William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

How to Use My Fingering Board

Learn the best way to use your violin finger board

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick shows you how to optimize the use of your violin's finger board.

Released on June 7, 2017

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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

So, let's see. Back in 2014, I did a video, in fact, a series of five videos on achieving great intonation. In those videos, I spoke about my fingering board. I believe I even showed it to you. Well, it's been a while since then. So I propose that we have a deeper look at my version of the fingerboard, as I believe that it offers quite a few interesting possibilities beyond what I mentioned way back then. So here it is again. Let's have a look.

By the way, I made my first fingering board back in the '80s, in France, while teaching at the Conservatory Leroy in Paris. Well, when you look at it, I mean, it's fairly obvious what's going on, as each dot or circle represents the distance of one-half step from the other. In my latest version, that distance reduces itself as it gets higher and higher just like on the violin. So you see, it's a very simple concept, a very simple visual aid. So how exactly do I use this visual aid? Well, I start by connecting it to a scale. First, I create a chart using the degrees of the scale like this. And then, I divide those degrees into tetrachords like this. By dividing the scale into tetrachords, it resembles or mirrors the fingers on my left hand, which there are only four if you remembered. And by doing so, it describes visually the patterns used in scales. Here, have a look at a one octave major scale, A major.

One of the hidden values in learning scales is ways that the pattern can be moved around without the need of knowing exactly what notes are involved. But before the criticisms reign in...of course, one needs to know how many sharps there are in the key of the scale that you're about to play. What this idea or concept does, however, is to begin an idea, start us thinking about how exactly to use our physical memory as it represents physical distances, physical distances that we can see, that we can imagine.

So now that all of this has been discussed, yet again, let's look further. Let's look at an ascending three octave, B-flat major scale, and let's break it down into tetrachordal patterns. Oh, yes. Here, have a look at the fingering that I use. This fingering, of which there are four different types of fingerings, is basically used for any scale from B-flat above. Granted, we need to start on the G string for this fingering to always work. First, here are the notes on the G string. They form the pattern half step, whole step, whole step. Now, okay, that's that pattern here: half, whole, whole. Now, let's look at D string. We get this pattern: Whole, whole, whole. And on the A string, first we have on the bottom, whole, whole, half with a shift, and then we get whole, whole, whole. On the E string, we get whole, whole, half, except there's a shift. Whole-step shift and then whole, whole, half. Those are the patterns for that ascending scale for B-flat. Of course, using the same patterns, we can do D major. As I said, any, any scale above B-flat, that's just all in the G string. Now, descending on the B-flat scale, the fingering changes just a bit. We can either do four, four, three, two, one, three, two, one, or, four, three, two, one, four, three, two, one. So still the same whole, whole, half, whole, whole, half. So with all of this, we have a very fascinating, at least to me, way to look at the scale, the three octave scale.

But let's take it even further, even deeper. Let's have a look at double stops. First, let's look at 6ths. Here, have a look on the staff. Why don't we say an A and an F-sharp? This makes a major 6th. Or A to F-natural which would, of course, make a minor 6th. But a curious thing happens when we look at it on fingering board as this distance actually looks like a minor 2nd or a half step. You have to use your imagination. Or a whole step. It's with that leap, in my imagination that I can say that wherever I am, it's a half step or a whole step, but I'm talking about 6ths. Major 6ths, whole step. Minor, half step. Doesn't matter which fingerings. If I use two, three, whole step, half step. Wherever we are, whole step, half step. Looking at 6ths this way is even useful when looking at octaves. Is that distance of the first finger to the fourth finger is very overwhelming, at least in my mind. Then it can be very arbitrary as well. But if we use what we've learned with 6ths, it can help us determine just where to place our fourth finger as we can measure the distance from our third finger. You see, if I want to play an octave, say from a B to a B, here is my whole step. Even when my finger is off the string, I still can measure the distance, and that helps me to locate where to put my fourth finger while I'm playing the octaves. I can even tell whether it's out of tune just by looking. Here, I think that's better. So intervals can be measured using the fingering board in this way. It's almost like taking a 3D object and turning it into a 2D object.

But if we're going to talk about double steps, we really need to talk about 3rds. 3rds were, in fact, the starting point for this video, as when I tried to describe how I dealt with 3rds, how I measured the distance for playing 3rds, I kept coming back to my fingering board. So here we go. As you see, with 3rds, or shall I talk about the fingering, three, one...I don't know. For me, at least, I thought it very difficult to be exact with the distance between those fingers. You see, all my life, I tried to measure the distance for major and minor thirds using the two fingers that I used to play in the 3rds. I mean, that's what you do, right? It seems obvious. So I would try to figure out that distance from one to three. Well, one day it occurred to me that I was going about it all in the wrong way. Unfortunately, this happened a bit late in my life, but at least it happened. What occurred to me was the realization that I needed to determine distance for the 3rd finger with my middle finger, my 2nd finger. What I mean by this is that the distance between the 2nd finger and the 3rd, for this major third, is a half step. I can see that. I can then see that it's a whole step away from my 1st finger. I now have a way. I have the ability to measure what's happening inside that 3rd. I mean, if it were a minor 3rd, then we've got a whole step and a whole step. And if I use the fingers two and four or four and two, it's the same, as my 3rd finger allows me to measure the distance in the same way.

Okay, so another way to use my fingering board would be to do what I call mapping. Mapping is like finding a route from one finger to another over a large distance. Take, for example, this excerpt from Beethoven's "Romance" in F major. The one that goes from the open G to the F. So just how in the world do you find that F-natural from the G while playing the G? Well, I can think of a couple of scenarios. One would be to play the G. And now, at the same time, I'm going to go from the B to the D, the D to the F, and then it's only an octave away. How would that work? Here we go. Play the G. There's another way, too. I could play the G, and I can go from an F-natural to an A and a fourth away. That's C. This is what I call mapping.

Well, I hope this video is giving you a slightly deeper understanding of the possible uses of my fingering board, how I use my fingering board. Now, if you like my graphic and would like to have it, go to www.musishare.net/bills-fingeringboard. You can download it there. And so with that, my name is William Fitzpatrick. And I am the Tamianka professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. I am, as well, the artistic director of the MusiShare Young Artist Program, which is located in Costa Mesa, California.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Pamela Loomis * VSM MEMBER * on February 28, 2018 @8:27 am PST
the address for the fingeringboard does not recognize the term.
besides typing all the information I also did a copy/paste and neither worked.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 1, 2018 @8:20 am PST
Hi Pamela. I am sorry, but I don't understand what address you are talking about... could you please tell me more? I'll be glad to help you.

William - host, on March 5, 2018 @9:55 am PST
Hi! I inadvertently deleted the link! It has been restored or it can be found here now ... https://www.virtualsheetmusic.com/downloadsstatics/extras/Fingeringboard.pdf ... Thanks for letting me know!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on March 5, 2018 @11:00 am PST
Pamela, I now see what you mean... the link to Prof. Fitzpatrick's Fingerboard mentioned at the end of the video. It has just been restored:


Thank you for letting us know about that!
Lauren * VSM MEMBER * on June 28, 2017 @10:43 am PST
Would you discuss the overtone series?
William - host, on November 29, 2018 @10:43 am PST
Curious... in what sense? For me it is a part of the discussion on pitch? What exactly do you mean? Thanks!
Barry Conrad on June 7, 2017 @1:00 pm PST
Thank you so much for what you do Sir!! you are so helpful and informative
William - host, on November 29, 2018 @10:42 am PST
You are very welcome!
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