Practicing Shifting by Speeding Up, Not Slowing Down

September 28, 2022, 12:38 PM · Practicing shifting for the first time can be, at worst, a frustrating experience. I remember that when I started shifting, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The target was elusive and random, and my wrist bent forward to attach itself to the wood. These bad habits stayed with me for years. Eventually, with the help of listening carefully, I discovered how to turn a heavy-handed shift turn into a graceful movement of flight.

shifting hand

Weak shifts tend to land in a hesitant manner, with the rhythm dissolving in mid-movement. From this common scenario, there is one bit of good news – muscle memory and distance of intervals are starting to make themselves felt. You’ll need that information when you speed up the shift. But you'll need to fix the hesitation.

There is an awkward transition from cumbersome to aerodynamic shifting. The trick is this: lead with the bow to insure that the shift happens at the same tempo. When you are trying to be careful and accurate, you may actually slow down before a shift and alter the tempo, but that is actually the opposite of what you should do.

A quickly-moving shift involves mental anticipation and trusting your sense of distance. It’s a combination of hop-scotch and tennis – even football! You learn to appreciate how soon you must initiate a stroke, and how quickly you must get ready for the next one. There’s no time for plodding.

How to Use Repetition to Have A Breakthrough

A shift presents a golden opportunity to repeat until perfect. Using a 30-second practice period, with a steady, incessant rhythm, you can “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”. (Thank you, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen!) Repeat the shift many times. Be rhythmically unrelenting, and commit yourself to not stopping. Progress starts to happen as you add a little here and shave a little there. By using this practicing technique, the ear guides the two hands to learning how to work together. It doesn’t involve much conscious thinking, but instead lets music’s natural process get a foothold.

Because of the interactivity between the left and right hands during shifting, you can experiment with faster bow strokes to help the shift. Simply put, when I rev things up a little, it’s more likely that my finger will find the target. I consider this extra energy to be part of the shifting technique. It becomes part of your muscle memory and your thought process.

I don’t know what we’d do without muscle memory, but it sure took me years to appreciate its value. Oh, it can wreak havoc if you’re memorizing incorrect muscles and methods. The memory doesn’t differentiate between the good and the bad. When you realize how indelibly it records every one of your movements, it makes you practice with just a little more attention to accuracy.

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September 28, 2022 at 06:11 PM · When I was a kid my teacher didn't let me use a shoulder rest. So I had to get good at shifting under unfavorable conditions. But I was determined to be good at it so that is one thing I think I learned pretty well then. (Intonation? Not so much.) Nathan Cole has some pedagogy on shifting that is quite interesting and somewhat unconventional at least from my perspective. I was taught from young age to learn how to hide shifts. Nathan suggest you "own the shift" and let it shine.

September 28, 2022 at 10:51 PM · Paul, I too was taught to hide my shift. In my case, I’m

glad I did that when I was a kid because they weren’t very good. I think the physics, however, demonstrates that you should shift boldly and with strong bowing. I mean the kind of bowing that you stay in the string. The reason is in the speed and timing of the shift: if you confidently play the note before and after the shift without changing the sound in the bow, you’ll have a seamless shift. Easier said than done. As I learned this technique, my bow stopped bouncing, something it used to do when I hid the shift.

September 29, 2022 at 06:31 AM · For Shifting with ease, accuracy, sweep and élan ask Jascha Heifetz or one of his pupil's!! {#3}

Studying in Jascha Heifetz's original JH Violin Master Class at USC's Institute for Special Music Studies, and so named in Honour of Jascha Heifetz, William Primrose & Great Gregor Piatigorsky, we Seven Heifetz artist pupil's In Process, had to address 'shifting' head on with Heifetz looking on and this was often overwhelming especially when our 'normal' classes were being filmed & for what we never imagined Then ~ Posterity!!

Mr. Heifetz expected all of us to display sure footed technique of both left and right hands, aka, the digital & double stopping left hand with innumerable configurations and transportation of

a finger to a new note from current note & so forth yet Heifetz was an inspector of 'Slides', aka, shifting and All it entailed!! It took a long time to Pull a shift from the 1st position to third w/

the Bow yet synced within a specific piece of or section of a violin concerto or Unccompanied Bach Sonata or Partita, and a shift within a given musical period style ~ A rapid shift, or on here, I think termed a 'hidden' shift was inappropriate in works of Debussy or Chauson's Poeme, but okayed by the Master of Slides and Shifting, Jascha Heifetz, if re-enacting a French tint composition nuanced, needed for a French 'aroma' which later on in my own continuing studies with Nathan Milstein, certain words offered musical clues about Shifting yet neither JH or NM ever spoke of shifts as SHIFTS! Rather they music-spoke about gliding or 'going' to rather than what one sensed was a harsh rhetoric re Music and especially subtle innuendi in violin composition requiring 100s of differing movements from one note to another like a conversation taking place requiring the utmost diplomacy amongst two people and further ~

My point of reference is most probably emanates from the rare environment of JH/NM Artistry yet it Is Relevant to a basic idea ideology in the annals of shifting on the fingerboard of all string playing 'Cousin's', no matter Violin, Viola, Violoncello or even Double Bass ~ It must be deliberately & Musically required as "Smooth" yet oft times in French Music somewhat glass-like in allowing the listener to hear the entire journey of movement from an F on the E String glassed up to the Octave above F or what I coined 'Shoot Slide' describing the Heifetz 'shoot' on up with a deliberate minimal bit of sound upon close approach to destination octave above F but with Debussian Sounds of the impressionistic gauze on the way up to convey a veiled effect mirroring the hazed face of the Master Impressionist Painters = Matisse, Manet, Monet and even Georges Seurot yet in his own style went further toward a 'dotted Swiss' pictorial which might mirror a section in the Tzigane of Ravel, muted yet duly offered in prestissimo tempi!! Maybe getting too picky, believe Heifetz noticed Everything and made mention not to dress us down but to dress up the 'costume' outside heard & viewed by eyes yet ears of audiences and specific audiences in given capital cities of Europe!

To design shifting from Day 1 is difficult in print minus a fiddle fingerboard and Bow yet I would like to compliment Paul Stein for his efforts to explain his own journey with shifting in a more if I dare say, 'civilian' way to make clear the imperative need of the neuromusculature of the brain & wired from the beginning but tangled if misguided with muscular reflexes gone haywire due to a confusion in the Mind of 'traffic directions' of 1 finger to 1 other, or getting advanced, 2 fingers &'Twins' in Thirds yet not exact same notes traveling Up to 2 more from 1st position to 5th pos on say, the A & E strings and minus vibrato firstly in the privacy of the Practise room then when distance & close to perfected intonation minus vibrato pure, adding vibrato to the 'Twin' fingers traveling Up to same 5th position happily, aka, with vibrato & if a Paganini Caprice mild vibrato and again, in the privacy of one's own Practise room, later traveling on Up to 5th position with a bit more rich lush vibrato if in a romantic movement of a violin concerto and duly indicated by the author - composer needing some involvement and in a performance, passion heard but not necessarily publicly seen to maudlin eye viewing of the audience and certainly not in a 'holy' movement of Solo Bach offered in a place of worship for a funeral of a departed loved one or a friend ...

Although this may seem somewhat Off Subject, it is Not!! All of Shifting equals part of the Music's Story and This Is part of the main secret of Great Musicianship or Story Telling in Sound with hints of "Yes" or "No" in one's interpretation of significant phrasing and in intimate moments which All in an audience hear quietly in individual hearts and Souls ... Very Late here at Night, I will return back sometime tomorrow to summarize my thoughts yet ask patience in so doing for the subject of Shifting is immensely important and to All who play a violin or Viola or Cello or Double Bass for personal fulfillment or in an orchestra with others or in Duo Ensemble's & as soloists with piano and/ or with orchestra we All have common ground to learn many varieties in this field of shifting or traveling Up To or Down To or half way, etc., etc., and TBC mañana!! With a Good Night to All, Thank You Paul Stein for this most important Subject!! Elisabeth Matesky, US ~ 29th of September, Anno 2 0 2 2 now 1:32 AM over here in America ~ 'In Process EM' ~ Fwd dg tbc

Now late on 29th September, 2022 ~ Bow Speed Effects Shifts

Continuing my Reply {#3} is the very necessary element which needs to be further addressed to aide smooth and/or 'dragged' deliberately 'shifting' to musically emphasize sound dialogues within given violin repertoire and in most symphonic orchestral Violin I and II Parts which depend, again, on specific periods of composition style's ~ A vitally necessary control of The Bow & all this entails, i.e., how slowly one can control the bow from its Frog to the Tip minus shakiness in between & at either end of any bow, is crucial with many not being instructed in 'rounded' bowing technique which was a huge component in the bowing tool box of both my violin mentor's & especially emphasized by Nathan Milstein to me, his first private "'Guinea Pig' Heifetz artist pupil" {quoting Mr. Milstein's description of yours truly!}, with NM solely responsible for altering the weaknesses in my own bowing technique despite already signed w/International Concert Artist Mgmt in London ~ I emphasize this to illustrate the immense differences a truly informed by Milstein Bow Arm can & did make liberating my abilities to smooth slide or 'hide' shifting if musically directed & in untold artistic configurations where one's Bow technique rules one's judgement in selecting best bowing options at the service of the left hand navigation all over the fingerboard with an example being Beethoven's pearled 'holy' violin concerto slow movement & 2nd to segue 3rd Mvt Cadenza transitioning from 'prayer' to joie di vie in the fabled Final Movement in the LvB Violin Concerto which is (in some ways) an amplified Address Book of scales, arpeggios & tricky double stopping with all mentioned requiring immense Grace and ease in conveying musical messages inside seams of technical lace ... The Bow must not be Flat or just 'straight' which is equal to saying, "The Earth is Flat, Not Round!" NM took my Franco-Belgium bowing techniques then sewing all good into a rounded Milstein Bowing technique which enabled his chording throughout Unaccompanied Bach Violin Sonatas & Partitas regal smooth never disrupted sound even in 4 string

Chords which are prevalent in the Chaconne of the d minor Partita #2 and interwoven in Sonata #2 in a minor plus Grand C Major Sonata # 3 and which for any reading this, please visit YouTube to Hear & See the Milstein extraordinary Bowing in his last Violin Recital in Stockholm in the Finale Allegro of The Third Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach which dazzled the Sold Out Swedish Audience & witness to the Epic Artistry of a then 83 Year Young Nathan Milstein, & who shared much of his Milstein Bowing musical wisdom with yours truly for over 3 & 1/2 years in London ~

Nothing can or need be said after the paragraph ending above except to study the Bowing of Nathan Milstein w/binocular's to be able to slow motion a video which reveals round bowing on one string or in chorded movements, NM's from-the-shoulder bowing & to 4 Strings at same time Chords + variations of all as smoothly as butter with occasional guitar-like rolls ...

I have never described the above & with all mentioned now fully (c)CopyrightEM/ShiftBow#3/V.com29.9.22. All rights reserved.

Respectfully US submitted,

~ Elisabeth Matesky ~ {JH/em|VMC Film pre NM}

Fwd dg

September 29, 2022 at 11:29 PM · I had this rather long reply half ready, but my Email friend Elisabeth M. beat me to it.

Shifting- where to start?

The four S's: Shift--smooth, straight, simple, slow. Some of that might seem seem paradoxical. What we want to do is have a shifting mechanism that is efficient, without jerks, bumps, or extra motions.

The task seems impossible at first; to gauge the distances on the fingerboard accurately and consistently, but the genius part of our brain, the cerebellum, the switchboard at the back of the head, can do that. It is like the instinctive archer (no sights!) hitting the target 30 yards down-range, or the outfielder running to just the right spot to catch a long fly ball.

For clean shifting we need to get rid of the friction. The thumb needs to release it's force on the neck and the finger needs to lift just enough to let the string come off of the wood, but still stay in contact with the string.

The two arms don't like to do things differently, so two bad things can happen during a shift. If we are playing loud and expressive (with the bow), the left hand digs into the fingerboard-too much friction. If we release pressure in the left hand for a shift, then our right hand releases, the bow looses traction, looses the optimum point of contact, and we loose the long line of the melody, like a singer who does not know how to connect the dots. The solution is another paradox; Keep the bow "loud" during the shift. If we do that super-slow we hit harmonics and noises, but in real music, I don't know why, that is not a problem.

Shifting down is more dangerous than shifting up. It feels like you are pulling the violin out from under your chin.

Shifting up on an up-bow is slightly better than down-bow, at least for me. The arms are moving in opposite, complementary motion, preserving balance of the body. Likewise, shift down on a down-bow.

It is probably unfortunate that we all first learned to shift using only the first finger. The first finger is in that constricted "square" shape. Switching, exchanging fingers during the shift automatically tricks the left hand to release. The second finger is more stable, usually across from the thumb. The third and fourth fingers tend to flop over during a shift.

For long distance shifts; Add an extra grace note with a change of bow direction. Another weird concept that seems to help is to press the finger slightly right before the shift. That is like a swimmer crouching down and swinging his arms back right before jumping into the pool.

Paul mentioned the important role of interval sense for shifting. Knowing how far to move is more important than knowing the positions. And our system for labeling the positions is illogical-that's another long topic.

Exercise for learning the shifting intervals, learned from a cellist; Pick any finger, any string any starting note, shift up and down by a half-step, then a whole step, minor third, major third, etc. up to an octave. At first with audible slides, then finally with clean shifts on separate bows (Add the grace-note trick).

I hope all that makes sense, and might be of some use to someone.

Not copyrighted --jq

September 30, 2022 at 02:49 PM · Joel, you illustrate the amazing number of moving parts involved in any technique. And to add to the complications, each person has his own roadblocks. One is sluggish shifting up, and another shifting down.

One thing that makes shifting easier is a well-balanced hand. If it’s tilting like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’ll wobble and land with a thud.

September 30, 2022 at 10:57 PM · @Paul Stein ~ {#6} Question re Silence?

Dear Mr. Stein ~

Why do you defer responding to my Post's on an earlier VIP Subject which was Partialy lost and now when writing of both one's GOAT Violin Mentor's, Mr's Heifetz & only Peer, Nathan Milstein?? Both Violin Icon's possessed everything desired & More to prove all ideas expressed and some unexpressed! I suggested those here view Milstein's 4th Mvt Allegro in Bach's Unaccompanied C Major Violin Sonata to add an illustration re Bowing mostly unknown due to lack of opportunity to study with NM in London, privately, or in either his NM Int'l Violin Master Course/s in Zurich {as NM's help-assist} or the Juilliard School when in NYC to perform his concerts from mid 1970s-middle 1980s or audit, and admit feeling saddened by such 'loud' silence from yourself, dear Mr. Stein ~

In agreement with you about many truths expressed by my refined colleague, Joel Quivey, w/whom I've been acquainted since he joined our LinkedIn International Discussion in Anno 2015, begun by eminent British born Lecturer in Music at fine Thames Valley University/London, Nick Hulme, all of us from different parts of the world discussed and in great depth many various artists, all of whom had to have made recordings, and {thusly unable to discuss Paganini, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski, Sarasate & altho' a purported wax early recording of late?, etc, + Joachim} to candidly decide over 4 + Years our List of 'The Top 10 Greatest Violinists of All Time', which is copyright in the UK and bound up in International copyright which might be published between December 2022 - December 2023, known about by eminent other's including Mr. Heifetz's Five Year JH Violin Master Class Collaborative Pianist, residing in New York City, and piano partner of myself plus my 'other' Grand Mentor, Nathan Milstein & on Concert Tour's of Europe performing with Nathan Milstein ... One does pick up a feeling of some sort of deference on the part of some in the Profession of Music not being too comfortable with those of us so blessed to study and also make music with Icon's of Music & who welcomed some of us into their lives under masterful mentoring with continuing afterward ongoing friendship??

Wishing you all the best, it seemed timely to reach out to you for your thoughts on mention's I made re Milstein rare bowing with Connection Of's=shifting in my lengthy Reply Above, #3 ~

P.S. ~ JQ!

I do think your full Reply is truly thought out & obviously a self known through your active and direct personal in performance feedback plus special abilities to step back and describe very authoritatively, all you, as a refined + 2-Track violinist, have thus far experienced and possibly via your teaching! It was

lovely to read and ponder which we all did on our lengthy and respecting each other 'Top Ten Greatest Violinists of All Time' under London 'Guv' with Final Tally complete after Five Years!

My warm musical Greetings to You & also to Paul Deck, a savvy Violinist Member and Responder ~

......... Elisabeth 'M' aka, Matesky in Chicago .........

Fwd dg

October 1, 2022 at 03:06 PM · One aspect of shifting is knowing when to start and when to finish. This applies to both glissandos and quick, no nonsense shifts. It helps to have a uniform protocol (sorry for the redundancy.) I use the idea of rainbow rhythm, that is, a visual image of exact rhythmic space. A rainbow has perfect symmetry, and luckily for us, it depicts distances for both rhythmic length and fingerboard length. You can rely on this image no matter how much the pace changes. Rhythm is symmetrically elastic.

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