Etudes to bridge between Kayser and Mazas

August 31, 2011 at 12:56 AM ·

I'm finishing up Kayser Op.20 book 3. Supposedly I should be studying Mazas Op.36 next, but my teacher is thinking about having me do the Kayser again, as I have recently gone through changes in my left hand technique, and she doesn't think that starting the Mazas, which gets a lot harder quickly, is the best thing for me right now...

On the one hand, I would like to solidify my technique and do things correctly, but on the other hand, I'm averse to repetitiveness and boredom. Since she already wants me to repeat Josephine Trott's Melodious Double Stops book 1, I'm worried that I would be extremely bored and lose interest altogether if most of what I would be practicing are the old stuff, as currently I'm already recycling 3-oct. scales and arpeggios (albeit with faster tempos) and doing what I can to review old repertoire weekly, so the only new things I would be working on are my solo pieces, which usually lose their freshness after a few weeks...

So I was thinking: instead of redoing Kayser, if I could work on something fresh but similar (preferably with good music), then it would solve my dilemma...  What would you recommend?  Thanks in advance for your help!

Replies (23)

August 31, 2011 at 01:37 AM ·

To help with the whole repetition/boredom thing, I think it might be helpful to sit down with your teacher and have them identify the specific things that you are trying to achieve, and with which etudes those will be addressed. Is it improving up-bow staccato (no. 4), left hand finger patterns (no. 7), sixths and thirds (no. 20), etc.?

Repeating previously-explored studies is not a bad thing (after all, Gingold had Bell dig back into Kreutzer despite his advanced level), but simply playing through it is not enough.

August 31, 2011 at 02:48 AM ·

 Joyce, scales and arpeggios are going to be with you all your playing life.  

I agree with Gene, going back can be going forward if you have advanced enough to be more musical or more adept.

The interview with Mrs. Cerone lists her 'favorite' books in order.  You might download Sitt, for instance from IMSLP.  Or Dont op. 37; those are preparatory to Kreutzer (not 35, for goodness' sake! those are mean).

But talking with your teacher is probably the best bet.

August 31, 2011 at 03:34 AM ·

 To make things interesting, talk to your teacher about how to go about taking the pieces that you are working on and turn them into your own personal etudes.  When I was studying the Moldeau (viola part), my teacher and I turned a few measures into an etude for shifting and 2nd position.  

August 31, 2011 at 07:37 AM ·

 Repeating etudes is not at all uncommon. My teacher had me do Sevcik 4 twice. I thought it was hard the first time but the second time around we are being super super picky and I think it's even harder now. It gives one a chance to be much more of a perfectionist than they were when it was all new. If you are really picky and work really hard on it then when you get to Mazas it will be refreshing how well conditioned your fingers are for starting it. Mazas etudes are great and many of them are very enjoyable pieces to play. There was one in particular that I liked so much I wrote an accompaniment for it so that my teacher at the time (who also played the piano) could play it with me at a student recital 10 years ago. 

I just realized I didn't really answer your question. If you really come to the conclusion that you cannot bear doing Kayser again, then why not do Schradieck book 1? If you do a good job in that book then I can't imagine Mazas being very scary for you.

September 1, 2011 at 03:27 AM ·


at risk of contradiciting your teacher when I know nothing about the situation I have to admit I cannot see any virtue in repeating Kayser.   I find it hard to belive that what you were doing was so out of whack before that such a thing is necessary and even if you only did a semi-good job on them,  which I am sure is not true then a slow and careful beginning to Mazas is quite logical in my book.  The Kayser is very much to be done in the German style and a repetition may find you craving for sauerkraut in the middle of the night or tearing down walls while sleep walking.   The reason why Mazas follows on so logically from these wonderful studies is that one can breathe a dose of  French elegance into ones playing through them. One starts eating croissants while sleep walking.  Personally I would start with number five. You can spend weeks on that develping a higher level of elegant detache.  From a left hand perspective its easy.

However,  I do think the issue Gene raised is crucial. Study books are not there to always be played tyhrough from beginning to end.  After a while there is a point where it is -much- more useful to decide what needs working on and allocate studiesd accordingly.   The odd and honorable exception to this is Kreutzer which is an interlocking system of etudes which can all be repeated over and over for the rest of your life. I am not sure exactly what makes them unique in this regard but experience and observation of my own practice ,  great players such as Heifetz ,  Szigeti and pedagogues such as Bron and Mimi Zweig indicates this is true.

If you want some alternatives then I cannot recommend too strongly the violin school and any other etudes of deBeriot.   His work is a little out of fashion these days but he really knew what he wa sabout and there are still a few teachers around who use mostly this material and not much else. Of course you wouldn`t start right at the beginning of the book but that is still worth studying in its own right. Check it out on IMSLP>They are also beautiful duets as well so you can study both parts...

A very useful book that you can use to build technique in small but powerful increments is more later,



September 1, 2011 at 08:16 AM ·

Agreed, Buri! I think the best thing my last teacher ever taught me was not making my own students pound through etude books exercise by exercise, but develop the ability to evaluate a student's playing and focusing on the areas they need the most work on. It helped me to improve my own practice and make better use of the time I have available, which has been critical because of my heavy teaching load.

September 1, 2011 at 12:04 PM ·

I am with Buri on this one! Etudes are called "studies" because they are meant to help us develop relatively specific items of technique. A huge part of etude use is that a good one isolates something & repeats it a lot so that when its' "topic" comes up in literature, the technique isn't a big issue. Some etudes work on technique used rarely, so why obsess on them? Others are really short pieces w/o a technique topic. If you enjoy one of those as a bit of short lit., by all means play it, but likewise, don't obsess. What literature are you working on? Are there particular spots that keep cropping up as difficult to master? Figure out what technique those spots require, and hunt up supportive etudes. You can devise your own etudes by taking those bits out of the piece & playing around with them, too, but that can get awfully repetitive & can be too specific for technique development that you can later apply to similar bits in other lit.  Sue   

September 2, 2011 at 01:44 AM ·

Thanks everyone for your valuable insights!  Eating croissants while sleepwalking sounds great if I didn't have to think about clogged arteries... Does drinking red wine with croissants help?  :)

I need to clarify - when my teacher asked whether I'd be okay with repeating Kayser, I told her my concerns, and she was fine with me trying Mazas. I later thought that if I study another etudes before Mazas, I'd be more ready for it - I have heard that Mazas etudes consist of some very nice music, so I'd rather be able to enjoy playing them instead of struggling through them...  I'll definitely discuss all the good points raised here with her at my next lesson. Also, I believe that my teacher has her students play through etude books because she also uses them as part of sight-reading training.

I'm intrigued by the idea of turning bits of a piece into an etude. I'm already doing spot practicing for difficult measures, sometimes with various rhythms and bowing. Is this different from what you meant?

Buri, is this the de Beriot book you were talking about?,_Op.102_%28B%C3%A9riot,_Charles-Auguste_de%29

September 2, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·


that`s the one. Well worth exploring.  If your teacher is happy with Mazas yoiu will be fine.  No reason top redo Kayser at all.  In fact,  what I was going to say at the end of my last food/culture missive was a great way to strengthen the mind and technique is Drew Lecher`s book.   It is suitable for any level of player and the exercises it containes are,  in my opinion,  very effective in incrementally correcting things like shifting,  vibrato,  hand position and the like.   As Drew has repeatedly stressed,  these are chunks for people who really like to think ,  work in small eintense chunks before getting onto the music.

I also think the Dont opus 37 is an excellent book but it is difficult in its own right.  It could complement Mazas very nicely.  Also consier Polo double stops.   The other possibility tyyou might consider is the opus 2 and 3 bowing studies of sevcik.  One shoulod follow the approach advocated by Flesch and do a few exercises from each book everyday.  ot keep repeating the same things.   For as thinkingv player like yourself this kind of work is probably pretty useful.



September 2, 2011 at 04:32 AM ·

January 7, 2012 at 08:52 PM · Buri, thought that I owe you an update - I decided to go back to do the Kayser again, as my teacher recommended. She wants me to play them as musically as possible, with faster tempo, great intonation, clear phrasing and articulation, all the dynamics, and just try to make it fun for myself. With these clear goals, and since I am a more competent player than 2 years ago, I find it much more enjoyable this time around! :)

BTW, all the studies in the wonderful de Beriot book cumulate to the final piece "Air and Variations," which is one of the solo pieces I have been working on since September (from Solos for Young Violinists book 2). So, it did not seem to make sense for me to go on to that book.

Thanks everyone for all your suggestions and help!

January 7, 2012 at 09:12 PM · And don't hesitate to play some Bach on the side as a treat, my friend.

January 8, 2012 at 06:07 PM · Yixi, you mean solo Bach? Being able to play them creditably is my ultimate dream, so I want to wait until I am competent enough (if ever). I have other Bach pieces and duets to tie me over in the mean time. Thanks for the suggestion, my friend. :)

January 8, 2012 at 07:22 PM · Greetings,


glad you weren`t put off by doing the Kayser again. What you say about doing them better is quite true of course and it will certianly do you the world of good.

The actual level of these kind of works is absolutley relative. One can just say they are things to be done on the way to more difficult things.

On the other hand it is much more sensible to recognize that such a canonic work doe scontain the basics of violin playig in a pretty enjoyable format (most of the time...). At the end of the day, even the best profesisonals go back to basics all the time. I mean Heifetz and Szigeti never stopped playing Kreutzer.

I hope you can ejoy really stretching yourself. For example, transcribe them up an octave, play them with all the bowings reversed, write variations, practice some of them -in ocatves- play the dynamics the exact oppsite to what is written and so on.

They are a great resource.

Best wishes,


January 9, 2012 at 12:04 AM · Joyce, any Bach will do. Don’t deprive yourself the desert that you can eat without feeling any guilt. Life is too short and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. These days I don’t even buy green bananas, to tell the truth.

Seriously, I know the feeling that you want to put off something until you feel you are fully ready. Some teachers (including couple of my early ones in China) really believe that one should work on etudes and scales alone for the first 2-3 years of violin study. Well, I don’t believe this anymore. Technical stuff makes better sense in a music context. Also I’m more motivated and focused to tackle particular areas of technical issues once I’ve got specific music ideas and thoughts that I want to express.

So why did I suggest Bach? Out of sympathy, maybe?:) Honestly, I’ve got such a special aversion to Kayser I don’t know why. Possibly because I did it exclusively for couple of years in my early teens and maybe it was just too many dry, mindless repetitions the way I did it. But mostly I suggested Bach because you can be playing the music that is so beautiful and at the same time you can get pretty clear feedback about how well you are doing on all the basic stuff (intonation, rhythm, tone production, musicality, etc). Yum!

January 9, 2012 at 03:52 AM · Greetings,

why not the Bach -accompanied-?



January 9, 2012 at 08:57 AM · I haven't done any real baching until recently, now teacher feels I should commence. So commence I have on accompanied sonatas as suggested above by B.

I am working on Sonata 2, as my teacher advised its not so much about the technical skill as the ability to put in the musical line, and this one she feels will sort out the intonation in preparation for the next one. I've gotten through it well enough, well except for getting these arpeggios in tune at tempo; and its true, its nice to play Bach every day.

January 11, 2012 at 04:39 AM · For example, transcribe them up an octave, play them with all the bowings reversed, write variations, practice some of them -in octaves- play the dynamics the exact opposite to what is written and so on.

Buri, thanks for these great ideas. I'll definitely try them. I have been implementing something similar. For example, for #1, I switched the bowing patterns (as at the top of the music) every line, then added my own bowing pattern for the last line: up- and down- bow staccato. I then applied the "six magical rhythms," as taught by my teacher, one per line. I also tried applying both at the same time. (It was a mess! :) ) It was great fun and quite challenging to keep track of the patterns and remember to switch - it was not only an efficient practicing strategy but also an excellent mind exercise! :)

January 12, 2012 at 04:34 AM · Greetings,

that`s exactly it. What you should be aiming for is finding the lowest common demoninator for switching bowing patterns IE -every- bar. All of this done from memory of course. Don`t forget you are playing with thre efactors:

bowings, rythms -and- accents. The permutations are, as you know, infinite.



January 12, 2012 at 08:34 AM · And don't forget the prunes are good for us.

January 12, 2012 at 03:09 PM · Some have suggested the Dont exercises and I like them but I didn't find them really any easier than Mazas. And playing Mazas I don't find myself craving croissants -- rather Matzos!

I see no harm in using one of the Bach "double" or "gigue" movements from the unaccompanied as a study. Of course take a slow tempo and make sure that you have a good set of fingerings.

Another similar approach to making your own studies is to take a hard section out of one of the pieces that your teacher seems likely to assign you in a year's time. Suppose you are in Suzuki Book 3. Buy book 4, and start working slowly on the 16th note passage in the first movement of the Vivaldi.

Of course the advice of your teacher trumps whatever we might say.

January 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM · The truth is that it's hard enough for me to cover all the assignments that my teacher assigns during the week (usually 9-10 items, including a review piece), so my only regular play-for-fun time is my weekly duet session. I may occasionally play by ear when I hear something nice and want to try it on the violin (e.g., Scott Joplin's "Bethena"), but that's usually the extent of my play-for-fun activities - I don't have the time to study new music on the side... Fortunately, a few of the pieces I have been playing lately are Bach, such as the Bach Double, and the Gavotte in Suzuki book 5. There is also a Bach duet book that consists of 24 very nice arrangements that we love to play from. Besides, I like most of the pieces in Solos for Young Violinists book 2, so I think I'll be fine. :)

January 12, 2012 at 06:24 PM · Joyce, I know the feeling about how much time we've got to go through all the work. For technical purpose, it's often more effective to work on only part of (preferably the part hard for me to do) the etude, say, half page of Kayser #1 and a few lines of Mazas #1, rather than try to do the whole thing. Of course depends on what your teacher wants from you, my teacher wants quality rather than quantity. Some weeks I just can’t do it all I hoped to do, so I’d either cut length down or slow the tempo, or both. As long as I can show my teacher whatever I am working on is not careless and sloppy. This to me is the quickest way to build skills and move forwards.

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