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Thread: What to call this position?

  1. #1
    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default What to call this position?

    Hi everyone,

    I’m just working out a piece in E minor. I’ve discovered (all by myself!) that playing D# (D string) with my first finger, E with my second, F# with my third and G with my fourth is so much easier and clearer. My question is: is there a name for this position? It’s below first position, and, as far as I know, we don’t have an ordinal below ‘first’. I know we now have a ‘zeroth’ fret, but this seems both wrong and clumsy. For the record, not getting a satisfactory answer will not mean the end of my mandolin-playing life; it’ll just be handy to say to students ‘move into … position for this passage'! Anyone?

    Gordon
    Last edited by gordonjackson83; Aug-20-2020 at 5:28am. Reason: Missing apostrophe!

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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Violinists call it "half position".

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    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Do they, by Jove? Well that seems acceptable! Thanks Jim.

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    You are using guitar fingering by what you say here, Gordon - i.e. one finger per fret rather than covering two frets per finger as is usual for mandolin playing. I would say you could call it open position or even first position as your first finger covers the first fret, etc. Let your srudents know they are switching to guitar fingering too for that particular phrase or phrases.
    Hope this might help.
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    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Hmm ... I don't think of it as guitar fingering (I don't play guitar, for one thing, or violin/fiddle), and I doubt a violin teacher would tell their students they are going to teach them guitar fingering! It's really just moving position one fret further down the neck and using the fingers that fall readily on the required notes. When I start with a new student I always drum into them the importance of using the 'correct' fingers, so it always comes as a bit of a shock when I show them something that uses different fingering, because usually we're working in G and D (and various modes with the same key signature) for which standard fingering is generally the best. Usually, this might just be for a couple of notes or a bar or two, but my question arose from my discovering an easier way to play in E minor. Standard fingering would require playing both D# and E with the first finger - clumsy and rather difficult to do at speed. 'Half position' seems to work better than 'guitar fingering' for me. Thanks though.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    In viola pedagogy half position is a big deal. I had never heard the term as a violinist, but violists are all over it. Good trick to know.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Sounds like you are playing a chromatic run. Fingering for those donít necessarily fall into set and named positions. D# is an accidental in E minor, so, in this instance you would still be in first position.
    Jim

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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Sounds like you are playing a chromatic run.
    Except that he's skipping the F natural (or, more correctly- and more annoyingly-speaking, the E#). He's playing an E harmonic minor scale, starting on the seventh step.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    Except that he's skipping the F natural (or, more correctly- and more annoyingly-speaking, the E#). He's playing an E harmonic minor scale, starting on the seventh step.
    Yes! You are correct. So, would that still be first position with just the seventh flatted?
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Jim 7th is raised - D# is the 7th of the harmonic Em scale. Raised from D of the natural minor scale.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    “Normal” fingering in Em 1st position would play the E with index finger. I think like you do, just play chromatic notes as you best can, but from this thread I learn that violists call this position the half position. Okay then
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    The classic rule in a purely diatonic context is "next note, next finger". However, the e minor harmonic and E major scales have five scale notes on the d course in first position : d#,e, f#, g/g#, a. Similar observations for A, B, and F# on the g, a, and e courses respectively. In that case I would normally fret both the d# and e with my first finger so I can easily reach the 7th fret with my pinky, using the 2nd fret as a pivot point and occasionally just reaching back to catch the d#. Using the 7th fret is often important for optimal tonal control and pick economy, hence I would very rarely fret the 5th fret with my pinky. But, say, in the key of A flat, which has scale notes on the 6th fret on all strings (and none on the 7th) I would normally use the pinky for that fret (in other words, Ab fingering will be the same as A, pulled one fret back).

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    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Thanks to one and all for some interesting comments. If you remember, my question was 'What to call this position?', and I think Jim and Louise above have nailed it: it's called 'half position'. I've searched for 'half position' and it is indeed a thing! Sometimes I think we mandolin players get so engrossed in our own instrument that we forget that other instruments can teach us stuff!

    For the record, this issue came up when I was teaching a student Petzold's Menuet in G. The second part moves into E minor. The melody line has D# on the A string, but the counterpoint, as I have arranged it for mandolin, has the D# on the D string:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Minuet in G Major COUNTERPOINT.jpg 
Views:	50 
Size:	159.0 KB 
ID:	188056

    Playing this passage with normal fingering is somewhat tricky and - that word again - clumsy. Moving into half position makes it so much easier and smoother. Now I've learned the correct term, I'm very happy to refer to 'half position'!

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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by gordonjackson83 View Post
    Thanks to one and all for some interesting comments. If you remember, my question was 'What to call this position?', and I think Jim and Louise above have nailed it: it's called 'half position'. I've searched for 'half position' and it is indeed a thing! Sometimes I think we mandolin players get so engrossed in our own instrument that we forget that other instruments can teach us stuff!

    For the record, this issue came up when I was teaching a student Petzold's Menuet in G. The second part moves into E minor. The melody line has D# on the A string, but the counterpoint, as I have arranged it for mandolin, has the D# on the D string:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Minuet in G Major COUNTERPOINT.jpg 
Views:	50 
Size:	159.0 KB 
ID:	188056

    Playing this passage with normal fingering is somewhat tricky and - that word again - clumsy. Moving into half position makes it so much easier and smoother. Now I've learned the correct term, I'm very happy to refer to 'half position'!
    Well, with five scales notes and four fingers there really is no unique "normal" fingering. Here, at least for the first four bars, half position seems to work best. Which, incidentally, seems to be the same as the obvious f minor fingering pulled back one fret. Question: how do you handle the a notes, and do you tremulate this passage?

    There are of course other ways of approaching fingering than scales and positions. To me it seems most natural to think of the first four bars as working out of a B major chord position (same result).

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    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    The As are open. The first one is followed by G (fourth finger) and the second by B (second finger). After this passage it returns to G major, and the world stops wobbling, cats and dogs stop mating with each other and normal fingering is resumed .

    I can honestly say I've never heard the word 'tremulate', but I imagine it means playing tremolo, so no, I don't. Remember, this is a counterpoint and extra notes would, I feel, be unnecessary. It's a pretty little tune, great for tutoring. I've attached the whole thing.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Minuet in G Major.pdf  

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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    I'm sure you're right about the way to interpret this particular tune. Thank you for sharing the full arrangement.

    Some pieces arranged for tutoring have one mandolin playing a simple part, using tremolo, the other mandolin playing a more rapid succession of notes which are single-picked. The contrast in tone between a smooth tremolo and a more staccato part played together is interesting. But that's for another time, I'm sure.

    Of course I come from a European tradition where tremolo is more or less the norm, rather than something separate.

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  22. #17
    Registered User gordonjackson83's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cobalt View Post
    The contrast in tone between a smooth tremolo and a more staccato part played together is interesting.
    I'm not sure I'd go along with staccato being the opposite of tremolo .

  23. #18
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    Quote Originally Posted by gordonjackson83 View Post
    I'm not sure I'd go along with staccato being the opposite of tremolo .
    That take it as a metaphor, a way of expressing a concept.

  24. #19
    Registered User Tim C.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: What to call this position?

    I even have a few tunes where I play all four fingers on the first four frets. Whatever fingering makes me play more dependably, that's the one I stick with, no matter what the position is called.
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  25. #20

    Default Re: What to call this position?

    The first finger on the first fret doesn't necessarily mean you're in half position:
    On the G-string, Ab-Bb-C-Db played with fingers 1-2-3-4 is in first position Ė G#-A-B-C# played with 1-2-3-4 is in half position.

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