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  • Writer's pictureBecca Longhenry

Shifting exercises for 3-octave scales

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

Access the shifting exercises for the violin here, or the viola here.

One of the points that I consistently impress upon my students is the idea of the first finger as an anchor, a reference point from which we build our intonation. We are always measuring whole steps and half steps up from the first finger, even with fingers that are silent.

Rather than focusing on numbered positions, I prefer to think of what pitch the first finger is on, and where the other fingers need to be placed according to the key. For this reason, I begin each shifting exercise with a one-to-one shift, first establishing the target pitch by playing it in the same position as the first finger (if possible), and then shifting to the target pitch. Sometimes, that's where the work stops!

For shifts to fingers other than the first finger and for descending shifts, there is more left to do. For these shifts, we first establish the first finger shift. The next step is to walk up one note at a time to the target pitch, carefully making sure that all of the whole and half steps in between first finger and the target pitch are beautifully in tune. Once the intonation is in place, we can begin placing those silent fingers as a group, even though we're still checking the first finger's location by playing it before the target pitch. Finally, we can leave out the first finger and play the shift in context.

In the exercises I have written out, the silent fingers are indicated by X note heads. The repeat signs are primarily an indication of where one step ends and the next begins, and do not mandate that each exercise be played exactly two times; please repeat each step until it is comfortable and accurate. Additionally, the repeat signs do not mandate that each exercise be played one after another without pause. Avoid mindless practicing by taking a moment to reflect after each repetition; what was successful, what was unsuccessful, and why?

Be sure to comment or send me an email if you find any errors in these files!

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