William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Understanding Thirds

Learn how to best approach thirds on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about thirds, and what you can do to play them better.

Released on December 6, 2017

Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
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 you see, all through Juilliard, I really had a problem with playing thirds or, perhaps, what I should say, the problem playing thirds in tune. I really didn't understand how to make the distance that was, certainly, orally discernible, you know.

Become physically visible, you know, so that I can see it. I mean, I knew one was larger and one was smaller which corresponds to major and minor. But it all seemed so arbitrary to me at the time. So I gave up asking, "Why?" and just tried to do my best practicing really hard...and just try to remember how close or far away the notes were from each other. Now, this I admit was not the most in-tune experience that I had, that I ever had on the violin.

So with that in mind, why don't we dive into the world of major and minor thirds. Let's see if we can make them less arbitrary: a bit more visible, a lot more in tune.

So first, why don't we use our understanding of my fingering board to help us visualize where thirds lie on the fingerboard.

If you needed a more general understanding of the fingering board, see my video called "How to use my fingering board."

Let's look at the notes G...on the D string, and B natural...on the A string. So what we have is a major third. And see what happens when we put that major third onto one line. So what was once on two strings is now turned into one. It's like going from 3d to 2b. Obviously, it works like that the other way around as well.

So what do we see when we do this? Well, it shows us that the pattern is a half-step and a whole step. So if I use my first, second, and third fingers, it would look like this, that is, if it were on one string.

Now, to do the major third, I simply pull my first finger over to the A string like this. Or if I wanted to do a minor third, first off, it would create a pattern of two whole steps which would look like this. And again, I would pull my first finger over to the A string producing that minor third. So major third...Minor third...

As I'm sure, you can see now, it is important to understand that we are building the third, that major or minor third around the second finger when using our first and third fingers. If we were using our second and fourth fingers, all will be built around the third finger.

So you see, understanding my fingering board helps us to visualize how to construct major and minor thirds using the fingers one and three or two and four. So knowing this, why don't we have a look at some of the aid tools that focus on thirds.

Oh yes, I do have my students do chromatic scales, you know...Like Yost, one octave playing minor...and major thirds. I do this so that they can really see the distance between the second finger and the first or second finger and the third. Or that they can see it between the fourth finger and the third and the third finger and the second, you know, one and three or two and four.

All right, so let's start by looking at Dont's opus 37, number 19. First of all, the F natural...in the first third...Well, let's use it to figure out the placement of fingers one and three in the next third which is G...and B flat. How does one do that? Well, you see, the third finger, G natural...is a whole step away from the second finger, F natural...And the first finger, B flat, is what I would call, as well, a whole step away from the second finger, F natural...The distance is what I'm referring to, not...the interval of the fourth.

Pretty much, all of these thirds can be located in the same manner, even with the second and fourth fingers as it would be the third finger that one would use to locate the position of the second and fourth fingers.

So now, we've looked at how to locate these thirds, perhaps, we should now look into how to finger these thirds.

Looking at these notes, traditionally, they've been fingered as follows...But I suggest that the following fingering in some cases would render better fluidity, better accuracy here, I'll show you. Let's do 2-0...3-1...3-1...4-2...2-0...So why don't we have a look at some applications to this fingering? Why don't we look at Kreutzer number 33?

So you see, instead of doing the fingering 2-0-3-1-2-4-3-1-4-0, or 2-4, doing the fingering 2-0-3-1-3-1-4-2-4-2 is much more efficient. You see, it offers much better accuracy, much better-controlled pitch.

Well, looks at the descending passage and measure 16 or measure 20, one can see how the use of these two fingering approaches can produce obvious advantages. So with that discussion on thirds, my name is William Fitzpatrick. And I'm the Temianka 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, Director of the MusiShare Young Artist Program which is located in Costa Mesa, California.
Automatic video-to-text transcription by DaDaScribe.com
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Owen Mellow * VSM MEMBER * on February 3, 2021 @9:06 am PST
Do you have tips on how to play thirds?
Linda Ford * VSM MEMBER * on December 6, 2017 @4:53 am PST
A lovely presentation. Thank you.
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.
Norton Shopping Guarantee Seal