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Karen Allendoerfer

Finger patterns and virtual strings

December 15, 2007 at 1:02 PM

A few weeks ago I had a viola epiphany of sorts. I really wasn't treating the C string with the respect it is due. I was viewing it as a low G string, the "grandpa" string of the viola, same as the violin, just lower in some vague way. This was unconscious on my part, and I didn't even realize I was doing it, until I started playing Fiorillo #9, which starts on the C string, with a C-E-G major arpeggio. What was I saying to myself in my head as I played? "G-B(2)-D." Oops.

So, how could I get my unconscious mind on board and think C-E-G, give those notes their right names? Where is D-E-F-G fingered as 1-2-3-4? Those patterns are so unnatural! That makes no sense! Ugh, alto clef! But wait, actually, it does. The same pattern 1-2-3-4 with a half step between the 2 and 3 is already ingrained in my mind and fingers as third position on the A string, both violin and viola. Suddenly, with that piece of the puzzle, I was able to "see" and "feel" in my mind a natural D-E-F-G progression on the C string. Fiorillo "clicked." C-E-G-C-E-G-grace-note-B-C-G-E-C-G-E . . .

But then, last night I was practicing the dreaded 3-octave G-major scale. The Bach Allemande is in G major. Normally I will warm up with a 2-octave scale, but I decided to try to add the 3rd octave. The Fleisch scale system for viola starts this on in 3rd position on the C string, with a 2 for the G. So it was not as simple as just "adding" the third octave, I had to start out somewhere weird. And then I had another of these Cing moments: when in heck is G-A-B-C fingered as 2-3-4-1? Well, in 2nd position on the D string, I guess, but who does that? In first position on the E string, too, but that breaks down quickly because there isn't a B string up above that you can go to for the 1.

So, this is really a learning-something-new kind of moment. I've encountered a pattern I just need to get more comfortable with, and when/if I do, it should even help me with 2nd position. And, it's even kind of fun to imagine how one might finger a virtual B string.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 16, 2007 at 4:50 AM
Congratulations on your epiphany. Learning is often like that, not a steady pace, but real leaps ahead.

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