Recently, I have been working on playing better in higher positions across the strings, only to come to the realization that to play better in the higher positions, you must have an understanding of the fingerboard geography in the parallel lower position.

For instance, when in sixth positions on the A string, you are playing the same notes with the same fingers as in second position on the E string. Seventh position and third position are also parallel in this manner. When playing pieces in the lower register of the instrument but in these high positions, you should check to see how much of it can be practiced in the corresponding lower parallel position. The parallel for fifth position is first position, but you must play with 4th fingers.

When doing extensive position work, even numbered positions are particularly tricky for violinists and violists. The way we learn to read music may be the reason for this difficulty. Second, fourth, and sixth positions require that the notes on spaces in the staff are on fingers 1 and 3 and notes on lines of the staff are on fingers 2 and 4. In first position, the opposite is true. Third position and fifth position are easier positions to read because they follow the first position rule.

Practicing the lower positions allows the hand to be more comfortably. Once the fingerings are learned, it will be easier to apply this to the higher position with the somewhat more compact finger spacing and arm placement for high positions. Changing to a higher position and moving down a string is not a problem if the fingering has been put into muscle memory by the hand in the lower position.

In the Fiorillo Caprice No. 22, there are large sections that can be practiced in the lower positions in order to check for understanding. Once the written fingerings have been mastered in third and second positions, they may be taken up to seventh and sixth position.

Go to IMSLP for the Fiorillo Caprices for Violin.