Picking and Chosing Etudes

September 4, 2009 at 03:14 AM ·

When teaching students, I have always been told that this is the general etude sequence to follow:

Wolfahrt, Kayser, Mazas, Dont, Kreutzer with some Trott, Whistler, and Sevcik thrown in.

However, if a student comes who is 15 and at about the Kayser level, There is no way we could get through all of that with any success before graduation. What etudes do other teachers feel are essential, and which ones can easily be left off of the list?

Replies (32)

September 4, 2009 at 04:37 AM ·

Each student is unique, with different needs and goals.  That said, sometimes I use Whistler's Preparing For Kreutzer Volumes 1 & 2, which is a beautifully organized sequence of etudes pulled from Kayser, Mazas, Dont Op. 37, with some Spohr, Dancla, and others tossed in the mix.  This series can fast track a student through the traditional Kayser-Mazas-Dont Op 37 sequence, with all the benefits, but with less time.

On the other hand, I also have students that really benefit from a careful, Germanically thorough study through the traditional sequence.  And I'd rather send off those students with Wohlfahrt-Kayser-Mazas well learned, than having them suffer needlessly through Dont Op. 35.

At the end of the day, you have to figure out what's best for each student.

September 4, 2009 at 05:06 AM ·

Yes, it would take a long time to play through every single etude in that sequence, not to mention that beyond Kreutzer there is much useful material in Fiorillo, Dont, Gavinies, Paganini, and others.

However, it's a waste of time to attempt to play through etude books from beginning to end. A student's teacher needs to have the insight to understand what a student can and cannot do, and assign etudes/studies as necessary to bridge the technical and musical gaps in their training so that they can move forward to interpret and perform the major repertoire.

One of my mentors organized a list of the techniques he felt were essential (rapid scalar passages, harmonics, octaves, thirds, sixths, tenths, chord playing, finger pattern mapping, various bow strokes, etc.) then listed every etude from all of the popular books that helped train/develop each particular skill. Very, very, handy!

September 4, 2009 at 06:43 AM ·


if a student came in at 15 at the Kayser level I might well simply use Drew Lecher`s book and a judicious application of exercises from Basics.  Just one way of getting rapid results without demotivating the students.  Drew`s approach also translates directly into how to practice music as a bonus.



September 4, 2009 at 01:50 PM ·

re:  a judicious application of exercises from Basics

Stephen Brivati, is this what you are referring to?  Basics by Simon Fischer

I need to get a copy of that book.

Thank you.

September 4, 2009 at 05:07 PM ·

Roland- Get Drew Lecher's book!

September 4, 2009 at 07:37 PM ·


Roland that`s the one.  You do need to get it!



September 5, 2009 at 01:48 AM ·

Thank You!

May 29, 2015 at 09:08 PM · Gene wrote "One of my mentors organized a list of the techniques he felt were essential (rapid scalar passages, harmonics, octaves, thirds, sixths, tenths, chord playing, finger pattern mapping, various bow strokes, etc.) then listed every etude from all of the popular books that helped train/develop each particular skill. Very, very, handy!"

Gene, have you still got that list?

May 30, 2015 at 01:56 AM · A master list like that sure would be useful. I bet it would be controversial though. That's inevitable.

April 4, 2016 at 05:40 PM · Where does Rode usually fit into etude sequences?

April 4, 2016 at 08:32 PM · My teachers never taught complete etude books, just picked out the ones they felt would be valuable at the time. So I did portions of Wolfhart, Mazas, Dont op. 37 and Trott in conjunction with Kreutzer, then Dont op. 35. There were bits of Sevcik throughout.

Later on in my adult-returnee early phases, my teachers used Rode and Gavinies.

April 4, 2016 at 08:34 PM · Without wanting to repeat too much of what has been said, it is indeed an individual choice. It's a little like asking a doctor which treatment or medicine he'd prescribe.

That said, my typical sequence would start with Kayser, with a lot of work on #1 alone, with different bowings, etc. - similarly with Kreutzer #2. After Kayser, Mazas Book 1, Kreutzer, interleaving with Mazas bk. 2, Fiorillo, etc.

Kreutzer is a perfect example of why NOT to go in printed sequence: the last 10 are all double-stops. Does it make sense to do no double stops till then and thereafter nothing BUT?

I would do Rode after Kreutzer, then Dont op.35, some Dancla, some Gavinies and some Paganini. Rode is another good example of why not to be stuck with the printed sequence: Rode had a fine idea to write a caprice in each key - a sort of well-tempered violin! But that doesn't necessarily mean that this sequence is best for any particular student.

BTW, Auer and Heifetz were big fans of Kreutzer. Many etudes should be reviewed. As I recall, I went through Kreutzer and Rode 3 or 4 times!

Whistler's and Lecher's compilations are not familiar to me and sound very interesting. I've had an idea on the back-burners for a long time to do something similar on a more advanced level.

April 5, 2016 at 05:22 PM · Thanks!

April 5, 2016 at 05:43 PM · Raphael, Whistler wrote a whole bunch of method books, of which one of the most famous is "Preparing for Kreutzer" in two volumes. Another one is called "Developing Double Stops." Whistler compiled etudes from Kayser, Dancla, Mazas, De Beriot, and many others into his books. Another such compilation was published by Charles Levinson, which also had studies by Sitt and Alard. If you paged through these books you would not be surprised by what you saw. I always dreaded when the next study in the book was by Sitt. They are unbelievably dull. They are as bad as the Hoffman studies for viola.

About going through Kreutzer cover-to-cover, my understanding (which is that of an amateur admittedly) is that there are some basic studies in the beginning to develop tone generation (1) and to groove a really good detache among other bowings while developing intonation throughout the normal range of the finger board. Then come all the trill studies which are about getting your fingers to move faster. So maybe the double-stop studies are all at the end because Kreutzer figured you need to be able to play one note in tune reliably before playing two at a time? The competing philosophy is that getting started on double stops earlier is better because it helps you improve your single-note intonation faster, and because double-stops start occurring in repertoire quite soon.

By the way I love Kreutzer No. 35.

I think the biggest crime when people go through Kreutzer is they skip No. 1. If memory serves correctly the first Fiorello study is also a tone-generation study. (?)

April 5, 2016 at 06:10 PM · No. 35 is lots of fun. My favorite is 42, though.

April 5, 2016 at 10:17 PM · Can we remember that it's not the sequence or number of études that builds ability, but rather how we use the content of études. As soon as we "go through" an étude unthinkingly, it becomes worse than useless.

Also, an étude, as opposed to basic drills and scale variants, is a musical composition; so I flatly refuse to use études with no harmonic direction and coherence. E.g. Kayser, Mazas, Kreutzter, Gaviniès, will help form musical sense more often than Wolfhart or Dont. (Perhaps only being offered well-composed music in childhood has made me an insufferable snob, but I reaaly feel I should pass on my good fortune!)

April 6, 2016 at 04:14 AM · On the other hand just because one takes them in sequence does not mean one is not using them well.

April 6, 2016 at 07:02 AM · It's ok to skip around depending on the student and their needs. I disagree with Adrian re: refusing to use etudes with no harmonic direction/coherence, or at least his list partially. Kayser and Mazas (one I won't use in teaching) aren't known for their musicalities. Kayser has some application, if the student could benefit from it. Kreutzer is more musical in the latter half than the beginning. But, his etudes are invaluable and covers a large portion of the basic needed to tackle tougher pieces. If one doesn't use Kreutzer, then you're missing a grand opportunity of development for the student. Granted, there's 42. Over time, most of my students have gone through each one minus some redundant etudes in the book.

Wolfhart, like Kayser and Mazas has some uses but musically, it is just as dead as some of the others. Rode & Dont can be interchanged, hell you can do a few etudes from those two books while still working on Kreutzer. At 15, IF you reach Dont/Rode level, then the world is your oyster and you can move on to Wieniawski, Ysaye, etc...

But, I'd be leery of setting an exact path of etudes to be learned. It is always going to be on the student and whether they progress as quick as you'd like. As one student told me the other day "YMMV"

April 6, 2016 at 11:09 AM · But are etudes even of primary importance? If so when? If not, why not? I'd like to call attention to the following old thread:

Teresa Colombo

Comment by Gaylord Yost.

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

April 6, 2016 at 12:12 PM · Hi Laura,

Etudes in my opinion are a means to an end and should always serve to underpin the techniques needed in the repertoire your student is learning. So rather than going from one study to the next or one study book to the next, you will need to analyse the sonata or concerto you are teaching to your student and decide which technique your student needs to develop most to successfully play this particular performance piece. Is the intonation the stumbling block? Then choose double stop studies BUT make sure the studies are easy enough so the student does not spend the best part of the time available to learn the study, but instead uses the study to improve their intonation. Are trills the stumbling block, then let your student play a trill study and so on. However, always make your student plays scales and arpeggios in the key(s) of the performance piece, so that there is continuous backup of basic technique. If you can find a study that addresses the technique and which is in the same key too, that's even better. If you can find connections between everything your student is learning you are on the right tracks!

Good luck!

Henriette de Vrijer, Pro-Am Strings

April 6, 2016 at 05:53 PM · Hi, John A

I don't expect études to be inspiring or expressive, (though they can be,) but I expect, or rather demand coherent harmonic progression, periods, and cadences.

But then I'm also an unrepentent Seitz Basher...

April 6, 2016 at 05:53 PM · Oops!

Is there no way to delete one's own posts?

April 6, 2016 at 09:33 PM · "Etudes in my opinion are a means to an end and should always serve to underpin the techniques needed in the repertoire your student is learning."

I disagree. As an intermediate student I love etudes and they are both a means and an end. It's like exercise, yes it enhances life in general, but one is able to find enjoyment and meaning from the act itself.

"But then I'm also an unrepentent Seitz Basher"

What do you mean by that Adrian? The Seitz in Suzuki 4 are basically fantastic composite studies. I haven't seen any others though.

April 7, 2016 at 10:16 AM · Hi k d,

This is another topic, but while I "see" what Seitz was trying to do, and why we need a bridge towards more complex music, I find them very, very poor as composition studies. To my ears, this is junk music (as in junk food..) But I expect to get shot down over this!

April 7, 2016 at 10:39 AM · I don't see them as a bridge towards complex music, or in any way trying to be sophisticated music (or whatever the opposite of junk music is). In the Suzuki Seitz each is essentially a composition of 4-5 'separate' studies. And each section is so instructive for this intermediate stage. Even though I have moved beyond them I keep coming back because they still have more to give. And probably no other Suzuki piece or individual etude has been as valuable as each of those.

April 7, 2016 at 11:27 AM · While I like the Seitz concertos as well, they certainly do not offer more than any of the numerous Bach pieces.

April 7, 2016 at 07:54 PM · Accolay and DeBeriot concertos are much the same, just studies glued together.

April 8, 2016 at 03:47 AM · I disagree on the DeBeriot. Remember that DeBeriot and Viotti, like other virtuosi of the time, composed their concertos to be played by themselves. They were performance pieces intended to help them look impressive. The fact that these pieces are mostly pedagogical these days doesn't mean that they were intended for that purpose.

April 8, 2016 at 09:13 AM · Greetings,

I agree with Lydia. the Accolay doesnt interest me but I used to perform the De Beriot as a kid and it brought the house down (that bad probably...) I still remember the passion and excitement I felt playing the latter part of the first movement. Its a barnstormer. Sort of... It`s a good piece/ the problem is most people treat it like a study work and it ends up sounding rubbish. Take a look ar Bron teaching it on on of his DVDs. That is an eye opener.



April 8, 2016 at 09:51 PM · DeBeriot No. 9, I'm guessing?

April 8, 2016 at 10:06 PM · sorry, yes.On that DVD i seem ro recall Bron describing it as a work that opened the door to the big concertos, or something like that.



April 9, 2016 at 09:30 AM · Seitz, Accolay, and a mighty host of other "student concerto" composers want us to play different techniques and styles within one movement, to be ready for the Real Thing. I find some of the slow movements and themes lovely, but the more "heroic" moments, together with much passage-work, are often a lousy parody of the music I was brought up on (Baptist Hymn Book, Tudor anthems, oratorios, my parents' LPs..)

But at risk to my life, I feel similar irritation at Viotti, Vieuxtemps etc...

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