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Problem Reading Sheet Music
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New member
March 24, 2018 - 4:20 pm
Member Since: March 24, 2018
Forum Posts: 1
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Hello Guys I have been facing a big problem which has been bugging me recently. I play the violin as a hobby and currently I am learning the 3rd and 5th positions. I can read the sheet notation written in 1st position easily (I know the positions of each finger in that position) but when the positions change that intuition of where to put my fingers gets jumbled up. Actually the teacher who had been teaching me used the finger numbers for each note rather than the letter which worked fine for 1st position but as I am playing higher positions I am automatically thinking of the finger number hence trying to play those notes in 1st position. How can I overcome this. Also my another problem is that I cannot instinctively say what note I am playing actually I am associating the notes as numbers rather as alphabets which is why say I can play B on G string then C on A string easily in 1st position but when the position changes I cannot play it. I am very much frustrated as I cannot progress further.

Any help of what I can do to correct my mistakes is appreciated.



March 24, 2018 - 8:20 pm
Member Since: June 7, 2016
Forum Posts: 373
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 That's one of the major gotcha's of playing in higher positions. The other is the way all the notes are closer together than you're used to.

The answer, like it so often is, is scales.  If you count up from G (on the G string), you're at C.  So play a C scale, slowly, and both look at musical notation and say the name of the note to yourself as you start it. Play slowly enough that thinking of the next note is not hard to do in that much time.

The pattern is just like you play in 1st position, except the first finger takes the place of the open string, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers do what the 1st, 2nd and 3rd one would do in 1st position. This will take a little getting used to, but it has the advantage that it will work anywhere on the fretboard, so you only have to learn it once.

From the first finger (playing C in the G string, aka 3rd position) being the first note, play the next three notes of the scale, both reading the music, and saying the note to yourself (D, E, F, etc). Once you've played the fourth finger, go to the next higher-pitched string. If you've started on G string, you can play two octaves with no trouble, but I'd start out just playing one.

There's a pattern to where you put your fingers. One the first two strings (the G and D, in this example), you'll play the first note with the index finger, then two half-steps up to play the second note (with the second finger), two more half-steps for the 3rd, and 1 more for the fourth. That 2-2-1 pattern repeats on the 2nd string (assuming you have the first finger on the top note for that string). It shifts to 2-1-2 for the 3rd and 4th strings, if you're playing a double octave.

Once you're comfortable with the C scale, shift over to the D string and do the same thing with it. The notes (G, A, B, C, etc) will be the same as the G scale has always been, but the finger pattern will be identical to what you were doing on the G and D strings for the C scale.  Same thing on the A string. You'll be playing the D scale (F# and C#) but the finger pattern will be the same. The E string, of course, will only have the first 4 notes (no next string to go to).

You might find it useful to play that same pattern in first position. That may help you relate what you're doing to what you're used to. You won't use the 1st finger (it's an open string), but otherwise, it's the exact same pattern.  

my own little world

March 24, 2018 - 8:30 pm
Member Since: July 23, 2015
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This is something I did to myself as I was starting out to help make it "easier" (I did it because I have a tendency to read things out of order, so my brain kind of jumbles the whole letter/finger thing). I knew the notes if I thought about it, but never read them as the note if I was sight-reading. I can't say that I think of the note when I sight read a new tune, but I don't think of the finger anymore, either, I just play. 

But, I had to work my way out of the finger as the dot on the page thing on my own, like you will. Only way to do it is when you are working your first position scales to start thinking, or saying out loud, the note while you play it. It'll take a little time to work your way out of that habit, but it's possible. That's when 3rd position will make more sense to you. Knowing the note you are playing makes it a lot easier.

However, it's not a super bad crutch to note reminders on your sheet as you are getting used to the new positions (my teacher is against the whole finger number notation thing, but would do a couple reminder notations on the harder shifting exercises, I think the very beginning of the book had the notations here and there already), until you get used to which note goes where in the new position, but in the end it is easier (at least for me) to know the note.

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Sacramento, California

March 25, 2018 - 3:28 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1445
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Naming notes is really only an intermediate step in learning to sight-read. At some point, it needs to become automatic, without thinking about what the note is.

This is what practicing scales is for. When you've practiced scales enough, and you're able to play them at fast enough speeds, you can look at the key signature and your finger placement becomes automatic because you're thinking in that scale and placing your fingers in a familiar pattern. At that point, you only have to worry about accidentals.

When I sight-read in higher positions, I tend to think of only a few reference points: the open string, a 4th above it (1st finger in 3rd position), and a 6th above (1st finger in 5th position), and only think about how far I am above a familiar reference point. Even though I try to keep a consistent hand frame which puts me in some named position, half the time I'd have to stop and think to tell you what position I'm in. When it comes to hand frame, what comes into my mind is finger position patterns starting from 1st finger, which have mostly been drilled by seeing those patterns repeatedly in scales/etudes/repertoire.

Fort Lauderdale
March 26, 2018 - 9:27 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 16063

@DankLegend - This is normal and typical. You need to learn fingering (number relations) in the new positions and time will solve this the best. It's like learning a new language but not really. ;)

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