Reading Music and Shifting

Violin music is often annotated with fingerings that, amongst other things, indicate when position shifting is necessary.  Suzuki books do a lot of marking fingerings for beginners, but other scores do it too.  As I’ve progressed, I’ve gained more and more ability to do shifting on the fly – while it’s been slow going, as shifting has become less of a foreign concept I am starting to incorporate shifting into the musical details I can sight-read.

I spend a lot of time on my pieces, memorizing most of them and getting extremely familiar with everything about them – it’s the Suzuki way.  So I don’t really do a lot of sight reading except when brand new to a piece.  It’s only when I go back to old pieces I no longer have memorized that I get much practice on it.  In the Suzuki repertoire, there are optional fingerings – many passages provide teachers and students with multiple possibilities from which they can choose.  When I go back to play a piece that I worked on before gaining any proficiency with shifting, I’m now finding myself reading the fingering notations and shifting, even when I didn’t shift when I learned it the first time around.

These ad hoc revisions of the way I used to play a piece throw me for a bit of a loop – it’s not wrong, it’s just different, but it makes my memory of how to play the piece a bit more challenging to activate.  Generally, I’m just going back for fun to play old pieces through one time, but sometimes I’ll play them through a few times.  When I do that, I tend to revert to my old memorized fingerings after the first couple of play-throughs, regardless of the fingering annotations that appear more prominent in the score.

There are many bits of musical notation I cannot sight read at all and that I give little attention to – dynamics and accents, for example.  To my eyes, there can be a dizzying array of notation on musical scores.  But it’s fun to be adding to the list of things I can attend to on the fly, if only a wee bit.

Thanks for reading.




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