What is a shift?
Different violinists will have their own definitions of shifting, but Zhou’s is the following:“Shifting is the means by which you can go through a phrase across the fingerboard withouthearing that one is navigating in that way.”A shift includes both the note being shifted from and the note being shifted to. The interval of theshift, and the intended result (expressive slide or not) are highly important.
Thirds are a great platform to develop a balanced hand frame – if you can shift thirds, you canlikely shift single notes without much effort. The standard fingering pairs for thirds are 3,1 and 2,4.There are exceptions, but these exercises won’t explore those.
In the first hand position, the sounding notes span a major third, but the fingers span a minor third(E on the second string up to C on the first string spans three half-steps if viewed from above.) Inthe next hand position (third position), the sounding notes span a minor third, but the fingers spana major third (G on the second string to E on the first string spans four half-steps.)
In shifting from E to G in the first two beats, all the fingers slide from first to third position, including those that aren’t on sounding notes. There is no set rule for how fast you should shift. However, the shift should begin slowly and gradually get faster just before you reach your destination. In this case, when Zhou is shifting a minor third from E to G, the shift is slow until it reaches F, where it speeds up to cover the remaining whole step.
Note that we’re only operating in the first part of the fingerboard for now. The elbow shouldn’tmove too much, primarily the forearm. The elbow should start moving, along with activation of thepectoral muscles, once you go above fourth position. Eventually, you’ll want to think of the curvethe left elbow traces as the hand extends from first to thirteenth position.
Watch all of Nancy Zhou’s Dounis Course on tonebase Violin!