Books for second position?
Hi, I started learning second position, but sometimes I feel a bit confused about second position. I looked through many books but I’m not sure which one to buy. Is there any book that you recommend?
From my understanding there are books called "introducing the positions" or something similar. There are 2 books; one for 1st and 3rd, and the other for second and fourth
For position work, in general, I recommend either those Whistler books (2) or Dolflein method books 3, then 5. After that, selected exercises from Sevcik. Sevcik by itself is too boring.
Buy a book of easily sightreadable pop tunes that you are familiar with and like. Failing that a book of Christmas carols. Play them entirely in second position.
Buy Kreutzer and look at No. 2 in the book. This is probably the best-known etude in the entire violin literature. A former and beloved contributor on this site, Stephen Brivati ("Buri") recommended practicing Kreutzer No. 2
The Whistler books are thorough and excellent, if not exactly scintillating, and I use them with all my students. However, Volume 1 doesn't include 2nd position--only 1st and 3rd. Volume 2 is 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th positions.
Oh that's right ... Whistler does odd-even.
Honestly, take songs you already know and play as much of them in 2nd position as possible.
When I was second violin in my chamber group, I would play all our pieces in unusual positions (the simpler the part, the higher the position) as long as possible until I absolutely had to shift back down. The other seconds thought I was stupid but the joke's on them because it was actually a really good exercise.
Jimin, in addition to the useful tips above, another important practice is to practice scales in 2nd position. This is part of the Whistler book anyway.
I agree with Jean. If someone "more advanced" is having some residual discomfort with 2nd position, then K2 makes sense. This can happen when one follows a regimen that tends to finger things in 3rd position even if it's not the best for the situation -- like a lot of editions of repertoire pieces do. But if you're someone just learning 2nd position for the first time, probably they're not there yet. That's where I would use the Whistler books.
-Continuing---, and don't neglect thoroughly learning the 1/2 position. It is just as important, useful as second position, and is frequently miss-labeled as a version of first position. It makes all of the flat keys a lot easier.
Joel's point is a good one. As a violinist/violist, I can tell you that viola is all about 1/2 and 2nd positions. Both are also very valuable for violin playing. The Bach S&Ps have a lot of places where use of 2nd position works very well.
Harvey Whistler: book2
Joel, you mention flat keys, I think you meant sharp keys, right?
The reason I suggest songs like Christmas carols is that the vocal tunes are simpler and you tend to know what they sound like which helps the audiation-to-hand brain interface. Fingering needs to be instinctively intervalic rather than mapping fingers to pitches.
continued-- @ Jean D. Thanks for the question. I did mean the flat keys. For me 1/2 position is whenever the first finger is next to the nut And the 4th finger is a 1/2 step below the adjacent open string. 1/2 position can also be used when there are a lot of sharps (>4), in which case some would call that enharmonic fingering. One cause of intonation problems among students is when they use first finger extension and it unknowingly pulls their hand into 1/2 position. A similar problem can happen in 2nd position, it is also only a 1/2 step away from 1st position.
I'd hazard the reply that if Whistler isn't enough for you, nothing will be. Whistler is quite adamant that you shouldn't study 2nd position before you have mastered 5th. Is he perhaps being a tad over-dogmatic there? Suzuki and ABRSM seem to me to place 2nd and 3rd together, then 4th and 5th, then 6th and 7th. Otoh, it could be that 2nd is simply less important than 5th, and so Whistler is right. My teacher says 2nd is quite popular with violists.
I think Whistler was writing for the approved pedagogy of the day, in which 2nd position was indeed considered less important than 5th for violinists at that stage of development.
My suggested sequence to teaching/learning the positions:
The breakdown of the concept is interesting.
Gordon, playing in Db in second position on the G-string, the Db will be with the third finger, right? But then I don't see how you get a 3rd finger on F or Fb on the A-string. Same with your other claims. Could you explain a bit more please?
I simply had in mind starting with the 1st finger on Db on the A string.
OK guys, here goes: The confusion about labeling the positions is one of the causes of intonation problems. The Cellists and Guitarists have better systems. How I think about positions; [ 1/2, 1, 2, 2&1/2, 3, 3&1/2, 4, etc...] It is the position of the thumb and 1st finger that matters. I don't care whether they are notated as flats or sharps. That first finger on Db (A string) would 2 1/2 pos., the same as C#. First finger extensions and contractions away from that can cause trouble for less experienced players.
It is fine as an idea Joel, but it is not the worldwide-accepted terminology. Like you wrote in your previous mail. Simply playing a one-octave Eb major scale in first position, starting with first finger Eb on the D-string, is not called 1/2 position, but 1st position. I do understand your point of view and proposal to change terminology, but that is going to create a whole lot of misunderstanding here. Similarly Gordon. First finger Db on the A string is third position, sorry. Sure, a C# scale will be identical and will indeed be in 2nd position. But that is the way the terminology is. Of course we can all try to change worldwide terminologies. But until that goal is achieved people should make clear they use nonstandard terminology.
Hello Jean,-- Yes, that is not the conventional terminology, I can't believe that I invented it, but it is close to what cellists do, and it doesn't really conflict with the traditional system, it just fills in the gaps. What would really be disruptive would be to use the guitar system; a whole number for each fret at the 1/2 steps.
Like I say, interesting. And it all makes sense now.
--and then, to really muddy the waters, Ricci's book has a version of the 3-octave scale without any conventional shifting. At each half-step in the scale you move up on the same finger, crawling up the fingerboard. Part of my unconventional attitude is that as a mostly non-classical fiddler, I tend to think more about the interval distances between the notes, and between the positions, than about the names of the notes.
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