enter image description hereI am new in playing a violin, and in the recent sheet music that I got, there was a number over the music. Normally these are figuring charts, but the numbers were negative, that is, there was a minus sign in front of the numbers, for example -2, -3 and so on. I am confused on what they mean.


My guess is that these aren’t negatives, but just dashes used to show that a shift is necessary to use the suggested fingering. For instance, maybe you are playing an F# on the E string and then need to play a C a tritone higher. I might give the fingering for the C as –2 to indicate that you should use the second finger, but that this will require a position shift. As always with such fingerings, it is optional, but it is generally worth considering.

  • Anecdote: I've seen these in some jazz guitar books used, as you've mentioned, as position shift indicators. Not sure how I feel about them, but I suppose enough people like them for them to have gained enough popularity to appear on our site! :) – user45266 Jan 6 '20 at 5:32
  • If so, then just MHO that it's more of a distraction than a help. Usually the choice of string is obvious from the indicated finger (plus the general set of notes before and after) – Carl Witthoft Jan 6 '20 at 16:03

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