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Cesar AViles

Violinist’s Guide To Working Out

November 29, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Yeah!! Nehh!! I didn’t mean actually going-to-the-gym working out. I meant the equivalent of working out for violinists. (Just in case you thought I was going to send you to the gym).

If you are tired of doing scales, feel a bit bored by etudes and want to jump straight to the concerto or sonata, keep reading and be changed forever.

We violinists are like professional athletes. Warming up, eating healthy, stretching after a practice session should be taken as a daily exercise. It will all contribute to your performance and endurance.

But what do I mean by “working out for violinists”?

We actually “work out” when we play scales. The reason to playing such a boring Carl Flesh etude is to strengthen a certain area of your technique (bowings, sound, fast fingers, etc.). It’s not in vain! There is a purpose behind everything especially when it comes to scales and etudes.

Athletes and violinists agreed in one thing; they must hardened their muscles.For different reasons and by doing different exercises but the principle is the same. An example of this can be found in your copy of the Basics by Simon Fisher, p.125—your pinky will never be the same after a month of doing pinky work outs. Speaking of which, that book has been a great influence on me since I started reading and working on it.

Working out for violinists means taking seriously those etudes/exercises/boring stuff that help us play the interesting stuff at a higher level. This next mind map is often confused to be made by Dorothy Delay but it’s really Simon Fisher’s. It details everything actually, but I circled what I believe it’s the “work-out” section for us violinists.

Check it out!

Picture taken from Simon Fischer's website:

Playing Sevcik for 6 hours is as fun as doing sit-ups for 6 hours. It will bore you to death if it won’t kill you before. But knowing how to practice these exercises (time-wise), being patient and trying to cover all of them in a year or two, will make a huge impact in your development as a violinist.

Working out for a violinist means: (Daily) Sevcik, Schradieck, Kayser, Kreutzer, Wohlfahrt, Flesch, Fisher (Basics), Galamian, etc. Here is a complete list.

Understanding what etudes, scales and boring stuff will add-up by the end of the month, could change these practical exercises into a more interesting ritual.

A two hour work-out in the morning before your day starts will dramatically enhance your violinistic future!

How long do you think we should do these work out sessions?

What have considerably changed your technique?

Please share a comment!

You can find me at


From Adrian Demian
Posted on November 30, 2012 at 2:53 AM
I really disagree with the idea of Sevcik being necessary for so long. His kind of "mechanical" exercises is best suited for very young players but it can be detrimental to the musical development of more advanced violinists.
I also find the idea of violinists as athletes overdone these days. Yes, we need to keep in shape by practicing scales every day, but just because this is the only way to keep playing in tune and developing a great sound. One etude and some Bach every day for advanced players is quite enough for warming up the muscles and the musicianship. Unfortunately, I hear more and more this idea of violinists having to strengthen their muscles. I think this idea is fundamentally wrong. We should practice constantly looking for ways to relax more, to use less muscular energy, to become more efficient on a background of complete relaxation and feeling of comfort. I believe, such an approach would dramatically reduce the number of injuries we see these days.
If all - or at least the majority - of these technique exercises are mastered during the first years, a violinist who played through the Kreutzer etudes (all of them) doesn't need - in my opinion - the Sevcik kind of warm up. The "after Kreutzer" years should be used to figure out how to use the tools already acquired for making music. At this level, mental awareness is much more beneficial. I have seen times and again students struggling with some insurmountable passage just to be able to play it perfectly the moment they understood the musical idea, the phrasing, the way the notes relate to each other, behind the "athletic challenge." On the other hand, I witness so many dead performances because the performer approaches the music as a kind of gymnastics showoff opportunity!

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