Moving the hand with minimal friction while feeling every shift as a relaxed arm rotation is a core idea in the art of shifting. In the following video and post, Grigory Kalinovsky shares shifting and sliding exercises such as rotating the arm and fingers and sliding to new fingers.
Kalinovsky tries to think of shifts not as distances but as a reset. In the second movement of Strauss, for example, he’ll replace each shift with open strings. This gives him an opportunity to shake out and reset his hand so it returns to its most relaxed state. For the actual slide, create the same sensation but without lifting the fingers.
Practicing With Open-String Shifts
If you ever struggle with a shift, practice it first through open strings. This helps us build a stronger coordinate map of the fingerboard. One way we can practice this is with open-string shifts of various lengths, using any combinations of fingers we need:
As we shift through higher positions, the movement of the thumb is worth considering. Kalinovksy will play octave shifts through the entire range of each string and note where his thumb most comfortably wants to go. The thumb should feel that it’s slightly supporting the instrument, so don’t practice with the thumb away from the violin.
The angle of the thumb determines the spread of the fingers. In first position, the fingers have to stretch wider than any other position, so the thumb is farther back (image 1 below).
However, this isn’t always the most relaxed position for the thumb. The first thing that happens when shifting out of first position should be that the thumb moves to a more neutral place. Rather than be dragged behind, the thumb should move forward (image 2 below).
The thumbs should not move back when shifting to higher positions. Past fourth position, the thumb should remain in the nook underneath the body and the neck.
Another trick for slides to high positions is to think about the distance to your face. Shifting to the upper register simply means you’re moving closer to your face (think “cozy” rather than “fear”!)
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