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Finding a note out of nowhere


MicaelaB
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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I haven't posted in a while. I sent in my college application a few weeks ago so I may have the time now to drop in more often.

Anyway, I'm playing a Beethoven quartet, 1st violin (it's one of the opus 18 quartets). There's a part in first position, three beats rest and then a sforzando in fifth position- a high D, 2 on the E string. I'm having trouble coming in exactly in tune. I try to hear the pitch before playing it but that doesn't seem to help my fingers very much. Now, I'm afraid I'm going to be out of tune and I don't come in strongly enough. Sometimes I'm in, sometimes I'm out and repeated practice isn't helping much so far. How can I find the pitch reliably?

Thanks for reading,

Micaela

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Hey, nice to know you're still alive (and well).

I went to a few university-level recitals in the past week and there's a trick used after long pauses that I've seen. They simply put the finger down very hard in a tentative spot (as close as possible to the real place) and the fainted sound it produces might be enough to distinguish the pitch, which you correct if need arises.

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OK. I use a known note (like 4th finger D in 3rd position) then silently shift the 2nd finger to where the 4th finger D was. Or, use the 3rd finger c# in 3rd position, shift up to first finger on the c# and the 2nd finger D is the half step. The shifts are done without the bow in performance, sometimes practiced with the bow in practice sessions to help nail the note.

Hope this helps.

Opus 18 Beethoven Quartets are wonderful, charming pieces.

Have fun!

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Tell me the number of the quartet please and I'll find out what I do (did).

Most likely, if you have any rest at all you can shift (very quickly and silently) something like 1 3 (first position) swap to 3rd pos. 1 3 swap to 5th pos. 1 semitone 2. first couple of times i did it it came out a bit sharp but once you know that.....hey, done!

OR.....you could practice the shift 1st on F# to 2nd on high D. (let the first 'lead' to c# - like a 'helping note') Once the fingers get used to the amount of travel from 1st to 5th position you should crack it but don't jump 'fingers free' at all!

how about an exact GPS for the bar?

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I once had a really high note to find out of nowhere very quickly and applied a small piece of clear tape to the side of the fingerboard. I got the note every time! Don't be ashamed to do this - think of guitarists - they have frets and markers! I was glad to hear that a whole orchestra once did a similar thing with a particularly tricky high note entry. They used a very conspicuous gold star!

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I have this same feeling of "total lost of direction" when I am on the 4th positions upwards, particularly on the E string. So what your problem is not totally on shifting.

Besides working on shifting, you may need to be more secure/sure on the 5th position. I found the Sevcik Op. 1 Bk 2 (Exercises in the 2nd to 7th Positions) to be helpful. Not only you increase the feeling of the interval frame, you are using a lot more of your brain to find awkward notes. That enhances memory a lot.

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My teacher always emphasizes shifting on the finger & string of the note that precedes the shift. When practicing slowly, sound that note, identify the interval it has to shift to get to the next position, slide up that interval into position (sound out the slide as well) and then place the next finger to play the note that's actually written.

I'm guessing you're doing the 4th of Op. 18 (awesome piece!) & this is measure 91 of the first mvmt... at least that's what comes to mind from your description. If that's the case, the previous phrase ends on the 3rd finger G on the d string, shift the third finger up a 5th to the D in 5th position on the same string. The fact that this is also the location of the open string's harmonic might also help...I find that I have a stronger feel for the location of the open string octave harmonics than the other notes up there. Once shifted, then place your second on the e-string and as others have suggested, what I call "tone-tapping" is useful too for double checking your accuracy

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Two skills will help you finger your way out of nearly any mapping problem, and they've both already been mentioned.

1. Being able to put any finger in the exact location of any other finger.

2. Having muscle memory for a two-string handframe octave in every position.

Even when sightreading, you can use these skills to feel your way through long runs, "blind" shifts, and oodles more.

It's assumed that anyone at your level can already recognize "straight across" note pairs, namely perfect fifths, Major ninths, and even the occasional Major 13th. Working knowledge of these and also of Major and minor sixths (whole- and half-step adjacencies) can be acquired within the confines of first position.

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You just have to know where the notes are. A good practice thing I do is to just drop my finger on the high end of the piano, then play that note with out preparation. Some people say that having perfect pitch helps, but that's a crock. I have it and I still play out of tune. You just need to practice playing waaay up there. Spend some time with Schradiak he'll fix you up

WORD!

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Here is something that you should know - and it may help you solve your problem:

On a violin which is correctly set up, you can find the note C# on the E string exactly in the place where the neck joins the instrument. Of course there are exceptions, and your violin may be one of those, but it will give you a reliable point of reference. Keep in mind that, as you look down the length of your fingerboard while playing, the angle is different, so your finger will look slightly lower than it actually is. With a little experimentation you will become good at finding it. Anyway, once you have located this note with the first finger, the second finger will find D easily.

This is just a quick fix for those that haven't time to develope a secure image of the fingerboard. It has rescued more than a few of my students from a tricky situation, I hope that it will help you too!

Regards,

Jerry

Conservatory of the Arts

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tc: the very one. You must know the Beethoven quartets really well (or have the score lying around).

More generally: Thanks for your help, everyone! I've printed out the whole thread and I'm going to try your suggestions out when I next practice.

Carlos: I'm thinking of the second page, 14 after the second ending. I'm not sure where you're talking about- could you give me a measure number?

I hope I'll be able to make the rest of my quartet happy on Tuesday. Thanks again.

Micaela

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I found the copy for BRUCH. (Bar 24 - finding notes!!)

The reason why this shift is notoriously difficult is because, despite knowing otherwise and teachers going on about it all the time, most players allow their fingers to leave the string therefore losing the geography of the fingerboard. The suggestion in my copy (and this is the same as has been demonstrated at many classes) is to practice this shift in bar 23........assuming you finish on fingers 2&1 work on shifting your second finger up the d string from g to d a fifth higher. This note is an easy one to find generally (because it's the octave harmonic etc) and because your second finger stays in contact you have a much more reliable gauge to work with. Once here the rest is easy because you are in position the high d is over two strings and a tone down from the second you've just found.

It ain't perfect BUT it's more reliable than lifting all the fingers off and expecting to find random notes in 6th position.

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