Books for second position?

July 20, 2019, 10:38 AM · 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?

Replies (29)

July 20, 2019, 11:20 AM · 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
July 20, 2019, 11:26 AM · 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.
July 20, 2019, 1:18 PM · 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.
July 20, 2019, 2:36 PM · 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 entirely in second position. There is only one note (a D) that you will have to stretch for, toward the end. Initially you will find it's quite awkward to play in 2nd position, and even a well-trained violinist will find it so. But it will teach you reams about finger spacing in 2nd position on the fingerboard.

The other issue is shifting in and out of second position (to first and third positions, ordinarily). For this, other study books are well-organized, notably Schradieck Volume 1 and Dont Op. 37. However these books are somewhat more advanced. If you are just learning positions at a more beginner-to-intermediate level, then I will second Joel's suggestion of "Introducing the Positions" (Volume 1) by Harvey Whistler.

July 20, 2019, 7:03 PM · 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.
July 20, 2019, 10:15 PM · Oh that's right ... Whistler does odd-even.
July 20, 2019, 11:04 PM · Honestly, take songs you already know and play as much of them in 2nd position as possible.

Or, are you saying that you simply don't understand what 2nd position is, or the point of it? Have you asked your teacher?

Edited: July 20, 2019, 11:13 PM · 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.
July 21, 2019, 3:47 AM · 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.

note to Paul: for someone who is just learning second position, the Kreutzer etude no.2 is probably still too difficult, even in first position. note to self: perhaps they are not yet really working on scales either ;-)

Edited: July 21, 2019, 7:34 AM · 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.

As far as "just take any tune you know and play it in 2nd position" ... that's a fine idea, but many of the "tunes you know" at a beginner level are extremely awkward and difficult when played in 2nd position alone. For example, most of Suzuki Book 1.

A better approach is to let your teacher know that you don't want to be held back by the stereotypical fear of even-numbered positions and ask that (s)he help you finger your pieces, as you advance, to make appropriate and judicious use of all positions including 2nd, 4th, etc.

July 21, 2019, 11:16 AM · -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.
July 21, 2019, 12:23 PM · 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.
July 21, 2019, 1:05 PM · Harvey Whistler: book2
Gaylord Yost:exercises for change of position
Hans Sitt Book 2(if i remember correctly, Whistler includes some of Sitt's etudes)
Carol Anderson:2nd position violin study.
Cassia Harvey: second position for the Violin.
It includes both exercises and short pieces.

Personal suggestion: Hrimaly No.1-5,2nd pos scales beginning with 1st&2nd&3rd finger.btw,shifting shouldn't be your only concern while learning a new position.hand frame,finger patterns and horizontal movement of left hand fingers from one string to another is as important cause in different areas of fingerboard and different positions,sometimes you need to aim higher and sometimes lower.Hrimaly no.1-5 would be a great source for this issue.

Good luck(;

July 21, 2019, 1:23 PM · Joel, you mention flat keys, I think you meant sharp keys, right?
July 21, 2019, 5:54 PM · 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.
July 22, 2019, 4:37 AM · Jimin,

Personally, I love second position. It is perfect for a lot of music written in the key of "F". In Doflein-speak, "second attitude" putting your first finger on F on the D-string and the "attitude" (I think Suzuki calls it the shape) of your hand places the half step between fingers three and four on the D and A-strings and half step between fingers two and three on the E-string.

As Lydia noted Christmas Carols work well, largely because a lot of them are in "F."

A personal favorite is "On Wings of Song" (the basic version). I've impressed a lot of people playing that in Second position.

July 22, 2019, 10:13 AM ·

"Ševcík op.1 No.2, op.6 no.7, and op.8. Continue with Schradieck Book 1, nos.8–9"

Edited: July 22, 2019, 10:26 AM · 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.
Edited: July 25, 2019, 7:19 AM · 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.
July 25, 2019, 10:14 AM · 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.

There is a certain logic to it. 2nd position adds only one note to the violin's range while becoming adept at 3rd and 5th will expand the amount of repertoire within the student's reach a great deal. Yes, I am well aware of the passages which are much easier in 2nd position and I will often give a student an isolated 2nd position fingering (with explanation) before we have actually reached Whistler book 2.

July 25, 2019, 11:22 AM · My suggested sequence to teaching/learning the positions:
1, 1/2, 3, 2, 5, 4, 6, 7. And the in-between positions. Above 7 the position concept starts to break down.
Edited: July 25, 2019, 1:15 PM · The breakdown of the concept is interesting.
The positions seem fluid to me already when you are playing things with a lot of accidentals. Playing in Db (major and minor) nominally in 2nd position can see your 3rd finger on F or Fb on the A string or the 2nd finger on A or the third finger on C on the E string. Is it even worth trying to determine what position you are in? (or maybe there's a way, but I don't know it)
July 25, 2019, 1:29 PM · 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?
July 25, 2019, 1:49 PM · I simply had in mind starting with the 1st finger on Db on the A string.
July 25, 2019, 2:31 PM · 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.
Edited: July 25, 2019, 2:42 PM · 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.
July 25, 2019, 11:33 PM · 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.
July 26, 2019, 3:56 AM · Like I say, interesting. And it all makes sense now.
I had a look at Barbara Barber last night and found her Ab scale, which was a better example, and the one that motivated me to mention it. She recommends shifting from C to Db on the second finger on the A string. That takes you from first to second position, although C# in an A major context would still be first.
July 26, 2019, 10:33 AM · --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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