Bach partita No 3 Fingerings

December 10, 2007 at 06:52 AM · Does anyone know of a transcription of Bach Partita No. 3 which has all the fingerings clearly spelled out for morons like myself? I am working with the Peters edition (suboptimal for several reasons) and trying to deduce from the sparce numbers above notes on what string to play each note in the barriolage parts is like solving a math problem -- that I don't really want to solve. Tried watching some youtube videos but not enought resolution to really make out the warp speed fingers of Heifetz and Milstein....

Thank you.


Replies (27)

December 10, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Tom,

this is what I use: g#-e (2-4),g#-d# (2-4), g#-d

(2-3), a-c# (4-3), a-b (4-2), g#-b (4-2), g#-a

(4-1), f#-a (3-1), f#-g# (3-1), e-g# (2-1), e-f#

(3-1), d#-f# (3-1)

see if you can understand that. Basically I use the fingering that follows the voice leading.

(you use the same fingering later on the d & g strings in the a major section. starting with

c#-a etc.

December 11, 2007 at 01:43 AM · Joel - Thank you for the explanation....a little over my head... Hopefully there's a Bach for Dummies out there that answers my question and would spare you the torture but if not here is my quandry.

In measures 14 - 16 are only the E and A strings used? I kind of get the pattern starting in measure 17 by some alternating of the E, A, and D strings, kind of like the double shuffle, right??

Your help most appreciated,


December 11, 2007 at 01:53 AM · hello tom, don't you have something else better to do? :)

my kid played this piece briefly in the past year and i remember going over the score with her. as you said, it can be tricky because if you do not play the "right" string/level, you may lose the interesting sound effect. from what i can remember, for measure 13, you pretty much stay on the A string third position except those open string E string (E at 2, 4, 6, etc). then at measure 14:

first note: A string 3rd position 2nd finger

second note: open E string

third note: shift up to 5th position, use 2nd finger there.

fourth note: open E again.

then just follow similar pattern, by staying on 5th position A string and use different fingers accordingly...21231.

then on measure 15:

first note: 2nd finger 5th position on A string

second note: open E

third note: back down to third position on A string, use 2nd finger.

then stay on third with similar pattern.

measure 16 is the same idea as as 13.

measure 17 is different:

first note: A string 2nd finger 5th position (as prior)

second note: open E

third: same as first note

fourth: fourth finger on D string

and so on...

one thing to note is that if there are two, same notes next to each other, the first one will be fingered and the second one will be a open string:)

here is my kid's wobbly take on it. slow, may be it will be easier for you to follow. hope it helps somewhat.

December 11, 2007 at 02:23 AM · If your edition has some E notes with the stems going the opposite direction from around 13 to 28, they are the ones to play open. If it doesn't have it, it's the second note (E) of each group of 4 16ths.

December 11, 2007 at 03:56 AM · Tom,

The pattern is the same through the whole passage. down bow (A string)up bow (open E string)down bow (A string) up bow (D String)

The double stop is between the A and D strings.

Practice with double stops playing the A and D string together and add the open E.

December 11, 2007 at 05:13 AM · Thank you all for your replies, which prompted another ignorant question: are you suggesting that even though it is written as all separate bow strokes that in effect there is a double stop embedded in the pattern?

December 11, 2007 at 01:52 PM · when i play it, it sounds like double or even triple stops:)

December 11, 2007 at 11:13 PM · Greetings,

yes, it should be practiced as double stops. Its a bowing version of chords.

You will also notice an interesitng aural illusion: because of the added brilliance of the e string , plus it is higher, it assumes the role of the first of each group of four for the listener and many players. Thuus the actual bar line appears to shift. Then when the section finsihes and one has to clearly start the new passage on beat one with a first finger e on the d string it feel like a rather odd rythmioc shift has occured. This can throw inexperienced players.....



December 12, 2007 at 03:25 AM · I you're not advanced enough to sit down and figure out the fingerings you're not advanced enough to play the piece.

December 12, 2007 at 05:00 PM · Scott so you are suggesting that a musician is just a human transducer?

December 13, 2007 at 12:23 AM · Tom, I don't understand your statement. I don't mean to sound overly harsh, but as a teacher one of the biggest weaknesses in students is that they can't--or won't--think for themselves. And my most important goal is to get them to do just that.

Do I suggest fingerings? Yes...eventually. But first I tell them to go home and experiment, struggle, and mull it over. The last thing I want is to have them depend on me for every fingering and bowing.

That's why I no longer teach using Galamian, which, although I find occasionally useful, I believe has run its course. It is also my biggest beef with Suzuki, which leaves no room for thoughtful consideration by the student or teacher.

December 12, 2007 at 11:53 PM · Greetings,

I agree with Scott. Every now and again on this list somehtign similar crops up. Sometimes it@s `Im working on Paginini Caprice 24. Why do the quarter notes have a diamond shape note written above them.` or `What is lh pizz?`

What then happens is that a few helpful people explain the meaning and then someone writes in `if you have to ask you areN@t ready for the piece.`

This then provokes slightly angry or sarcastic respones about being negative or not respecitng people`s feleins and so on. But most of the time it is actually the considere dand valuable advice of someone who is experienced enough to know that helping people to be as good as they can on the violin -through their own endeavours- doe s ocassionally involve telling them in no uncertain terms what they cannot do at a specific point. This has nothing to do with being anti music or anti art, or anti human. If one went to a weight training center and an experienced trainer evaluated what ones physicla capabilities were and said `don`t do this now` then one would listen if one wa s moderately intelligent. I have never understood why novice violinists react so differnelty to help from professionals. What the latter are giving is a kind of love. Love comes in many forms.



December 13, 2007 at 12:48 AM · Al, did your daughter figure out her own fingering there?

December 13, 2007 at 01:36 AM · i can't believe you even bother to ask that, jim. what i remember was that during my wife's gestation, there were little knocks on her belly. we transcribed it as the little one wanting to come out early... to play the partita. she said she had all the fingering figured out and next day we took that video as proof...

seriously, the discussion does bring up an interesting point, which is, nowadays, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to learn to play a piece of music with ABSOLUTELY no outside influence.

when starting a new piece, students often first listen to the piece played by someone else to get some idea, prompted either by the teacher or self driven. or, they have preconceived notion having heard it a while back. then, teachers intervene with fingering and bowing changes. during each lesson, teachers reinforce the idea of how it should sound like, how it should be played...

with this particular piece, without some heads up on the fingering, and having NEVER listened to it played the "correct" way, i find it hard to believe that most people will simply "get" it.

i have no info to say tom is not ready for it. if it is up to me, i say go for it, ready or not. either way, it will be a learning experience. if played very slowly in the beginning, there is something to gain. of course, if right now i ask buri to teach me one of the paga caprices, to get the spicatto down in couple days, simply because i think it sounds cool, it is indeed unrealistic. he probably throws his cat at me and yell, eat prune and ,,,

December 13, 2007 at 02:22 AM · We amateurs really have this problem in spades. We always want to play something that is too hard for us. We take inspiration from Yo-yo Ma's father teaching him a movement of a Bach Suite one measure at a time. I am sure that young Ma was "not ready" for Bach Suites but here we are and here he is. If had started the Tchaikovsky Concerto 10 years ago its possible I might know half of it today but I didn't so I don't know any of it. (Yes you say but what could you have learned well? I am not quite as deficient on that count.) .

I do think that an honest amateur should not resent the guidance "perhaps you are not ready" even if they choose to ignore it.

December 13, 2007 at 03:07 AM · Greetings,

on the other hand...

when I was at the RCM a friend of mine who was a student of the pinaist Edwin Fischer told me that Mr Fischer had been very disturbed in her lesson. Apparently an adult amateur who had no musical `friends` , never had a piano lesson, and ha dneve rbeen to a concert had fallen in love with and learnt a notoriously diifcult movement of the Hammerklavier sonata -extremely well-. He had then walke d into the college and asked Mr Fischer to teach him. Mr Fischer told my friend in some distress taht he didn`t even wnat to be in the same room with him again. His explanation was that the moment this phenomenon heard from amother person that what he ha ddone was essentially -impossible- his whole edifice would crumble and he probably wouldn`t be able to play as well ever again. Mr. Fischer just didn`t want to be part of that collapse.



December 13, 2007 at 04:11 AM · I don't think Tom should necessarily not play the piece. What he should do is sit down with a pencil and try each phrase with different fingering. In other words, force his brain to come up with reasons why something will or won't work, or what the musical rational might be. This is a part of learning and it gets faster as you practice. One thing I stress to my students is that there are no wrong answers. Quite often they neglect to try their own fingerings because they're afraid of being "wrong."

I recently coached a young string quartet who are getting ready for a concert, and their rational for playing a certain way was

"that's what they did on the recording..."

There was steam coming out of my ears. It's one musical reason that really gets my blood pressure in dangerous territory. And these were talented and advanced kids that could think for themselves if they had to.

December 13, 2007 at 04:58 AM · I'm a big boy and whether somebody throws some perhaps negative comment my way has no effect. But "if it looks like a cat, smells like a cat, and sounds like a cat, then it is a cat". Nobody ever said that music had to start with dots on a page -- whether it is learned that way, by ear, by someone teaching "put the 3 finger way up here" or however you teach a blind violinist, at the end of the day if it sounds all right that is all that matters. Actually when I play it it sounds pretty good...not any harder than the double shuffle at high speed... Im sure Mr Bach could care less how it is played or learned at this point.

This brings up a separate red herring. There is nothing magical about music notation. If color pens and reproduction were around in the 16th century I bet that the algorithm for translating sounds of a particular duration to a two dimensional page would look a lot different (and more efficient) than the five lines and dots with tails and holes that we have today. Imagine editing a movie timeline with multiple tracks...a much more efficient user interface as just one example.

WARNING TO Ihnsouk (message below): There may be an extra-solar lifeform that has created its own Bach....hope the dollar is strong against their currency.... :-)

December 13, 2007 at 04:26 AM · Scott, I can understand your position. The thing is violin teachers themselves hold wide, often contradictory opinions. My daughter is working on Partita D minor at the moment among other pieces. Her previous teacher refused to teach Bach S&P using anything other than Urtext. Her current teacher, who was a student of Galamian, refuses anything but. They both have a valid point but I know neither will take the other's view. Hope you can understand it is not always clear to us if there is musical merit or teachers are just being peculiar. Now we own many more than one edition of S&P to satisfy just about any teacher on the solar system.


December 13, 2007 at 06:03 AM · Ihnsouk,

I'd rather study with the teacher that uses the urtext. At least they're not deifying their teacher.


December 13, 2007 at 07:23 PM · Scott,

I also understand where you're coming from about letting a student figure things out for themselves. My teacher always said that he wasn't teaching me to play the violin, but that he was teaching me to teach myself how to play the violin. However, when it came to fingerings you have to know why certain things work and why you choose certain fingerings. This is why an understanding of the music itself is important. In Bach's Uncaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas, (I think that the real title is Sonatas and Partitas senza Basso), voice leading is very important since you are playing all the voices yourself on one instrument (including the Bass). Also, you have to understand string crossings and why choosing a certain fingering may not be the best solution because it would cause an awkward string crossing and thus be disturbing to the musical line. In this instance, you have to realize that Bach is outlining chords and using 3 strings on the violin to create a pattern (in this case the 7-6 suspension,and the bowing pattern with the open E creating a cross rhythm). Again we come back to why it is important to study with a competent teacher who can guide you in the right direction.

December 13, 2007 at 07:35 PM · "I'd rather study with the teacher that uses the urtext. At least they're not deifying their teacher."

Ditto and Amen. This reminds me of the time one of my roommates, also a violinist who studied with a different teacher than myself, took a violin showpiece from the university library and copied his teacher's fingerings into that library part. I asked him why he would do that, and he said "because they're right". I think I managed to stifle my eye-rolling and settled for a chuckle and head-shake.

December 13, 2007 at 11:35 PM · I hope that what Buri and Scott mean is that a student reaches a point where it is nolonger for them to continue to take in milk, that the student must now take on meat and potatoes which means feeding themselves and not be fed by someone. A student must realise that the time to be weaned is neccessary. Or else the student will sink... not swim.

However, what I read from the two posts about thinking for him/her self; My question is when does that happen? Does the teacher say, "The [well] has gone dry. You've reached a point where you must apply the tools that you've received.

And Buri. What Scott says does that also include you, that since you cannot type worth a damn, nor spell does that mean you should not respond untill you do? Both you and I for that matter?

December 13, 2007 at 10:28 PM · No, we don't defy teachers. We love our teachers. They are all eccentric and interesting and have unlimited devotion. It's just that I don't always understand them.


December 13, 2007 at 11:33 PM · Guim

I believe you are right.

Steven & Scott, see my previous post just above Guim.

December 14, 2007 at 04:07 AM · A few thoughts. I think its great when students listen to an accomplished performance and try to get ideas from it. It would be great if the performance they were listening to was from the Capet Quartet or the Flonzaley Quartet. It would for sure be better than anything they would figure out on their own. But what does it take for a student to come up with a great performance?

I recently decided to learn the Gavotte and Rondeau from Bach's Partita No. 3.

This is, of course, a dance. I wondered what a Gavotte must have been danced like in Bach's day. I found some descriptions on line and even some re-creations with short video. These dances could be very complicated. I found a book on Amazon that deals with dance rhythms in Bach's work. Its under the tree. But even so looking at an Urtext and turning all this in to a musically satisfying performance would be a monumental challenge.

Then there is theory and harmony and I won't even start on that quest. What can it take to create an artistic performance? More than most of us have. Short of a a huge store of knowledge and real creative mind we are better of following good traditional models than trying to invent out of whole cloth.

I was immensely grateful to have the Szeryng edition (and recording). What ideas! I don't play it like he does but it and Szigeti and Enesco have been inspiring. My performance won't be as aggressive as theirs but I hope in some way I can carry on the spirit of what they have done.

I hear a lot of "creative" performances that seem heavily influenced by jazz, ragtime, tango and the hootchy-kootchy. This is really a distortion and is vulgar and a useless dead end. No one should allow their students to create a performance just out of their imagination without helping the student prepare their imagination with knowledge and tasteful influences. You can be sure that all your students' imaginations have been well prepared with pop, rap, rock, country and every other influence so give the classics a chance.

December 14, 2007 at 06:58 AM · I don't discourage students from listening to recordings. After all, they have to hear it somewhere, right? (And god forbid they hear me as their sole model for violin-playing...)

BUT...I tell them to hold off until they have wrestled with the piece for a while and made some of their own decisions.

One thing that I can always spot is conductors who have prepared by practicing with a certain recording and have it stuck in their head. It's so freakin' obvious...

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