On a string instrument, position is the relative location of the hand on the instrument's neck, indicated by ordinal numbers (e.g., 3rd). Fingering, independent of position, is indicated by numbers, 1-4, and string is indicated by Roman numerals, I-IV. Different positions on the same string are reached through shifting. Depending on the age of music you are viewing, older publications use roman numerals to indicate the string you are playing on but in many newer publications roman numerals indicate the position you are to play in given the fingering. It is up to individual musicians and possibly their teachers to decide which is the case. You must have knowledge of fingerings in order to know how best the roman numerals are making sense in any given publication.
With experience, string players become accustomed to the required shape and position of the left hand. Some positions are located relative to certain touch references, or landmarks on the instrument. For example, fourth position on the cello (used in the example below) has the player's thumb resting in the "saddle" of the neck root. Similarly, higher positions on the violin make use of the instrument's "shoulder" (treble-side edge of the top's upper bout) as a touch reference. Some electric string instruments, without a traditionally shaped body, still incorporate a reference feature imitating that shoulder's shape.
On a string instrument, shifting, or a shift, is a movement of the fingers of the left hand from one position to another on the same string. Position is indicated through ordinal numbers (e.g., 3rd). Strings or Positions (depending on age of the publication see above) may be indicated through Roman numerals, I-IV, and fingering may be indicated through numbers, 1-4. When done skillfully shifting avoids string noise.
The trombone produces notes within its range by extending the main slide to different positions. In first position, the length of the bore is at its shortest; seventh position puts the slide at its furthest extension, at the edge of the inner slide's stockings. (These are sections of slightly greater diameter at the ends of the inner slide tubes.) Positions 3 and 4 may be located by referring the player's right hand to the bell of the instrument. Each player "has a different way of visualizing where the positions of the slide trombone are in relation to each other" Positions, especially in the higher register, may need to be shortened or lengthened (sharpened or flattened) to play in tune. Lower-numbered (shorter) positions are closer together than higher-numbered ones. Positions six and seven are primarily useful in the lower part of the trombone's range.
Some notes may be sounded at more than one position; for example, D4 may be sounded either in position 1 or 4. As a result, trombonists often spend time studying a part to determine how to approach a particular phrase.
- Ševčík, Otakar, School of Violin Technique (1881)
- Book 1: Exercises in 1st Position
- Book 2: Exercises in the 2nd to 7th Positions
- Book 3: Shifting and Changing the Positions
- Book 4: Exercises in Double Stops