High positions on the g-string

September 17, 2007 at 11:56 PM · There are two separate questions here:

1. How to train the left hand and arm so that it is comfortable in 7th and 8th position, especially on the g-string?

2. How to produce good intonation in these positions?

I am doing the Sevcik shifting exercises, especially one and eight, and the greatest difficulty seems to be in these positions on the g-string. I'm aware of the need to rotate the elbow and bring the hand around the side of the body, but I still struggle to produce a smooth sound.

Replies (48)

September 18, 2007 at 03:15 AM · If you want your left hand to be more comfortable high on the g string, push the scroll of the violin to your left. This means your elbow doesn't have to go so much to the right.

September 18, 2007 at 03:26 AM · Do the Flesch one octave scales on one strong.

September 18, 2007 at 11:45 AM · Take Bobby's suggestion about doing Flesch's scales in 1 octave on 1 string and extend it to 2 and 3 octaves (on 1 string). Also, practice doing every note of the scale using the 1st finger only.

I have my students do go through every key signature starting in G major on the g string to A-flat major, a major, b flat major, b major, c major, etc etc (all on the g string) in 2 and 3 octaves specifically practicing shifts and upper position playing. Also, I have them repeat using only the "1st fingers".

Then do the similar thing on D, A and E strings.

I have a student who is in a professional orchestra who coaches with me under my supervision that claims that this approach has REALLY changed her shifting and higher position technique to a new level after 6 months of intensive work on this system.

I got this idea by watching Ruggiero Ricci teach a friend of mine, who is a very high level violinist.

Try it out for yourself but don't expect miracles to happen overnight.

September 18, 2007 at 12:28 PM · Yikes! This may be a search for the Grail, as it were. Playing way up, esp. on the low strings, is problematic. Something to do with length of string available to resonate. I've played a lot of instruments students were trying out to buy, and notice that you need a quality violin to do this successfully. Certainly few if any student violins or first upgrades for high school or college won't. Sue

September 18, 2007 at 06:29 PM · The tone quality on the G string in high positions is a real problem. Since every violin is unique, everyone has to find their own way. I suggest you try experimenting with different contact points (probably away from the bridge will sound better), various amounts of weight of the finger on the string(somewhat less weight sounds better for me) and that goes for the bow as well. Too much preassure on the bow may choke the G string. I also find it sounds better if, when I vibrate, my finger is flatter as opposed to being on the tip(especially my first finger that is so very bony:)

In order to play in tune, playing the scales on one string is an excellent advice. I think that pretty much all professional violinists work on these periodically.

September 18, 2007 at 08:34 PM · "Too much preassure on the bow may choke the G string."

I hadn't thought about that--cool... I'm just into becoming aware of what technique causes which sound in relation to the string's vibration--your remark makes really good sense.

September 18, 2007 at 08:40 PM · I have found single finger scales very useful so far, but I can't quite manage three octaves on one string (yet) - well not within one practice session!! I do try and vary the finger, and the scale though, otherwise one ends up doing the same scales on the same finger (1st).

As for the tone quality, I would have intuitively thought that, with such a thick string and short wavelength (i.e. in high positions), one needs more weight and not less, in order to keep the string in vibration. Perhaps this is what's causing problems, so I'll try less weight and see how I get on.

September 18, 2007 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

no, the shorter string needs less weight. It is also very common for players to think their left hand is out of tune when it is actually too much bow weight distorting the pitch in highe rpositons. (The left hand is probably duff as well...)



September 19, 2007 at 12:30 AM · Greetings,

no, the shorter string needs less weight. It is also very common for players to think their left hand is out of tune when it is actually too much bow weight distorting the pitch in highe rpositons. (The left hand is probably duff as well...)



Well, there' something to explore tonight. Be back soon.

September 19, 2007 at 02:33 AM · To me, the focus is the bow. Buri, wouldn't you say the pressure depends on where the contact point is? -- to have a good sound, closer to the fingerboard, you need more bow but less pressure whereas closer to the bridge, you need less bow but more pressure. And that is probably the only way for you to get good sounds, p or pp with the former and f or ff with the latter on g string at high positions. These contact points are there to be explored. Isn't it so?

The endings of Kriesler's Praeludium and Allegro and Veracini's F# minor largo are remarkably similar. Two different teachers of mine taught me these two different pieces, each with different above-mentioned approach. The result is that I've got difference in loudness and intensity, not one better sound than the other, not to me anyway.

September 19, 2007 at 02:38 AM · I learn sooo much and remember equal amounts reading these....

September 19, 2007 at 02:31 AM · I'm sorry, but a three octave scale on the g-string? hmm. I find it incredibly tempting to try this out, but it is too late in the evening.

It is good that you already know to bring the hand around in the 7th and 8th position on the g-string. However, be sure to bring the thumb around as well. I have a bad habit of leaving the thumb at the base of the violin neck (mostly because I am lazy, have long fingers, and can get where I need to be without bringing it around). But what my teacher pointed out to me is that intonation is a lot more solid if you bring the thumb around and try to retain the "normal" shape of the hand as it is in the lower positions.

This was incredibly helpful for me when playing through arpeggios, taking away a lot of the guess work in the distance between the fingers.

September 19, 2007 at 03:16 AM · Well, I messed around with this with Shenandoah but on D-string, and there is also an instrument contact points things going on I haven't quite figured out.

September 19, 2007 at 03:49 AM · In addition to some other good suggestions in this thread . . .

From the chapter on "Tone Production" in Fischer's "Basics", I suggest exercise #70 (page 47), various rhythms on different soundpoints. Practice it in all positions on the G string (e.g., 1 to 9 or 10) . . . actually, on all strings. It's part of my daily warm up, and is very useful in getting a sense of how the many variables in tone production interconnect. Since you'll be doing it at different speeds, it gives you a change to work on intonation simultaneously.

Also read the nice concise explanation with examples "Pressure and length of string" on page 57 in this same chapter.

Another suggestion: practice some pieces that are all on the G string. I've done 2 recently that are enjoyable to play: the first half of Kreisler's "The Old Refrain" is all on the G, as is all of Mischa Elman's transcription of the Faure song "Apres un Reve" ("After a Dream"). Not the latest and the hippest, but excellent for learning to judge tone production in the upper positions on the G string.

September 19, 2007 at 04:00 AM · Incidentally Celtic Woman fans: Shenandoah starting On D and shifting up instead, is very acceptable.


"Certainly few if any student violins or first upgrades for high school or college won't. Sue"

Thank you for that! My anti-fluff cohorts agree.

My A/E jam in 6th+. I got a feeling that it was like f4 on D--a lingering flaw in the fingerboard--even if I use f1/+3.... Who wants to overplay--then reverse it--I've been through enough already.

September 19, 2007 at 09:56 PM · Well, less weight certainly does = better tone. I suppose I was choking the string before, as you said. Moving the scroll to the left helps, as does getting the thumb out of the way, but I have to admit, having large hands, I have a habit of stretching the hand instead of moving it. This might be what's making it difficult.

I do have a lot of tension in my left arm though, trying to achieve, and hold, this position. So any tips on loosening the arm in general, perhaps without the violin, would be welcome.

I managed one octave on the g string tonight (for scales up to D major). Maybe I'll look for two in the next few weeks...and three, well, after that!

October 18, 2007 at 04:16 PM · Russ,

Try using a lot less effort and avoid hunching your shoulder if possible. Some lessons in the Alexander Technique will probably help you with this.

October 18, 2007 at 05:26 PM · I have looked through and I agree totally with Bruce for pushing the scroll to the left and also it is very important a LOW PRESSURE.

The higher the position the lower the pressure

Nice thread

Thank you

Ah Sevcik n° 8 is a very helpful book, one of the most important book on shifting technique

October 18, 2007 at 05:27 PM · Ah a question for you, can a flatter position of the finger tip on higher position helpful for intonation, vibrato and sound quality?

October 18, 2007 at 06:38 PM · Antonello, I think it is quite the opposite actually. You want to find fingerings up there in the high positions that enable for your fingers to be at a flexed upright angle not flat. The spacing of the notes up there is much smaller. It does not make sense to me to play with the same finger angle in 10th position as in 1st position.

October 18, 2007 at 07:39 PM · Nate, thanks for your reply.

Actually yes I agree with you as for the spacing between the fingers. Actually I was talking about avoiding a too right angle disposition of the tip on the fingerboard. Is this correct?

Thank you.


November 5, 2015 at 02:56 PM · I'm curious, when playing high positions on G string, where do you keep your left thumb? When I do one finger scales, I find my thumb on the side of the fingerboard.

November 5, 2015 at 03:26 PM · It is good remembering that only very good instruments will sound good on high positions on the G string, in general you will have lots of wolves and rasped notes in this region....

November 5, 2015 at 04:14 PM · I've always had better clarity high in the G by using a weich Dominant G. It can make the difference between playable and unplayable. Also, violins do respond by being played up high on a regular basis. This is especially true for new violins.

Luis, the reality is that most people don't have violins that sound great high on the. When people disparage fine old instruments, it's often because they don't spend a lot of time high in the G. This is what costs $$. For the rest of us, we simply have to find a way, and trying different strings can help.

One-octave scales are great for the G, as are one-position scales across all strings. Unfortunately, there are few etudes which have the student regularly playing high on the G--this should have been much more emphasized in Kreutzer (maybe fewer trill exercises?...). So much of the problem is a weakness in the standard pedagogical literature. No wonder it's uncomfortable: by the time it's really needed, like in Tzigane, most just haven't done enough work up there. This is a good reason that 3-octave scales are way over-emphasized.

There is literature out there with lots of high G-- seek it out and just dive in. Some example, besides Tzigane, are the Wieniawski caprice in a-minor, Ravel Sonata, Sibelius concerto, Paganini here and there.

Feel free to add to the list. It's out there--just in little bits. Te best answer for how to get comfortable is....wait for it...

Just do lots of it, wherever you can find it.

As far as sound, I think more, not less pressure is needed. The issue is that few have real control over their contact point up high. Use scales to practice playing very close to the bridge (or as close as your violin will tolerate) . Backing away in pressure is kind of a cheat, especially at the very time you need more power and clarity.

November 5, 2015 at 04:34 PM · My personal suggestion - one-octave scales in octaves going up one string. Start once you are confident with the non-double-stopped one-octave scale going up the string.

Then practice with breaking the octave - fingers in the right position, play the bottom note, play the top, tune the interval - in ascending figures of a few notes. Then the octave double stops starting with the scales in 1st position until you are really happy with them. Then start in higher positions.

Once all of that is sounding great do the same exercise with fingered octaves and unisons.

Octaves are really great for overall confidence and technique as once you can play the octave in tune the intervals within it come much more naturally.

In terms of studies, Rode no.6 has a great G-string aria at the beginning, very good for practicing intonation - and tone production - and expression - and late-classical early-romantic approaches to fingering and portamenti. (Can you tell I'm a fan of the Rode studies?)

November 5, 2015 at 04:36 PM · *cough*

>>one-octave scales in octaves going up one string

TWO strings obviously, sorry. :)

November 5, 2015 at 05:14 PM · Scott,

Interesting observation. I've found my Evah Gold gold-plated g string will produce a much clearer sound than any other G string I've tried, in addition to nearly eliminating my pesky high C wolf tone.

November 5, 2015 at 05:22 PM · Maybe I'll try it. Do I need to knock off a liquor store to afford one, though?

November 5, 2015 at 06:02 PM · This is where the non-SR users come into their own - that plank under the violin can really get in the way high on the G.

November 5, 2015 at 06:04 PM · Great post, Scott! (And I love etudes, but amen on all the trill stuff--trills are really not that difficult in the grand scheme of violin technique.) I would also add that people who think fine instruments are a sham usually don't play a lot of harmonics either.

November 5, 2015 at 06:04 PM · Haha! Yes, you may have to sell a kidney. They're pretty pricey but I think it's worth it.

November 5, 2015 at 07:38 PM · Interesting comments on the instruments! The last 2% of excellence in anything is the most demanding (and most expensive?) so I've heard. This I think would hold true, both on the technical and design sides!

Another wonderful piece for high g string is the slow movement of sinding's suite in a minor. First played it in college and it gave me fits. But an absolutely lovely piece.

November 5, 2015 at 07:47 PM · http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/e/e7/IMSLP94393-PMLP194543-villa-lobos_heitor-canto_do_cisne_negro.pdf

This one is good practice for tone and vibrato up high in uncomfortable positions on the G string. A lot of stuff that is pretty simple and written in a certain range can be practiced or played solely on the G string for a certain effect. The Rachmaninoff Vocalise transcription often has a repeat an octave lower on the G string.

November 5, 2015 at 11:10 PM · Don't depress the string all the way down to the fingerboard. That much force is unnecessary. The challenge is discovering how much force actually *is* necessary. :)

I recommend using the pads of the fingers to contact the string, rather than the tips, as it is more comfortable and easier to make small adjustments. It doesn't affect your accuracy as the pitch is determined by the length of the string between the bridge and where your finger makes contact, not a specific point where your finger is meeting the fingerboard (otherwise, how else could you keep your fingers down in patterns when playing descending scales?).

November 6, 2015 at 04:38 AM · Try Paganini "Moses". You don't need to learn the variations. Just playing the theme will give you a whole-G-string workout.

November 6, 2015 at 06:21 AM · Agree with the advice about needing more pressure and not playing very close to the bridge for the G.

If it helps, I think of each string as a type of singing voice.

The G is a bass, so you want to give it a push for volume for high notes, while avoiding undue strain caused by ramping up the aggressiveness (playing too close to the bridge)

The other strings in order are the tenor, alto and soprano singing voices. Each follow the same basic guidelines.

D string: Not very powerful, better for light bakground filler.

A string: Very bold and beuatiful, especially up high, but not so great for belting out (though, better than the D string)

E: Soprano, let it scream!!! Also, can be very fluttery and delicate (though this part works better with a plain gut E)... Just saying... :)

November 6, 2015 at 04:26 PM · Sorry--it's impossible to play high on a string with more pressure and further from the bridge.

The weakest part of the string is its center (just try bowing there). Therefore, the higher the string is stopped, the further up the fingerboard the center is located and the closer the bow must be to the bridge.

If you play D4 on the G string, then the absolute mid-point of the string is now just at the edge of the fingerboard: the weakest possible contact . I don't agree totally with the assessment about the D string. Quite often one MUST play with volume and projection on that string--you play what is musically appropriate, not what the string wants. Not to say we don't make fingering choices based on string characteristics--we do of course. But quite often we are in a situation where we must overcome that string's characteristic.

November 6, 2015 at 04:50 PM · So... where does thumb go for high G?

November 6, 2015 at 05:02 PM · My experience is that a covered gut G - which has relatively low tension - is the easiest G to play on the high positions without running into packs of wolves.

November 6, 2015 at 05:35 PM · Where does the thumb go? It depends. How high are you going? Are you going up and quickly coming down, such as the last page of Tzigane, or going up and ending on a held note that requires vibrato, like the run on the second page of Sibelius? How long is your thumb? How long are your 3rd/4th fingers?

November 6, 2015 at 06:25 PM · All fingers down and pinky on second C on G string. After that there be dragons, purple mist, linament and anti-inflamatories. Rarely in tune and dog said sound was ruff.

November 6, 2015 at 06:25 PM · @Scott: I didn't say that the D couldn't be played with volume, but it's volume tends to be lower and not as projecting even if the string is played to maximum potential, whereas the E strings can be overpowered quite a bit. :)

Also, further from the bridge on the G string does not mean a lot further, it just means that you don't try to straddle the bridge like you would for the E string.Personally, my G string plays the extreme high register best when the bow does not approach any closer than about 1 cm to the bridge or so (though that may be the quality of my instrument speaking). :)

November 7, 2015 at 01:00 AM · As for thumb position, let's start with simple scaling. Basically I try to explore ALL notes on each string up the fingerboard. For sound, I don't have as much problem on G as on D, because I find that on D string, my bow has to sit pretty much right next to the bridge to not make unwanted double stops.

As for position, I find it extremely awkward from 6th position and up on G string as for where to put my thumb. Ribs? Tuck it by the fingerboard?

November 7, 2015 at 02:25 AM · Thanks, Gene, and Lydia! I would add that starting with third-finger harmonics along the length of the string seems to work best. I do play "plank-free" and I am always looking for the minimal touch.

November 7, 2015 at 01:08 PM · "As for position, I find it extremely awkward from 6th position and up on G string as for where to put my thumb. Ribs? Tuck it by the fingerboard? "

Does the video answer the question? It leaves all possibilities open ...

November 7, 2015 at 02:14 PM · Thank you Pavel, but unfortunately that video didn't help me much. Basically, in the high positions of G that I am trying to explain doesn't allow my thumb to stay under the neck. I simply cannot reach the string with my fingers with my thumb still there.

November 7, 2015 at 03:20 PM · I do not use an SR.

For G, I leave the end of my thumb on the ribs right by the neck in order to reach but not drop the instrument. :)

Hope this helps.

November 7, 2015 at 03:20 PM ·

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