The Shifting Exercise

This one is for the left hand. It’ll make you more accurate and secure in your shifts. The goal is Balance and Timing. When you shift positions, keep the hand-shape stable. Move the hand as a unit; stretched fingers or a dragging thumb would distort the hand and intruduce tension. KEEP THE STRING DOWN into the fingerboard as you shift, otherwise you’ll have to expend extra energy and time putting the string back down. This means that the finger which played the previous note is the one that presses the string down during the slide. J.B. vanDemark taught us this at The Eastman School.

This exercise can be used to practice shifts between every possible position. We’ll use positions 1 and 3 on the D string as an example.

The Shifting Exercise

Go through every combination of fingers: 1 to 4, 1 to 2, 1 to 1, 2 to 4, 2 to 2, 2 to 1, 4 to 4, 4 to 2, and 4 to 1. Make an audible portamento to keep the shift slow and controlled. Slide on the previous finger; this means that sometimes you shift to an audible intermediate note before the next finger goes down (grace notes). Keep the thumb behind the second finger at all times. Repeat each combination at least four times or until you feel secure and balanced in the shift.

Happy shifting!


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