
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 6:36 PM

Pick out a piece by Bach and play it slowly with the goal of seeing how many fingers you can put down in advance. Pretend they are doublestops. Once you get the hang of that you can play that a heck of a lot faster with less effort and finger movements than before. Almost like playing in slo motion with the left hand.

From Paul McCrone
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 7:03 PM

Well, this sound like good avise to me.  I am still learning to play in the third position, so  I'll have to keep this in mind especially when I become better.... keeping your fingers in position in advance does make sense though.   

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 23, 2009 at 8:01 PM

If I recall correctly, someone pointed out that one of the tenets of baroque playing is that you stay in first position and shift strings as much as possible.

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