Hi Guys and thanks for dropping by!
In today’s lesson, we’re going to look at violin third position, and in particular shifting from first to third position. Many of you struggle with shifting and maintaining intonation in different positions so this is a perfect introduction for those of you who are just starting with your shifting, those of you who are preparing your AMEB exercise 2A or even those more advanced students who are discovering deficiencies in their shifting technique and need some pointers.
Are You Ready?
Shifting in and out of third position on your violin should not be a difficult or uncomfortable process. To ensure that you become a successful shifter, you want to make sure that your technique is absolutely ready and that you’re not going to be introducing any bad habits as you learn violin third position.
Below are the three checkpoints that you should consider before you attempt violin third position. Go through each check carefully and only when you are confident in your basic technique begin the shifting process.
Is Your Violin In The Correct Position?
This sounds so basic and is no doubt something you take for granted. However, take a moment to check out my left hand technique video and ensure your position is up to scratch. If you are struggling to hold your violin up comfortably and correctly, perhaps review your shoulder rest; this post might help.
When we start moving our left hand up and down the violin neck, there is absolutely no room for discomfort or inaccuracy in posture or violin position. Your violin needs to sit comfortably on your shoulder and be independent of any left hand support. If you’re not able to maintain your violin position when you remove your left hand, you’re not ready to begin moving to different positions.
Is your left hand and wrist correctly placed?
Don’t forget the mouse and the cheese! Again, my left hand position post will be useful if you’re not quite ready with this. It’s so important that we maintain a loose left hand and wrist as we’re shifting!
Is Your Intonation Reliable In First Position?
There’s no use moving to different positions if you’re struggling to hear the difference between a C natural and a B or if your fourth finger isn’t stretching quite high enough. Take time to develop your intonation in first position before attempting to shift and ensure that you’re able to hear the notes without the aid of finger marks!
Let's Do Some Shifting Exercises!
The Basic B to D shift
Now that you’re sure you’re ready to begin shifting, we’re going to try a really basic exercise. The aim of this is to ensure that your left hand position remains loose and the mouse and cheese position is not disrupted.
Using your first finger on B (just its usual first position spot on the A string), slide up to D (where third finger usually goes). As you slide, make sure your finger moves lightly and swiftly up the string.
Stop on D and listen to the sound you are making; you could even check your intonation with the open D string. Stand in front of a mirror and make sure that your left hand position looks just like it does in first position.
Now slide back down to B, again making sure that you maintain the correct left hand position; be especially careful not to leave your thumb behind!
Practice shifting up and down the fingerboard from B to D until you are confident in your technique and intonation.
Pop, Slide And Swap – The C# to D Shift
Pop, slide and swap are three words that my shifting students hear A LOT. Let’s go through each in detail, using the shift from C# (high second on the A string in first position) to D (first finger on the A string in third position) as an example.
The notes we’re going to play are A B C# and D. I’ve used whole bows but you could do chain bowing or slur in 2s if you prefer.
Step 1 – Pop
Play A and A1 as you usually would but when you put your second finger down to play C#, ‘pop’ your first finger up into the air. I’ve exaggerated this in the video and it’s probably good to do the same while you’re getting used to the process.
Step 2 – Slide On Your Preparation Finger
The ‘preparation finger’ is the second finger. Slide from C# (high second in first position) up to E (high second in third position). You might like to check this E with your open E string to ensure you’ve slid enough.
Step 3 – Swap To The First Finger
Place your first finger down and release your second finger and you should be playing D. You can check this with the open D string for intonation.
Exercise 1 - AMEB Grade 2A
In this exercise, you will practice shifting from first to third position on each of your fingers. The main things to look out for here are:
- left hand (including your thumb) slides up easiy and maintains the proper left hand technique
- The frames of your fingers are observed
- Shifting is light and fast
- Intonation is well established
- A steady tone is maintained throughout the exercise
Exercise 2 - AMEB Grade 3D
This exercise is not very pleasant to listen to but excellent for improving your pop, slide and swap technique. In each section, we practice shifting on the preparation note slowly and then repeat the same notes with a faster, more elegant slide and swap. In addition to the points covered for Exercise 1, above the things to look out here are:
- Secure slide and swap technique
- Refrain from rushing the slides, especially where a longer preparation note is required in each section
- Economical use of the bow, especially for the slide into third position.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve made a great start to your shifting journey. This is the first of many posts I will write on this subject; there’s so much more to learn!
As always, good things take time so practice the exercises daily and keep a firm focus on your left hand and thumb; shifting should be comfortable and never cause pain so if there is any discomfort, or if you have any other questions or thoughts about shifting, please reach out in the comments section below.
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