Exercise / technique and scale books in order of difficulty

April 18, 2008 at 04:03 PM · All of my students but one is a beginner. I'm looking for some exercise / technique and possibly scale books for him. I had him play the first page of Wohlfahrt op.54, and it was too easy for him. He is playing Pachelbel's Canon and Eine KLeine Nachtmusik, but they're not very challenging for him. I hope this gives you an idea of his current skill level. What exercise books would you recommend for him? Can you rank some of the commonly used books in order of difficulty? Also, do you have any suggestion on solo violin pieces for him?

Replies (24)

April 18, 2008 at 04:53 PM · I'm a beginner as you know, so not sure if they are applicable for your student. I am using Wolfhart op45, and nicolas laoureux supplement as etude (this one is quite challenging for me)

April 18, 2008 at 06:40 PM · Mazas?

April 18, 2008 at 08:08 PM · Would the Telemann fantasies be a good idea?

As for ranking classic exercise books, violinmasterclass.com has a list, and West Park Strings has one too. But surely you knew that already.

Good hunting!

April 19, 2008 at 12:45 AM · Try Doflein Book 3. It has Wohlfarht and other similar etudes, very thorough 2nd & 3rd position training, lots of duets (including some Bartok), and some more complex 1/2 position at the end. For solos, maybe try the Barbara Barber series-book 2/3.

April 19, 2008 at 01:01 AM · Patricia, I'm not especially interested in positions other than first and maybe a smattering of third. I'm thinking of books I've played in the past and have forgotten, like Hans Sitt, Dont, Rode, Kaiser, and Kreutzer. The only one I ever liked was Kreutzer because the exercises were like pretty little pieces. I hope I'm making my intent more clear. Thanks for your suggestions on exercise books anyway. The solo pieces you suggested may work well.

Bart, I did not know that violinmasterclass has a list like that. Thanks for telling me about it. I'll go check it right away.

Marina, could you tell me something about Mazas?

PM, my student is quite a bit more advanced than you, but thanks for your response.

April 19, 2008 at 04:11 AM · Pauline,

The Mazas etudes are very good. But beware when buying them. Mazas wrote two etude books - etudes speciales and etudes brilliantes. The ones that you will probably find the most useful are the etudes speciales. They are op. 36 no. 1. They are very good for developing solid left hand position, and solid bow control near the tip. I've used them on myself, and found them to be quite helpful and would recommend them to students of any age - it's a great teaching tool and a great way to review technique.


April 19, 2008 at 04:36 AM · My daughter did the Wolfhart book, past the first excersize, they get more interesting. She also did Doflien book 2 and 3 at the same time. The Maza books, I hear work on the even positions ( 2, 4, 6) which kids are least comfortable.

April 19, 2008 at 07:13 AM · There are several Wohlfahrt books: Op. 54: Op. 74, Vols. 1 and 2; Op. 45, Vols. 1 and 2; and Op. 38. I'm using Op. 38 with my beginning students. I like it because it's clear from the verbal instructions what you're supposed to earn from a given exercise, i.e., slurring on one string, slurring on two strings, synchopation, etc. Also, each of the exercises is short and pretty. I've used one of the other Wohlfahrts, whose Op. number I don't remember, but it gave no clue as to what you should learn from a given exercise, and the exercises weren't pretty. When you write about Wohlfahrt, please give the Opus number.

April 19, 2008 at 02:19 PM · When my daughter used wohlfahrt, she used a kind of combo edition of multiple opus numbers in two volumes called Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies Volumes I & II edited by Aquouini (or something like that) and they are indeed progressively more difficult. First volume is in first position, second has etudes with shifting.

After the Wohlfahrt, she did Kayser 36 etudes (Op 20). These are also progressively more difficult etudes.

Alongside these etudes were Schradieck, Sevcik, Whistler and Yost.

Then there was Mazas and Kreutzer. I could be forgetting some.

Scales? She went from some photocopied Russian thing to Flesch.

April 19, 2008 at 02:32 PM · The Mazas were given to me as a gift. I don't know much about them because they were too easy for my skill level at the time, so I just put them aside. They popped in my mind as easy pre-kreutzer level so you may want to try them. Sorry I'm not more helpful.

April 20, 2008 at 03:37 AM · Sean, I think I know what you mean about Wohlfahrt in two volumes. One of my students who had another teacher before me came with the Wohlfahrt Vol. She hated every exercise but played them until she got them right. She was always counting how many more exercises were in the book.

Thanks for the suggestion.

April 20, 2008 at 04:19 AM · Pauline--even if the first etude of the Wohlfahrt book is easy for him, you probably should start him with a small collection of etudes from that book. If he has never had any etude study, it is a very good entry level book. The etudes start getting much more difficult around #20 or so. The easier ones may also be used for development of tone, proper posture, hand positioning, intonation, etc. It is refreshing to work on music that you can make sound beautiful and not just trip over all the notes. Just my opinion on the matter. I have never seen this student obviously, but it is just my experience on the matter. I hope my advice is helpful.

April 20, 2008 at 11:49 AM · Hope, thanks. That's a good idea. It probably holds true for many of the books mentioned here. They start off relatively easy and grow progressively more difficult.

April 20, 2008 at 09:30 PM · Pauline,

I'm working on a Mazas study from the etudes speciales No 17 which my teacher photocopied for me. I've been learning for about 18 months and am doing mainly 3rd position with some tiny steps into 2nd. This etude covers some shifting in third position and a little in 2nd. However, I've noticed there are two versions in print. I once bought a CD with various books of exercises (includes this) and the exercise is a bit different from the version my teacher gave me. In my teachers version, eg the first three notes are slurred, with the first two played legato and the third staccato. Sounds very interesting. (My CD version they're played all separate and have a triangular mark - sorry for my ignorance of musical terms).

With some guidance from a teacher it's quite a fun and musical etude. There's more to it than that, but I'll say more if it's needed. Hope that helps.

April 21, 2008 at 01:51 AM · Bernadette, that helps indeed. I like the words "fun and musical." People are more likely to practice, enjoy, and learn from that kind of book.

I just found the etude that you're working on, and I agree that it is musical and fun, with some degree of challenge. I think it would be very important to select carefully which etudes from Mazas to work on. For instance, #18 does not look at all appealing. I saw the little triangles you described. They are not standard, commonly used marks. My guess is that they mean staccato. If you ask your teacher about it, please let me know the answer.

Thanks so much for all your detailed help.

April 21, 2008 at 04:56 AM · Greetings,

I believe Mazas actually wrote three books. Special, Brilliante, and artist level. In general they come after Kayser. Roughly speaking the Kayser provide a very solid `Germanic` into the string basis to bowing. Mazas is, in theory, more elegant and er, `French, with somewhat lighter bowing (off rather than on in staccqato) . The masaz etudes are exceptionally fine music and should not be udnerestimated. To play the first etude of the firts book with good phrasing and bow control is actually quite a high level skill. A beautiful and useful etude for refining detache is no five which is a good start point. These etudes are well worth veyr careful study if one chooses to go down the etude route. I think they are often neglected bor taugfht in a rather shallow manner. I do recall the top teache rat the Royal College of Music (Yraoslav Vanacek) giving these etudes to his new studnets, much to their surpise considering they were palyign major cocnertos.

Another excellent set of etudes which are highly underestimated are the opus 84 (?) by Dancla which would be exact6ly the right level for the stduent you describe. There is another book of Dancla which is as difficult as the Rode caprices. Absolutely bbeatiful. He is great compose rwho is well worth exploring.

I woudl live to have time to work o0n all these etudes with my studnets but frankly these days I am opting more and more to just use Drew`s book (applicaboe at any level) and then music itself. This is a terrible abandonment of the greta tradition of developing violintehcnique through the long and veyr rewarding study of etudes in some glkind of systemtaic curriculum but efificnecy also means a lot...

I have written in soem detail avbout orde rof etudes and so forth in the well hidden Buri dump on this site called I think Buri`s Garden or somehting similar.



April 21, 2008 at 06:02 AM · Pauline,

Indeed, the version with the little triangles has a completely different feel to it, and I don't like it as much. It may be that my version has been 'edited' prior to printing. It may have been printed in Czech Republic or Poland (I only have a one page photocopy) but my teacher has various compilations she uses. Even her Wohlfahrt is sometimes different to that on the CD I bought.

Coming back to Mazas 18, if you write in slurs: one that covers the first two notes, (played legato) and then a further slur underneath that also includes the third note, which, incidentally has a dot underneath - so you play all three with one bow in the same direction but stopping after the first two, then normal legato for the second trio of notes, it gives a completely different 'feel'. Almost like a waltz at times.

The version I have is not uniform throughout, which makes it a bit 'cheeky' too. There's quite a few different challenges, but I've enjoyed it.

I went back and had a browse through the others in the 'special' book, and some of the early ones look 'do-able' for my level.

The 'brilliant' and 'artist' ones are for far more advanced folks.

April 21, 2008 at 06:56 AM · After Wohlfahrt I went into Kayser. My teacher has an edition with a 2nd violin part for each etude, so that they can be played as duets. Many of them are quite pretty played that way.

April 21, 2008 at 07:44 AM · Bernadette, I wonder whether we're talking about the same pieces. Are you looking in volume 1? In the etude #17 that I have (on a disc), the little triangles are present, and there is no other version of #17. In the #18 I have, the bowings you described could not possibly fit the notes. The books I'm looking at do not have special, brilliant, and artist parts, just volumes 1, 2, and 3. If you like, I can email you my version of nos. 17 and 18 as PDF files. I'm sure they're different versions than the one you have.

Christian, I have arrangements with violin 1 and violin 2 for a couple of books, including the early Suzukis and parts of Wohlfahrt Op. 38, and they really sound pretty and make the pieces a lot more fun to play.

April 21, 2008 at 08:35 AM · Pauline, I may ask my husband to send you a copy of my etude later. (He's out right now) I'll be interested to see your version too.

If you are able, could you also send me one or two of the duets to have a look at? (I'm talking about the Wohlfahrt etude duets you mentioned) Ones that you think are especially tuneful and not overly difficult? I'd love a glimpse of that edition. What is the title of the book?

April 21, 2008 at 01:35 PM · If your student is just learning 3rd position (did I understand that from previous posts?) then Mazas will likely be a bit of a stretch. I use the Hans Sitt etudes and students seem to do well with them. The first book is all in 1st position; 2nd book goes from 2nd to 5th position, with several etudes in each position (I don't usually make students do ALL the etudes in each position--little arms can get quite crampy!); and the 3rd book has sequential shifts from 1st through 5th position. Otherwise, might he be ready for Dont Op. 37 (not to be confused with Op. 35!)? I think those are a little easier than Mazas and I really like them. How about starting some double stop exercises? The Hofmann double stop book starts with open string stops, and moves to more difficult situations. I think they're more interesting than the Trott, even though the Trott books are more well known. Anyway...my 3 cents.

April 21, 2008 at 01:34 PM · P.S. What say we all chip in and buy Buri an American computer keyboard! ;-)

April 22, 2008 at 02:55 AM · Kristin, I think we should include some prunes in the gift.

April 22, 2008 at 05:07 AM · goes without saying.

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