William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

How to Shift on the Violin

How to approach shifting on the violin

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick approaches the basic aspects of shifting on the violin, with an example taken from the violin repertoire: the Zigeunerweisen by Pablo de Sarasate.

Released on June 4, 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, and welcome to Virtual Sheeting Music.com's Meet the Expert. My name is William Fitzpatrick and I am the Henri Temianka professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music which is located at Chapman University. I am as well Director of MusiShare at Irvine, California.

Okay, let's talk a bit about shifting or shifts. First, why don't we look at the possibilities? Let's see, we could shift from one finger to the same finger. We could shift from one finger to another finger. And we could shift from a higher finger to a lower finger, which will either be with the same finger or another. In these examples there are constants, which make up the choreography of the shift. You could have the weight, or pressure if you wish, of the shift, and the speed pattern used in the shift.

So let's talk about the weight distribution of the shift. I believe the following to be true in pretty much all of those possibilities, which is the pattern of distribution is more, less, more. More weight, less weight, more weight. So when the finger is down, there is more weight; when it's released, less weight, then down again, so more weight.

Now, the amount of weight while the finger is down is totally dependent on the nature or character of the passage being played. This is true as well with speed. In talking about the speed, one observes that the general movement of the gesture is slow, fast, and slow. One could even say more, less, more. Slow, fast, slow.

Looking at these two items along with the movement of the elbow and subsequently the wrist will help us to discover the choreography of the gesture.

There is one final observation concerning the use of the elbow in getting around the instrument. When you're going from a lower position to a higher position and staying there, the elbow must go under the violin. When you go and return to the original starting position, the elbow stays where it is.

For example, when you go from an E on the A string to the harmonic E found above, and come back and keep playing, the elbow stays put. An example for this is The Third Movement of Sara Santa's Zigeunerweisen.

The elbows stay put. In that same passage, however, we go up on the E string and we stay there. So the difference being for one I had to come back; the elbow stayed where it was, and the elbow had to go under the violin.

Well that's it for this video. If you have any questions, comments, or special requests please feel free to post them. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Joseph on August 25, 2014 @3:11 pm PST
I got a problem which is about shifting from higher postion to lower position. Sometimes when i play fast pieces, i will shift the position by having my fingers placed on the fingerboard first and then followed by the thumb because i afraid i cant play the notes on time. I dont know if this is correct because many said that the thumb and the others shoud be treated as same unit and shift together. actually i can do it in slow pieces but seems a bit delay if i do it in fast pieces. So should i practice shifting by having my thumb and others move together no matter what the tempo is? Hope u can help me thx a lot! (sorry about my bad english)
William on August 26, 2014 @11:23 am PST
Hi! Great question, in fact I will do a more in depth look at shifts in the videos to come! I am of the camp that says the hand moves as one part, that the thumb and fingers move together, no matter the tempo! Consider your elbows role in the carrying of your fingers to their destination ... hope that this helps, there will be more to come!
Joseph on August 27, 2014 @4:41 am PST
Ohhhh thx so much for the explaination! and i think i need to practice more then~How about if the fast piece contains only a few notes which are needed to play in other position? I mean can i only just have my fingers CLIMB and then followed by my thumb or still need to have the whole hand moved?( from higher postion to lower) For example in the allegro part of Havanaise~Sorry for my bad English again...My point is only servval notes which needed to play in other position and in a fast tempo~cos it seems a bit inconvenience for me if i need to move my whole hand for only just two or three notes...Hope u understand my question, thx so muchSmiley Facebtw cant wait for the in-depth video:D
shaboz * VSM MEMBER * on July 16, 2014 @5:18 am PST
Dear prophesore,
how to do/practice a vibrato? I've been told that there are more then one way to do vibrato.
William on July 17, 2014 @3:46 am PST
Hi and thanks for the response! I will do a video about this as it is a big discussion!!! Thanks!
Jeremy on June 18, 2014 @7:19 pm PST
Thank you for your video series Professor Fitzpatrick.
I am a returning Violin student. I played from the time I was 4 until 12. I tried playing again in College but could not juggle the schedule. Now in my 30's I am starting to practice again. Fortunately alot of it is starting to come back. But I need some ideas to get over tightness or tenseness. I seem to have issues not squeezing too hard with my thumb and hand on the neck of the violin (Which makes shifting hard) and my shoulder gets sore after only 20 minuets or so of practicing. I can't seem to relax them correctly. Any suggestions on how to improve this?
William on June 21, 2014 @3:37 pm PST
Hi and thanks. A lot of what you are asking is addressed in my "In Search Of: A Guide to Violin Excellence" book, which can now again be downloaded at no charge from the following link: http://www.musishare.net/

I hope that this is helpful!
Kathleen Barry * VSM MEMBER * on June 4, 2014 @9:32 am PST
What do you think about the base of the hand touching the bout of the violin in 3rd position (which makes the fingers more bent) and the base of the hand touching the bout in 5th position (with the fingers forming more of a rounded approach? My students are just learning these positions so aren't advanced players.
William on June 5, 2014 @11:20 am PST
Well if I understood your question correctly, the answer is in the photo above as this is what I do and teach if a student has large hands as I do... its really depends on hand size! Thanks for the question!
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