Lora Staples - beginning violin and fiddle expert

A Simple Approach to Violin Shifting

A simple, yet effective, approach to shifting on the violin.

In this video, Lora gives you an easy and effective approach to violin shifting. If you are a beginner and want to approach shifting in a simple way, this is the right video for you.

Released on November 5, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. I'm Laura with Red Desert Violin, and I'm here today for virtual sheet music to give you an introduction to shifting. The most common shift in violin playing and the first one I learned, and I think the first one that most beginners learn is how to get from first position to third position because that's the most useful shift when you're first getting up into those higher positions. Going from first position to second position doesn't really benefit you that much. It only gives you one more note. It only gets you one note higher, so by going from first position to third position, it just gives you a little bit more real estate by shifting from first position to third position.

So how do we shift? Well, your left hand needs to be free. You need to be free from supporting your violin with your left hand. Whether you use a shoulder rest or no shoulder rest, at the point of shifting, your left hand has to be free to let go and move because if you're clutching, especially shifting down, you're going to move your whole violin away from you body. So I don't like to teach how to do it without a shoulder rest because I'm not an expert. But I think people who play without a shoulder rest, they support a little bit more with their shoulder and they growl a little more with their chin while they're shifting. And then once the shift is complete, then they're free to do whatever it is they do.

If you use a shoulder rest, it's a whole different matter. You should be free at all times. You should be able to drop your hand at any time without warning and have no fear that your violin will drop. So let's assume that you've taken care of that housekeeping tidbit of freeing your left hand from squeezing and tension and clutching and supporting the violin.

Let's talk about the mechanism of the shift. What happens is the thumb and the fingers slide up together. I'm showing you with a first finger because that's what I'm going to be demonstrating with you. We're going to go from a first finger to a first finger slide or shift. And so those two fingers slide exactly together. Now, that doesn't mean, if you start shifting from a second finger, that doesn't mean your thumb goes up to second finger and slides. No, it does not mean that. Your thumb stays in its normal place where you normally put it on the neck, regardless of what finger you're shifting with. All I'm saying is that it shifts exactly at the same rate as your hand.

And to explain why I'm making a big deal out of this, let me show you the wrong way of doing it. A lot of people like to shift their hand and then scoot their thumb up later. Or the less common problem is people try to get their thumb up there and then they crawl their hand up. And both of those are wrong. You want to slide the whole mechanism up. Okay?

So let's learn how to shift from first position to third position. And we'll start on the E-string. I'm using my violin with tape so you can see what notes I'm playing. Let's pretend we're going from F sharp to A. So to encourage a smooth shift, what I tell my students is go ahead and make a slurp, but make it beautiful. So we're going to go and then we shift that down. Okay? So try that. That's the very first step of a shift. It's audible. You can hear a big slide but it's beautiful. And there's no lurches or jerkiness. Most people try to shift too fast. Slow your shift down and make it beautiful.

I'm not used to having these tapes on. Okay? So to avoid jerkiness and to increase your left hand's relaxed sensation, release the pressure of your index finger just before you slide. I wish I could show you the pressure. My fingernail is white right now. But before I shift, I'm going to make it totally relaxed. So it's like you can see the string. You let the string up. See, I've got the string depressed. When I shift down, I'm going to release. I'm going to glide just on the surface of the string to my new note. I'm not going to keep the pressure down and make a big old gliss. That's totally different. I'm going to make a ghost slide. Let's call it a ghost slide. Ghost. Now I'm doing a super advanced ghost slide. And that's what you want to practice getting to.

First, just make a nice, loud slide. But make it beautiful. So you're going F sharp, A, A, A, F sharp, F sharp. And the bowing is kind of important because I'm teaching you how to shift in the same bowing. It's easy to shift on a bow change. That's easy. I want to teach you how to shift within a slurred note because that'll give you a lot more benefit. Okay?

So relax your left hand, and then before the shift, release all pressure and do your little gliss to the new note, then press the note down. When you're shifting down, you have to be extra relaxed, otherwise you're going to get the feeling that you're pulling your violin away from your body, and that's an insecure feeling. If you need to, when you're shifting down, press a little bit more with your chin than you normally do. Just if you need to. Okay?

And I think that's a good starter for your shifting. Just going from F sharp to A, that is the interval of a minor third. Eventually, we have to learn how to shift a major third, so we go from a low one. So that's a little sneak preview. And then, of course, we'll work on shifting one to one, two to two, three to three, four to four. That's what I call single finger slides or shifts. Sorry. And then we learn how to shift from one finger to a different finger. And that's what I call two finger shifts such as this. One to two. And those are especially fun.

Okay? So what you're developing by doing this simple, first finger shift is you're developing the ability to have a relaxed slide up and down the neck of the violin. And you're learning how to do it in one bow stroke. All right? That should give you a little bit to work on until the next time. Thanks for watching. Post your questions below, and I'll see you in the next video.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Eileen Sephton * VSM MEMBER * on February 17, 2016 @2:46 am PST
Thanks, Laura, useful tips, particularly in shifting in a slurred bow. To help in getting into the right position for the note,I start by shifting on the last note of a one octave D major scale on the A string.
. * VSM MEMBER * on April 12, 2015 @11:24 am PST
Thanks Lara! I appreciate you taking the time to do these wonderful tutorials.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on April 13, 2015 @9:48 am PST
You are most welcome! It is my pleasure to present these videos!
Prakash Mangalat on November 26, 2014 @5:15 pm PST
Thank you.........you have made it very easy and spimple.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on November 29, 2014 @9:17 am PST
Glad you found it helpful!
Seun Akin-Ajayi on November 20, 2014 @9:12 am PST
Thanks ma, your session is so insightful.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on November 21, 2014 @2:59 pm PST
I am glad you found it helpful! Keep up the good work!
Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on November 5, 2014 @9:36 am PST
really well done, I too teach an "audible" or glissando shift (at first) and the kids love having permission to do that ;0)
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on November 9, 2014 @1:23 pm PST
Hi Cheryl! It's nice to meet a fellow teacher! Oh yeah, kids will take that and run with it.....and thankfully, it actually BENEFITS them!
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