Shifting refers to the hand smoothly moving up or down the fingerboard in order to play notes with the hand in a different position on the fingerboard.
When violin music is written in "1st position" or "3rd position," this refers to where the hand is located when fingers are placed on the violin fingerboard. Visit our Finger Placement page for interactive finger placement assistance.
The concept of positions and shifting is somewhat similar to an elevator traveling to different floors in a building. Most music for violin beginners is written with the hand in 1st position, where the hand remains closer to the scroll of the violin. Using the elevator analogy, music for beginning violinists generally requires the hand to remain on the 1st floor in 1st position to finger the musical notes.
In intermediate and advanced violin music, some of the notes require the violinist to move their hand up to a higher position on the fingerboard to play them. This means the hand shifts to a higher hand position such as the 3rd position. Using the elevator analogy again, it’s similar to the hand moving up in an elevator to the 3rd floor.
Although 1st and 3rd positions are the two most commonly used positions in beginning and intermediate violin music, there are seven regular positions utilized in violin playing, and for very advanced violin music, 8th and higher positions (note: advanced violinists are usually less concerned with positions, and more focused on selecting fingering that works well with particular passages of music). To view a chart of 1st - 7th positions, visit our Advanced Positions Fingering Chart.