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I have a very "beginner" type question about the different positions.  How do you choose what string & position to play a piece in?  For example, I printed out "Amazing Grace" (without watching the video yet) and noticed the fingerings ~ I looked at the chart from the resource section and figured out what position & string to start on.  Also, do you use the Roman Numerals to mark the changes to different positions?  I'm having fun trying to wrap my brain around this new concept. 


18 Responses
Posted: December 5, 2011
Last Comment: December 9, 2011

Posted: December 9, 2011
great to hear from you 'learningviolin' 

and good to know you have not changed name to 'learning trumpet' ;) LOL

Posted: December 9, 2011

Wow....quite a discussion to my poor post. :)  Thanks, everyone!  I usually am quick to check to see if there has been a response but this time I got busy and neglected to get back for awhile. 

I am actually about a "year 2" player and have only had one piece (Ave Maria) given to me as a "Challenge" that included several shifts to 3rd position (but without much instruction on the how-to or why).  I'm not offended at how my question was taken - I didn't phrase the question very well.

  I watched the videos Beth mentioned and then saw I had been missing the whole section on "Positions".....I had instead spent a LOT of time watching the "Shifting" videos and feeling like I still didn't understand about positions.  :)  I am hoping to spend time on the scales and the position videos.  THANKS AGAIN for all the input!

Posted: December 7, 2011
Lol Linda....you might be right !   x-D

Posted: December 6, 2011
I think you may have all scared off poor learningviolin! If learning violin has not defected to another country I think they may now be learningdrums or learningtrumpet!

Posted: December 6, 2011
Interesting discussion....how'd I miss this ?   lol

Bob, one thing you said that gave me pause.....is that you asked "why is the violin so hard to learn?" and you wanted to make it "not hard".

What you're explaining about the fingerboard can make find the notes easier I imagine, though I haven't looked into what you're explaining really well just yet....all those colors and codes put me off right away....lol.  My mind rebels when I first take a look at graphs like that. 

Anyway....like I said, such a method might make it easier to find the notes....BUT, playing the violin isn't just about finding the notes.  The difficulty is in all the subtle movements and positions and little shifts of your body that have to do with getting that bow to go across the strings just right to get a pleasant sound to come out.  It's not just about placing your fingers in the right spot but also.....the amount of pressure you exert on the bow, HOW you apply that pressure.....WHEN to apply it more or less.....the angle of your arm and wrist....how you hold the thing and get your whole self to relax while standing and holding it (the violin) up at such an awkward angle that really isn't natural at all.....etc...etc....etc.

All that takes years to get right....for most of us.  I do agree that some may take to it quite naturally and learn all that quicker than others, like anything else....but really.....I've found it to be a huge mountain to climb...with lots of crags and almost impossible leaps... 

Posted: December 6, 2011

I hope we didn't scare off LearningViolin. Did your questions get answered?

Posted: December 6, 2011

.......in the orchestra I started playing in, we change some positions to get around difficult fingering by shifting.


Karen, Iím glad to know than even pro and more advance students change the original fingering to accommodate them better to your own hand. I have done this only to get through with the piece and I was feeling guilty without confessing it to others. And this is not the first time I read that in fact, we can do this for a better intonation. If it is crucial in a particular part where vibrato is absolutely necessary, I personally rather shift to use a finger where vibrato can be executed with more clarity. (So far for me are fingers 2 and 3).

Learningviolin, as we can see, there are more than one spot in the fingerboard to play the same pitch so we may arrange them accordingly to the circumstances. Vibrato can not be done using an open string; so for our personal expression of the music, we have to go and find the same pitch in another string.


Posted: December 6, 2011

Jack and Bob, I could not agree more with both of you.

I used tapes on the fingerboard, and then removed one at the time. For example, the tape for finger number 3 in 1st position is still on the fingerboard as a guidance for finger 1 in 3rd position until I will get familiar with the pitch and the proportion of the distance allowed between the notes in a different part of the fingerboard. For position 5th it will not be necessary to put a tape because obviously is easy to find it with your thumb.

I love violinist.com and frequently visit the site. It is a good source of information.


Posted: December 6, 2011

Back to the original question, in the orchestra I started playing in, we change some positions to get around difficult fingering by shifting.  If we had a trill on the 4 th finger we might change to an index finger because it would be easier to move quickly. we find a starting point which is easy to get to that place and then return to first position when it's convenient.  Since I'm new to it all, i find it god introduction to start learning shifting. It's usually only one part in the piece and it's easy to remember since it's only a measure or two.

Beth Blackerby
Posted: December 6, 2011
Thanks Karen. Also, here are the videos explaining how to use the Scale Rounds:

part 1
part 2

Posted: December 6, 2011

now, back to our regularly scheduled post.

Posted: December 6, 2011

Just for a little more info on starting note locations, you may have missed these.  Most people probably aren't looking for a chunk as big, so this is the piece-by-piece that I found helpful:

Lesson 14: Note Names of Open Strings Basic location of open string notes on the staff as well as on the fingerboard.


Lesson 34: Note Names for Finger Spacing Pattern 1 great explanation of the first finger pattern and also includes the graphics for notes on the staff


Then the videos from there demonstrate the same type of information for different scales and finger patterns.  For example


Lesson 46: Finger Spacing Pattern 2

Lesson 50: G Major 2-octave scale


Beth Blackerby
Posted: December 6, 2011
Big group hug!!!!! We're a marvelous mix!

Automatically knowing what position to play in and which finger to use takes years. But we all get there. Never give up and stay patient.

And if you have the attention, take a look at the scale rounds I posted in the Resources under Scales.  My goal was to write make scales that show note names, half steps, finger numbers, position number, etc. Beginners can look at the first 3 scales for each Scale Round, as those stay in first position. Check it out and let me know what you think, LearningViolin.

Posted: December 6, 2011

Jo, thanks for the info about the roman numerals.  I thought the III stood for third position.  I didn't know it designated the string. 

Posted: December 6, 2011
Bob, I have two millions things to say but I better 'restrain myself'

Posted: December 6, 2011
Learningviolin, please click on the 'clickable' link in my post below and you will get to a photo of a piece of music where I have marked a shift with a line, you can then see one way shifts can be marked :)

ps I took AGES to reply to your post as some 'goblins' took over violinlab this morning and my posts came out wrong EVERY TIME, now I am late for work, but I really really wanted to reply to you!!!! :)

Posted: December 6, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content


Posted: December 6, 2011

the answer to your question:

roman numerals are used to mark which string to play on.
I is for the E string, II is for the A string, III is for the D string, IV is for the G string.

Arabic numerals ('normal numbers') are for which finger we use.

Sometimes you can have alternative fingering in square brackets in some pieces, in some pieces you may see 'sul G' or 'sul D' meaning the composer would like you to play that passage on the G or D string but them you may find an 'editorial' suggestion in square brackets with roman numerals for playing it on a different string with arabic numbers which will be the fingering suggested for that alternative string, so basically the person 'editing' the piece is suggesting an 'easier' version for the player.  (I have this example in a book for Chanson the Nuit by Elgar).

As for shifting, this is not 'normally' printed in any formal way in sheet music, though teachers do mark it and violinist also do at times.  In sheet music you get the idea you may have to shift as if there is fingering on the sheet music and it has a 1 above the D instead of a 3 then is has to be in 3rd positions surely? or if you have 2 Ds and the first as a 1, the second as a 3 then obviously a shift has occurred :)

Teachers/students/players mark shifts sometimes and positions, they mark shifts with a line going up towards the right if it is an upshift and down towards the right if it is a downshift and they may write 1st/2nd/3rd above the point where they shift sometimes, people write 'all sorts of things' on their sheet music :)

I am about to post a 'snapshot' of one example of the 'very rare' occasions of how I might mark a shift, though it is VERY RARE I ever mark a shift :)

What Bob posted though he loves it to bits is not the normal/ordinary way that most people who learn with a teacher would learn.  It is a topic which should be discussed in another thread anyway and there is another thread separate from this so we should discuss it there I think....it is about 'stickers on fingerboard' and Beth does teach about these, but the way Beth teaches is different, and you can watch her video if you want.