How to Study Even Numbered Positions in Sitt, Vol. II

December 4, 2022, 12:24 PM · I have recently started to study études in Sitt, Volume II. I would appreciate any suggestions on how experienced players conceptualize reading the treble clef when playing consistently in the "even" positions (2nd, 4th and 6th.) I find it challenging to read a particular note and adjust by by one finger from fingerings in the more familiar 1st, 3d and 5th positions. Any suggestions? Just do it a lot?

Replies (15)

December 4, 2022, 5:32 PM · Greetings,
I wouldn’t even think of it this way.
You can practice to establish where second position is by using something like the Yost exercises. then practice Kreutzer no 2 in 2nd and 4th positions. That should pretty much do it.
The essence of left hand technique is automatic execution of finger patterns so if you work on second position utilizing this approach, perhaps even using color coding for the patterns, it will become 2nd nature very easily.
Edited: December 4, 2022, 10:09 PM · Charles - I say "just do it a lot!" quoting you.

I know you know: odd positions, 1st and 3rd finger notes on the line; even positions, 1st and 3rd finger notes on the spaces. And most important (sometimes - mark the finger numbers above the notes on the page).

December 4, 2022, 9:21 PM · I feel like by sightreading a lot of stuff, you eventually learn to look for intervals and learn to recognize them on the page. There are particular etudes that are in even positions, and practicing scales in those positions trains facility in the even positions.

If your question is about how to know where the half steps and whole steps are in scalar passages, that's something that practicing scales trains, and you should be able to hear the notes in your head, knowing the key, so that you will just know where the half steps and whole steps go.

Edited: December 5, 2022, 4:32 AM · Hi Charles, you should strive to play the actual notes on your violin, not the notations of the notes, if you get what I mean. Getting familiar with second position means getting familiar with which finger is used to play every note. For example, a low F is first finger (on the D string), a high A is second finger (on the E string). So you should not mentally read the music notation from the sheet music and translate that to fingerings, but you should strive to, more directly, read the notes themselves from the sheet music, and play those notes directly, if you get what I mean. Surprisingly many people I talk to seem to do what you currently seem to do: finger the notations of the notes, without making a good connection with the notes themselves. Reading the notes themselves can be practiced initially by singing (solfeggio) or humming from the sheet music, with the goal of, in the end, reading some sheet music and practically "hearing" the tune in your head.
December 5, 2022, 7:34 AM · Thanks, everyone for these suggestions. After spending some time with Sitt, I believe that even positions will become familiar in stages - first by extrapolation from more familiar fingerings (e.g. on a line, not a space, "one finger lower"), followed by more efficient assimilation of the pitch played, regardless of which finger. The latter is already happening for me with occasional notes shifting into an even position. In those cases I don't consider the position I am in, just the pitch. Playing consistently in 2nd is a new challenge however - I'm hoping that repetition will achieve what Jean has said. Thanks again, all.
December 5, 2022, 7:42 AM · The way to learn Jean's direct approach is probably by learning their fingerings first. My teacher made me read music (e.g. some etude) aloud, always saying the name of the note followed by the finger in 4th position. She made me play the same music in 4th position alongside this exercise. it took only a few weeks to sink in and the rest happens indeed by "doing it a lot"

I learned third, second and fourth position this way and in this sequence.

December 5, 2022, 8:03 AM · I agree with just do it a lot. Two additional comments: (a) some studies are better than others for this. I agree with Buri that K2 is a good choice but a lot of Dont studies and Schradieck have good opportunities to work on shifting among the low positions even though their editors might not have fingered them the same way. (b) use it or lose it. Once you find *some* facility in 2nd and 4th position you'll find yourself refingering your solo Bach, your orchestra parts, etc.
Edited: December 5, 2022, 12:16 PM · If I recall correctly I first learned positions 1, 3 and 5 on violin and later filled in with the even positions and those that are higher.
When I discoered the Suzuki books about 10 years after I started teaching, I appreciated the approach that got to the even-numbered positions earlier (if I recall correctly).

When I first started cello (in my mid teens) I had the cello (and played it for a month before my first lesson) I picked up first and 4th position immediately and was able to read and play a lot of stuff before that 1st lesson. (Because of its larger size a normal-size cellist typically can finger a span of only 3 notes in the neck positions (1 - 4) not 4 notes like violinists and violists (this means there is only one way to finger a complete one-octave scale in 1st position, playing the open strings). I was not taught "positions" on the cello, but only finger positions (if I recall correctly, since this was more than 70 years ago).

Of necessity, cellists must do a lot more position changing than violinists and the ingrained sense relating particular fingers to particular positions on a staff (or to particular notes) does not develop (at least it didn't for me). But then, I never spent any cello time at all only in 1st position, I was at least playing 1st and 4th from day one. Perhaps violin teachers should strive for something like that too.**

**Cellist's use of the thumb for sounding notes in the "thumb positions" is not relevant to this discussion.

December 5, 2022, 10:17 AM · Yes, Andy, I agree. When my daughter learned cello the first thing I noticed is that they basically have to learn shifting right away or you can't play anything.
December 5, 2022, 9:28 PM · Greetings,
it is a good idea to develop an instinct for roaming around the fingerboard irrespective of position as well. Thus I recommend the teaching of one finger/one string scales much earlier than is usually introduced. Also, the same one octave scalle in all possible positions is invaluable. In my opinion, the best current scale book is actually that by Simon Fischer because it not only includes all the neglected ways of scale practicing , but also explains how to learn to play in tune based on the Casals/DeLay approach and included an enormous range of exercises for correcting specific problems that occur in scales. Would recommend over Flesch and Galamian any time.
Edited: December 6, 2022, 12:34 PM · Adding to Buri's comment I would say that if you're agonizing over the differences between Flesch, Galamian, Trott, and Fischer as far as basic fingerings for the three-octave scales and arpeggios (which is why a lot of people buy a scale book) then you've missed the point. Different situations in real music will call for different fingerings. For example the three-octave F-major scale in the Scherzo of the Beethoven Spring Sonata runs from G to G. if you're married to your Flesch fingerings for an F major scale, you're sunk.
December 6, 2022, 7:29 PM · Greetings
if you are going for flesch, the new. edition i reviewed in a blog here does address some of the aforementioned problems .
Edited: December 8, 2022, 3:45 AM · What Andrew Victor says.
I am glad to see you are going directly to Sitt and ignoring Whistler.
There are two issues: -
1) intonation (i.e. slightly different hand shapes)
2) if you have spent too much time in first position, you will see an A on the E string and automatically slam your ring finger down instead of your middle finger.
And I find LH thumb position must also be practised.
Hence What Andrew Victor says.

There are more 2nd position scales (i,e, all offering different hand shapes) than you might think.
Starting on the G string: -
G (slide from A to B on first finger)
Ab/A as above
Bb starting on 1st finger
C starting on 2nd Finger
D starting on 3rd
Eb/E starting on pinky
Play all slowly with a view to intonation.

Edited: December 7, 2022, 7:57 PM · Thanks, Gordon - your comments are very helpful. I’ll try the various scales in 2nd. As you say, the two “new” issues for me with Sitt are sight reading in 2nd position, then the slightly different hand shape to play in tune. If I play a scale or melody by ear in 2nd, it isolates the intonation differences, and I am relatively comfortable, while the sight reading issue is due to relative unfamiliarity, slowing my sight reading. Between the two issues, I suspect the more critical in the long run is the former, not the latter, which should resolve by “doing it a lot”.
December 8, 2022, 5:15 AM · Positions are usually defined by the notes we can play in them, but it is often more useful to think in semitones, like guitar frets.
Thus there are two "second positions": one based on B on the G-string, and another on F on the D-string. Often, the transition from "low 2nd" to "high 2nd" occurs when we spread the fingers over three whole tones:
- In high 2nd, fingers 1b-2b-3-4 or,
- in low 2nd, for the same notes, 1-2-3#-4# OR(!)
- halfway, with a symmetrically opened hand: a quarter-tone shift.

We can see accomplished players doing constant micro-shifts as they cross the fingerboard, probably unconsciously, but we lesser mortals should plan all this during our slow practice!

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