The violin fingerboard is setup as a grid and the moving of the left hand from one position to another is what is known as “shifting.”

It is imperative to have an understanding of the positions before shifting. If you don’t know what or where 5th position is it makes it pretty difficult to accurately shift somewhere you don’t even know.   If you find yourself needing to shift to a position – not only practice the shift but practice in that position so you are familiar with the new lay of the land.

When I first started shifting, I know I loved the high notes on the E string. Now I am completely the exact opposite – I can’t get enough of my lusty G string.

I learned shifting fairly early in my violin journey. The teacher that first taught me shifting just went through the books really and never seriously dissected shifting or taught me how to listen to the pitches I was shifting to and from. Books are great, but honestly if you play through the books without having truly learned the concepts – what good is that but really a waste of time and money for those lessons.

Never underestimate the importance of shifting and shifting properly. Shifting to higher positions without knowledge or a good foundation can set you up for catastrophic failure and inconsistent intonation.

Below are 11 Tips for shifting to improve your shifting journey.


  • Use a Tissue

    In some cases, When I introduce shifting to a student I use a tissue. This helps the student have a feeling of polishing the strings with the finger when moving up and down the instrument and encourages a relaxed feeling. I had one teacher compare it to jumping of a diving board. That analogy didn’t really work for me but hey if it works for you great! What he was trying to describe was the feeling of a solid finger playing a note then the releasing motion after the note is played to begin the shift and landing solid again on the new pitch.

  • Stay RELAXED

    Do not strangle the instrument. It is Impossible to shift with tension. The tension is actually creating friction on the instrument making it difficult to shift smoothly. If you find this happening use a tissue and investigate your thumb. Is your thumb gripping the instrument? If so practice shifting without the thumb and then slowly bring him back into the picture. When you feel tension in your thumb do what I call the thumb dance. Take your thumb away from the instrument and wiggle it around.

  • Start SMALL

    Start from shifting first to third – easy enough exercise. Play B and D on the A string in first Position. Really listen to the Pitch D, hear it in your head and then shift from B to D with first finger.

  • Teamwork

    Have the Arm hand and fingers work as a team. Don’t just shift up with the finger and leave everone else behind. It is all about teamwork.

  • Siren or Tornado Exercise

    My students love this exercise because they could annoy their parents or brothers and sisters. This exercise works for all levels. First it encourages practicing the shifting motion with teamwork. Start with any finger in first position and just shift up and down sounding like a siren. For Intermediate Level – Know exactly what position you are shifting to and vary positions, fingers and strings. Advanced level – DOUNIS 🙂


    Keep an Eye on that Left Elbow – Let your elbow help you maneuver around to the higher positions. Bring it under the instrument to have easier access to higher positions

  • Always know WHERE YOU ARE

    I can’t emphasize this enough – Always know what position you are shifting from and to.


    Always HEAR the new pitch in your head before shifting to it. You will seriously be surprised at how quickly this improves your intonation accuracy in shifting.


    Be a posture inspector. Inspect your and, thumb, arm – are they truly in the correct position. It is very easy after shifting not to know where you are in the posture department. So INSPECT. When shifting to seventh ask yourself “Am I truly in this position?” When shifting back to first again ask yourself”Am I truly in first?” Inspect your thumb that he is truly in the new position. This can be a GAME CHANGER in the intonation department let me tell you!!! This simple fix can change many intonation problems.


    Practice Shifting down the instrument as much as up. So much time is spent on shifting up. Have you ever started from seventh position and practice shifting down? When practicing shifting don’t neglect the downshifts 🙂


    When isolating shifting in piece work make sure to practice the shifts fast. This is a different and difficult concept but just because the piece may be slow you still need to get to the new position just as cleanly without slides in most cases so the shift needs to be practiced fast.

If I had to narrow this all down in three SECRETS:

1. Always HEAR in your head the pitch you are shifting to.

2. TRULY BE in the position – new or old.

3. KNOW where you are going at all times.

Kind of sounds like life doesn’t it – Listen, Be and Know  Please share in the comments below what tip are you going to implement in your shifting journey.

Searching for an exercise book dedicated solely to same finger shifts?

Seamless Shifting Volume for Same Finger Shifts was written just for you! A Unique, one of a kind, completely thorough exercise book with every shift from first thru seventh position on every string. 128 pages for your shifting pleasures.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
What are your favorite shifts and what are your least favorite shifts?

Happy Shifting,

Love this blog post? Want a copy to keep on your music stand?

Get your 100% Downloadable and Printable PDF here. Excellent resource for teachers.


with violinist, Heather Broadbent.

Traditionally it can take 3 years to learn what is taught in this immersion in 8 weeks.


Discover more here.

Heather is a classically trained concert violinist performing with the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra in Bulgaria. She received her BM violin performance degree from CU -Boulder, studied with top teachers including Rachel Barton Pine. Ms. Broadbent has held leadership positions with multiple orchestras in the Greater Chicago-Milwaukee area. She has instructed thousands of violinists globally via youtube videos, online Academy, E-Courses, group coaching and one on one intensives. Heather’s students have won multiple awards, concerto competitions, held concertmaster positions in orchestras and even performed in Carnegie Hall. Heather is an advocate of a holistic violin lifestyle – putting one’s mind, body and spirit as a violin journey priority.

Heather Broadbent


4 replies
  1. Marikoli
    Marikoli says:

    Thanks for this wonderful post about shifting! Lots of helpful tips! I should work on knowing where I am. Between 1st and 5th position I usually know where I am. It’s not so hard to know. But in higher positions I tend to not think of which position I’m in, I just play the notes. Sometimes my brain knows where they are and sometimes not, so definitely something to work on. 🙂
    I also love your tip about hearing the pitch before playing it. I’ve tried it and it really works!!

    • Heather Broadbent
      Heather Broadbent says:

      Hi Marikoli! Yes that tip was given to me at the University while I was studying my violin performance degree. I had my doubts at first and then voila…it worked like magic.

      You have set yourself up with such an excellent foundation in your position studies. I saw you finished the Master Fifth Position with Finger Patterns book. WOOHOO!!! Congrats! That is such an accomplishment.

      I do hope you study from the Second position series as well. Would love to hear your thoughts. It is a two volume series and I believe it is the most extensive collection of exercises for second position.

      Wishing you beautiful magical practices.xoxo

  2. Frances Colleen Villanueva-Asi
    Frances Colleen Villanueva-Asi says:

    Hi Heather! Thanks for the tips and very in-depth guides, blog posts, tutorials, and mini lessons that you give us about position and shifting. I’d say at this point in time you’re the online violin teacher who covers this topic the most. Practicing fast shifts is what I find the most helpful, which tends to slow down with a slow tempo if i am not careful 🙂

    • Heather Broadbent
      Heather Broadbent says:

      Thank you so much for following Frances. It is a pleasure seeing your progress.

      Keep up the great work on the fast shifting 🙂 It is tempting for all violinists to shift slow in slower tempi.

      Sending you tons of love and magical practice sessions.


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