FOR CELLISTS: AMATEUR, ASPIRING ............... AND CURIOUS

Same Finger Shifts

Here, the shift distance corresponds exactly to the musical interval.

These are the most basic, fundamental and useful shifts. In fact, all shifts are basically “same finger shifts”. Assisted Shifts and Scale/Arpeggio-Type Shifts are just Same-Finger Shifts with an added complication: fingers are put down and/or taken off somewhere along the way, either before, during or after the shift. Because same finger shifts are the basic building block of all shifting, we need to work on them a lot. Scales using only one finger are the most basic and most useful tool for learning and improving shifting technique, but arpeggio intervals are even better for building strength because they have to resist the greater drag (friction) of the longer shifts. See below for practice material for this skill.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LOWER FINGERS

The “lower” fingers (using standard finger notation of 1,2,3, and 4) are especially important for shifting and positional sense. In fact the lower the finger is, the more important it is. There are several reasons for this:

1. The lower the finger, the closer it is to the thumb and to the central axis of the hand and arm. The ring shape formed by the thumb and first finger is not only our main positional reference for the left hand and arm but also constitutes the main structural support for the whole hand. This frame needs to be particularly strong and stable.
2. It is the lower fingers that are almost always in contact with the fingerboard. When we are using a higher finger, the lower ones are still usually touching the fingerboard whereas when we are using a lower finger, the higher ones have to be moved away from the fingerboard.
3. The lower the finger, the more often it is used for intermediate notes in assisted shifts and scale/arpeggio shifts.

Ascending scale shifts on one string provide a very good example of the absolutely fundamental importance of our shifting skills on the lower finger. Even though the finger choreography goes from a higher finger to a lower finger, the shifts are basically just same-finger shifts on the lower finger (most commonly the first finger). Therefore a prerequisite for good fluent secure scales on one string is the optimal functioning of these arpeggio-interval shifts on and to the first finger.

Click on the following links for some very efficient practice material to develop first finger shifting strength and security:

First Finger Arpeggio Shifts: Minor Thirds (no extns)         First Finger Arpeggio Shifts: Fourths (no extns)

We can also develop the shifting strength of our fingers by practicing exercises that shift “to” the finger, not just “on” it. But in order for this to be effective we will need to do the slide on the new finger (rather than articulating it on arrival). Upwards scales (see above example) and arpeggios not only need great base-finger strength, they also are good at developing it, for example:

Or, another example:

SHIFTING EXERCISES IN DOUBLE-STOPS FOR DEVELOPING EXTRA STRENGTH?

We might think that double-stopped shifting exercises would be even better for developing strength because the hand has to work so hard. While this is true for the hand as a whole, it is however not true for each individual finger, because in double-stopped shifts the “load” is shared between the two stopping fingers. Try the following exercises to test this idea for yourself:

Same Finger Doublestop Minor 3rds

SHIFTING EXERCISES IN EXTENSION FOR DEVELOPING EXTRA STRENGTH?

We might also think that exercises involving shifting on the extended first finger would also be good for building strength, because once again, the hand has to work so hard. For a small hand however, shifting on the extended first finger is simply so unergonomic that it it is like lifting weights in an unbalanced posture. Yes, this is definitely hard work, but not only does it not actually help to create core strength but it can in fact be ergonomically dangerous (possibility of over-strain and injury). This is why none of the exercises suggested above use the extended position. Try the following exercises to test this idea for yourself:

First Finger Arpeggio Shifts: Fourths (always with extns)