Shifting & Positions
- When viola music is written in "1st position" or "3rd position," this refers to where the hand is located when fingers are placed on the viola fingerboard.
- Shifting refers to the hand smoothly moving up or down the fingerboard in order to play notes with the hand in a different position on the fingerboard.
- The concept of positions and shifting is somewhat similar to an elevator traveling to different floors in a building. Most music for viola beginners is written with the hand in 1st position, with the hand remaining closest to the scroll of the viola. Using the elevator analogy, music for beginning violaists generally requires the hand to remain on the 1st floor in 1st position to finger all of the musical notes.
- For some of the higher notes in intermediate and advanced viola music, it's necessary to move the hand up to a higher position on the fingerboard to play them. This requires the hand to shift to a higher hand position such as the 3rd position. Using the elevator analogy again, it’s similar to the hand moving up in an elevator to the 3rd floor.
- Although 1st and 3rd positions are the two most commonly used positions in beginning and intermediate viola music, there are seven regular positions utilized in viola playing, and for very advanced viola music, 8th and higher positions (note: advanced violaists are usually less concerned with positions, and more focused on selecting fingering that works well with particular passages of music). To view a chart of 1st - 7th positions, visit our Viola Fingering Chart.
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