Finger patterns

January 21, 2023, 4:59 PM · How many different finger patterns (whole and half steps) are there on the violin? By patterns, I mean combinations of the four fingers. For example wwwh for two whole steps and one half step.

Are some patterns that tend to get neglected in practice? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Replies (13)

Edited: January 21, 2023, 6:41 PM · I count 2^3 = 8 possible finger patterns that can be started with the first finger anywhere on the violin, not counting the first finger itself (which I don't think would make sense to count).

I suppose it gets more complicated if you want to think about moving across two different strings.

EDIT: Curse my earlier math lapse!

January 21, 2023, 6:45 PM · I get eight...www wwh whw hww hhh hhw hwh whh
January 22, 2023, 4:07 AM · ..plus those where there is w+h between fingers..
January 22, 2023, 6:48 AM · Thanks everyone. Good point Adrian.
January 22, 2023, 6:21 PM · From my unpublished teaching notebook:
Finger patterns = Tetrachords = 1/2 scales.
From 1st to 4th finger on any string, any position.
Major W-W-H
minor W-H-W
Phyrgian H-W-W
Augmented W-W-W
Stretched patterns for the harmonic minor scales:
min3-H-W
H-m3-H
W-H-m3
Compressed, diminished patterns:
H-W-H
W-H-H
H-H-W
Chromatic H-H-H

8 out of 11 of those tetrachords are used for constructing scales or modes, as many as 8 X 8 = 64(?!), most of them do not have proper names.
jq

Edited: January 23, 2023, 2:53 AM · And what bout the hand itself?
E.g. (1-2-3-4) can be, according to context,
- (1-2-hi3-hi4) in half position, or
- (lo1-lo2-3-4) in first position, or
- a symmetrical "spread" in a temporary "three-quarter position"......
Edited: January 23, 2023, 10:39 AM · continued-- The whole-tone pattern, W-W-W, ex. Bb-C-D-E on the A string, can be either a 1st finger extension in 1st position, or, a 4th finger extension in 1/2 position, depending on the technical context, personal preference, and the anatomy of your hand. You need to be aware of which one you are doing. The position of the thumb is the indicator. One problem that students have when learning the low 1st finger notes; Ab-Eb-Bb-F, is that they let the arm slip into 1/2 position, messing up the intonation for the next notes.
January 23, 2023, 11:21 AM · Joel you said just the same as me but more clearly!
Slipping into half position must be well planned.
Sometimes we can prefer an extended pinky for just a few notes on a lower string, especially in arpeggios.

In my own "unpublished textbook" I label positions by semitone:
Half(=lo1st), 1st, lo2nd, 2nd, hi2nd(=lo3rd), hi3rd(=lo4th), 4th,
hi4th(=lo5th), etc....

January 23, 2023, 1:15 PM · Adrian-- I believe that your positions concept is what Cellists use and is the same as mine with different labels, by 1/2 step increments. My labels for the positions are: 1/2, 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, etc., and I don't care whether the notes are notated in sharps or flats. Guitarists have the best system; each fret gets the next number; 1-2-3-4--. It would mess up centuries of tradition if we switched to that system.
January 23, 2023, 3:26 PM · I believe there are only four that are used in major or minor scales. I have my own one-letter names for them, so I can notate the letter above music (this comes in super useful above, say, scales in double-stop thirds).

I think Dounis may have actually discovered and systematized this, but I haven't read it. I reverse-engineered it myself while learning fingered thirds in C Major.

E (1 on d string, first position) - F- G- A - I call this "low" frame or L

Now if you assume you're in A Major, the same 1-2-3-4 on D string is in what I call "high" hand frame, or E-F#-G#-A

These two frames are super useful because you can use them to play one octave in fingered thirds starting with 3 on the lower string on the major tonic - Low pair of double stops, then high, then low, then high. This works for fingered thirds in any key, any string, as long as you start with the 3 on the major-equivalent tonic. I learned this using C major, starting on the D and G string in first position. Dont op 35 #8 is useful for this, but the raw scale is 100x easier.

Single-stopped, you can play a one octave major scale with just the high hand frame. (1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4).

There are two others, I call "middle", like on the A string in first position, B-C#-D-E. (The middle is bcause C and D are close., and what I call "wide" meaning all fingers are far apart. This is, for sintance, B flat -C -D- E natural on the A string.

If you start playing a very long scale (four octaves), you'll cycle through all four hand frames in a very simple plattern:
H - H -M -M (at this point you have run out of notes in first position on the E string and have to start shifting) - L - L - w (and then the pattern repeates but you are also out of string and hitting the bow with your left hand).

For a two octave scale in fingered thirds, the pattenr is L -H L H W - M - W , then it repeats (the third octave would be L again).

I find two octave fingered thirds scales to be a very useful exercise. If you understand this pattern, you can play any fingered thirds in any key, once you just figure out where in the sequence you are.

Maybe there are more patterns mathematically, but the only other one I have found to actually occur (Dont #8 hits this too) is the "harmonic minor" pattern, i.e. on A first position, B -C natural - D# - E, and of course pure chromatics (all 4 on top of each other).

January 24, 2023, 9:11 AM · As a product of the Doflein method, my answer is four. I acknowledge Joel's addition of the varieties of half and whole steps in the various minor keys and modes.

For me, and my students, the basic four suffice with the knowledge that accidentals will appear from time to time but they are just calling for variations on the four basic locations of the half-steps.

Of course, we Doflein folks call the Patterns "Attitudes" and that leads to my favorite teacher joke which is to tell my students that when somebody says: "You have an attitude" they can respond with "I'm a violinist and I have four."

Approaching 50 years of playing I still rely on the basic four noted by Doflein augmented by responding to the accidentals when necessary. Over time it becomes automatic and outside the realm of conscious thought.

January 24, 2023, 10:11 AM · I think Sevcik did the job already 120 years ago in his Op. 6. Four basic patterns are enough, the rest is for minor scales.
January 24, 2023, 10:36 AM · https://www.violinwiki.org/wiki/Violin_finger_patterns

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Shar Music

Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope

Violinist.com Summer Music Programs Directory

Violinist.com Shopping Guide

Borromeo Music Festival

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

FiddlerShop

Fiddlerman.com

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Baerenreiter

String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine