The fingers of the left hand and the bow move simultaneously. But independent of the ensemble that they must have, the fingers have a movement of their own.
The violinist, through his true sentiment and well-informed taste determines the best fingerings. There are many possible fingerings; they must always grow from the nature of the passage whose entire range of expression the violinist wants to convey.
The bow sustains the sounds and sings, as does the voice; the fingers articulate as though pronouncing words, and indeed sometimes seem to speak. ~The Art of the Violin by Pierre Marie Francois de Sales Baillot
Planning Fingerings by Professor Reed Smith
Some of the things that help when planning fingerings:
1. I never assume that one position is better than another. 2nd position is just as valuable as 3rd, but no better than 3rd. Be open to new choices! Also, do not assume that a fingering is good just because it is in print. For example I find that very often violin editions were done by violinists with large hands, who were themselves trained in doing big stretches - but some of their fingerings are very unhealthy for my students with small hands. Also some editions still in print are "dated" - prepared with fingerings that were fashionable when they were first printed, but no longer in style.
2. You must find a balance between physical comfort and musicality. Usually it is possible to find a fingering that does not completely sacrifice one to the other.
3. Shifting is cleanest when done either on a half step or on a beat (next best is on a stronger part of the beat - for example, in a beamed group of four 16th notes, the 1st and 3rd notes are less audible shifting places, than the 2nd and 4th notes. In a sextuplet the 1st and 4th notes will be the best shifting points.)
4. Occasionally an open string can be used to cover up a shift. Just be sure you are very confident of hitting the next note!
5. Try not to have one note in a passage "orphaned" on a string. That is, if all the surrounding notes are on the A string, a lone note on the E string will really stick out!
6. In 1st position, the choice of 4th finger versus open string requires some thought - and then be sure to write in your decisions! If the note directly before and the note directly after [the open string pitch] is on a certain string, then stay on that string, whether that requires open or 4. If the note before is on a different string from the note after, then choose the strongest rhythmic point to change the string (see #3 above.) When in doubt "get where you're going" - that is, move on ahead to the next string.
7. If possible, try to avoid playing a half-step between the 4th and 1st fingers (example: 4th finger A on the D string going to 1st finger Bb on the A string.) Sometimes you have to, but it actually requires an extension of the usual hand position, and will very likely, esp in fast tempi, be both slow and out-of-tune.
8. Since our strings are tuned in "perfect 5ths" if you move a finger straight over to an adjacent string you will create another perfect 5th (example, 1st finger E on the D string to 1st finger B on the A string.) However, to produce the interval called a "diminished 5th" (example, E on the D string to Bb on the A string) the finger cannot go straight across. Your playing will be smoother and better in tune if you use different fingers (1 on Bb and 2 on E.)
9. In singing passages, plan fingerings so that the musical climaxes are on your best vibrato fingers (for most people that would be 2 and 3.)
10. Slides are quite appropriate, judiciously used and carefully practiced, in singing passages in music written after the 18th century. They are generally inappropriate in most music through the 18th century (with some exceptions - Haydn wrote a string quartet mvt in which he fingered in glissandi) and in fast passagework.
That's enough for now - just the tip of the iceberg, really, where fingering is concerned. I always encourage my students to choose a fingering and write it in. You can always change it later!
used with permission from Professor Elizabeth Reed Smith
Marshall University * Department of Music