How do you Sevcik?

February 22, 2008 at 04:17 AM · Most of us here seem to agree on the tremendous value of Sevcik. I'm wondering which particular volumes and sections folks find most useful, and what part they play in your practice time.

Replies (23)

February 22, 2008 at 09:42 PM · I'm a Sevcik geek. It's ALL I work on right now because I am determined to improve my intonation. However, you can't just play it. You have to be very careful to listen to every note to see if it's in tune. Sometimes, I go for 10 minutes on one measure. But, it gets easier each time I play it. Right now, I'm working off of the 2nd-7th position exercises and the shifting exercise, because that's what I had around. However, I also make up my own exercises with different finger configurations. I just bought the 1st position and the intro to double stops one last week. I can't wait to try them!

February 23, 2008 at 03:35 PM · My earlier teachers introuced it to me and had me prctice it but it was just pressing fingers down on strings.

My last teacher was a lot more analytic about it. He insisted that each pattern had a posture and that one had to form the posture well before one could play the notes accurately. Unfortunately once he laid the foundation he was not interested in guiding me further. Posture and pattern have remained an area of interest and effort for me but I don't practice Sevcik.

February 23, 2008 at 06:01 PM · There are two rules I follow for sevcik. First, no more than 5 exercises a day, and the second, no more than 20 minutes a day.

If the notes are not in tune, if you left hand or fingers are misshapen, if the bow is not straight, if it sounds horrible, then stop. The point of these little exercises is to reinforce a good set-up. Having said that, I have used Opus 8 and 9 before, but I dropped Op. 9. I occasionally use Opus 8 when I feel that things are not going well in my left hand.

February 23, 2008 at 06:09 PM · I do sevcik bowing to warm up, usually, for around 20 minutes.

February 25, 2008 at 02:37 PM · Thanks, folks, for the responses.

Diane, I'm wondering which exercises within book 2 you find most useful, and which you stay away from.

Charlie, do you stick with Opus 1, books 1 and 2?

Bobby, wondering which bowing exercises you use.

Corwin, wondering which ones you used to use.

Basically I've never used Sevcik but I've had the books on my shelf forever. Recently I've been taking a fresh look and will perhaps incorporate some into my own practice and my teaching. So far volume two looks the most interesting -- maybe a couple of minutes on the finger warmups, (the first page in various positions) and then some of the stretchy ones, maybe 4, 5, 7. For my students this will also serve do develop reading fluency in the unfamiliar positions.

February 26, 2008 at 07:43 AM · In my mind, Sevcik is like should incorporate much more than just the mechanics. I try to incorporate breathing and relaxation into my exercises. Like anything, only do as much as you can give your fullest attention to.

February 26, 2008 at 09:39 AM · I grew up with Sevcik. Always had a long list of exercises to prepare for exams - and only practiced it really when the exams were around the corner. My teacher didn't really mind. He said it was more important that I got a good idea of what was out there, so I could use it later when I was more motivated. Which I did, and do.

What do I find useful? Well, at various times, the following:

Op.1, bk.4 - for double stops and setting the hand frame. Also, left hand pizzicato.

Op. 8 - for shifting; complements Yost nicely in that you move from handshape to handshape, and not just note to note.

At the moment, I'm using op. 7 (bk. 2, I think) for finger articulation work, but I've also done a lot of work with op. 1, bk. 1 in the past. Op. 1, bk. 3 covers basically the same material as Flesch, though it's laid out differently.

One of the big benefits of Sevcik is that there's simply so much of it there - which means you can keep changing things up to avoid boredom. I don't really use much of op. 2 anymore - there are other ways to develop bow technique, and the Variations (op. 3?) are a little more compact.

How do I use Sevcik? Well, it depends what I need to achieve. I currently use it to maintain my technique, rather than develop it - and so I'll often use the exercises to reinforce a feeling I'm not getting consistently in my practicing, or as warm-ups. Speaking of which, I should get started!

March 23, 2008 at 10:32 AM · Anyone tried the Flesch urstudien? They are exceptional warming up material. If you are interested, PM me and i will send them to you.

March 23, 2008 at 01:43 PM · My profesor smiles and says that Sevcik is his hero. So far the only Sevcik I have played recently is the, "Exercises for promoting Dexterity in the various Positions" exercise 1. And this Monday he's going to assighn a few more. I must say that Sevicik is quite a nice, and sometimes grueling, work out!

March 23, 2008 at 01:47 PM · I have distant memories of begrudingly doing the bow exercises because my teacher said so. This thread inspires me to look at them again with a better attitude this time.

March 23, 2008 at 07:17 PM · I agree with Marina. This thread has totally changed how I look at Sevcik. Now I realize that it's a lot more than bow exercises. Thank you all!

April 14, 2008 at 02:50 PM · I have used the elementary left hand and bowing books -- I believe it's Opp 1 and 2 -- and the Forty Variations, Op. 3. Luckily, I had a teacher who could tell me what to do with them. ("those bowing exercises are like 'little yoga'"; Josef Hampl)

Another way of practicing the Op 1 left hand stuff: once slowly, twice in twice that tempo, and four times in four times the tempo. And relax from one note/finger to the next, like a cat. Strangely enough, those are happy memories :)

In the final years I studied several of Otakar Sevcik's repertoire studies. For me, they are beautiful examples of the kind of exercise one can make up for oneself to overcome a technical difficulty in a piece. But practicing them as written out in a book needs much concentration or it will become deadening.

Nowadays I often use the Forty Variations.


April 14, 2008 at 09:34 PM · Sevcik is a very good terapy for shaping the hands and help the fluidity of shiftings (op.8) and doubler stops (op.9)

I think those are the best especially op.8 is wonderful.

Sometimes I pick up my Sevcik op.8 and I like its mechanism.

April 14, 2008 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

those are the two books I would recommend far above the rest of the material,



April 14, 2008 at 11:45 PM · I had never done Sevick, but once I was in a cheap bookstore and there was a copy that was fifty cents, and I how could I not pick it up? I had heard of it, but I never played it. It helped my playing ginormously. I wish I had started out with it.....

April 15, 2008 at 02:13 AM · I assume it may still be available, but in addition to the exercises mentioned, Sevick also dissected the Kreutzer etudes making his own edition of them and my teacher in Israel, Yair Kless, had me work through Sevick's exercises to enhance the accurate performance of the Kreutzer etudes. It may seem like over kill to make a separate etude out of a Kreutzer etude but it was very effective in developing consistency of technique.

April 15, 2008 at 01:25 PM · I used to do Sevcik daily but I find it too addictive--I'd spend hours on Sevcik and never play literature. I now use it sporadically and go through a series of Sevcik drunks and then lay off for a few weeks.

April 15, 2008 at 04:38 PM · Working on the Barber Concerto. Glad you started this thread. I forgot about Sevcik. I bet it would help a great deal. It's been a long while, but I remember Sevcik as being difficult. Opus 1 number 4 is the one I remember struggling with (School of Violin Technics). My teacher was Nell Gotkovsky. Her teachers were Galamian and Szigeti. If I remember correctly, Nell had most of her students working in Sevcik.

April 15, 2008 at 03:04 PM · I like to use Sevcik for warm up. This is the current routine:

1) 5 min. on Op. 1, parts 1 & 2, no more than 4 measures. I actually lifted this left hand warm up from some of my viola buddies that studied with Mr. Kowasaki.

2) 15 min. on School of Bowing, parts 1 & 2. I never take these too fast.

3) A few Op. 3, (40 Variations). I have the Simon Fischer edition, which is very well organized. I started on these last year, when I started lessons with a new teacher. We spent 3 lessons going through the whole book. Evidently, I am supposed to practice all the variations starting down AND up bow. Tyrant!

I also like to cycle through Op. 8 shifting, Op. 9 Double Stops, and Op. 1, parts 3 & 4, mostly for review. Not too much at a time though. A few measures a day, at the most.

Was it Perlman (?) that said that a little Sevcik can be very beneficial, but too much is dreadful? I think that is true.

April 16, 2008 at 01:20 PM · Jay said:

"I used to do Sevcik daily but I find it too addictive--I'd spend hours on Sevcik and never play literature."


That came as a shock, or rather a revelation! But upon reflection it makes a lot of sense, that Sevcik can be addictive. I'll bet there are some other folks who share your experience.

I wonder if you could elaborate a bit. Just what and how much you do -- which activities are valuable and at what point does it become addictive and stop being valuable.

April 16, 2008 at 01:58 PM · Yeah... I've been meaning to get back to Sevcik. I was somewhat surprised to discover a while back that advanced players (here at, in fact)include it in their practice routine. It's the first etude book I can remember using when I first started playing, probably op.1. So as part of my back-to-basics plan, I did buy whatever Sevcik I could find a few years ago, but I have yet to dive into them. Maybe this week?

April 16, 2008 at 04:29 PM · Ray--

I start to use Sevcik when I come across problems with literature that indicate a specific weakness--then I go back to Sevcik but the truth of it really is I use Opus 8--for shifting and scale work and Opus 9?? for double stops. They become addictive because I never truly master an area they just get better than they were, so I obsess about just making it right. And so I play Sevcik for hours. When the bloomin exercise starts to sound like music I know I've had enough and go back to literature. I'm working the Faure #1 and the Brahms #1--lots of double stops and scales. It's also time to get a new Flesch--the dog ate mine.

May 1, 2009 at 11:25 AM ·

I had to use Sevcik op.1 no.1 when taking lessons as a kid. The teacher chose some exercise every week and marked a part of it with pencil, then we'd practice that part at home. That's probably the way to go through it first time, but not for using it continuously as a warm-up exercise. I recognized the value of it even as a kid, since it looked so easy and yet showed me my deficiencies in the basics and made me get better, but I found it quite boring and didn't like playing it.

When I restarted violin playing as a hobby many years later as an adult, I wanted to use the book again and found it challenging to put together a daily 20 minutes "work-out" from this great material:

The instructions given for each exercise make it take a long time, e.g. in exercise 1, repeat every bar a few times, with different bowings, on ALL strings (Same in op.8: every exercise should be practiced in every scale, not only C major).  When I followed these instructions, even doing a single exercise a day lasts too long, and I found it very unbalanced and unvaried, which is bad for any kind of work-out.

To avoid that, I started to pick a few exercises and looked for the "difficult bars" in it, marked them with pencil and focused on them. No good idea either; in most exercises I found most bars being of similar difficulty. And I spent too much time on selecting bars and updating my selection regularly instead of practicing: If you include and op.8 in the work-out program, I ended up spending time just to make a choice, which bars to practice next week.  And then there's all the pencil marks; I wanted to have a program that I could easily follow continuously, not just write a check mark after finishing a bar and forget about it.

So I use post-it notes in op.1 no.1 now, which works much better for me.  I cut it into pieces of 0.5x1 inches each, and move them through the exercises.  For example, there's one for exercise 10 (string crossings) at the beginning of a line. I practice that line (following the instructions on top) seriously, then move the snippet to the next line to mark the beginning for the next day (after the last line it moves back to line 1).  Then I go on with exercise 12 (scales), there's the next post-it. It moves two scales a day.  The next post-it is at 13 (Scales in intervals), it moves through exercises 13-16 a scale a day, then back to 13.  The marker in 17 moves just one triad a day, since they are still difficult for me so one bar takes longer. And so on...  This way I can move on for many weeks before updating the program, it is not boring at all but quite varied every day, and I don't miss something.



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