Its 2013; Do you know what position you are in?

January 3, 2013 at 06:27 AM · First position. Third position. Fourth, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, the gerbil zone (qv). I think thats the usual sequence for learning the violin - but then we hear no more. Some talk of 'relative position' but the question here is: when you play do you really know which position you are in?

For beginners through early advanced this may sound crazy but (and I hope this is a good sign) I have found that above 3rd, and maybe 4th I only figure out positon I'm in during a post-playing analysis NOT when I'm actually playing.

So I'm rather intrigued - when others play do they do so with a handy mental google-earth map map of where their hand is right up the keyboard? Or is it more that you play a note and either calculate the relative position of the next one or your brain simply plays it and if I were to ask you you would have to stop and figure it out?

Obviously this pertains more to advanced players than beginners or intermediates - but maybe some people never use a position map at all?

Perhaps the ultimate goal is to just 'know' where the note is with whatever finger so that it can be played in any context...

Replies (63)

January 3, 2013 at 12:43 PM · Hi Elise,

It's funny you should bring this up, because it is something that has been intriguing me for a while. In early learning I definitely had a mind map of 1st and then 3rd position. Which is still nice and clear to me. But the higher positions since then are not, they have become more contextual, based on intervals required and the position I am in at the time. My dilemma comes from the fact that I realise I actually don't know these positions by heart, nor the actual notes. If someone were to ask me to go directly to, say, high F on the A string, from first position, I don't think I'd know exactly where it is. Yet because my teacher has had me virtually all over the fingerboard from the start, I know I have played it many times.

It is also different when reading music, to when playing by memory or ear. When reading, my mind attempts to work out the interval difference relative to the position I'm in and perhaps I make a bit of a conscious attempt to learn the note and position. When playing by memory this is definitely not so. My hand just seems to know where to go, and fairly accurately at that, and mostly I wouldn't have a clue which note I am playing at all, which surprises me the most. This is the same for pieces whether memorised from music or learnt by ear in the first place. It's as if the baby just goes out with the bathwater, all my hard learned memorising isn't utilised.

Or perhaps is it, on a subconscious level?

It isn't how I expected playing violin would be at all. I rather believed that each position would be memorised in turn with small forays into uncharted territory. That's why I am surprised and nonplussed at the way things have turned out. Oh well, it seems that if my ear is happy then that's all that really matters in the end. I jolly well hope so!

January 3, 2013 at 01:34 PM · I use a mental "finger-map" during slow "set-up" practice, (epecially when I switch back and forth from violin to viola), so that I can then forget about it!

Then I use a "note-map", over which I can scramble, (or on bad days, grope?..) with whatever fingers suite the music.

Undivided attention for ten minutes, followed by a whole hour of freedom!

January 3, 2013 at 03:08 PM · I specifically remember having this problem in college (embarrassingly late to have such problems!) I could play the notes, but I was playing by ear. Which only gets you so far. I couldn't sight read at all and I had a hard time playing fast music high up. Etudes really didn't help me. It seemed like they went to far.

At the suggestion of my teacher, I got suzuki book 1 and played all the songs in 2nd position, then 4th, 5th, etc. every day for a month. It helped me develop a mental map without the demands of difficult bowings, rhythms, and musicality. Fixed me right up!

January 3, 2013 at 03:36 PM · So Eugenia - do you now think which position you are in as you are playing? Or did all that position practise simply free you from needing to think about positions at all!

January 3, 2013 at 06:15 PM · Like Eugenia, above, I have spent a lot of practice time playing the same thing (scales, arpeggios, melody fragments, etudes) in several positions. It develops a "muscle memory" of where the intervals are in different positions. Long ago, I also spent a lot of time on virtually all of Sevcik #8 (I think that's the number), which is entirely practice in shifting intervals. The fingerboard has far too many "spots" to learn how to hit them all, but it is possible to learn how to shift a minor 3rd, or a 4th, and then just go get the note at that interval.

January 3, 2013 at 07:26 PM · I think that most fine violinists know positions 1 through 5 precisely and can tell you at any moment what position they are in. Going higher than 5th it becomes more nebulous and we play more and more by intervals and note patterns.

That being said, we also know that positions are not always in the same place. In first position, for example the hand is in a different place for Ab Major than for A major. And when we start using extension fingerings and crawling fingerings the concept of positions becomes even more slippery.

So ultimately, we think more and more in terms of intervals, and note groups. However we still have some firm anchors to refer to, which are first position and third position.

January 3, 2013 at 08:39 PM · I have always been more interested in practicing harmonic and melodic fingering patterns (which I have largely organised into a "thesaurus") in all tonalities and at least two octaves of the string.

To much bewilderment (apparently).

Getting the "tonality" right is helped by knowing where the resonances/harmonics are.

January 3, 2013 at 09:14 PM · Yes, half steps and fingering patterns.

January 3, 2013 at 11:43 PM · Actually, interval is any distance between two notes.

January 4, 2013 at 01:26 AM · Elise, the higher positions fells like first and third. At first, I had to think about what I was doing and where I was, but now I know 2nd finger E on the e string is 6th position without really thinking about it. If I go down 1 whole step, I am in 5th. So, yes, it helped me develop a sense of where I was at all times. Etudes and repertoire didn't really help me, I think because there were too many complicated parts.

I can't put down my hand and place it at a particular note (yet!). I do use the harmonics as points of reference. That's what I'm working on now.

A half step refers to the distance between two notes. E to F natural is a half step. E to f# is a whole step. C# to D is a half step. B to C is a half step.

January 4, 2013 at 01:35 AM · I think the right question is not "do you know at all times which position you are in" but is "suppose you are in a certain (unnamed) position, and you are suddenly stopped and told to put (say) your third finger on (say) the G-string, what note is that? can you answer right away?" I think for absolute mastery of the violin you should be able to answer that affirmatively. So I guess that indeed amounts to knowing what position you are in. I think in this sense the true masters know it at all times. I myself certainly don't, let there be no misunderstanding!

January 4, 2013 at 07:14 PM · I'm mainly playing viola these days: what does "position" mean? How much you are slouching?

Backing up into violin world, the accompanying question is whether or not you are really reading the high notes if they are on ledger lines instead of written with an 8va over them. My guess is that most violinists can instantly read the notes in 5th, but beyond that comprehension starts to falter and many, if not most, are looking at intervals rather than knowing they are moving from a B to a D, for instance.

January 4, 2013 at 11:01 PM · Personally, I am always aware up through 5th position. Strangely enough, 7th position is easily found for me since it places my 1st finger an octave above the open string. After that, what I want to know at all times is what interval my hand will move for any given shift. Using the concept of a guide finger, I want to know whether I'm shifting up a minor 3rd, down a perfect 5th, etc.

January 4, 2013 at 11:42 PM · As mentioned above, I use the 7th position harmonic as a fast way to enter the high positions but I never think of it as '7th position' just the 'reset' of the fingerboard. Its basically the 0th position (thats because 8th is really the equivalent of 1st).

January 6, 2013 at 04:08 AM · I'll approach this question wearing two hats – as a performer and as a teacher. As a teacher for intermediate and early advanced students, I would say that knowledge and awareness of the traditional positions is a really important and helpful building block in developing knowledge of the fingerboard. But eventually this gets transcended. Extensions and contractions - even basic 10ths - prove a challenge for traditional position labeling. As a performer I rarely think consciously about what position I'm in, just as I'm not concerned as I write these words, with what part of speech this or that word is considered to be, nor with the label for this or that sentence structure.

Except for open strings, every position is really the same position just moved to a different place. To see this, and as a good exercise, try the following: play on the G and D strings a 1-octave scale ascending and descending, starting on A, 1st finger. Play in the key of A major, A (1st finger on G string), B (2nd), C# (3rd), D (4th), E (1st on D string), F# (2nd) G# (3rd) A (4th). Now descend the same way you came back up. Now go up half a step in the low 2nd position, and do the same pattern in Bb major. Continue up chromatically, B, C, etc., till you repeat A major in the 8th position. But does it matter much that I identified it as the 8th position? It's very helpful to have that kind of feel and smooth transitioning. But then we need to make unprepared leaps as well. Take the start of the 2nd cadenza in the 1st mvt. of the Sibelius concerto: we start on the low Bb on the G string and immediately jump 3 octaves to a high Bb on the E string. If we play the 1st Bb with the 2nd finger, and the high Bb with the 3rd, we are leaping from the 1st to, I'd say the 9th position. But does knowing that - i.e. assigning numbers - matter much? What matters is accuracy, sound, character and style. Such skills are part of a kinesthetic awareness of the fingerboard, developed through practice. Also I believe that intervals came up. Yes, it is helpful and important to conciously know – though there comes a point there as well where we more intuitively remember – that no matter what position we're in, there is a relationship between intervals and finger patterns. For example, if we have our 1st finger down on say the D string, and we put our 2nd finger on the A, in a normal positioning, that 2nd finger will be a 6th higher. It may be a major or a minor 6th, and it may or may not be in tune, but it will be a 6th. I think that this is much more helpful than memorizing fingering charts for every position, because again, there really is just one position.

PS I hope this has been clear and helpful. For certain reasons – much of it pure business - I haven't posted often in some time and don't intend to much in the near future as well. I won't even have time to look back here for some time.

January 6, 2013 at 08:32 AM · Raphael - that is fantastic and what my brain has been nibbling at. I have studied the positions to some extent - and no one can question that facility to play at any one (up to 4th I think) is a key aspect of playing the violin. However, very few pieces linger in one position very long - indeed the whole purpose of learning positions is to permit you to move between them - at which point they go obsolete and become a step (forgive the pun), and not an end in themselves, to 'playing'.

My mind gets much more out of the 'one position' idea that you mention (another concept I've been playing with too) - knowing what you can reach anywhere on the key board from where you are. From my limited experience, while that can be learned from training in positions - they can be almost a handicap to its mastery.

This concept of 'one position' is subtly different from 'relative' playing since it does imply knowledge of what notes you are playing all the time - whereas relative playing (going up or down intervals) can actually be note indepednent.

I hope that makes sense!

January 6, 2013 at 12:07 PM · if there's a name for the positions, there must be a reason, no?

as an non-advanced amateur, my thought is that music for the violin is, mostly, written for the violin... 4 parallel strings and five fingers necessitating an economy of movement from one string to another. so,as a convention and merely abstract to begin with, the convention is based on these givens to rationalize the movement. actually, it would be interesting here to see to what extent the composer is tailoring his composition to the layout of notes on the fingerboard and therefore to the economy of moving between them. i hear people say that schuman's works (some?) for the violin are not very violin friendly, for instance.

personally, i have a very bad memory ..but i can definitely see the advantage of someone communicating to you immediately by way of verbally citing the position they are playing in within such a system.

i'm starting to develop a better muscle memory of positions and a 'relational' memory but my literate knowledge of notes on the board is deficient. but always improving i hope.

January 6, 2013 at 05:38 PM · Like Eric, I like to combine fingerboard mapping with ear training:

For elementary students, a one octave scale (major and both minors) on two strings (1234/1234), then arpeggios: tonic (1-3/1-4), subdominant (1-4/1-3), dominant 7th 1st inversion (2-4/1-3), replaced by diminished 7th in the minor.

All this tranposed by semitones (all the half positions).

Later, 4-note patterns (1234321, 1324312, etc) up one string staying in the chosen key.

January 6, 2013 at 08:15 PM · I would say that Roy and Raphael have both in their own way answered this question exactly - and I would totally agree with their excellent posts.

January 7, 2013 at 11:50 PM · John - I put together what I think you mean. Is this it?

January 8, 2013 at 02:40 PM · Like others who posted before me, I am aware of the position up to 5th. Beyond that, I think I just go by intervals.

I like the idea of color-coded notes for the ledger lines - too bad we couldn't get that in orchestra parts.

January 8, 2013 at 04:43 PM · Ok, I tried to incorporate all the feedback you provided. Here's the second attempt. If I missed something you said it was only because I didn't understand.

And I agree it looks sharper with the smaller notes and the thinner lines. =)

January 8, 2013 at 10:28 PM · Pretty intelligent, or rather, pretty and intelligent, but I am colour-blind!

(But not tone-deaf..)

January 9, 2013 at 03:50 AM · John wrote: "The main problem reading very high notes is reading the exact number of linesunder the note.It`s a squinty visual thing .The top section would be better just straight up."

But I had the solution to that in an earlier topic:

solving the gerbil zone lines

January 17, 2013 at 05:02 AM · Elise has introduced an interesting question, and I think it may have resulted from her scientific training and her scientific mind.

Having said that I shoud say that I do not think that string players should necessarily have a conscious record as they play as to the position they are in. String playing is fundamentally an instinctive, intuitional phenomenen. That's not to say that if suddenly asked I could not recall the position, say up to 5th position, at least as others have already said. But normally I find I am concentrating on the pitch and the intervals, as for me at least, playing is a mental and even more importantly a listening and hearing endeavour, tied in with finger patterns and bowing co-ordination.

Take for example the Rode Caprice No 5 in D major. In the first full bar when I hit the top A I am not thinking about the position and to say the position I would have to work it out (1st finger on D so that must be 6th position, and that is then playing the top A with the 4th finger, if I'm correct).

For me changing position is more aiming for the pitch of the note dead in tune rather than thinking about the position I'm changing up to or down to. Of course one must have some idea of how far away the change is, and that comes from knowledge of the geography of the violin fingerboard - i.e. starting in London, is that change nearby, like Birmingham, or further away like Scotland, or does it represent a huge journey to New Zealand?

January 17, 2013 at 04:14 PM · Having read Elise's original post again I think she was in fact actually saying more or less what I have just said. So it seems we both think that the pitch and note is more important than the number given to the position.

January 17, 2013 at 08:47 PM · Positions are a bit like cities. Inhabit them all your life and you may feel there is nothing else in between.

January 17, 2013 at 09:55 PM · After I go above third position, I just find the relative position of the note compared to the one I just played. So, if I have to play a jump from an E to a B (on the A string, I play viola) I just think about how much higher the next note should be. Although, I can tell you it would be in 7th position with a second finger.

January 18, 2013 at 08:49 AM · In his preface to "Freedom to Play", Willam Primrose writes that if someone were to ask him what position he were in, he would have to stop and work it out!

In this book, he maps out finger patterns in each key, and in each position, so that the hand learns to feel the intervals before playing the notes. (Maybe Eric's "thesaurus" is along these lines?)

I can't remember in which position he gives up (and since the book is in an extra large format, it won't fit on my shelves, and I can't find it!!)

In fact, very few methods give excercises above 7th position: I suppose the tight spacing of the notes precludes standardised fingerings in the Gerbil Zone (thanks, Elise!)

Primrose couldn't be bothered to produce a viola version of his book, on the grounds that we violists are of sufficient intelligence to transpose at sight....

January 18, 2013 at 09:33 AM · "That would be using the Antipodean Variation to arrive at Mornington Crescent if I`m not mistaken Peter."

Hi John

Strangely enough I've just arrived back from the Antipodean area on Monday. As you know when down under, the water goes down the plughole the opposite way, and that applies to fiddle playing too, where the high positions are low, and the low high ...

January 18, 2013 at 09:37 AM · "In his preface to "Freedom to Play", Willam Primrose writes that if someone were to ask him what position he were in, he would have to stop and work it out!

In this book, he maps out finger patterns in each key, and in each position, so that the hand learns to feel the intervals before playing the notes. (Maybe Eric's "thesaurus" is along these lines?)

I can't remember in which position he gives up (and since the book is in an extra large format, it won't fit on my shelves, and I can't find it!!)

In fact, very few methods give excercises above 7th position: I suppose the tight spacing of the notes precludes standardised fingerings in the Gerbil Zone (thanks, Elise!)

Primrose couldn't be bothered to produce a viola version of his book, on the grounds that we violists are of sufficient intelligence to transpose at sight.... "

Good answer Adrian. I like to call the Gerbil Zone the frostbite zone ...

I think WP was right, and I became aware of his ideas when I was a student in London early in a previous century. And yes, viola players have been noted for their mental abilities! (Well, I was one too - once upon a time).

January 18, 2013 at 09:55 PM · Don Roth wrote: "I do NOT understand why some amateurs would say they play by "interval" even in the clearly mapped regions of the lower positions (?)"

I don't really think about this consciously; I think after you've been playing a while it just happens automatically.

Example: If I am currently on 1st finger on the D string, and the next note is up a sixth, the logical fingering would be 2nd finger on the A string (barring any need to shift position due to notes that follow)

January 18, 2013 at 11:46 PM · I don't consciously think about what position I'm in. I'm aware of the positions from first to 7th but beyond that it just becomes "the first g above the harmonic" or "where I expect my second finger to be when I'm hitting that particular A with my first finger"...

January 19, 2013 at 01:41 AM · Hi Adrian,

I'm going to have a good look through Primrose's "Technique is memory".

I can see immediately that the presentation is different from that of my "thesaurus" but the ultimate goal of learning and internalising fingering and interval patterns is the same.

My emphasis is to "document" (at least for myself) and understand note patterns concisely, as separate from the musical notation, not so much as having a set of exercises, though some obvious exercises come out of it. So patterns are depicted graphically.

I start with a 12-"semitone" octave (reasonable, I think) and take the 351 interval patterns that arise from that as my "harmonic/melodic" basis. I end up with a set of concise depictions of note/fingering patterns of all kinds in all inversions of these patterns.

These are string crossing patterns and multiple stops but in no way preclude shifts, extensions etc. They are meant to form a basis for being able to play any pattern in any location on the fingerboard in any suitable fingering.

January 19, 2013 at 01:52 AM · " As you know when down under, the water goes down the plughole the opposite way, and that applies to fiddle playing too, where the high positions are low, and the low high ..."

The moon is upside down, the sun moves backwards and wind rotates t'other way, not to mention the vowels...all very confusing.

January 19, 2013 at 03:14 AM · Eric - I think I get as confused as anyone sometimes!!

One more little eccentric idea to throw into the mix ... I do believe in the positive help that improvistion gives to me at least. I try every day to do a little, and try and avoid sequencies which I've played before in favour of new ones. It can be good ear training as one never knows where the fingers might take one. I think intonation can be improved by doing a little, say 10 minutes, each day. Or at least it makes one very conscious of intonation problems in set works a few minutes later. In fact I mix improvisation and pieces and studies all through a practise session.

Anyone else do such similar crazy things?

January 19, 2013 at 09:52 AM · Eric, yes, it's "Technique is Memory", not "Freedom to Play"..

I also practice whole-tone scales, which make the hand creep up the fingerboard; and what jazz musicians call the "diminished scale" (semitone, tone, semitone, tone, an 8-step octave)(Messiaen's "2nd mode of limted transposition"), which makes the hand creep backwards. I find totally atonal excercise very grating on my choral-scholar- traind ear.

With my pupils, I mark very clearly how they should place the hand to play 3 whole tones:

- sometimes it's the 1st finger that leans back (e.g. Bb-C-D-E in 1st position);

- sometimes the 4th finger extends (e.g. B-C#-D#-E# in 1st position, or Bb-C-D-E in "half" position);

all depending on what was played (or will be played)on the adjacent strings.

I mark the positions I-,I,II,II+,III,III+ (or IV-),V,V+ etc. I will start Bb major in "I", and slip into "I-" on the A-string (square 1st finger, "sharpened" 3rd finger). Most folks do this intuitively, but intuition is a capricious ally..

If I allow my hand to open symmetrically for the 3 wole-tones, (in a transitional passage),I am between two "half" positions: this should be a conscious decision if I want it to be in tune every time. (Even viola players want to stay in tune!)

Once again, all this nit-picking is part of the initial constructive practice, so that we will indeed have "freedom to play"...

January 19, 2013 at 10:20 AM · Anyone else do such similar crazy things?

Yes, and I come from the land 'down under'............

January 19, 2013 at 11:04 AM · I'm glad you mentioned the book. It looks interesting. I like the opening line: "This book is not for geniuses".

and also the recognition that

"If technique is memory it follows that the eye plays an important role in such practice: the route is eye to brain, brain to finger, finger (or the sound produced to it) to ear, ear to brain."

I was once accused of "training the eyes". Ha!

He even talks about using colour and special signs in the learning process.

February 2, 2013 at 03:09 PM ·

February 2, 2013 at 03:15 PM · Campagnoli's seven Divertimenti op. 18 were each written in one of the first seven positions: the first Divertimento in the first position, and so on. Take a look!

February 2, 2013 at 05:34 PM · I have a reasonable mental map of the fingerboard. It suddenly "arrived" when I wasn't expecting it a while ago; rather like when I was learning the cello and one day realised I could hit the notes without thinking about it. This was down to an exercise my cello teacher gave me each lesson: to shut my eyes, have my left arm by my side, and then he'd tell me to play a random note, like the second C on the A-string with the third finger, without hesitation or fumbling for it. Of course, at the beginning I was all over the place, but it slowly improved and then one day it all suddenly came together. It's an exercise I can recommend.

February 2, 2013 at 09:50 PM · Bart - great catch! I don't think I can play the first one but I bet you would be pretty proficient if you learned them all!

Trevor - I do that excersize too - part of the challenge is believing in yourself, that you really can do it.

I find its much easier if you can hear the note (an octave lower) first. Then my hand seems to have a pretty good idea where to go. Maybe I'm more aural and less visual....

February 3, 2013 at 02:26 PM · Have you ever tried playing in space?

February 4, 2013 at 05:45 PM · I think it was originally Buri who recommended just trying to play all of Kreutzer No. 2 in second position. It's surprisingly tricky at first (especially the intonation and string crossings) but, at his recommendation, I played it that way, once every day, for several weeks and I really came away with a better "understanding" of second position. I think in early pedagogy there is a tendency for second position to be "skipped." In fact I think at the back of one of the Suzuki books (maybe No. 4?) there is a discussion of how some of the fingerings could be modified and certain passages made easier by moving to second position. I'll bet a lot of teachers just skip that.

After a while it's just fingerings and knowing what position you're in kind of melts away, especially in the upper part of the finger board (Vivaldi "Summer" first page, for example, you don't really think about what position you're in as you come down the fingerboard in that passage). But there are other times where it is useful, when learning a piece, to day, "okay, from here to three bars later it's all in fourth position" because there are useful mental hooks that go along with that.

February 10, 2013 at 07:49 PM · You mean music has sharps and flats?!!?

February 10, 2013 at 08:46 PM · Actually Peter, you are onto something: sharps and flats are entirely a human invention; music itself (listen to a bird) just has notes - and since many bird songs are gilssandi (di or dos?)- sometimes not even that.

February 11, 2013 at 01:56 PM · I don't know what position I am in up high but I am aware of two basic variations: is my first finger on a note with a ledger line through it or is it on a noet between two ledger lines? Of course the first is an odd numbered position and the second even, but this sets my expectation for reading the other notes. Finger pattern thinking is essential here.

February 11, 2013 at 01:56 PM ·

February 11, 2013 at 11:51 PM · John Cadd from 10/2/2013, keep your sarcasm to yourself - there is more than enough material to engage it there.

February 12, 2013 at 01:31 AM · thats interesting Corwin - basically a binary system. OR maybe its base 4 - I mean I guess you also keep track on whether you are sharp or flat....

Do you ever forget which two lines you are on :D

February 12, 2013 at 06:07 AM · I think the 'ultimate goal' is to hear every note that you will play, whether the notes are in the same position, or there is a position change between the notes. There are always intervals between different notes.

The accuracy of intonation depends on hearing the intervals between the notes. Thus, first finger B to first finger F sharp on the same string, is a perfect 5th. I think in terms like this rather than 'from positon A to position B'....it's not a road map..?

February 12, 2013 at 06:24 AM · "The accuracy of intonation depends on hearing the intervals between the notes. Thus, first finger B to first finger F sharp on the same string, is a perfect 5th. I think in terms like this rather than 'from positon A to position B'....it's not a road map..?"

I think Henry has put this very well. It's how I work anyway.

February 12, 2013 at 06:40 AM · To me, my first finger is my position, thus it's my intonation.

February 12, 2013 at 08:51 AM · So Casey you always know what position you are in?

This topic has been rather interesting - mostly because it seems everyone has their own road map which varies from position based to interval based.

Which raises the question: Is there anyone that uses no reference point at all - that is, shall we say, totally right brained about it and just 'plays' the note without a base map (positions) or relative map (intervals) at all?

February 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM · Elise - yes, up to 7th position. Beyond that, i have to remember what note my first finger is pressing even if im not playing the note. Sometimes it take a glissando to reach the position where I just remember the hand shape, but I still take note the position. It increase the success rate of hitting the right note.

February 12, 2013 at 12:44 PM · This discussion reminds me of the Karma Sutra - I'm never quite sure which position I'm in ...

February 12, 2013 at 08:56 PM · Of course there are peoples whom 'use no reference points at all'....they are the ones whom 'play by ear', aren't they? Hang on, they are still listening to the notes they are playing...? But how many of them play in orchestras....Hmmm?

February 12, 2013 at 09:58 PM · 'Of course..'

Seems like we don't have any here, at least none that have claimed the skill.

I find I am going in that direction. Its just too hard to know where I am, I'd much rather just go play the note and know the relationship between one string and the next. Already I find that many notes I play first and then figure out how I got there - no position and also no interval either. But I hasten to add its not all like that. When it is then I'll feel like I've started to to play the violin.

February 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM · Like others, I have a reasonably good map of positions 1-5, and above that it gets fuzzy. I'd like to say, and I've been told, that "it doesn't really matter" what position you are in up there, but I feel as if that attitude has, at least in me, contributed over the years to a feeling of general discomfort with playing that high.

On the E-string, the place where I lose my sense of position is also where I lose my ability to recognize ledger-line notes on sight--and, not coincidentally I think, my ability to sight-read, to play by ear, and play in tune confidently.

I've gotten a little better with this, surprisingly, after I learned to play the viola. That gave me an idea of finger patterns. I realized, for example, that on the C-string on the viola, first position was 1-2-3 D-E-F, and that was just like 3rd position on the A-string. I was used to that pattern as a whole step between 1 and 2, followed by a half step between 2 and 3.

And so then, finally, when I saw it again up on the E-string and put my 1st finger on D in 6th position (I think), the pattern just came to me, 1-2-3, whole-half, D-E-F, and it truly didn't matter that it was 6th position.

So it's starting to matter most where I put my guide finger, which is often the 1st. If I can identify that note, I feel more confident and have a bit of a clue what I'm listening for.

February 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM · "Seems like we don't have any here, at least none that have claimed the skill."

Well, I'll claim the skill, although I'm not sure it's a skill. I improvise and I'm unaware of the position, just the pitch.

AND I have also played in orchestras where sometimes it can be fun to make it up as you go along - and you get the prize if the conductor starts looking into the score to see if what he is hearing is there. I always claim it was in the original manuscript - and sometimes they believe you. But there has to be a limit to the extent you can tease a conductor, as they are likely to have some sort of breakdown ...

February 15, 2013 at 01:30 AM · Peter -in my first forray back into playing in an orchestra my second violin stand mate (a can-do-anything pro) and I recieve a copyof the music that was so bad it was impossible to follow - indeed it wasn't really clear whether it was the same piece even.

While I stared lost at it moving my bow timidly up and down to the approximate rhythm so as not to be noticed by the conductor (who hovered over our desk), she played the entire part perfectly. At the end I told her how impressed I was that she had it memorized -she snorted back that she made it up as she went along.

Perhaps I was sitting next to an undiscovered latter day Mozart.. or maybe she came from your orchestra :P

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