Is insecurity in shifting normal before warmimg up?

Edited: March 2, 2020, 9:30 AM · Hey all,

I was wondering if it's normal for one's shifting (especially in higher positions) to be not entirely accurate if one picked up the violin for the first time in the day without warming up (i.e. going in cold). I've noticed that was the case for me. However, after a good 20 mins of warm up (Flesch scales/Sevcik op. 8), everything feels much more secure and grounded. Is this what everyone experiences?

Looking forward to hear from you all :)

Replies (14)

March 2, 2020, 9:38 AM · Yes!
Edited: March 2, 2020, 5:41 PM · Octave shifts (such as from the A on the E-string to the A an octave above) are part of my usual warm-up, so it's difficult to answer the question.
March 2, 2020, 10:10 AM · Yes. On the second half of strings the notes are only 5 mm apart, 2mm off is grossly out of tune. It is amazing how many violinists can play in tune up there. Part of my warm-up is also octave slides on all 4 fingers, E and G strings.
March 2, 2020, 11:58 AM · If this wasn't the case, no one would bother to warm up.

However, I will attest that this changes over time: I feel I need less warmup time than I did when I was younger.

I think Perlman once mentioned the fact that, at a certain point, your body remembers what being "warmed up" feels like.

March 2, 2020, 12:51 PM · I suspect its yes for most people - but maybe not for those with perfect pitch. I feel as if I have to tune my head before I can play anywhere above ~ 4th position. However, those I've known with perfect pitch simply listen until the shift is accurate.
Edited: March 2, 2020, 12:58 PM · Scott basically beat me to it.
I was going to be pithy and say "the definition of warming up is 'that, before which everything is insecure'".
As to how long it takes, a year ago I had to do a fair amount of manoeuvring getting the pitch and the tone quality right, etc. Now it's almost immediate.
March 2, 2020, 1:06 PM · Yes, of course. Especially if playing without sholder rest.
March 2, 2020, 1:34 PM · Yes. For me, especially true in the winter. I find that cold weather not only makes my fingers less flexible but also throws off my perception of where my hand is, so I miss shifts until I'm warmed up. In the summer I can usually get away with not warming up. In the winter I definitely can't.
Edited: March 2, 2020, 2:59 PM · William Primrose was famous (infamous?) for claiming he didn't need to warm up. There is a story about him coming across some students at Curtiss talking about warming up. He scoffed, took his viola outside (into the cold!) and proceeded to play some Paganini!

Sometimes I don't need much warmup, but usually I do, and everything is a bit "out of whack" until I do. Because of this, I have a carefully structured warmup routine that gets me in the zone while minimizing mistakes. I start slow! After 15-20 minutes, things are flowing well.

March 2, 2020, 3:11 PM · That’s what warming up is for, getting back into the motions of violin after hours of NOT PRACTICING;(.
March 2, 2020, 5:09 PM · Definitely normal. I used to struggle with lead fingers for 20 minutes into playing but I found a large part of it for me was a mental block. Running my hard repertoire for friends with no warm-up time at all helped me a lot preparing for auditions this past month (there isn't too much time to run scales before you play for the panel).
March 2, 2020, 5:48 PM · Elise, from my personal experience I'd say that perfect pitch isn't protective, although it is a really helpful gift. But whatever sort of pitch you own... Perlman and Primrose... simply a different orbit...
March 3, 2020, 6:36 AM · Whenever I warm up on the viola after a lot of violin playing I have to recalibrate my shifts among the lower positions by playing some kind of slow piece that has a lot of those shifts.
Edited: March 3, 2020, 7:48 AM · I have a similar experience to Paul's. Most of my playing now is on my 14-1/4" violin, on which the 3rd octave on the E-string needs a wing and prayer on the rare occasions when I need to access it (Hi there, Pietro Locatelli!). In contrast, on my standard 14" nr. 2 violin, I have no problems in accessing that 3rd octave, but I need to recalibrate my shifts and finger spacing when warming up, otherwise I'll be playing that little too sharp a lot of the time.

While I think about it ...

It seems my nr. 1 violin is like a very junior viola that didn't quite make it! I've noticed that a long time ago someone had slightly enlarged the hole for the string in the G peg, presumably to fit a C-string, so perhaps someone did try it as a viola, and that would have been well over a century ago. I have no intention of repeating the experiment (I'd never get the hang of the viola clef, too confusing with the cello's tenor clef!)

One advantage of the 14-1/4", due to its increased internal volume, is that the fundamental on the open G together with notes on that string up to D, are audible, whereas they rarely are on a 14". I've confirmed this from spectrogram recordings. This makes the instrument an ideal and enjoyable one for playing second violin.

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