Written by Mendy Smith
Published: January 27, 2014 at 1:07 AM [UTC]
That high G? That is 11th position on viola. When I make it up to that note, my fingertips are nearly hitting rosin. Luckily, I get to climb my my way up to that note bit by bit, then come back down to 1st position on the next note and then back up to 3rd position, which by that point is as easy as 1st position.
This piece is an exercise in shifting. So much so that my teacher gave me this Mazas Etude to study in parallel with the Bowen:
There are ledger lines to navigate here, but they are all in alto clef (unusual by itself). What makes this etude tricky is the string that the notes are to be played on. This particular etude only gets up to 9th position on any given string, but it is the lower strings in the high positions that are trickiest. On viola, the upper bouts are much larger than a violin, so planning those shifts ahead of time is very important. Without advanced planning of the shift, you literally run into the upper bouts of the instrument and get stuck in 5th position with nowhere else to go.
What is amazing to me is that I can actually play these pieces at all. It was not that long ago when shifting past 3rd position was a struggle. Now the struggle is not so much on how to get up that high on the fingerboard, but more a matter of how to get back down again gracefully.
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