Why is fourth position so awkward. I have the hardest time practicing this position from the other positions the most. I can never remember how close the half steps are, or how far back I have to put my first finger when I change strings. Does anyone else dislike 4th position also? Does anyone have anything positive/advice to say on 4th position, please? I practice Sevcik's position books......
Don't think about positions?
I teach my students to set the first finger on a pitch, and work in whole and half steps from that point, regardless of where that might be. The ear guides the rest...
4th position? :/
I have trouble with the 2nd.
but if i play, i actually don't know in which position i play if it's higher than 3rd position.
I am not expert but here's what I reckon.
If there is no flat, then wouldn't the first finger of the 4th position just matches with the string above? So you can use the ringing or look at the high string vibrate to tell if you are in tune. The one with the flats are more tricky (i.e. if your first finger is suppose to be at A flat etc). I usually just try to visualize as a 3rd position but higher.
As for the tone and semi at the 4th position, I think playing octave kind of helps. So once you finger out the distance between your 1st finger and fourth for any given position, the 2nd and 3rd finger just have space in between.
Have you looked at Sevcik's double stop book?
I might be totally wrong about the above, but it helps gets me close enough to the required tone.
Some pieces cry out to be started in 4th pos.
i.e. Walton Viola concerto
Brahms A minor string quartet (1st violin)
AND many others. Fourth should be the easiest to play in, and not using fourth is like having a leg missing ...
I also agree with Buri's excellent list.
To get more comfortable in the even positions, practice C major scale starting with 2nd finger on G string (2nd position). If you can play 3 octave scales, shift up to 4th position on the A string, then shift up through even positions on the E string to complete the scale. I did that for about 1 year and now I am comfortable in the even positions, although I still do not make good omelets.
Thuan has a good point that moving to 4th is like moving down one string.
For me one magic of 4th is that you can cover the whole octave in one shift. Thus, if you think about your fourth finger rather than your first its the same note as the open string. I think this is the best intro into playing in high positions because once you know where the octave is you have a mental scaffold for notes up to 10th position.
Actually I was trying to explaining how you find the 4th position, by listening to the open string above. In terms of what finger plays what note, it's actually very similar to 3rd if you think about it. It just has a note that's a tone above on each string which also happen to be the natural harmonics. So you really only have the 2nd and 3rd to think about. For me, I just think in terms of 3rd position and how far along the fingerboard from the nut.
Try thinking in terms of where you are on the fingerboard rather than associating each finger with some note. If this make any sense. Remembering what note is on a particular spot on the fingerboard, and you are just playing it with a different finger. At least that's how I think about position.
If not, try some 1 finger scale. Starting with the first finger, then second, then third.
Just throwing a few ideas, so you can experiment with them and see what fits your thought process best.
First things first: please confirm with your luthier that the neck stop: body stop ratio is correct. In case this ratio is off, the 4th position will be a weak spot and it will be difficult to have a proper pitch.
Instead of thinking about positions, practice scales on one string (Galamian), chromatic scales (Ricci: "On glissando") and regular scales through 3 and 4 octaves.
A violinist simply has to feel at home along the finger board. At certain point in time, the concept of "position" is not helpful anymore - it calls for a static approach, where violin playing is in its essence dynamic.
You may also want to revisit your thumb, wrist and elbow position with your teacher. Also, pay attention on how your fingers are placed, play on pads instead of finger tips.
When I started the second Whistler Book (that long ago!) I saw no need for 2nd, 4th, or 6th positions; however, so many things became easier when I wasn't limited to 3rd & 5th that it was amazing. You can vibrate with 3d finger for the high 'D' or the 'G' below (on D string) without stretching!
The Simon Fischer scales book is great for facility in positions--the scales starting on each finger help a person think in keys, not positions. It's also easier once the shifting between positions becomes more automatic; that comes with practice.
I think part of the problem is that students commonly stick to first position and the "easy" keys way too long. At least add some exercises in flats, minors & modes, and practice shifting to the octave harmonic early-ish. Next they study 3rd position. Both 1st & 3rd use the same finger patterns a lot. After all that, the hand is "set", and 2nd and 4th feel odd. The fingers line up differently than in 1st & 3rd. The switch from 1st finger is a line note to a space note throws some. Every position has its solid value for being friendlier for some keys, and in helping to avoid awkward, excessive or not-so-musical shifts and string-crossings. PS Hi, Buri! Missed you.
Pieces in E major use 4th position. I'm playing Offenbach overture to La Belle Helene for a concert this weekend and practicing that has been a real 4th position workout.
Rocky pretty much anticipated what I wanted to say, but I'll stress similar things a bit differently.
I think it was Elise who started the thread a while back re thinking or not thinking about positions while playing, and in my posting I remember stressing that position thinking eventually gets transcended with extensions, contractions, etc. and that in a sense there is one basic position that simply gets re-positioned along the fingerboard. That said, there is also a time and place to think about positions. A seemingly simple passage from the 1st mvt. of Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio comes to mind, if I recall correctly (haven't played it since high school!): a 1/16th note scale passage starts on the 1st Eb on the A string, continuing F, G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb - then back to Eb, 1/4 note. How else would you efficiently play it except in the 4th position? Just one example.
But set-up may be a factor to check out. If the neck is too short, the 4th position shrinks!
PS 4th position users make better thread posters! ;-)
To sum up, 4th position, like any position above 1st, can be useful at times. It is simply a question of knowing when. For example, I am playing the violin 1 part in the first movement of Mozart's clarinet quintet in a concert this weekend. The first two measures could easily be played in a variety of positions, including 1st. They happen to work best in 4th. You avoid open strings and/or vibrating with 4th finger.
Thanks everyone for your comments. It was mostly a frustrating rant I put on here so that I could get motivated to continue to practice 4th.
I forgot to mention, each day I practice (3-4 times a week about 2-3 hours), I spend 45 minutes on the Flesch scale book. Which has done wonders with my intonation. I've been playing since I was 9, I'll be 34 in a few weeks. However, many years I hardly practiced on my own, just went to rehearsals cold. It's only in the last year where I decided it's now or never that I buckle down and tackle my intonation and positions. Also, I want the rest of the violinists in orchestra to notice! mostly the ones who've been playing with me for years-I've already gotten quite a few comments "you practicing now?!"
So, thanks for the pushing and prodding and making me feel a little ashamed, but I have always despised 4th, and now that I've been working on it so much, I just want to get it and move on.
God Bless Everyone
You may not believe this - but you could fall in love with IVth. I did with IInd (which terrified me because its out in the open) so that proves anything is possible :)
In addition to all the excellent reasons given here are some more.
Fourth position is physically the most comfortable. The hand rests naturally against the rib of the violin.
The distance between the fingers is a little smaller than third which makes it more comfortable for most people.
You can shift or extend comfortably and reliably between third and fourth. When you get used to this you can sort of look at third/fourth as one large position. when you get used to this all sorts of things become easier.
Ditto for fourth/fifth position.
The single position shifts, ie. third to fourth are the easiest shifts you can make.
This is all good justification to get kids playing Yost one-finger scales right away. :)
As many others I learned 1st and 3rd positions first. Then I think 5th and only after that 2nd and 4th. The result was that for a long time the latter two were quite awkward to play in. Now I am glad to see how my children are taught all positions more or less simultaneously after "mastering" 1st position. To them 2nd and 4th position is no more awkward than any other position.
BTW the distribution of half steps in 4th position is the same as one octave down in 1st position.
Bo wrote: "BTW the distribution of half steps in 4th position is the same as one octave down in 1st position."
I can't figure that out - can you expand...
I think Bo is referring to something like playing A on a D string, the fingering pattern is the same as playing the lowest A on G string? (i.e. the first finger plays A, second B, third C, etc). Obviously with a smaller spacing but the notes are the same.
Position, position, position....
Forget positions and just think fingering patterns, which (with caveats) can be played anywhere along the fingerboard and will sound the same (just different tonality).
Start with the seven inversions of the major/minor scale pattern (the modes), two octave across strings, and play each of them all the way along the fingerboard, or take a given key and go up the fingerboard playing each mode as it comes.
Think of 1st pos. on D string; starting with first finger...E..F.. G..A
Now go to A string in fourth pos.; starting with first finger....E..F..G..A The notes are the same but an octave higher.
On A string, first pos. B..C..D..E
On E string, fourth pos. B..C..D..E : same notes...an octave higher
Hope this clears it up for you.
I dreaded and hated 2nd position for years. It is now my best friend. I'm starting to like 4th position equally now. The trick is to think of the fingerboard as a blank slate for any note in any position, and not as a fixed finger to note road-map.
The easiest way I have personally found to move past the uncomfortableness of a new position is to practice it in a simple way. Like playing Twinkle or a simple scale starting on a different finger each time. In this way, your ear is engaged rather than relying solely on muscle memory.
randy - what you wrote makes sense (is obvious) but I am at a loss as to how do you get that out of Bo's sentance on half steps and an octave lower? He didn't mention changing strings... I wonder if you are putting your own spin on what he meant?
I'd interpret Bo's comment that way, too...
"BTW the distribution of half steps in 4th position is the same as one octave down in 1st position."
If you're going down one octave and shifting from 4th to 1st, you have to change strings.
Same for going up an octave and shifting from 1st to 4th.
My teacher Dan Mason remembered that Heifetz once mused about the possibility of starting a beginner in 4th position rather than 1st! As others have pointed out here, it is a "comfortable" position (or has the potential to be!) since the hand fits naturally to the rib of the instrument. Heifetz apparently wondered whether a more natural hand position might result, without the difficulty of the larger half and whole steps of 1st position. Then the hand could gradually be taught to expand until 1st position became comfortable.
I'm not aware that anyone has ever actually learned like this, but an interesting though! Twinkle Twinkle would be tougher...
Nathan - I wonder if it would be best to start a beginner with one string - that way there would be no positions at all, just a linear sequence of notes - simple to understand and wow, just think how good they would be at shifting!
The thing that Heifetz forgot was that for the beginner, almost every new thing is awkward. So if a student actually did start with 3rd or 4th position, when they had to start using 1st position, they'd probably post something like this:
"1st position troubles. I am aggravated with practicing this position."
There's only one way. Do it enough so that it becomes comfortable. If it's still not comfortable, you still haven't done it enough.
That, by the way (to drag up another subject), is one of the primary reasons adults seldom achieve virtuosity: all these uncomfortable things remain uncomfortable in their mind, even when they can do them.
I used to think every position except 1st and 3rd was awkward - not hard, but just strange. But recently I started learning more advanced stuff that requires all positions to be second-nature, and I realized why we all have to learn the "strange" positions. Have you been playing through a new piece when you suddenly come up to a chromatic scale and think, "Oh, good thing I know how to do this, or I'd be practicing it note-for-note for the next half hour."? That's what it's like when you learn stuff that has you shifting all the way from the bottom of the fingerboard to the top... and vice versa. Or at least that's what it's like if you know how to shift. (Otherwise, it would be a nightmare for your fingers and ears.)
I find an aversion to some positions just as strange as an aversion to keys with lots of sharps and flats in the signature.
If our musical notation happened to take Gb major as the key without any accidentals in the signature instead of C major, would there be worries about completely different keys and positions?
To my mind the only truly strange position (violin, not yoga) is 2nd. Why? Because you are 'out there' there are no physical markers to align your hand to. Oddly, thats kinda how you find it, a place where there's nothing to touch!
I know what you mean but what about using the main resonances as a guide? At least when getting use to the feeling.
I think the only way to learn second is by sound - eventually your hand just knows where it is. Thus far I found that few things that you can learn with your left hand are more liberating than where second position is. It in essence extends your hand range to 6 notes up the keyboard and gives you almost infinitely more fingering possibilies.
BTW playing Kreutzer no2 in 2nd, 4th and 6th position everyday, plus all the trivky bowings is a wonderful exercise.
Yep, Kreutzer 2, so versatile!
The more I played over many years the more I realised that unless the ear governed everything then you are in trouble.
Singers don't have positions - at least in string playing terms - so they use their ears, or at least some of them do.
P S Some people reckon that 4th position gives greater pleasure ...
P S Some people reckon that 4th position gives greater pleasure ...
Didn't I read that somehwere in the Kamma Sutra? ;-)
Kamma Sutra - haven't read much of the KS - but maybe I should catch up on fourth position - apparently it's an easy one as you can rest against the body (of the violin I hasten to add). My wife prefers the one hanging from a chandelier, or the bannister routine ... but accurate pitch is then more difficult, and vibrato impossible. (But you don't need a shoulder rest ...)
I'm kinda amazed that it took this many posts before this topic deteriorated along the inevitable side route. All we need now is a rehash of the "G-string" joke and we can proclaim RIP.
[And no, Peter, thats not 'Ravaged In Perpetuity' ... though I guess it could be...]
Elise - you will have to remind me of the G string joke as I'm forgetting what that's about, but maybe I never really knew. I seem to remember Bach came into it but as I'm not doing too well with the HIP problem I can't think what the connection is, unless it has to do with attics and spinsters - or was that Spinnets? (Or some such funny ole instrument).
Please come clean and enlighten. (RIP? I thought that meant Really Interesting Playing ... or Rather Impressive Prunes ...)
rank innuendo prevails,
Next thing you know, this thread will degenerate into a discussion of the merits of using a shoulder rest or not. Laurie, please put us out of our misery by archiving this thread!
Come to think of it Tom, the shoulder rest starts getting in the way round about 4th position...
and no, please don't archive, we can't do without our weekly self-imolation event. Afterall, we're musicians...
G-string is the lowest string on a violin as well as an article of clothing. I sometimes wear one outside of my pants just to get a rise out of my colleagues. :-)
Does anybody have a photo showing the correct position of the left hand and thumb when in the 4th position ?
Sometimes Google is not helpful !
that actually an interesting question.
In his book on violin technique Galaminan talks about the double contact principle. That is, in the lower positions the side of the index finger and thumb contact the neck. On 4th? fifth position the index finger releases and the palm of the hand touches the violin. if you don't relinquish the index finger here you have triple contact which inhibits movement. It's alwa, twos company threes a crowd.
Unfortunately fourth position suffers from the same degree of ambivalence as I do towards my cat. That is , depending on the size of your hand and the context of the notes you might use double contact either way. Players who don't use a shoulder rest tend to use more palm contact but it's hard to generalize. Also players with big hand also have a tendency to stay in third and let the fingers play in fourth but I would say this is a somewhat advanced technique.
As A general rule the position of the thumb is dictated by the position of the fingers and not the other way round.
A clear example of fourth position is the start of the bach emajor prelude which is played with the fourth finger . maybe you could freeze frame some stuff on you tube?
The exception to this is by Jeewon who plays the first 8 lines of the work using only one finger.
Fourth and fifth positions should be the easy ones. The hand is in a naturally relaxed position. If I were teaching beginners I would start them off in fourth or fifth position.
Don't forget also that knowing how much to move a finger or hand back is governed by the ear, say when going back from 5th pos to 4th pos.
Do one finger 1 octave scales up and down on each string for example 1-1-1-1- and 2-2-2-2- etc.
What Buri says above is also excellent advice.
PS I've just realised that this is an old thread! So I've just repeated myself! Sorry about that. (And no more naughty jokes ...) (Ha, ha). (Elise take note!)
"The exception to this is by Jeewon who plays the first 8 lines of the work using only one finger."
Thanks for the morning laugh!
But inquiring minds want to know, which finger, please?
I'm wondering what else your teacher gave you to work into 4th position. I use "Introducing the Positions", starting with book 1 (3/5th positions), and then adding book 2 (2/4th positions).
Whenever students tackle something new and awkward, I point out two things:
1. almost without exception, every single thing you do well now seemed impossibly awkward at first. Remember having to start using 4th finger?
2. positions are simply musical tools, just like a socket wrench or power drill. You have to think of these tools dispassionately--once you know how to use them, they are extremely useful.
One can see, in looking at editions from the turn of the 20th century, that there was a time in which 2nd and 4th positions were seldom used. And if we follow those fingerings today, we end up with pretty unsatisfying and often simply unmusical playing. I'm glad we're no longer scared of these positions.
The Whistler "Introducing the Positions" is a good starting point. For a more advanced approach there is the "Seven Divertimenti" by Campagnoli. These are pieces which are all in one position...from 1st to 7th.
Glad to offer some comic relief to your morning Mary Ellen!
Brian, the default relationship between thumb and fingers depends on size and proportion of fingers, and also whether you prefer to hold the neck deep in the 'v' or have the thumb more under the neck and swung back. But the position of the thumb, relative to the fingers, should be the same from 1st to 4th positions. So look in a mirror and whatever your thumb looks like in 1st, it should look the same in fourth. This is called preserving the frame, i.e. keeping the relationship between thumb and between each of the fingers consistent, adjusting only for the shrinking intervals as you go up the fingerboard. That way, if you throw your hand out of frame by extension or contraction you can feel, measure by how much. Also, when shifting down from a high position it helps to lead the down shift with the thumb for stability and snap the hand back into frame. A good way to secure the frame is to practice 1-4 octave double stop scales, at first limited to however many positions you want to work on, but ultimately to cover a 1 octave scale. Also you can play 1-4 octave shifts slowly, with the fingers at almost harmonics pressure, and listen for the purity of the perfect octave. Remember to release the pressure of the fingers (to the surface of the string) before each slide. If you go slowly enough, with very light pressure, you can hear precisely when your fingers detune. You want the 1st finger to go ever-so-slightly faster than the pinky, and gradually decrease the distance of the interval as you go up the fingerboard. And you want the thumb to be pulled along for the ride, until it bumps into something.
E.g. 1-4 on A and E strings, Bb major scale
Bb-C-D, D-C-Bb followed by Bb-D, D-Bb
Bb-C-D-Eb, Eb-D-C-Bb followed by Bb-Eb, Eb-Bb
Work yourself up to one octave after you map out the transition area over the upper bout.
Contrary to what Buri said, I think the triple contact is very important as a point of transition (guess they never aired "Three's Company" across the pond.) You have to map out the upper bout for your own hand size and finger proportions, but for me 4th position is when I have triple contact (double contact plus palm firmly on the lower plate, slightly touching the upper plate,) 5th position is when my palm takes over from side of first finger as the second contact, so the side lifts off and palm touches the rib just above the lower plate + thumb hits the crook of neck, 6th is where my palm hits the middle of the ribs, 7th is where palm touches upper plate. It's not exact, but serves as a good guideline to get you in the ball park. Also, if your neck is built properly, the relation between the thumb and first finger in 1st position with the thumb swung back far enough to touch the curve of the peg box is about the same as that of thumb and first finger in 5th position, with the thumb in the crook of the neck (something a luthier once told me.) So if I need to shift to 5th and stay (i.e. if I don't need to shift higher than 5th,) I can shift in a straight line to 4th and flex the wrist a little forward until my thumb hits the crook and that should be 5th position. As I said, you have to map things out for your proportions, but once you do, it makes it much easier to navigate the transition area.
But even with all this useful touchy feely stuff, surely the final arbiter must be the ear?
Relying on these things is a bity risky. They do obviously help, but in the end the ear must decide where the note is?
'touchy feely' nice choice of words Peter, considering the atmosphere here lately.
Completely agree with you, which is why I said ball park. But what I've found is that such training helps to organize, for lack of a better term, the fingerboard for students, especially those without absolute pitch. Also, when you miss, with these guidelines in place I think it's easier to figure out by how much, so when you try again, it's easier to measure from these markers (even if the markers themselves are a bit of a moving target.) Lastly, much of shifting into higher positions requires slight position shifts of the thumb (on the crook, or right side of neck) and palm on the bout or table, for those with smaller hands and shorter pinkies. Training the touchy feelies helps continue that sense into the upper fingerboard.
I acant make the no triple rule work either. I should have been cleare ri was citing Galamian. I was wondering what people would say. For me, if I adhere strictly to that rule there is a massive and highly inefficient swing of the hand from being in a Lowe reposition to officially in a higher one. I actually use the same palm contact as you .
Good points and I certainly agree that everything that helps is useful.
I'm all for touchy feely!! In the right way of course. And my dog loves it! AND it lowers my blood pressure.
I would say that my index finger still contacts the neck in fourth position. The position feels very "in the hand", so to speak. Very comfortable, lots of contact.
Buri, having read some of the earlier 1 finger posts on this thread, and your kind email, I apologize for jumping to conclusions. I guess I lumped your comment in with Mary Ellen's reaction, which I still don't get. Too much getting touchy, not enough feely on my part.
Deleted my knee-jerk reaction above.
Regarding the swing into high positions I think it's not so bad for really big shifts like the Bb-Bb leap in the Sibelius. I find myself supinating in 1st position and hitting the crook with the thumb, followed by the bout with palm, before finishing the shift with a throw of the hand, without any side of finger contact at all. Anyone else do that?
Sibelius is another piece to start in 4th (or 3 + 4th)
My personal feeling is that the reason some people struggle with 4th position is because they struggle with 2nd position. I have found that many of the Dont Op. 37 studies are good for moving in and out of 2nd position, and once I polished several of those, I found it easier moving among 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions; the concepts are the same. Buri's suggestion a long time ago to practice K2 entirely in 2nd position was very useful to me, and again, I think the logic of that carries forward into all of the even positions. Eventually "positions" kind of fade away except in very clear-cut situations such as the Preludio from the E Major Partita.
About hand position in 4th position, my experience is that it matters what string I'm playing on too, this is apparent when I practice the 3-octave E scales which start in 4th position (2nd finger G string) in the system I learned. I've decided to practice those again today to study the contact-points issue more closely.
-Regarding the swing into high positions I think it's not so bad for really big shifts like the Bb-Bb leap in the Sibelius. I find myself supinating in 1st position and hitting the crook with the thumb, followed by the bout with palm, before finishing the shift with a throw of the hand, without any side of finger contact at all. Anyone else do that?
Yes. It's just in scales and stuff the swing is awkward for me. As long as nothing is in the way I just pay attention to the finger shooting for the target.
Big hands make life easy.
K2 can be diligently practiced in fourth position.
Peter, is this chandelier position for playing Phantom of the Opera?
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April 26, 2013 at 05:52 AM · Greetings,
fourth position is as valuable as the fourth estate.
Violinists who @ractice fourth position are:
1) better in fourth pos than those that don`t.
2) Better at playing the violin than those that don`t.
3) Better in orchestra than those that don`t.
4) Better in chamber music than those that don@t.
5) Better in "#$ than those that don`t.
6) More mature emotionally.
7) Better at Paginini.
8) Cook better omelets.
9) Smile more than those that don`t, especially passages that can only be played in 4th position.
10) Understand that positions and bowing have a relationship IE sometimes a passage is difficult because of the bow having to change strings in the wrong direction at the wrong time. This kind of problem is solved by being able to play in all positions. The even positions are frequently a perfect solution.