Comment by Gaylord Yost.

March 16, 2007 at 06:38 PM · Gaylord YOST in his forward to 'Mastery of the Finger-board' says:

"........Practically all of the curriculi still persist in persuing the study of etudes which are neither designed for musical or technical growth but more often merely as a means of consuming time. The study of most of these antiquated etudes is a sheer waste of time and with the exception of a few be abandoned. It is rather singular that the mastery of the finger board has been so haphazardly outlined in the past and it is to be wondered at that so many accomplished violinists have been produced with such faulty methods ."

Anyone like to comment on this? What would the antiquated etudes be? (Not sure when Yost wrote this...)

Replies (32)

March 16, 2007 at 10:28 PM · well be special and DON'T do these etudes and excel! i'm sure heifetz and milstein which built their foundation on kreutzer, fiorillo, rode, dont etudes and caprices would applause that you skipped this step.

March 16, 2007 at 11:16 PM · I agree that walking through etude books certainly lacks efficiency, and can be counterproductive. I studied a few in my college days, assigned by my teacher, which were beasts to learn, the focus of which I have truly never applied in anything I play. When teachers assign etudes, I like to hope they have identified something that the student should improve, or something the student will face in literature coming up, and then choose some etudes that will answer the question. If they are being chosen with this kind of careful thought, the teacher should be able to verbalize it clearly- otherwise I'd be worried they're spinning their wheels (or yours) to some extent. Sue

March 16, 2007 at 11:37 PM · Yost is the hotbed of excitement.

March 17, 2007 at 03:49 AM · And yet, Gavinees was such a great help to me for understanding upper position work. I think just based on how perfect the Gavinees etudes were for me at the time, I have to disagree. I also got a lot out of Dont and Rhode...

Also, I'm not sure that studying every possible shift on the violin, out of any sort of musical context really makes sense, although I've worked a little bit through Yost's book. Although Sevcik and Schradiek have the same sort of reductionist approach, they make sense because in their excercises, you are really studying finger motion/"velocity". Yost is just a terrible grind through every possible combination of notes on the violin.

Objection to Yost #2. It is deadly (I mean, shoot myself after ten seconds) boring, unless you happen to be autistic.

Cheers from Washington, DC

March 17, 2007 at 04:48 AM · Amen, Howard.

March 17, 2007 at 04:36 AM · Greetings,

my mother was always telling me I was extremely autistic. At least I think I was hearing it correctly.....wasn`t paying that much attention to her.

Etudes? The point has alreayd been made, but basically, to paraphrase Dickens, `they are the best of tools, they are the worst of tools.`

Yost is I think highlighting one of the worst failings of violin teachers: the tendencey to pass out etudes in a linear fashion without really addressing what the students needs. This does create redundancy which can demotivate and it wastes time that could be better spent on somethign else and so forth. I have not found it necessray for example, to do all of the Kayser or Wohlfart etudes. One can on ocassion susbstitute specific exercies that save time.

Howver, mainstream etudes have stood the test of time because they do have an underlying systematicity in progression. I think the reocmmendation of Zhakar Bron that eveyr Kreutzer etude is studied (in his case twice in a stduents career) is excellent. What else could it be? All the Rode caprices? Yes. There is a strong case for that.

But Yost et al have also, in spite of some of the advantages the absolute separation of music and technique apparently offers can do studnets a grave disservice for this very reason.

I wa s actually thinking about taht this mornign before this threa dcame up. I want to spend a month with increased focus on technique and wwas considering going through sevcik. i mean what could be better than all that high position work knowing the year ahead is going to be bringing a lot of extra symponies ot be learnt real fast?

But i have a lot of baggage associtae dwith these works. Too many hours in practice rooms at college not really grasping the underlying mechanics. Getting more and morer dissilusioned. My first teacher at RCM taught me to take any orchetsral reprtoire problem, find the equivalent bowing exericse and use sevcik that way. My second laughed his hea doff when I suggested sevcik. So I put aside all this stuff and opted for reworking the Dont etudes. I picked up no 2 and worked slowly and caref\ully on the patterns, observing where I could use blocks and keep fingers down. Goign for absolutely perfect inotnation, using mixed bowings. After half an hour I wasn`t bored and performed it as though it wa s a concert work. And it just brought a smile to my face because yep, it is a genuine piece of music. That is the point for me- etudes are designed specifically to bridge the gap between scales and music so we can bring things together.

When Yost says it is surprising how so many people succeed in spite...blah blah.

What he is really affirming is that people succeed because in spite of bad teahcing and circumstances etudes are a kind of foundation that we need. And when they are taught and learnt well the world is one`s oyster.

Bit of a downer for vegetarians though.



March 17, 2007 at 12:19 PM · Hi Buri (why 'Buri'? Is that something in Japanese ....should I even ask?) Do you think Yost was actually thinking about Kreutzer, Rode etc or other stuff which hasn't stood the test of time? If so what hasn't stood the test of time?

I do agree with the tools in the hands of the workman example etc, and obviously some tools are better than others. Eg I was looking for some 2nd - 4th position studies. Sevcik Op1 bk 2 I think is great and I actually really enjoy it, then, I hopped over to my Kreutzer 2 and played it all in second position, (as TK used to get me to do in the RCM days) then I played it all in 4th position and then just for the heck of it one bar in 2nd and one bar in 4th ...and so on, and I had FUN.

In this country where I live conservatory kids have to work through Sitt studies in fixed positions etc. All of the studies. To be honest I have a tough time with Sitt, ...and most kids seem to hate them. What do you think of Sitt? Maybe I should go back and work through them again and see if I should change my mind.....

March 17, 2007 at 11:45 PM · Hey...I strongly believe that Yost concept is the only way to the TOP.

The all the double stops should be played in the 6 combination of fingerings. 12, 23, 34, 13, 24, 14....including the 10th!!!

This is what I mean.

March 18, 2007 at 03:14 AM · Mr. Bai:

On your web site, you reference the Sauret Grand Etudes. op. 24. Do you know where to get these? I can't find them anywhere.


March 19, 2007 at 12:18 AM · I can't find Sauret Grand Etudes. op. 24. is probably out of print.

But I am sure it's in somewhere...

March 19, 2007 at 12:53 AM · Yost may be correct if the teacher hands out etudes 'because that's what students are meant to play'

But he's entirely wrong if a teacher spots a weakness in the student's technique that can be corrected by specific etudes.

March 19, 2007 at 01:22 AM · Dr. Bai:

Thanks anyway. If I find it, I'll let you know.


March 19, 2007 at 04:08 AM · Greetings,

Teresa, Ken P made me do Kreutzer 2 in second, 4th , 6th posiiton etc. Must have bene a conspiracy.

I don`t use the SItt and have never played them so I can`t comment. But if kids don`t like them I wonder why they are forced to do them. The beginner studies I really like are the Wolfart foundation studies. The first few are a bit drab but at leats they are duets. Then after about thirty (not so much considering how short they are ) they get into differnt styles- polka, waltz, march. Its really interesitng to talk about these with studnets and cross reference them wth genuine music. Trying to get a fele for musicla style right form the beginning.



March 19, 2007 at 09:45 AM · Buri: Yes I guess it was a conspiracy!

Can you elucidate a bit more on your comment:

"But i have a lot of baggage associtaed with these works. Too many hours in practice rooms at college not really grasping the underlying mechanics. Getting more and morer dissilusioned.."

eg What sort of thing would you have been working on and what were you not understanding??


ps are you still in touch with KP ... ? What are your positive experiences from lessons with him?

March 19, 2007 at 10:42 PM · Greetings,

for me, the most essential part of violin playing is effcient body mechanics. Letting use its natural abilty to do things well without interference from the inner voices and passions. Getting this right from the beginning, the amount of work necessary on amusical material is actually not that great. However, what often happens in my opinion, is the taecher or studnet belives that practicing sevcik or whatever for x number of minutes or hours everyday will -resolve- the mechanical issues. Then by extension they believe that the more you do the more issue s will resolve and the better violinist you will be. This is exactly what KP said to me and with all due respect to a great man and teacher it is not true. Praciticing simply ingrains what we are doing wrong. Indeed I often have to bluntly tell students to stop practicing anything except perhaps one minimal exercise until they are clear in their heads about how harmful practice can be. Exercises such as sevcik are even more dangerous in this respetc than regualr material becaus ethey deliberatly sever any conneciton with music. But it is the musical element which is the safety device which prevents us working in tension and playing errors. It brings together our whole self so we pay attention and learn from what w eare doing.I am not saying that we have to think of scales or whatever as musicla work, nobody is ever going to get around the point that lerarning the violin includes `Technicla work` but there has to be some of it there, overing in the background.

Where we pracitce, how wefeel when we practice, what we think about, are learned by the self just a smuch as the actuall material itself. Its all one package. I have probably practiced more sevcik than most and my associatiosn with it are depression, lonely practice rooms and physical discomfort. The memories of not enjoying college life or that period in my life at all. I don`t want to pick that up again so I practice Dont and scales instead....;)

Sadly KP passed on recently. A very good man.



March 22, 2007 at 04:22 AM · Clarifying question about the Wohlfahrt mentioned earlier-- Buri: speaking of the Wohlfahrt you like, are you talking about Op. 38 (which Schirmer titles "Easiest Elementary Method")? If that's it, I agree with you-- good book! I too really like the duo aspect of that work, and the page after the first polka, the number 40 "March" is a real gem to me-- I never tire of it, and it makes an effective staple in early recitals. I see the "Foundation Studies" title applied to different volumes of scrambled, anthologized selections of non-duo etudes from multiple opus numbers...

March 22, 2007 at 12:39 PM · A violin teacher was trying to figure out what etude she wanted to her from her student:

", Dont."


March 22, 2007 at 11:24 PM · Greetings,

Gabrille, That`s the one!!!!

That polka, waltz, march sequence is just great. Don`t know who is having more fun, me or the student...

Incidentally, the reason these studies are so impressive to me is that they so systematically add -one- new element per ditty, then some kind of variation etc.Its brillianlty well thought out.



March 23, 2007 at 09:08 AM · So I guess my next trip to the music will involve the ordering of this Wohlfahrt Op38… This period of my life seems to be dedicated to finding out about all the stuff I should know about but don’t. To my shame I’ve never actually looked at Wohlfahrt … I like the idea of all the duets.

I just recently purchased the first 2 vols of the Doflein method … also contains lots of duets, but have yet to try them out. How would you compare Wohlfarht and Doflein? Is one better or more interesting than the other? Which one do kids like the best?

Is anyone familiar with the Dolfein Method “Progressive Pieces for Three Violins”. Are they worth getting ??… I see there are three volumes advertised ….?

Buri: you wrote

"Exercises such as sevcik are even more dangerous in this respetc than regualr material becaus ethey deliberatly sever any conneciton with music. But it is the musical element which is the safety device which prevents us working in tension and playing errors."

I wonder how much time you do dedicate (as a vague general rule) to these sort of exercises, Sevcik etc.(for yourself , and pupils) understanding totally what you say about the risk of severed connection with music. ….

Buri, since you were one of the people who encouraged me to do the one fingered etc scale stuff ….What else do you with Yost’s ideas … that you have found to be beneficial with students ….

I am having such a blast at the moment with the recently discovered Yost stuff. I have also experimented and given a couple of pupils scales going up and down the octave on one string, just using 12 12 12 or 23 23 23 etc.

1) Separate bows with slight glissando to the new note in the new position.

2) Separate bows, very staccato and no gliss.

3) Legato 8 notes up 8 notes down, building up more speed each time.

I have noticed a LOT of improvement in shifting as a result, (because you isolate and repeat the shifting mechanism so many times?? it is sooo concentrated …. )and nobody is bored so far because it is new and a challenge. (essential element … keep the brain and ear alive)

I guess this comes under the category of ‘pure technique’ or something like that.

You never said why you are not Steven , but Buri ….. is that a Japanese name? I thought you were Japanese at first and got a surprise when I saw RCM etc!!! (…of course with all those typos can you blame me …. Poor oriental guy struggling with his English, I thought ..)



June 25, 2009 at 08:12 PM ·

First of all, yes I do disagree with Yost's opinion against etudes.  But I still have to admit, since I started to practice Yost shifting (one set of shifting on all 4 strings everyday) in my warming up session right before I move onto scales, my intonation has got so much better and I've been feeling so much less fear on shifting even when there's a huge leap shift. 

June 28, 2009 at 03:43 PM ·

 There is another reason to practice etudes -- to acquire fluency. Music is like a language and we gradually master the language by dealing with musical groupings and patterns of over increasing complexity. This is one of the main reasons to practice etudes. Etudes develop musical and violinistic fluency better than either scales or repertoire. By the time I was sixteen I had studied the etudes of Kayser, Mazas, Kreutzer, Fiorillo, Rode, Dont, Dancla. Admittedly my study of those etudes was superficial so I had to return to them again, and again to raise the level. However I early on, acquired an easy fluency that enabled me, for example, at age sixteen to sight read the quartets of Beethoven and Schubert, and play virtually all the notes on first reading. Today, I see many young people who lack this fluency. I can think of several students for example, who struggle for months with the Mendelssohn Concerto just to internalize the notes and rhythms. When I studied the Mendelssohn, I was able to play through the first movement coherently, with all the right notes and rhythms after two weeks. Then I spent the next two months working for quality. That is what I mean by fluency.

June 28, 2009 at 08:04 PM ·

First of all, I have to say, what a great topic!

Secondly, in my experiece, a combination of both musical etudes and boring technical exercises work the best. When I tried to work on gavinee (sp?) before experiencing a lot of Galamian scales (I had done flesch but not the Galamian system), it was almost impossible! But now after a lot of Galamian, Gavinee is a piece of cake! (well, it still takes work, but is a lot more attainable!) Also, Yost shifting really really was a boost to my technique. But, I wouldn't trade out Fiorillo for anything. They both helped in different ways. 

Of course, another issue comes up with the high school students who I teach that just don't have time or motivation enough to practice a lot. How to chose what they need and not bog them down with too many etudes without skipping the important stuff is quite the challenge! 

June 28, 2009 at 08:26 PM ·


not only fluency Roy,  but stamina!

Also one should learn etudes from memory.  This is a discipline that makes memorizing cocnertos easy.  



June 28, 2009 at 11:19 PM ·

Uh-oh. I feel myself being lured back by this one. Can't fight the undertow! There are definitely different schools of thought on this subject. Some of my teachers were very pro-etude, and some not - and it also depended on the state of advancement of the student. To take two of my most illustrious teachers, Aaron Rosand is very pro-etude (as well as very pro-scales). Glenn Dicterow, not so much. Rosand feels that his talented students at Curtis are none too good for Kreutzer, which he continues to practice himself. Dicterow, when I briefly studied with him, didn't even hear me play scales, and said that we'd derive the technique from the repertoire. He also felt - if I remember correctly - that orchestral excerpts make great etudes.

I believe that etudes are very helpful in the growing process, from intermediate to very advanced. I feel that they are far less necessary in the maintenance routine of the accomplished and busy professional. My approach for keeping in good consistent shape involves a comprehensive system of scales and exercises that encompasses what for me are the quintessential basics of violin playing from a technical, and even physical point of view, in the sense that it is a kind of workout - my own violin gym! It takes me about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. The idea is not unlike the Flesch Urstuden, but much more comprehensive. Maybe I'll publish it one day. This approach does not include etudes on a regular basis. Once in a great while I will indeed review an etude. I prescribe an etude for myself when I feel the need.

Etudes are in a sense, neither fish nor fowl. They're not pieces - except for some very attractive caprices - and they lack the focus and efficiency of well-selected exercises. And yet, for this very in-between nature, they can sometimes be very helpful even for a professional level player. Sometimes exercises can be too predictable, which repertoire often is not, and so etudes can serve as a good halfway house. Etudes that focus on position work are good helpful examples. Other good ones include the uncomfortable leaps of position and awkward string-crossing challenges presented by Gavines. I also feel that many orchestral excerpts make great etudes, along with many Bach movements. Some feel that there is a danger in using repertoire as etudes, lest we numb their musical content. But I don't feel this way. We should always try to be musical! Who is to say that even a Schradiek exercise can't and shouldn't convey at least a rudimentary sense of phrasing?

To get back to prescriptive etudes - even when I teach Kreutzer to someone for their first time, I skip around the book, according to what I feel they most need at any given time. After all, does it make sense to concentrate on only single stops for 32 etudes, and then nothing but double-stops for the remaining 10? Same with Rode - it was a clever idea for him to write a caprice for every key - but is that necessarily the best order for everyone? One of these days I'm going to make a comprehensive collection of etudes from various sources, famous, and less so, in several different categories. Within each category they will gradually increase in difficulty and complexity. And they will include orchestral excerpts. I think that will be very helpful.

But in the end, the most important question in this thread is this: what in fact does "Buri" mean? Inquiring minds want to know!


June 29, 2009 at 01:24 AM ·


well in Japanese buriburiburi is a farting noise...



June 29, 2009 at 01:43 AM ·

What's the connection of memorizing etudes aid in memorizing concertos?

June 29, 2009 at 04:02 AM ·

Ah - too many prunes!

Re memorizing etudes and concertos, I'd be loath to try to do both. For if I succeeded, with my few remaining brain cells, I fear that such basics as remembering how to work a door knob might be pushed out of my brain!

June 29, 2009 at 03:05 AM ·

How memorizing etudes might help memorizing concertos: "Success breeds success"

June 29, 2009 at 04:23 AM ·


one of the characteristics of etudes is the tendency to repeat patterns more than music for its own sake does.  This gives the mind more of a chance to absorb the patterns and techniques in question. These become the basic vocabulary and grammar one is working with and the subconscious,  unconscious or whatever oyu wnat to call it has these resources to draw on as hook while memorizing concertos.



June 29, 2009 at 11:56 AM ·

Other than the prunes I would have never figured this out in a billion years!

Thanks folks!

June 30, 2009 at 02:18 AM ·

Oh - one more serious thought before probably returning to my sabbatical. The original question was "which etudes could be a waste of time?"  I don't think that giving anything even a little bit of careful work could be a complete waste of time. I believe that to a greater or lesser extent, more directly or more tangentially, everything helps everything else. That said though, we don't have an infinite amount of time to work on everything. We must make choices, and our conscious choices are aided if we have criteria. For my etude collection project for example, a basic criterion for me would be 'how widely applicable is this etude to other things, or to general development?' Of course, certain etudes purposely may narrowly focus on say, the 2nd position, or thirds -and that's fine. Those areas of concnetration can help when encountering similar problems elsewhere. But, to take some other examples, Kreutzer, #'s 2 and 8 would be no-brainers for inclusion. On the other hand, I consider #23 not to be worth the trouble to nail it. We can go directly, if we're interested, to slow movements from concertos of that period - including Kreutzer's own.

Well, I think I'll be off again. My various activities include finishing production of my 2nd CD, which I hope to have out in the Fall. Meanwhile, if you have a couple of minutes, please visit a Youtube performance that someone put up of me a couple of weeks ago. This performance was a few years ago, and I played the Meditation from Thais with the Hellenic Symphony. It took place at Rutgers U. in NJ, and was aired on Greek National Television. Here's the link:

Have a great Summer, everyone!

June 30, 2009 at 12:19 AM ·

You too Raphael!

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