Weekend Vote: How do you see your C major scale?

September 12, 2008, 2:35 PM · It should comfort you to know, that when the world ends, we violinists will still be sitting around, arguing about the proper fingering for a three-octave C major scale. And the morality of shoulder rests...

But for now, let's stick to scales, specifically C major, since it's such a fundamental key. If you start in first position, you'll start on your third finger. But would you, and why? If you play the Galamian scales, like I do, you're likely to start on your first finger for nearly every scale in the book, including this one. Starting on the second finger is pretty tidy for the two-octave version, but is it advisable for three octaves? Now, a fourth finger, that's just weird. What would that be, "0" position?

I threw in the thumb because I fully expect some comedy. Sander?

By the way, this weekend vote idea comes compliments of Mark D. Roberts. If you have an idea, be sure to e-mail me (Laurie)!


September 12, 2008 at 09:43 PM · I do all varieties the B,C,and D 3 octave scales starting on 2.

September 12, 2008 at 09:46 PM · Why restrict yourself to one fingering.

Start on one, two, and three. Mix 'em up.

September 12, 2008 at 10:12 PM · I didn't answer because I, um, don't play scales enough to have an opinion (yeah yeah yeah, I know), but I just wanted to say that I love this as a poll topic; like the question of the Tchaikovsky cuts, it's a total "insider subject" that violinists can dig into. Thumb, haha!

September 12, 2008 at 10:22 PM · Open string

September 12, 2008 at 10:36 PM · Hrimaly

September 12, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Try playing the scale using only one finger at a time, moving up the positions note by note (and down, too). This works best with a droned pitch from a keyboard to ensure good intonation. (I like using a low G.)

September 13, 2008 at 02:09 AM · Hrimaly; Vol. 842; 3rd finger.

September 13, 2008 at 03:23 AM · I voted Thumb - on the left hand side of the fingerboard ... on an open string.

By the time I make it UP to the G string, I start that note with my 1st finger.


September 13, 2008 at 03:37 AM · To all your smart-alecky violists: Laurie's question specifically says ON THE VIOLIN. Or does anyone out there actually own (and play 3-octave C major scales on) one of those 5-stringed deals?

September 13, 2008 at 03:23 AM · Of course it has to be the Left Thumb from around the neck rising over the G side.!

This enables the player to perform perfectly clear Chromatics descending to the Open G before ascending again to Thumb C Tonic, after which the exceptional violinist deftly shifts to 4th position D-1 on G followed sequentially E-2, F-3, G-4, from which said violinist plays G-4 on G as unison with G-thumb on D, pivot shifting (half shifting ala Galamian) to chromatiacally descend on the D-string with F#-4, F-3, E-2, Eb-1, upon which the next sweep up is chramattic to G-Thumb on D, from which same said exceptional violinist ably and deftly shifts to 4th position A-1 on D sequentially rising in a state of glee with B-2, C-3, D-4, upon which da unison D-Thumb on A is vibrantly sounded leading to a rhythmically varied cramatique descending then ascending 432101234Thumb flourish on the A-string sequencing smartly to open E-string as a surprise transition, thereby sequencing in ascending fashion with 4 1s, 4 2s, 4 3s, 7 4s reaching Mount Everest heights and attaining FOUR octaves for extra measure(s) thereupon descending 4321Thumb ala cellist's thumb position to F-Thumb on — noting tremendous seizure of jaw, neck, shoulder, back, arm, wrist, hand AND fingers — determined to carry on at all cost, accomplishing the A-string via D-1, C-1, B-1, open A, traversing exuberantly to da D-string using G-2, F-2, E-2 open D……………… (catching breath and a moment of technical inspiration) leaps whole heartedly to the G-string using the cellists' secret weapon when all else fails……the THUMB!!!………races through the final straightway playing C-Th, B-Th, A-Th, open G ascending back to tonic C via A-1, B-2, C-4!, C-3, C-2, C-1 and finally, finally returning to C-THUMB! from around the neck rising over the G side.

September 13, 2008 at 05:27 AM · I am an advocate and regular performer on the 5 string violin, but in all respects, it would depend on the way that would fit logically in the piece being played at the time. But let's consider that I am playing a 4 string. Predominately, and by force of habit, I should say that, on the G, I would start with my 3rd finger. This can only depepend on if I want the open strings to sound (such as in Baroque music) or if I am seeking a more "romantic" style, that would be heavier in vibrato, and seeks to avoid open strings, at which I would utilize the 2nd or 3rd fingers, respectively. I've heard Joshua Bell once comment that all "great" violinist have a very unique way of fingering that goes beyond any known published scale systems and that it is a matter of true experimentation for each individual to work out for themselves. Could this bethe fabled "violinist's secrets"? It can make one wonder. Typically, uniform fingering is essential, if not required for an entire section of orchestral strings, as to give the proper tonal effects needed for any particular piece, within the scope of musical era/style, logic and economy of power (dynamics,speed and uniformity of sound).

Jerald Franklin Archer

September 13, 2008 at 06:34 AM · Hahahahahaha! Drew, I think you just made my week!

September 13, 2008 at 10:35 AM · Greetings,

starting on a first finger is logical because it eliminates the semi tone string crosssing so railed against by szigeti in his books. However, strating with second trains one to do the akward crossing which we often have no choice with in performance so I ask my students to be aware of both and be competent in both although one will take precedencve for exams etc.

A scale exercise I use is to have stunts play c major starting on second then work through many keys using the same fingering. REpeat procedure fror c sharp strating on 2 and so on



September 13, 2008 at 12:01 PM · I think starting on 2nd finger works well for 3 octaves. Then the first shift is from 2nd to 4th position on the A string and it's a useful shift to work on.

(I was also tempted to give an answer like Mendy's, but am trying to follow directions)

September 13, 2008 at 02:16 PM · Drew....Buri... DITO!

yea, right, like I'm any where as smart as you two? However, I actually understood more than I thought! :^D

September 13, 2008 at 03:30 PM · If I am doing a straight up and down, 1st finger. If I am doing the turn to B, Second finger. If I am practicing shifting, 3rd finger or 4th with the turn, and now I see I have been negligent and need to try the thumb:)


September 13, 2008 at 05:47 PM · Drew wins the technical expertise prize AND the Pullet Surprise for the longest gramatically correct sentence.

Explaining the Pullet Surprise is for another forum.

September 14, 2008 at 03:35 AM · Ray,

You do have to pullet around when maneuvering the thumb in the above fashion, but don't be surprised should you succeed and gain a tremendous amount of agility across the entire length and breadth of the left hand, into the wrist, along the forearm, into the upper arm via the elbow, scurrying rapidly via the shoulder down the back, etc., etc., etc.,………traversing all the way down to the big toe via the arch and causing severe swelling and excruciating pain in the little toe before be relieved by a resounding stomp with said left foot initiating a pppp down beat entrance on an up bow with molto ritardando e calando solo.

Piece of cake:-)

September 14, 2008 at 08:57 AM · Drew, that toe pain is psychosomatic. Comes from poor intonation...

September 14, 2008 at 09:38 AM · I have several fingerings, starting on all fingers (but not thumb), but the one is was first taught was starting on second.

One favourite is starting on first, but making a same finger semitone shift on every half step. I.E. shift from E - F with third finger, then B-C with second, etc. You get all the octaves without any finger-crossing shifts.


September 14, 2008 at 01:37 PM · I use my chin to play the c and then use a millipede to play the remaining notes, all on the G string. Works a treat.

September 14, 2008 at 09:16 PM · I was thinking of a chicken when he wrote pullet. It hen scratches the strings so that you can use both hands on the fret board!

September 14, 2008 at 09:17 PM · Megan,

So I didn't need to see the doctor all these years after all…… I thought it was ear wax.

September 15, 2008 at 04:43 AM · Drew, have you been reading the Ricci "Glissando" book? ;) I'm glad to see that at least a FEW of us are putting our thumbs to some use, here....LOL!

September 15, 2008 at 04:46 AM · i use it with the infamous turn--tonic, mediant, supertonic, tonic, and on with the scale...

September 15, 2008 at 02:58 PM · Start on 2 for all scales starting on B flat. That way when asked to perform random scale for music school juries, no sweat you know the fingering.

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