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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Shifting - anchor points?

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KCFiddles - Posted - 07/28/2012:  17:11:25

I'm playing a lot of tunes now that require shifting - to second, third, fourth, and fifth position, nothing higher right now. Initially, I didn't use any anchor point, just learned to put my finger in the right place to hit the note, relative to where my hand was to start with.  Then a couple of friends who should know suggested that I use the bottom edge and/or button as an anchor point or guide to help me locate my hand, especially in 3d and 5th position.

The other day, I had a teacher / friend in the shop, and somehow we started talking about some tune. The upshot was that I played part of the tune that was under discussion, and he was adamant that I shouldn't touch the fiddle with the heel of my hand at all, nothing but the thumb. He showed me how touching the fiddle with the heel of the hand interfered with turning the hand and made the third and fourth fingers want to go flat.

Now, I don' t really care what's orthodox per se; I just care what works and will make it easiest to play consistently in tune in the long run. Both ways seem to work OK for me, but the "no anchor" approach works in all positions, and I'm leaning toward forgetting about any tactile anchors. Yet I know a lot of really good working pros, including Nashville guys, who have told be they do use the bottom edge as a guide.

I'd just as soon practice one way and stick with it, and it might as well be the one that will work best in the long run. Do any of you who are fully comfortable in these "middle" positions have a firm opinion on which technique works best and why? I'd rather read opinions based on thorough experience rather than what somebody read, or what their teacher said.

It's not inconceivable that I would be playing in higher positions yet.  I really like swing and jazz, and who knows where that might lead in the future - if I ever develop the chops for it.


Edited by - KCFiddles on 07/28/2012 17:15:07

Henry George - Posted - 07/28/2012:  18:12:51

I have seen this anchoring you speak of taught on videos, but never have I read about it in the pedagogic literature. I believe it is a short cut to learning the execution of difficult shifts which is suppose to temporarily bypass the aural training of hearing intervals.

There are three types of finger movements to change positions on the violin, aural training will help facilitate the learning of these movements.

Simple shift....slide from one note to the next on the same finger.

Compound shift...slide as before, but add a finger going up or take one away coming down.

Complex shift.....slide to lower finger going up, and to a higher finger coming down.

The intervening note in the latter two shifts are called 'bridge notes'. These notes should not be heard, but in the intial practice of these shifts it is essential that the 'bridge notes' are heard. Thus the importance in the aural training aspect.

p1cklef1sh - Posted - 07/28/2012:  20:22:27

Anchoring points are very effective the same way tapes would be. ultimately they get you close and its up to muscle memory and ear training to know where to be. has some great vids on this by the way. He discusses anchor points specifically and I find his method quite simple and easy to learn.

transplant - Posted - 07/28/2012:  22:21:47

I can't imagine being comfortable with the heel of my hand on the edge of the fiddle's back. Might brush the edge of the top with the part of the palm near the base knuckles in fifth or higher, but I don't usually go higher.

When I think about it, the frame stays about the same in third, with the thumb on the back of the neck and the fingers doing their thing, with air between all the usual places. In fourth, I plant my thumb in the saddle of the neck root for a reference, but that may be a crossover from cello technique. in fifth, the thumb stays in that saddle, and the rest of the hand extends up a bit.

The picture may be complicated since most of my upper position playing is on the viola, but just now I went and picked up the violin to do a quick sanity check. Pretty much the same stuff going on.

Swing - Posted - 07/29/2012:  04:00:00

Great topic Michael, when I shift to upper positions I use a note on a specific string to act as the base for playing up the neck.  i.e.  if I am playing in the key of D, I will shift my first finger up the D on the A string and play from there.  It does require that you use your little finger with more accuracy and strength, but that is a practice thing... scales and arpeggio's.

I find myself playing up the neck more as sometimes it is easier to play a run of notes across the strings rather than down the strings...

Play Happy

Verandah - Posted - 07/29/2012:  05:59:14

My first teacher who taught the Galamian method used to move the thumb along the neck before changing position.

I couldn't get that so I just move the hand as one unit.

I think it is better to move the 1st finger to the 3rd pos or 5th pos because it's a sure move and gives you a point of reference.

If you are moving one pos, try to make the change on a semitone if possible. Much easier and more accurate.

Also in the higher pos'  the hand needs to be over the body with just the thumb making contact with the neck at the heel.

Hope this helps in some way. 

hardykefes - Posted - 07/29/2012:  06:07:34

I call the 'anchor points' rather 'reference points'. P{robably the same thing except 'anchor' sounds too rigid to me.

It is all about muscle memory, how to hit the right position and making position changes fast and precise.

I am still playing also classical music (Sarasate, Kreisler, Paganini...)  and there I need to be up in the upper position on all strings (all the way until finger board ends).

One of my favorites the 'Moses Fantasy' from Paganini, a piece written for the G-string only.

When going up the fingerboard I use the thumb at the heal of the neck as additional reference point and move the elbow further to the right (string-dependend).

This technique is helpful for a) jumping up the fingerboard and stop the hand with the thumb and b) using the thumb to pull the hand down in position fast and precisely.

Lots of these technique come into play and make more sense when playing more extreme stuff and playing it fast. (As an example look up 'Gypsy Air' = 'Zigeunerweisen'  from Sarasate on youtube).

For these pieces the muscle memory in the upper arm to forearm angle is not enough and fast enough and the thumb is a big help.

eric marten - Posted - 07/29/2012:  10:09:07


 Anchor points, reference points, as described above,  I'm interpreting as being the same thing.  The three points of contact, the thumb, the base of the forefinger, and the finger on the fingerboard, contact should be maintained throughout the shift, with the possible exception of the base of forefinger when employing vibrato. The way I was taught, all three move as a unit during shifting, but as you get to the higher positions, above third position you need to move your right elbow and arm to the right, and use less and less of your thumb, so your fingers still come from a vertical position.  Part of your palm may touch the instrument during real high positions, not because you need it, but its simply not practical to go to an extreme position to avoid contacting the side of the instrument. Since the steps are closer up there, reaching the fingers is not difficult, but, of course, intonation becomes trickier.

I'm trying to be clear, but sometimes the words I use make it sound more complicated.  You're always so helpful to others with questions, so I'm trying to help also.  Does this wordy description help at all?



eric marten - Posted - 07/29/2012:  12:20:13

quoted by eric marten:    but as you get to the higher positions, above third position you need to move your right elbow and arm to the right, and use less and less of your thumb, so your fingers still come from a vertical position.  


I goofed (again)  -  I meant to say LEFT ELBOW AND ARM, NOT RIGHT 


Edited by - eric marten on 07/29/2012 12:21:32

KCFiddles - Posted - 08/01/2012:  15:32:13

Thanks for all the feedback, and the PMs.  I think I'll stick to the thumb as a reference point, and avoid contact with the heel of the hand. Should make it easier to stay in tune, especially when reaching for double stops on the G and D in third, and it will be a better foundation for more advanced playing if and when I get there.

OTJunky - Posted - 08/01/2012:  16:12:37

If you're bored and need something to accoupy your time for the next four or five years, you can look at this tutorial by Yehudi Menuin on "Left Hand Playing" that covers both shifting an vibrato

I had no idea - and I'm still not sure I believe it.


Edited by - OTJunky on 08/01/2012 16:14:36

paulinefiddle - Posted - 08/01/2012:  20:17:17


Originally posted by OTJunky

If you're bored and need something to accoupy your time for the next four or five years, you can look at this tutorial by Yehudi Menuin on "Left Hand Playing" that covers both shifting an vibrato

I had no idea - and I'm still not sure I believe it.


I watched that video and I was amazed.  I have never seen anyone teach or play that way.

OTJunky - Posted - 08/02/2012:  04:22:09


Originally posted by paulinefiddle

I watched that video and I was amazed.  I have never seen anyone teach or play that way.

Me too.  I'd bet that most of the kids in that video gave up violin playing shortly after that master class....

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this forum editor.


Edited by - OTJunky on 08/02/2012 04:23:16

hardykefes - Posted - 08/02/2012:  07:01:10

Great video and interesting technique.

Definitely different than what I have been taught.

These kids are all prodigies. If I'm not mistaking from the famous Menuhin-school. They know in their age already more than I ever will know.

I was teaching shifting way simpler and it works for me.

I guess I will monkey around with these techniques a little and see how it feels like.

TomGlos - Posted - 08/14/2012:  08:58:26

Reference, anchoring, call it what you will. It's a perfectly respectable time-honoured and effective technique associated with certain (European) violin "schools." The only thing is, my classical lessons were so long ago I can't remember the name my teacher gave.

Anyone here go into fourth or fifth position whilst making sure their hand doesn't touch the violin body or the heel of the neck? Seems unnecessarily awkward to me.

bj - Posted - 08/14/2012:  14:16:51

I'm not one to go up the neck much at all, but I will point something else out. My fiddle dealer friend, when showing me how to judge a fiddle for sale, showed me the button and said, "The ones that are worn there are GOOD. Why? Because they've been well played by someone who knew what they were doing, and so probably will sound very good when set up properly." He then showed me one that had that button on the back worn away a bit, and it was slightly more so on the treble side. So my question is . . . how did that spot get worn? Food for thought . . .

Now, having said that, a couple of his other ideas about fiddles were pretty wacky, and the man didn't play fiddle himself.

hardykefes - Posted - 08/14/2012:  18:33:16

Interesting way of looking at fiddles. In the violin world I have had many instruments in my hand over 300 years old and played a lot, no button was worn. I guess they all did it wrong then.surprise

I had also Perlman's Strad at my house (The General Kyd). I will let him know to change his style in order to wear out the button.big

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