Chords on the violin

1-Positions

Violin has 4 strings numbered from high (E string) to low pitch (G string> tuned by fifths . Each string range may extend to Two octaves (11th position )

There are classically 9 positions but only 7 are studied and currently used. Since violin range may reach 4 Octaves;one must exceed the 9th position to reach the very high G.This or these extra positions; according to the handl;is generally reserved to the higher string (E) but this is not an hard and fast rule

On the 4th string f (G ) the Eolian scale (A B C D E F G) for reference; the index finger, placed on each degrees, set position of the hand on the neck of the violin
In each position the combinaison of the index finger on a string and the 4th finger on the next strings frame an octave span yielding a 10th on four string due to extension of the fourth finger(upwards ) or of the index finger (downwards).

Inside a position, fingers may be in square or extend positions allowing to play all intervals.

The Eolian scale reference never occurs in method that read « the first finger take the place of the second or third finger » -Nevertheless examples are Do Maj at least in french book.

The above figure show the difficulty to describe a system valid on all strings.
Old french method included an extra position named « Demi position » half a tone lower than the first position (all the hand move backwards while extension of index finger in first position affects only the finger)

Demi-position should not be mixed up with the Léopold Mozart’s « Half positions « which were our pair positions (2th-4th-6th).
His explanation clears up things.:Notes written on lines were customary played with first and third fingers and notes between lines used the second and fourth fingers.Half positions reversed the rule.

Sevcik’semi-tone system , specify that contiguous position might be a minor or a major second apart.
This is important in the choice of fingering and therefore of the timbre

Advantage of positions

Léopold Mozart give 3 reasons to use positions

Necessity:is the most evident reason:When the melody run past C5 ;the hand has to move up to play the higher notes

Convenience: Some melodic passages are easier to play with pair positions

Elegance:Especially in cantabile , whereopen string is to be banished and string crossing are avoided to keep equal sonority or timbre.

In « Ele gance » Change of position is to be taken into accountshifting may be silent gradual with shifting on a semi tone for example or by slide with two kinds
The glissando which is a succession of jerky slides with or without jerky bowing

The portamento is a sliding on a big intervalaccording to 3 techniques
The french school: The inger lead to the new position and another finger plays the note

The Russian school : The playing finger is the leading finger

Mixture Methode

Notation is the same wathever the method

2-Range of the violin

Theorical range of the violin is if Two octaves on each string ( 11ème position),


Nevertheless it is prudent not to overtake the 7th position that correspond to an interval of 11th on each string.

In a given position i.e when the 4 fingers are on a string, the cautious interval is the diminished fifth for the violin and the fourth for the viola.

It must be stressed that this intervals are easier to play high position since distance between finger is smaller.

With two contiguous strings the interval of augmented fourth/ diminished fifth become a mino ninth mineure.(for the orchestra). For soloist the range may extand to a 10th or more to the detriment of good sound. )

Caution: The perfect fifth is not really perfect in upper ranger

3-Doubles stops

A-The first combination consists of an open string and a stopped note either above or below

Either in a fixed position

or with change in position

la melody is fully played on the D string

2-Doubles stops

B-The second combination has
either an hold note in a part

or an extension au the fourth finger.

C-The third combination is made of simultaneous movement of fingers

same thing for sevenths,octaves, and minor ninths but those intervals are very difficult when the upper note reach D6

Lower limit and upper approximative cautious limit


Legato adds a difficulty those intervalles

Doubles stops:(cont…)

Classification of intervals sorted by increasing difficulties

  • of intonation
  • of technique

-4 Chords with 3 or 4 sounds :

2 facts has to be pointed out

  • The impossibility to stop more than 2 strings with the same finger
  • The maximum spreading of the first and fourth fingers that covers a diminished fifth or a sixteenth on four strings

This can be seen by placing a finger on each string.

Violonists will recognize the mirror of the Geminiani’s grip;a valuable method to correctly place the fingers and elbow in double stops execution

4-Chords with 3 or 4 sounds

For 3 or 4 sounds chord ; difficulty is proportional to the number of involved fingers
Open strings must be prefered when possible for good sounding of chords

4:Chords With 3 or 4 sounds

Arpeggios fluidize the fingers combination in block chords (plaqués).

When a fifth with a common note (A-E and E-B )occurs in a chord the finger stops two strings with a small displacement ,which is unsuitable to intonation.
.-Arpeggio enhances intonation thanks to fingers substitution (in 2 )

Our modern bows do not allow to play more than 2 or 3 strings simultaneously and therefore chords are more or less arpeggiated according to place of the bow ‘near the bridge or sul taste but then the sound is different.


Caution with 4 sounds Chords:Polyphonies  imply a stylistic choice for the artist.

  • Play the bass note before the beat so that higher notes are on the beat
  • .Favor the bass note played on the beat
  • attack the chord from the higher notes  with the same options (before or on the beat)) .

It might be useful to write an accent on the principal note.

Chords on the beat is best obtained by writing no more than 3 notes per chord and every chord down bow

When writing double stops;melodic rules of counterpoint must be kept in mind since poor melodic interval is difficult to play and badly sounds