Playing chromatically

August 22, 2008 at 01:45 AM ·

Well, I'm trying to make practising chromatically a large part of my routines, at the moment I use my first finger only - I start off on the G string and play each note (and treat it as a shift to!)

So essentially, I play G -> G# -> A -> A# bla bla bla. But I treat it as a shift (I make my thumb and finger loose then move up and reapply again I try speed up a little bit each round)

But I am having a few concerns, while this has helped my shifting immensely, I want my other fingers to gain the benefits! I feel it in my index finger, while the rest of my fingers are feeling left out and cold.

I thought of playing chromatic scales more 'robotically' to compensate for this.

I guess I mean - play them in my choice of position, then the first finger does the first two notes. So again if I am on first position while playing on G string, I let my Finger 1 do G# then A, finger 2 A# and B, finger 3 C and C# finger 4 D and D# and so forth, until I end up playing on the E string basicly, then repeat it back descending till I am where I started at.

I want all my fingers to benefit from this as I think this is a well needed field to practise in, instead of just major scales and arpeggios.

(I don't know what grade I am - all that I am just near the end of playing C major 2 octave scale and arpeggio comfortably in 1st 2nd and 3rd pos ascending and descending (So I'm new to those new position shifts)... I just haven't been graded yet)

Replies (21)

August 22, 2008 at 03:06 AM · Dmitri,

What I noticed about your post was the fingering, and that I believe is the source of your troubles. Shifting 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 is a very inefficient and slow fingering. If you can take a look at the Flesch scales, he offers two general fingerings. I prefer 123-123 on one string, and 0-1212340 when in first position. Also note Galamian's fingerings for the chromatic passage at the end of the A sections of the Paganini Caprice No. 5. Having good fingerings is essential for fast chromatics. Also, they must be treated as a full shift: that is, with a total release of pressure.


August 22, 2008 at 03:46 AM · Ahh! Thank you Scott to be honest I Was trying to avoid the 123-123 and 01234-1234 fingering styles, as I am more concerned with trying to learn my positions better. (As in a proactive learning method instead of having to adjust myself when I do encounter the changes in adjustment)

But! I wish to also play Paganinis 5th caprice (hehe) so I guess practising both 123-123 and 01234-1234 fingering is very important.

But now I have another concern - can I still continue the method I mentioned to practise (The 1-1,2-2,3-3 etc and the use of single finger shifts) and also do the 123-123, 01234-1234. Would that at all mess up with my finger skills?? (Learning the intonation wrong isn't my concern rather will there be too much conflict)

*EDIT* Sorry I misread your post, I thought you said 01234-1234 not "0-1212340", now I truly don't undersatnd that!

Is it ummm... (Using G string as example)

G (open string) G# (F1) A (F2) A#(F1) B(F2) C (F3) (C# F4) D (Open)

August 22, 2008 at 05:37 AM · Dmitri,

Yes, the last G-string fingering you gave is what I meant.

1-2, 2-2, 3-3, can work, but it's best for a slow passage.

Experience is what helps one decide what will work for speed later one. One thing I don't like about the other Flesch fingerings is that they are not actually that useful for real passage work. For example, when playing a fast passage in C, I probably wouldn't start on the 2nd finger. For another, doing 4-4-4 at the top would be my last choice for a fast up and down passage.


August 22, 2008 at 05:46 AM · Thank you for that I appreciate it. I will try practise the three variations it should help.

So essentially 1-1 2-2 3-3, 0121234-0 and 123-123 (I'm assuming this is for other positions).

Hmmm, I think that will actually work out very well!

August 24, 2008 at 03:55 AM · PHEW!!

Ok, after playing 01212340 as fast as I can, it really rips my forearms! Whats the best way of building stamina? Continuing to rip my forearms? lol

August 26, 2008 at 02:52 AM · Greetings,

as Scott says. But I would not neglect the old fingering pattern (for example from a, 122334 etc). Although this is not efficent at speed it might be describec as an expressive version and hasa place in many works. For example, there is a very good case for the first chromatic scale in the opening of the Tchaikovsky for this fingering. Another use of this kind of work is that it helps to develop flexibility of fingers that complements work on vibrato.



October 27, 2008 at 07:42 PM · I'm sorry to bring this older thread back to life.

I just started on chromatic scales and my teacher is making me learn the 112233 fingering, is that bad? or is a beginner fingering and it's okay?

October 27, 2008 at 08:13 PM · As I've said in another, similar post, the 112233 fingering will only work at slower tempi. At faster speeds, it becomes impossible, and the 123-123 fingering is more logical. A great example is the chromatic passages at the end of the intro to Paganini's Caprice No. 5.

October 27, 2008 at 08:34 PM · so, even for beginners, you will still go with the 123123 fingering? I'll ask my teacher.. I'm so confused, i use the Barbara Barber scales for advanced violinist book and the descending chromatic is driving me absolutely bonkers.

Also, this may make me sound like an absolute idiot. When I'm going up, everything is fine until i hit the E string, after a bit, I forget where I'm playing and have no idea when I will hit the G to turn around, is there any trick to this?

October 27, 2008 at 08:32 PM · LOL! Forget the either or; you need both! I'm currently playing the Flying Dutchman (Wagner), 1st violin part and all the wave/storm passages have a lot of nasty scale business. There are places where the 123123 thing is best, and there are places where 1122 is the only way. I find that 1122 is sometimes quicker, depending where you need to end up, because you are effectively crawling around and don't get any jerkiness from actual shifts.

October 27, 2008 at 08:54 PM · IIRC, the repeated 6-note licks on the D-string work well as 121234.

I'd thought the general protocol in lower positions was 0121234.

October 28, 2008 at 12:58 AM · I'd agree that 112233 is ok for beginners, and 123123 is more advanced. I'd also agree that you need both.

October 28, 2008 at 04:19 AM · I'd say that 112233 is more important for beginners to learn than 0121234, since 0121234 is easy to learn for an intermediate student and 112233 teaches the student one of the most important things you can learn in left hand teachnique. Light, flexible fingers with true knowledge of the distance of halftones on the violin. You will also learn the basic prinsiple of shifting, the release, you will learn the true distance of the fingers, no matter in what key you are in and you will learn to relax and open up your hand. If practised correctly.

The important thing both in 121234 an 112233 is that the fingers, not then hand should do the work. When you eventually will learn 121234 you must remember that it is not (halfposition)12(shift)(secondposition)1234, but (reach back)12(normal fingerposition)1234.

Good luck!

October 28, 2008 at 04:29 AM · Greetings,

also useful for developing vibrato but I also note that many player sbelive the fingering has an expressive function. Hence Fischer describes/advocates it for the first chromatic run in the Tchaik concerto.

Moral of the story is learn from here but -trust- your teacher.



October 28, 2008 at 10:01 AM · For PM Rolf - I got lost a lot too, and I had a vague memory of my teacher talking about mutliples of 3 or 4. unfortunately I didn't listen closely enough at the time, so about 6 weeks later mentioned that I knew there was something about 3x4 and 4x3. It is in fact a very helpful way of remembering where you are at - there are 12 semitones, so depending on what your slurring pattern is, you will have e.g 4 bows or 3 bows to get through the octave. I love chromatics. I was taught 121234 from the start, it wasn't any harder than any other fingering.

October 28, 2008 at 10:34 AM · How about playing chromatic scales one 1 string with one finger (Yost style) up and down in 1 and 2 octave versions?

October 28, 2008 at 10:29 PM · Greetings,

while we are on the subject it is perhaps worth remembering a veyr useful guideline:

Chromatic scales acsending are usually played too flat and gettign flatter. Descending they are usually sharp and getting sharper.

It also helps to vizualize the tip of the finger eevry now and again. In fistr position, to move a semitone one has to move the finger as much as the actualy width of the finger tip. That may be quite some distance.

The practice of exercises in manipulating a single note up and down through a semitone, quarter tone and progressivley narrower intervals is very good eartraining although I Had a studnet whose cat peed in her violin case in response to this exercise. Honestly!



PS IT wasn`t a Musafia. neither was the case....

October 29, 2008 at 08:41 AM · Buri- i'm literally LOL at the cat pee!!

I'm having huge problem with intonation when I get onto the E string, i have no idea if the chromatic scale i play was chromatic anymore, i faithfully followed the scale books fingering and i honestly think that i'm about one whole step sharp on the way up!! any tips?

October 29, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Greetings,

practice only the firts finger as an arpeggio of sorts. If you don`t know where that is going then you have no foundation for the rest.

Also it may be your actual approahc to practicing rather than the technique. IE you are trying to do much. In this case you might find ABC practice useful. So play a chunk until you masered it many times. Then the next. then the nect up to five chunks. These are ABCDand E.

Now play Ab many times, BC many times, CD etc.

Now play ABC, many times, BCD, cde


Got the picture.

Also , if you are getting lost ina high psoition clarify the intonation by playin in a lower psotion and octave. Don`t teach yourself bad intonation thoruhg your frustration.

For what its worth, in my firts yera at a venerable music institute my new teahcer was trying to teahc mea ne wsystem of chromatic on the e stirng.Hekept syaing something that sounded like look Buri, its 1256booblefart123 then down 98321poop321 . I had no idea what he wa stalking about and he wasn`T smart enough to realize I am a non verbal learner.



October 31, 2008 at 05:17 AM · I can do the first finger appregio (for some reason it's alot easier to hear the intonation on this) but as soon as I have to hear semi tone, I became freakn tone deaf again. Is it because the piano has ruined my ears?

October 31, 2008 at 06:00 AM · only if you keep sticking your head under the pedals.

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