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Drew Lecher

“GPS” –– 2.2b Shifting

December 19, 2007 at 9:24 AM

From Tara Shaw
Posted from on December 18, 2007 at 8:09 PM (GMT)
Thank you again for these blogs. Do you have any suggestions for smooth shifting in high positions? I'm struggling with shifting in the uppermost octave of 3-octave scales. [EDIT]

From Mendy Smith
Posted from on December 19, 2007 at 4:17 AM (GMT)
Ditto what Tara said. Shifting beyond 4th position is still a bit of a struggle as well as a little painful (moving the thumb and hand position during the shift). Especially on a viola! Large upper bouts :) [EDIT]

Tara & Mendy,

Yes. (I am a violinist, but play both instruments.)

Rhythms are always a tremendous help. Let’s begin in the 3rd position — D & G Majors on your respective instruments.

Initially slide the 1st finger very lightly from its note to the destination — say 3rd to 5th and later, 5th to 7th positions.

Having played the 2nd finger before shifting up, return to the 1st finger and use it as your guide and measuring tool. (Tara, look at page 76 #1a and incorporate some slower quasi grace notes in the shifts). Mendy, I hope you can decipher my examples and am using position numbers instead of note names so everything will instantly apply equally to the viola.

Shift from a shorter note to a longer note, similar to an 8th slurred to a Dotted Quarter, but be loose and smooth with the rhythm concentrating on total balance and flow of motion going gradually over the top of the instrument. Watch the “face” (fingernail) and maintain its angle. By the way, a good initial slide for this is the 8va in a moderately slow even rhythm — I do this long before I introduce my students to the 3-8va scales and arpeggios. (8va Slides, pages 22 & 23.)

Do not curve the hand around the shoulder, but rather ascend over the top pivoting from the thumb, which should be under the neck (in a hitch-hiking pose — don’t hitch-hike!) just before the need to rise up and over. Imagine throwing something over your left shoulder with your left hand and slightly to your left side.

As the arm lifts the hand (entering the 4th/5th position range) and the hand and fingers begin their elongation — keep the fingernail’s “face” angle — the 1st finger will naturally pivot further away from the neck. Do not press hard and do not tighten the wrist or arm, just maintain the form of the fingers, hand and arm during the motion.

By then you should be totally supporting the instrument via the thumb and arm with the back of the instrument resting on the collarbone and/or shoulder rest — no gripping. If the instrument wants to fall to the front — stand/sit taller. (Tara, check the posture section in the Terms & Tips section.)

Lift the chest with back straight, ala Heifetz, and lighten any head weight. Do not hunch/round the shoulders or pull them excessively back like a soldier at attention — that is far too extreme. Simply be “at ease” and with an alert and tall posture.

I will have my students lift their face to the heavens, completing the shifts up (as long as the thumb is still securely and freely supporting the instrument). Oh, DO NOT GRIP THAT THUMB AT ANY TIME!

These are called “Headless Shifts,” but keep using the brain:-)

After arriving safe and secure, gently return the jaw to the chin-rest without changing the chest, collarbone and shoulders. Also, do not tilt the posture forward as this will immediately throw the balance off. Move freely around the instrument, not the instrument around you. Although, that will be achievable as you master this choreography — we are dancing on the violin strings after-all.

You must remember to keep the finger(s) well balanced on the string — do not roll toward the lower strings — with the chosen finger weight (vary this for greater flexibility and control in various passages of differing musical character, style and temperament) applied directly toward the fingerboard and not pulling the strings toward your hand.

This is all about the Guide Note/Guide Finger (1 in this case) and as you modify the tempo and vary the speed and rhythms of the shifts and the weight of the finger, your hand will gain greater agility and responsiveness to your every thought.

The finger must not wiggle, twist, collapse or rock & roll:-) When these "Connecting" or "Same Finger" Shifts with 1st finger are accurate then incorporate the sequence of your scale fingering, i.e., 12 shift, 12 shift, 12 shift.

Again, use varied rhythms such as 2 fast and 2 slow with permutations. (Tara, these are in Basics II, pg 12 & 13, under R1-8.)

In down shifts, simply reverse the order by shifting the 1st finger to the new position before dropping the hovering new finger (2, 3 or 4) directly on the string, and its note of course:-)

Have fun!

Hope this is of help. I am also putting this out as a blog so others might read it if interested and having similar questions. Hope you both don’t mind and I trust it is not improper etiquette.

Thank you for your interest —

From Tara Shaw
Posted on December 19, 2007 at 6:49 PM
Thank you, Drew. I am going to examine this more when I get home and have violin in hand, but what jumps right out at me is this paragraph.

"Do not curve the hand around the shoulder, but rather ascend over the top pivoting from the thumb, which should be under the neck (in a hitch-hiking pose — don’t hitch-hike!) just before the need to rise up and over. Imagine throwing something over your left shoulder with your left hand and slightly to your left side."

My teacher has said this sort of thing to me several times and in lesson I have no trouble doing. I do have a hard time duplicating when I'm on my own. Perhaps your wording will make it easier to put into practice.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 20, 2007 at 3:53 AM
I'm struggling with not moving my hand around the shoulder. I'll give it a try and see what happens though... Hilda has pretty big shoulders (she's not a Tertis model viola...)

Thank you so much! I have three weeks without lessons over the holidays and the competion is the week after lessons resume. I have this one shift from 3rd to 5th that is challenging. I abandoned the attempt on one measure to shift from 4th to 7th, and instead going back down to 3rd on a higher string...

From Teresa Colombo
Posted on December 20, 2007 at 6:43 AM
Hi Drew,
I wrote to you a while back asking for the shipping costs of your book to Italy but haven't heard from you yet (apart from a virus alert) ..... let me know please, thanks
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on December 21, 2007 at 4:49 AM
perhaps the virus alert is prophetic. once the book enters your system ther eis no escape.
(in Julliard no-one can hear you scream...)
From Drew Lecher
Posted on December 21, 2007 at 6:58 AM
Buri —
So, I have caught another victim — a delicious taste.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on December 21, 2007 at 7:00 AM
Thanks for persisting.
Did you get my email?
From Drew Lecher
Posted on December 21, 2007 at 7:04 AM
Hope it is helping.

Make sure you independently move your thumb under the neck anticipating the rise over the top. Do not get stuck with the thumb trying to remain on the Cing side or by trying to go way out to the right instead of up and over — only allow the finger to move in the direction of the shift up or down the string.

Make sure your instrument rests on the collarbone/shoulder-rest with your chin over the center tailpiece or slightly to the Aing side. The more your head is positioned to the Cing side, the greater the difficulty in shifts — especially the higher positions.

Do not twist in or out by rotating your left hand/arm excessively clockwise or counterclockwise. Maintain the beginning angle of the fingernails — the “faces” for the entire shift.

Do some very, very light slides without the bow. Keep the fingers like feathers and flawlessly shaped and proportioned sliding up to the end of the fingerboard and back down exactly the way you came — like a movie backwards or mirror image of the action. Do not squeeze in general and do not tighten the wrist.

When extremely high relative to hand/arm length the thumb should travel lightly on the side of the fingerboard. It simply prevents the instrument from swinging to the right and is similar to a cellist using the thumb positions except they are on top of the strings.

For the above to work exceptionally well, the instrument should be held with the strings parallel to the floor or slightly ascending. When shifting to a higher position one is actually going slightly down hill and when shifting to a lower positon one is slightly going up hill.

Without actually seeing your move it is difficult to know the exact holdback, but do let me know if I am hitting the right areas for you.

Hope this helps—

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