I'm writing a piece for solo violin, and I was wondering if violinists would prefer fingerings written in by the composer.  Or would they prefer to add their own as they read through it?  I know fingerings can be a personal thing for each performer.  Thoughts?


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  • No violinist I know would ever be grateful for adding a ton of useless numbers to the score, myself included. I'd rather have less markings than more if I'm going to try and ignore them anyway (and fingering / positions is such a personal thing that many people are likely to do just that). Specifying which string you want a passage played on is another matter... and, unlike fingerings, the audience can actually hear the difference. So if you want the line high on the G string, do indicate that. But you can safely refrain from explaining note by note that if, say, there's something played by 1st finger, and the next note is a 3rd up, then I should use 3rd finger for it. Violinists generally know that. They play their instrument, after all.

  • This is the eternal question, isn't it? How much control do you need to exert to make sure your artistic vision is realized in the final performance? I think it will depend on the exact result you wish to achieve. Think about the Bartok Quartets.

    But one has to be specific in posing the question. We need to know the content of the music.

    I attach a small passage here.

    How many violins minimum do you think would be required to play this, and what will the composer need to write in score (with regard to fingering) to get this result?


  • Do you have an example of Ravel's excess fingering specifications? It does make me curious, but I can't come up with an idea as to why he would deem it necessary to include such markings, at least not without an actual score to look at.

    edit: Actually, I can think of an instance where information on fingering would be appreciated (maybe even required, depending on the context). But I'm still interested in Ravel's example.

  • I think you only need markings when the technique you want to mark is essential to the result you wish to produce.

    For example. Iannis Xenakis knew that if he did not mark a certain passage for the violin "flutter tongue" --and tell the player exactly where to blow on the strings, and how hard-- he never would have achieved the desired sound.

  • Not excessive at all, indeed. I'm afraid there isn't a single fingering marked there on the first page of Tzigane. There isn't anything suggesting Ravel's unusual meticulousness, either - what is there should definitely be there in any professional score.
    Paganini is a different story! At least if you're considering etudes / caprices - their actual aim is to teach technique, so marked fingerings here and there is an absolutely normal thing. There may be a fragment which you'll be able to play in a few different ways and they will all sound exactly the same - but, you're supposed to practice extensions there, so the fingers used are marked so that you need to stretch your hand, and the instruction is to be followed.

  • Thanks for all comments thus far on this thread. I am learning many fascinating things about the violin from reading what you have had to say. I have a reworded question for this thread about Fingerings for Violin and Cello:

    My previous question was ill phrased, and the example was not suited to the purpose of the question. To sum up my thoughts so far: Instructions for fingerings have in part to do with what is possible and impossible. Also what is desirable and hoped for by the composer, in addition to a literal reading of the notation, as it is first conceived, without many markings. And of course, yes, there are “additions” and “interpretations” of the performing artist, which are never marked.

    This website is useful in exploring the issue with regard to Ravel:

    Ravel Tzigane
    D major, Cat.No.76
    Written: 1924
    Composer: Ravel (Maurice Ravel), 1875 - 1937, period: Modern


    Many examples are provided.

    (I note in passing my interest in the fact Iannis Xenakis was deeply in love with the sounds of string instruments, the violin in particular, and he would sometimes assign individual scores to each particular string player in a full orchestra; whereas he loathed and detested flutes, and assigned them next to nothing to do [Hence my poor joke earlier, about Xenakis instructing his players on how to blow on the strings of a violin—given his desire to produce unusual sounds] ).

    My own question for experts is in regard to a very short passage I am reworking.

    Could either of the following be played by a single soloist? (Two links below).

    I suspect the first one would be relatively easy, though rhythmic coordination of the two themes, played pizzicato, might theoretically be too difficult for the average player. I am not sure about the second one.

    (I have only studied formally how to play the clarinet and the piano; my practical knowledge of the violin is extremely deficient, close to zero—so I am curious what those who have extensive knowledge of the violin or other string instruments might say).

    1. 22-second excerpt, with only two lines of pizzicato.

    For solo violin.


    2. 17-second excerpt.

    More complicated mixture of sounds.

    For solo cello.


  • It's so much easier to judge when you see the score and don't have to rely on perfect pitch (which is absent in my case) and other things like that ;/

    I can definitely say that neither is playable by a single person, or at least not in the tempo provided in the recording. Pizzicato is pretty slow as techniques go.


    And what do you think a numeral V would stand for? Violinists only have 4 fingers per hand, remember that :)

  • Nope. Unless there's some extended technique involved, index finger is labeled 1st, pinky is 4th. That's it.

    The V is bowing. An upstroke, specifically.

    michael diemer said:

    You mean violonists don't use their thumbs?

    Should composers add violin fingerings?
    I'm writing a piece for solo violin, and I was wondering if violinists would prefer fingerings written in by the composer.  Or would they prefer to a…
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