More tricks for Paganini Caprice #5

November 4, 2007 at 07:18 AM · I know that I have been playing it for about 1 year is not a long time but I currently I'm having some problems in the control of caprice 5 by paganini; this means that if I play it in large blocks I can play with great control without stops but as soon as I try to play it from the beginning to the end unfortunately I can't control it very well.

My teacher gave me some important tricks to play it

1)when there is a isolated note in a group of four notes belonging to a different string the articulation should be of fingers wirst with a still arm (he often mention a video in which Mintz plays the caprice with the bow seeming still)

2)play some passages without jumping but detache

3) study slow and detache in different bow points

4)and using rythm variations for the 1/16 groups (long short and vice versa)

Have you any more helpful advice ?

Thanks a lot

By the way I'm confident that I'l solve the problem!! I'm a positive person.

Replies (38)

November 4, 2007 at 08:46 AM · After 1 year, it's a fundamental problem. It has nothing to do with your caprice. Learn the basics of the violin first, then play Paganini. Fix your coordination.

November 4, 2007 at 12:38 PM · Your teacher has already given you some good advice. The fifth caprice is particularly difficult for endurance. If you try to play through the middle section metronomically you will probably find yourself faltering at various points. Find places to catch your breath before you go on, that is take a tiny bit of time or rubato. (Sandor Vegh called these "technical rubatos".) The first would be at the end of measure 4. The next at m. 12, then m. 16 and so on. You will find that this will also give you a more musical approach to this charming piece.

A few years ago I got fed up with my own sort of sloppy performance of this caprice and decided to figure out how to fix this. I found that by making sure notes were prepared in advance I could take care of all the problems and my fingers had more economy of motion. This works particularly well in places like m. 20-24. For instance on the 2nd 16th note of the measure make sure both 4 and 1 are down together, on the 4th note have 3,2, and 1 down (assuming you are in 2nd position), on note 9 have 2 and 3 down, on note 13 have 1 and 2 down. In m. 9 always have 1 down, on notes 2, 6, 10, and 14 have 2 and 3 down. In my practice method I have indicated all such spots. I will send you a pdf of this if you email me privately.

There are a few other tricks such as making sure you are in 2nd position in measure 1 with the first finger extended back.

Another basic practice method is to practice the piece slurred in groups of 4 or 8 (helps string crossing.)Practice using harmonic finger pressure. Also practice playing 4 notes for each note and 2 notes for each note in tempo. In other words in the first measure play: aaaa,cccc,eeee, cccc,aaaa dddd, eeee,dddd etc. then aa,cc,ee,cc,aa,dd,ee,dd etc. This facilitates bow and left hand coordination. I hope this helps. However,I have been working on this piece on and off for about 40 years and will never be totally satisfied with my performance, so maybe I should go back to Kreutzer:)

November 4, 2007 at 04:26 PM · Dear Pieter,

can you post a recording of this caprice played by you so I can have some lessons about "coordination and basics of violin"?

Thanks a lot

Antonio

November 4, 2007 at 04:19 PM · Bruce,

I'm very satisfied by your reply.

you gave me important confirmations about the technique to use to solve this caprice.

Furthermore I was thinking just a couple to days ago to use your scheme aaaa cccc... so ..important confirmation!!

I think I have to go on with tricks to improve the ability to shift without problem between slowing down and playing a tempo and thinking in advance the notes I gonna play later.

Yes I'll send to you my mail address so you can send me your PDF, it would be very helpful.

Another important confirmation is that the solution of this caprice takes a long time so 1 year is physiological and not a problem with coordination...as reported by someone:)

Thanks a lot Bruce, I guess one of most helpful member of this site!!

November 4, 2007 at 04:32 PM · adding on what Bruce recommended with the doubling of each note - play the first note twice, then the next one once and then the next twice etc. (aa, c,ee,c etc.) Then switch the variation around vice versa. (a,cc,e,cc etc.) It is a nice transition variation after the doubling of each note and before a faster tempo.

November 4, 2007 at 04:39 PM · thank you kevin,

I'll keep in mind also your advice it seems to be helpful.

I guess it should have the same function of the rythm variation long short and vice versa i.e. when you play the long note you have the time to think about the following note and viceversa.

Yeah it makes sense

November 4, 2007 at 04:54 PM · Its similar but keeping the bow moving in sixteenths adds another dimension to that rhythm.

You also might think about dividing the agitato section into three different parts. (ex. maybe the six lines up the the double bar for section 1, then divide the next 12 lines in half. lets call them a, b and c.) first practice them in order. after that, start playing out of order, c, a,b or b, a ,c. ,etc. This will keep your brain sharp and this could help with continuity of the caprice.

learn to play the whole agitato section backwards bowings slowly and then try to speed it up. it works.

one of my teachers told me that one of his students learned the whole moto perpetuo backwards and played it very well almost better than with the real bowings!

November 4, 2007 at 04:55 PM · Play a few measures backwards also, back and forth, back and forth. That sets the hand up well.

November 4, 2007 at 05:06 PM · Antonello... listen to the Ravel... lots of coordination there.

I think you're doing repertoire above your level. Do some etudes first, you'll only frustrate yourself.

That being said, for pieces like this that tests endurance, you just need to repeat it many times. Your arm probably gets tired at the top of the 2nd page, and your coordination suffers. You sort of have to inch along. But again, this is a very difficult caprice. Have you done the easier ones yet?

November 4, 2007 at 05:23 PM · I want to listen to caprice #5 played by you.

And you are very humble person, Pieter.

bye

November 4, 2007 at 05:23 PM · I'll happily post any recording I make in the comming month. I am not playing this caprice right now, I'm playing #11 which is more difficult. In 1, maybe 2 weeks, you can listen to it.

November 4, 2007 at 05:25 PM · Dear Pieter,

I trust my teacher, if he says that I can play it Ill' do soon or later.

November 4, 2007 at 05:29 PM · Ah my arm doesn't get tired because I always play in a relaxed way.

Be propositive and not destructive, please is not a behaviour typical of a musician.

Antonio

Also in my Mendelssohn there is a little bit of cordination, isn't it?

November 4, 2007 at 05:33 PM · Playing a piece you cannot handle is deconstrutive to your violin playing. Sorry, but any good teacher will agree. The coordination between bow and left hand in Paganini 5 is more difficult than Mendelssohn.

November 4, 2007 at 05:32 PM · Also Bruce told me that it takes a long time to be perfect and if you allows I trust much more Bruce than you.

And I have problems just in a couple of points and it is almost set.

So.......

I guess the facing with challenging musics helps you playing a lot. I don't want to argue with you but I just disagree with you.

:)

November 4, 2007 at 05:43 PM · Ah, Pieter

and also if you were right about my need to shift to much easier musics at first, what study similar to Paganini #5 should I study previously?

I guess that a lot of technique can be learned directly on music, obviously not starting directly to sudy the music a tempo but with several tricks and advices.

This should be the function of this site and not to talk about Hilary Hahn who doesn't bring any contribution to the discussion or to argue about stupid things.

Bye

November 4, 2007 at 06:42 PM · I'd first to caprice #16. It will help with your string crossings.

Also, Novacek Moto Perpetuo.

#5 is one of the 10 hardest caprices. It's very risky, so I would have done it differently first.

November 4, 2007 at 06:57 PM · Pieter,

I'm sorry for the evolution of the discussion but I really appreciate your advices.

Bye

November 4, 2007 at 08:24 PM · it's good to see you guys work it out....:)

November 5, 2007 at 06:01 AM · Antonello,

Why ask for advice if you don't want to listen? One year seems like a long time to work on something and not be able to play it, don't you think? If it were me, I would talk to my teacher about backing up a little and building a better foundation for such a hard piece of music.

November 5, 2007 at 08:45 AM · So I want to change my discussion in:

"for people who know how to play well 5 caprice what tricks advices "preparatory etudes" can I use to play well this caprice in a long term period?"

thank you

November 5, 2007 at 09:02 AM · howard I wanna ask you,

there are different people in this thread saying different things:

Bruce says that it is natural that it takes a very long time

you and pieter saying that it is better to quit

Who sholud I trust more you or Bruce?

I have to say also that I hadn't been playing this caprice for a while during this year because my profession is chemist so I can't handle every day this music. Just recently I have picked up this piece after a long time and for sure I feel that the control is going better.

In the same time I'm studying different technique for bow and left hand every day and I guess the study of this caprice can overlap with study of technique in a favorable way, not in a detrimental one, obviuosly it depends on how you study this music.

November 5, 2007 at 10:54 AM · I'll do that but not to demonstrate something to Howard or Pieter, but for myself to improve myself.

BTW thank you josh

November 5, 2007 at 11:26 AM · So let me get this straight. A chemist, who has been brusque and rude on other threads, reveals his violinistic level in his clips and in the facts of the specific case for which he seeks advice. He receives absolutely accurate, albeit unpleasant advice from a professional teacher and a high-level conservatory student. Specifically: don't give up but don't try running before you can walk.

In response, our brusque chemist first questions the abilities of the professionally-oriented conservatory student and then, when those abilities are exhibited, the abilities of the student to play the specific piece. Never mind that there are thousands of pieces and it is not inconceivable that the student wouldn't be playing the one in question at that particular time. Next, when the professional teacher weighs in, a high schooler hoping to get into the most elite of conservatories with a rather limited rep list tells the conservatory student to shut up and, in his oh-so-expert opinion, advises the brusque chemist to ignore the teacher and the student just to annoy them.

Have I summarized accurately?

The advice, for the record, is good. The teacher who keeps a non-pro student on a high-level pro piece for a year is not. Learn coordination on something simpler. Then tackle serious stuff. Or play like crap and don't ask for suggestions. And that goes for you too, Hong.

November 5, 2007 at 12:07 PM · Emil

I sooner or later will play that piece. be sure.

I'm not saying I gonna play it tomorrow during a recital.

My thread was just a request of pure tachnical tricks about how to solve the caprice.

If we want to bring the violin teaching on scientific high levels we have to get rid of stupid threads about interview on hilary hahn or if we play with socks with particular colour.

my threads was just a chance to talk about what I like more in violin: the chance to improve through a scientific and mechanical approach of the problems.

I would like also to say you that my teacher is one of the top violinist in the world, the unique to play well Berio sequenza and especially he is a teacher because he faces with problem using a unique scientific approach: also he wasn’t that great when younger but after solving problems he arrived at top levels after a hard work, so he CAN teach.

Sometime I ask myself if the pieces I have to play are too difficult to me (also for Mendelssohn I thought the same)I picked up that piece in 2004 after I started playing violin again after have quit for 7 years because of my studies in chemistry, so I'm proud of the work I did on that piece I'm proud.

So, keep going with your useless threads, what is the function of this site, what??

You say I have a brusque behaviour in my threads, but I never gave advices like "quit playing" or "don't do that is above your skills" I just disagreed with persons talking about useless things not bringing no contribution to the improvement of knowledge on how that magic instrument which is the violin.

Bye

November 5, 2007 at 12:15 PM · Emil

I sooner or later will play that piece. be sure.

I'm not saying I gonna play it tomorrow during a recital.

My thread was just a request of pure tachnical tricks about how to solve the caprice.

If we want to bring the violin teaching on scientific high levels we have to get rid of stupid threads about interview on hilary hahn or if we play with socks with particular colour.

my threads was just a chance to talk about what I like more in violin: the chance to improve through a scientific and mechanical approach of the problems.

I would like also to say you that my teacher is one of the top violinist in the world, the unique to play well Berio sequenza and especially he is a teacher because he faces with problem using a unique scientific approach: also he wasn’t that great when younger but after solving problems he arrived at top levels after a hard work, so he CAN teach.

Sometime I ask myself if the pieces I have to play are too difficult to me (also for Mendelssohn I thought the same)I picked up that piece in 2004 after I started playing violin again after have quit for 7 years because of my studies in chemistry, so I'm proud of the work I did on that piece I'm proud.

So, keep going with your useless threads, what is the function of this site, what??

You say I have a brusque behaviour in my threads, but I never gave advices like "quit playing" or "don't do that is above your skills" I just disagreed with persons talking about useless things not bringing no contribution to the improvement of knowledge on how to play that magic instrument which is the violin.

Bye

November 5, 2007 at 01:15 PM · Antonello,

I didn't say "quit playing", I suggested that you should play something that is a little easier for the time being- something that is within you "zone of proximal development", i.e. something you can actually learn in a reasonable amount of time and that is not too big a leap from what you already know. Ultimately, you'll reach your goal of playing the 5th caprice sooner if you do it that way, and it will be higher quality than your Mendelssohn. I also commented that perhaps you shouldn't ask for advice from professionals and then be rude when you get that advice. But, you know, do what you want.

November 5, 2007 at 01:16 PM · I think it is important to respect the judgement of the teacher in selecting suitable literature for a student. Every student has a different learning style and the teacher's duty is to use pieces that will make each student progress the most rapidly in the shortest amount of time. With most students this usually means using a step by step approach and building up a secure foundation. With some a different approach works.

I recall several years ago I had a freshman student whose technical level was on a pretty low. level. When I asked him what piece he would most like to play he replied hopefully, "Tchaikowsky concerto". Although the piece was far beyond him I told him to go for it. His previous teacher was horrified. He worked like a dog on the first movement and even performed it after a few months. Needless to say it sounded like hell. However, his general technical level shot way up in a short period of time. We backed off after that with more manageable pieces and he made consistent progress. He went on to get a masters degree with Brian Lewis and is now a successful teacher.

November 5, 2007 at 02:36 PM · Go to youtube and search for 'paganiniscaprices'

Nuff said.

November 5, 2007 at 05:12 PM · I've learned that until you are totally ready to meet a piece's challenges, it's just best not to flog and flail through it.

I decided I wanted to do one of the really "hard" caprices, #11. So I learned it last summer, but never had time to play it at Encore. I took it to Israel, and only in the last 10 minutes of my last lesson did I play it for someone. Then now, finally, I brought it to my lesson in Cleveland, and kind of played it. I defintaely can play this caprice, but I saw then and there that I cannot just pull it out of nowhere after months of not touching it. I'd have to work on it every day for at least 3-4 days before I could play it well from start to finish.

What I'm trying to say is, there are some things, even if you know all the notes, that you really have to be at the top of your game for. Paganini caprices are excellent as etudes, but if you cannot really play that level of stuff after working on it for say, a week, maybe 3 for the hardest caprices, then you aren't ready for it. I've never, ever heard of a teacher say that a work should take 1 year (from a technical perspective, not music). ESPECIALLY not a 2 page Caprice!

So sorry that I don't agree with your teacher, but in anything else, a sport, academics, mountaincliming.. whatever, you'd be told you're too green... you are essentially trying to play one of the hardest caprices, when you aren't ready. I wouldn't dare tackle #17 because I don't have reliable fingered octaves (last time I used them was in Mendelssohn). Scale back, and you won't believe what you can accomplish with a solid base.

Like I said, caprice #16. Also Novacek or even Riese moto perpetuo. Much easier on the fingers, and will help you with the bow stroke, PLUS the coordination with string crossings, and the endurance you'll need. Play those three very well, and I guarantee that you'll do Paganini #5 at performance level in less than a month (granted, I don't know how good your opening and closing section are...).

November 5, 2007 at 05:11 PM · Hi Bruce,

I agree that sometimes giving a student a piece that's way beyond their currnet level of playing can create a "necessity is the mother of invention" kind of situation for the student. In the case of the student you mentioned though, he basically learned to play Tchaik. concerto "like hell", so was that really the best long-term solution to teaching him how to play the violin well? No offense intended here- it's necessary to take into account the student's motivations too, and it sounds like your student really, really wanted to play that concerto.

Also, you said that "after a few months" your student played tchaik. Well, Antonello says he's been working on this two page Paganini caprice for a year. As his teacher, I would begin to question whether this was still a good use of antonello's time, especially given the lack of time for practice/ chem degree requirements etc. Much better to give him something a LITTLE less complex, even a simpler caprice, so he would have a chance to learn and perform it within a few months instead of years. I bet if the teacher did that, that Antonello would be able to play the 5th caprice sooner and better than using the approach he's using now.

November 5, 2007 at 05:13 PM · Hush up, Hong.

Just kidding... Seriously though, what did I say in my first post that was nasty or rude? I certainly didn't mean it that way. Anyway, he's certainly welcome to bash his head against that caprice for another year, if that's what he wants- I was just trying to be helpful.

November 5, 2007 at 05:31 PM · Hey guys

I can say that now I agree with you, this is the kind of reply I would have appreciated

What I was trying to say is that in the meanwhile I'm studying the caprice trying to experiment different tricks and stabilising exercises, I know that it will take a long long time but in the meanwhile I'm working on other technique books and other caprices and musics.

I guess that when you make a good job in fixing different correct tricks movements, all the physical and mechanical mechnism of playing on a piece like that it is not detrimental. it would have been so if I have played it for the first time at 160 b/min. now I'm working on it up to 120.

That's not so bad.

November 5, 2007 at 05:45 PM · Pieter a question for you.

Why can't I listen to your music on my computer?

Few months ago I was able to do that.

Ciao

Antonio

November 5, 2007 at 06:16 PM · No problem Joshua!

November 5, 2007 at 06:20 PM · Antonello,

Well I hope to hear it here sometime when you're ready. Sorry, I really didn't mean to insult you with my advice!

November 5, 2007 at 06:29 PM · No,

absolutely don't worry Howard.

:)

June 20, 2009 at 09:09 AM ·

If anyone refers back to this conversation... try learning the caprices per instructions on this website: http://paganinitechnique.com.  Worth a try.

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