Which are some general tips for playing in 5th position?

February 27, 2020, 12:32 PM · Hi everyone:

I've recently started playing in 5th position after spending a good while in learning and securing my 3rd and 2nd position.

Which are some general tips you can give me for the 5th position?

Thank you.

Replies (10)

February 27, 2020, 1:36 PM · The fingering is nice because it's the same as first position, only one string down. It was a lifesaver for me when I was hanging on for dear life in orchestra. I don't really know what can be said beyond that. You play stuff in whatever position, you sight-read in whatever position, and eventually you don't have to think about it.
February 27, 2020, 3:15 PM · Practise the jump. As in shifts that bring your thumb from the neck to the heel and vice versa. Personally I find the shift of a fourth from first position to fourth and from second to fifth the be one of the most consistently tricky motions on the violin.
February 27, 2020, 3:28 PM · Some people find it helpful to "train" their "muscle memory" to jump to the 1st finger in the higher position. This should be more secure than aiming different fingers for different landing spots. Be aware of where you start and where you are aiming. If you do it enough you can get close to 100% perfect landings. Having witnessed Perlman missing one of those jumps in a TV performance of the Beethoven concert I would never say 100% for sure. (But the look on his face was priceless.)

Having witnessed the elderly Menuhin miss lots and lots of jumps, I think it is best to fly "closer to the ground" as you age.

February 27, 2020, 4:48 PM · The key to 5th position is it is the first position (for almost all hands) when you really have to come around the violin. People with really big hands can sometimes get away with not doing it, but I would make sure that your hand is appropriately turned in 5th position, watching both angle and wrist/elbow/thumb positions.
February 27, 2020, 5:40 PM · Fifth position is often where a lot of violinists start to drift sharp. Might want to keep an eye (ear) on that.
Edited: February 27, 2020, 6:18 PM · I like to use my 3rd finger to guide the shift to 5th position whenever it's practical. It's a good idea to learn to hit the note one octave up the string with each finger, because it's easy to check intonation there. That gives you 4th through 7th positions.

Also, I find that using a finger other than 1st as a guide helps counteract the tendency to drift sharp.

February 28, 2020, 3:13 AM · Thank you everyone. I hadn't thought about the relation between 1st and 5th position notes, but (obviously) you're right, and it's easy to think it that way.

I also think I've noticed that the area where I can use my bow when playing in 5th position is narrower, closer to the bridge and that it requires more bow pressure (I tend to play with light pressure and faster bowing that ends up not being enough and my teacher is correcting this again and again).

I'll try to learn to change positions with my 3rd finger as a reference. It's amazing how practice builds muscle memory. Shifting to 3rd position was difficult for me at first, and while I still miss the shift sometimes, I'm now way more confident at it.

February 28, 2020, 9:43 AM · Cotton - hmmm, I find 1-4 pretty easy, but anything involving going from a higher position down to 2nd is challenging.

Edited: February 28, 2020, 12:48 PM · Its actually easier than you think Pamela. DON'T try to hit the position, instead try to hit the note in your head. You will astonish yourself.

Same goes for all shifts. Know the note and your hand will know the finger placement.

[Edit - I do not mean to imply that careful shift practice isn't also necessary, your left hand has to learn the correlation of sound and position and this takes time.]

February 28, 2020, 1:47 PM · --Miguel,-- Yes. As you play in higher positions the optimum point of contact of the hair to the string moves closer to the bridge. Because the vibrating length of string gets shorter, it feels stiffer and takes more force to overcome the inertia. We all first learn learn to shift on the first finger, but in practice the second or third can be more reliable. The first finger tends to wander. It can lead, move ahead of the hand, distorting the posture of the hand.

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