2nd position

Edited: April 25, 2020, 5:14 AM · Any of you remember the time you were still automatically whacking your 3rd finger down on the E string whenever you saw an A in 2nd position?

Is it an argument for not leaving it too long before teaching it?

Is it worse for students of Whistler, for whom 2nd position was almost an afterthought?

Replies (13)

April 25, 2020, 6:57 AM · There are some marvelous earlier threads about second position, some still from the Buri period, that should keep you busy for a while!
April 25, 2020, 7:16 AM · I use second position a fair bit. When I was at my youth string orchestra, one of the things we played was Sibelius' Andante Festivo. At that point I essentially used it as a "second position study"
Edited: April 25, 2020, 7:20 AM · Whistler does not treat 2nd position as an afterthought— it is the very first topic, and covered quite extensively, in volume two. My students work through both books and end up with a thorough knowledge of second position.

There are good pedagogical reasons for addressing third and fifth position before addressing second position, though I don’t wait for the students to encounter it in the Whistler book before fingering appropriate passages that way in their repertoire.

April 25, 2020, 8:07 AM · My answer is similar to Mary Ellen's. My son is using second position extensively in suzuki book 3 (and some I think by book 2). He's doing some Whistler exercises in third position but that's not a reason to wait for second position. There are different reasons to play in a higher position - because a note is out of range of the lower position, or because it makes musical sense to use a higher position. I think the latter point should be encouraged by teachers at the earliest possible time.
April 25, 2020, 8:55 AM · Augustine said the second position is his favourite position. Useful indeed
Edited: April 25, 2020, 10:29 AM · My childhood teacher taught from the Whistler books. And in fact my second position was awful, but I don't think it's because of the Whistler books themselves. It think it's because my repertoire pieces always seemed to have edited fingerings that avoided second position like the plague, and my teacher supported that viewpoint.

My teacher was also one of those "one study per week" kind of guys where you just page through the study books, and it didn't matter whether I could play it well or poorly, in tune or out of tune, only rarely was I sent home from a weekly lesson with the same study. That probably didn't help either.

When I returned to the violin as a middle-aged adult, my new teacher operated completely differently -- assuming that I was equally facile in all of the positions. For example, he marked up my Bach D Minor Partita with a lot of second-position fingerings, which put me on a pretty steep learning curve because I hadn't done any solo Bach before either.

My second position was weak, but I found studies (especially Dont Op. 37 and Schradieck) that worked out second position a lot, and I took Buri's advice and studied Kreutzer No. 2 entirely in second position for a whole month until I could play it really well. Here I was self-guided because my teacher does not assign a lot of studies. Now my second position is more asset than liability.

But ... one thing I carried over from my early days playing almost everything in odd-numbered positions (and at that time I was playing restless too) is a really quick shifting elbow, which is very useful in sight-reading where you don't always have time to optimize fingers.

That's just my experience.

April 25, 2020, 12:56 PM · When I took lessons between ages 4 and 12 the order of studying positions seemed to be 1, 3, 5 (etc.). The problem with this is that one becomes so accustomed to notes on the lines of the staff (and ledger lines) corresponding to fingers 1 and 3 that it can confuse sight reading in even-numbered positions.

Between ages 14 and 17 I studied cello and there was none of that "positions stuff" (except for the 1st and 4th "anchor" positions) and I did not run into any similar finger/staff problems.

So I applaud any pedagogy that does not short-cut learning by trying to climb the fingerboard faster than one should.

April 25, 2020, 5:19 PM · I don't know Whistler, but my teacher is currently having me play both 2nd and 3rd positions in the same piece, it's getting smoother but it's been a challenge! Humoresque (Suzuki 3) - thankfully I like this little piece, someday would like to play the "normal" version (non-Suzuki).
April 25, 2020, 9:26 PM · The "real" Humoresque is in some vile key and it's full of double stops. Be careful what you pray for. :)
April 25, 2020, 9:32 PM · I vaguely recall elementary/middle school orchestra - beginner/easy stuff and therefore I amused myself by playing the school pieces in 2nd position. I don't know if that was my idea or if a teacher put me up to it.
April 26, 2020, 11:48 AM · There are a number of good books for studying violin second position. It is worth noting that second position is probably even more useful for violists. I certainly use it a lot when playing viola, and I am sure that those of us who play both would say that we use second a lot more with viola than violin.
April 26, 2020, 12:51 PM · I agree with Tom. I use 2nd a lot on the viola, mostly by my own decision (my teacher usually agrees). But as a result, I find myself using it on the violin more and more
Edited: April 27, 2020, 5:46 AM · Well, Sitt 21-5 are probably more than sufficient.

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