shifting help

June 25, 2005 at 04:38 PM · Hello,

Well I will begin to shift, my teacher tells me I will start on third position first, why is that?Well anyways, my question is this, how hard is to learn all the positions that follow? oh and out of curiosity how many positions are there?

One more thing, does anyone recommend any EXCELLENT books for help in shift in third position. I want to advance pretty quickly to catch up on all that I have missed, and I want to be able to play "Traumerei" I heard it and it was breath taking.

Replies (9)

June 28, 2005 at 03:49 PM · Third position is the most commonly used after first, to the point that music editors often opt for it even when second or fourth position would actually be better.

Sevcik’s opus 8 book focuses on shifting and is very worthwhile.

June 30, 2005 at 06:39 PM · There are about 12, I think.

June 30, 2005 at 10:51 PM · There's a two-volume set of published by Rubank -- "Introducing the Positions..." edited by Harvey Whistler that steps through various keys and provides exercises for both shifting and playing in a given position.

There are two challenges in positions beyond the First:

1. getting there gracefully ("shifting"); and

2. recognizing the notes and the required fingering (at a practical speed) once you're there.

The first volume deals with 3rd and 5th position.

The second deals with 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th.

The volumes don't go into keys with more than 3 sharps or flats but, if you work on the exercises to the point of mastering them, you can probably pick up the remainder of keys yourself through standard (Kreutzer, Dont, Rode...) studies.

Sevick Op 8 is a good set of exercises but didn't teach me to read the notes quickly in a given position -- it's chief benefit was in seamless shifting.

June 30, 2005 at 11:56 PM · I think a lot of people use the Doflein method books to begin with, but you should play out of whatever book your teacher suggests. Pay very close attention to everything she tells you about shifting. There are many subtleties about the shifting process. If you learn them well, your playing will be fluid and uninterrupted. If you slop through it, your playing will sound jerky and sloppy too. I have slopped through many shifts in my lifetime . . . I sound much better when I pay attention and think about what I'm doing. This business about getting from here to there on the violin is part of what makes a great player. Happy shifting!

July 1, 2005 at 12:41 AM · yes, the "introducing the positions" books are extremely helpful- they're what my teacher put me on when i first started lessons, and they work wonderfully

July 1, 2005 at 04:57 AM · I surely agree that Whistler Introducing the Positions Books One and Two are excellent but, like *all* etude books they, in themselves, teach you nothing. In order to improve shifting you need to study shifting technique, by having clear technical goals and practice strategies for meeting them. Some goals you can study (using Whistler I & 2 as excellent vehicles for the study) are:

1. Listen for accurate shift arrival pitch. Aim for landing on the desired pitch in each of several consecutive repetitions of a shift.

2. Feel the string sprung up off the fingerboard before and during the shift, so the shift is unimpeded by finger pressure.

3. Feel for each shift done with a graceful *wave* movement, in which the heel of the hand slightly leads the upward shift and the back of the wrist slightly leads the downward shift.

4. On upward shifts which arrive in 4th position or higher: elevate the hand *before beginning* the shift, so the hand sails right over the table of the violin, instead of being blocked by the body of the violin.

5. Sometimes vibrato the arrival note of an upward shift, to check that the hand is relaxed enough to permit vibrato (rather than grabbing at the violin upon shift arrival).

6. Feel, look and listen for graceful speed pattern of the shift. It should start and stop like a good driver starts and stops a car: gradual accelleration at beginning, rather than a jerky start; gradual decelleration, for accuracy as it approaches the target note, rather than "running into a brick wall".

7. Watch a DVD of Heifetz and absorb the look of effortless grace in his shifting. Think about the look of his movement often, even when you are not practicing. Dream about it.

July 1, 2005 at 01:05 PM · Oliver--what a great post! I printed that one out so I can keep myself and students on track. Thanks.

July 1, 2005 at 01:15 PM · Oh, Pedro, about "Traumerei"--correct me if I'm wrong everyone, but I once heard a story about Horowitz. I believe Traumerei is a Russian folk melody with a lot of meaning to the Russian people (on that I may be mistaken). I heard that after a concert where Horowitz called up his extensive technical artistry, he played the Traumerei as an encore. As I've heard, any third or fourth year piano student can play that piece--it doesn't have any technical gymnastics required just to get the notes out, BUT when Horowitz played it that night there was not a dry eye in the house.

My point is, if you work really hard on shifting, when you play Traumerei, you'll have some capacity not just to play it, but to yank a few tears too!

July 2, 2005 at 05:11 AM · Thanx guys, specially oliver that post had a lot of the insightful advice I was looking for, about traumerei, yeah I dont think its a hard piece, the chamber group I was in played it for a pre-graduation ceremony and whenever they would practice it I would stop what ever I was doing to hear it, there's just something about it that touch me deep in inside, I love that piece.

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