Fingering/string crossing sequences to avoid

October 26, 2021, 12:13 PM · Pretty straight forward - are there fingering sequences you tend to avoid or recommend avoiding. Obviously it is good to have facility even with inconvenient fingerings, but I suppose when you actually want to play something optimally that isn't a consideration.

For example, do you avoid 1st finger on higher string to 4th finger on lower string?

Or is this too context dependent to have straight-forward answers?

Replies (13)

October 26, 2021, 12:35 PM · Here's a recent blog post on this topic that you might find useful:
Edited: October 26, 2021, 1:22 PM · I'm working on Mendelssohn mov. 3. In the 16th-note passagework (spiccato/sautille), I was thinking that some of the sequences would make sense to play with a 4th finger rather than an open string 1-2-3-4 rather than 1d-2d-3d-0a, in order to group them into 4s, and I was practicing with slurs that way, but when I started trying to bring the speed up in spiccato, I found that 1-2-3-0 was much more comfortable, possibly because the up-bow on the new string is a natural part of the movement. If I was playing slurred, I would probably do 1-2-3-4, and it's entirely possible that playing it detache would have its own feeling.

I think we can often work out the particulars pretty well if we just pay attention to what feels comfortable, and of course, pay attention to what gives us the phrasing we want. I was initially concerned that my choice would affect the phrasing, but it didn't - it just made it easier to play. Now, to keep moving the speed up tick by tick....

October 26, 2021, 1:33 PM · Isn't it a common gripe amongst music educators that well-meaning young students will insist on using the fourth finger over the open string—and play it out of tune? I heard that somewhere.

Generally I like to keep phrases on one string where possible, even if the fingering is more difficult. Sometimes the change in timbre between strings is distracting.

Edited: October 26, 2021, 1:51 PM · I think it is worth experimenting, not only to find the fingerings that suit your technical chops but also to express what you want the music to say.

In 1965 our community orchestra hired a professional violinist (Bobby Notkoff**) to play the Beethoven Op. 50 Romance in one of our concerts, for which he also served as our visiting concertmaster). He played 3 of the E's in measure 5 & 6 on the open E rather than with the fingering indicated in the score - and it was really thrilling. I was lucky enough to acquire a tape of that concert and it really is my all-time favorite recording of the solo violin part - and it is the example I followed when I performed it with the orchestra about 15 years later.


October 26, 2021, 4:04 PM · The fingered octaves on the last page of the Sibelius VC's first movement causes me strife.
October 26, 2021, 4:55 PM · Mike just practice fingered tenths. Then fingered octaves will seem easy.
Edited: October 26, 2021, 5:46 PM · "do you avoid 1st finger on higher string to 4th finger on lower string?"
No if you are descending a tone; yes if you are descending a semitone, my teacher has suggested on one occasion.

Whenever I ask a question such as the OP's, I find it's out of lack of experience, and things that initially seem difficult become easy. So the OP has to ask how experienced they are.

October 26, 2021, 6:14 PM · Greetings,
Szigeti often raised this issue in his books. He particularly hated crossing over from fourth finger leading note to tonic on a higher string. The issue wasn’t so much technical but one of color to hm, I think. He recommended playing that leading note on the next string with a backward extended first finger. A lot of the time I think this point is valid and I do try and apply it when necessary.
October 26, 2021, 8:20 PM · The combination that I try to avoid is what I call "cross-fingering", the diminished 5th on two strings. That puts the higher number finger over the nail of the lower number finger. You put the lower number finger down first, then put the higher number finger over it. Sometimes that is in reverse order of when those notes happen in time. I prefer to do the dim. 5th 1-4, or find a way to shift out of it.
Also try to avoid the 4-1 half-step on a string change, with plenty of exceptions.
Open string instead of 4 is OK in lots of contexts.
Edited: October 27, 2021, 7:18 AM · I don't have a problem with diminished fifths, as long as I have planned the fingering.

Perfect fifths are more problematic for me.

Edited: November 4, 2021, 8:28 AM · I was taught early on violin that you use open strings rather than 4th finger when you are ascending and 4th finger rather than open string when descending, and open e was particularly disfavored. However, once you begin to play more advanced music, these rules are only somewhat helpful to the extent they are useful to begin with because of the complexity of many of the passages. So, I began to go with whatever seemed to work best and go into higher positions to avoid open e.

Once I took up viola, about the first thing my teacher told me was not to worry, forget what I had learned about using open strings vs. 4th finger as a violinist and just go with whatever suited me on viola. What a pleasure.

November 2, 2021, 10:46 AM · In fast passages a more useful rule is to use the open string if that allows you to cross to the next higher string downbow, or the next lower string upbow...
Edited: November 21, 2021, 3:50 PM · On F. Kutchler's Violin Method, Book 2, pg.173 he explain in the next 20 pages everything about fingerings on changing of strings and / or positions, every do and don't of when to use open strings or 4th finger, when to change position based on bowing, slurring or not, etc. it's the most complete and compreensive study about the subject i know of, and this changed completely how i change fingers / strings based on my bowing.

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