Printer-friendly version
Drew Lecher

“GPS” –– 2.2c Shifting

December 21, 2007 at 5:53 PM


From Mendy Smith
Posted from on December 20, 2007 at 3:53 AM (GMT)
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!

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—

Author of
Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…
Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Everything affects everything.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

The various parts of the arm and hand always work in concert together.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 23, 2007 at 1:09 AM
Drew - I adjusted my shoulder-rest so that my viola was a bit more parallel to the floor, and viola! I see what you mean now! The first time I shifted from 1st to 6th, I overshot the note by a mile (I think I launched into 8th position instead :) BUT my hand stayed in the right position and I wasn't struggling around Hilda's shoulders. :)

Thanks for the advise!!

From Drew Lecher
Posted on December 23, 2007 at 6:12 AM

Hilda will be happier and reward you with sweeter tones just in time for Christmas. That and the smooth zippier shifts should help your Christmas wish list :-)

ARM & FINGER VIBRATO via the wrist & finger joints: (Another Christmas wish:-)
I will get to the vibrato thing more again later, but meanwhile pretend you are holding your viola and just shake your fist, held loosely and without the hand wildly flopping back and forth — keep the action in the form of a slide on your now level strings (shift-like). Only allow a minimum of wrist reaction and speed up the vibrato action by shortening the distance or range of motion. Hand should be mouth/nose high; the complete arm will be used.

Vibrato is like short little slide-less shifts, its sibling, rolling the fingertips with the arm’s action — downward first with finger rolling and slight elongation and then return to the start. Initially do a slow, even move and then some little repeated series — slowly 1, 2, 3 per bow stopping vibrato before the end of stroke — continue playing the straight pitch after the slow vib — and with the change to a new bow suddenly burst the movement into high speed for the next bow. Stop the high-speed vibrato at the end of the stroke — flow into the next change and repeat the recipe until taste is exactly what you wish — test with ear and add frosting as needed:-) Eventually do 2 bows and more with high speed shifts and no modification of vibrato during the bow change.

This works easiest if you begin in the 5th or 3rd position. Under no circumstances can you rest your hand on the shoulder of the instrument during the cooking –– it will flop. The arm and the fingers will be in danger of undoing each other as they enter the territory of opposing motion.

Also, take a glance at my earlier blog VIVA VIBRATO!!!

Have a blessed Christmas —

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine