Playing 5ths on the violin

Edited: April 22, 2020, 4:22 AM · Here Rodney Friend seems to be claiming he discovered a secret: -

And here Hrachya Harutyunian seems to be claiming he discovered the same secret: -

Is there a truth lurking anywhere, or are they just using rhetoric for instructional purposes?

Replies (12)

April 22, 2020, 4:37 AM · My web connections hardly work with the lock-down, so I can't watch U-Toob!

My €0.02 :

The difficulty is getting the two sides of a squidgy fingertip exactly opposite. I usually put my rather narrow fingertip between the strings, a little further towards the bridge than usual, and "catch" the strings on each side. In a rolled chord I can roll the fingertip from left to right for a better tone.

On the viola, I can sometimes use two fingers...

Edited: April 22, 2020, 4:50 AM · The secret to good intonation is in the elbow (and wrist too, possibly) position, I gather. I have watched neither video from beginning to end yet, just downloaded them, lol! (a book owned is a book half-read: a page bookmarked is a page half-read: a video downloaded is a video half-watched!)
April 22, 2020, 7:39 AM · Thanks for the links Gordon, the common thing between the two videos is indeed that they both urge you to practice routine (or not so routine) passages in fifths. Hrachya Harutyunian (second video) mainly offers this as a practice method for fifths. So his point is: if you have troubles with fifths in chords, double stops, etc., try to make a habit of regularly playing just random passages in fifths. For example (he did not give that example) play Kreutzer 2 in fifths. It will give you the good feeling for fifths very quickly.

Rodney Friend, however, has a different message. His message is not targeted to the fifths in themselves. He just urges us to find the right arm and loose wrist position where finger pads are naturally positioned to fall well on two strings simultaneously. This gives us the arm, wrist, and ultimately, left hand position that is most natural and in which you can best play in tune, with good vibrato.

Very interesting, thanks again.

April 22, 2020, 8:11 PM · The secret to playing fifths in tune is to get REALLY fast at fixing them when they're wrong.
April 22, 2020, 10:08 PM · Another benefit to fifths, apart from tidying up posture and tone creation, is learning music. When you don’t have a clear shot at hearing the tune, you have to draw on different parts of your memory to make it all work. This is good mental exercise.
April 24, 2020, 6:03 AM · thanks Jeewon for your perspective!
April 24, 2020, 6:45 AM · Sorry, @Stephen, but I don't understand any of this: "When you don’t have a clear shot at hearing the tune, you have to draw on different parts of your memory to make it all work. "
April 24, 2020, 9:33 AM · Gordon:
Often, knowing the tune makes it possible to remember shifts and string crossings and can allow you to cover for not planning everything in advance.
Adding a fifth complicates that particular cue to the memory, while giving you a few other things to worry about, therefore, if you can play a passage or while piece slowly in fifths with no hesitations or missteps, you have learned it much more thoroughly.
April 27, 2020, 6:18 PM · There's a doctoral thesis 'Fifths: An Approach to Violin Technique for the Left Hand as Taught by Rodney Friend' available at

April 27, 2020, 6:40 PM · I met the author. She was recently doing a master's at Oxford while commuting in to London for lessons with Friend. Very fine violinist.
April 29, 2020, 12:44 PM ·

Charlie is about to graduate from Oxford-- a fantastic fiddler and orchestra leader.

April 30, 2020, 7:02 PM · Thanks, Jeewon Kim, for interpreting Friend's video. He is the kind of teacher who drives me up the wall!

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