Simon Fischer's Basics: 6 months challenge

January 30, 2015 at 04:55 PM · (EDIT Here's a link to the spreadsheet that Karen Collins made. Feel free to add your name if you want to use it to keep track of your progress. I moved the link up for the sake of convenience. )

Only 4 days ago, Buri wrote a wonderful and very helpful blog, I don't have an hour for Basics either. There was a load of good stuff coming after that, so you might have easily missed it.

What I took away from it, among other things, is this: you could spend just 10 minutes of time on a total of 2 exercises every day for 6 months (there are 300 exercises in the book) getting acquainted with all the exercises, so you know where to find them when you hit a snag. Then you'd have a great toolbox at your disposal. You may think that my math is off, but I thought we could allow some time for life to get in the way of daily practice.

Looking at the organization of the book: there are 7 sections, A through G. I thought we could cycle through them, something like this:

Day 1: first from A (#1), first from B (#54)

Day 2: first from C (#83), first from D (#127)

Day 3: first from E (#204), first from F (#248)

Day 4: first from G (#275), second from A (#2)

Day 5: second from B (#55), second from C (#84)

etc. etc. Of course, once a section runs out of exercises, you just skip it.

We could use this thread to check in from time to time and help one another with clarifications of exercises. To be quite honest, I myself expect to be more on the asking side than on the answering side ;-).

Two people have sent me a message so far who are up for the challenge. Anyone else care to join us?

BTW, I've started day before yesterday and found that, as a relative beginner, it takes me somewhat over ten minutes to 'decode' two exercises (I'd say 20), but I am ok with that.

Replies (98)

January 30, 2015 at 08:47 PM · I would love to join but unfortunately don't have a copy of Basics and don't really have $50 in my budget to buy it right now. Does anyone know if it's available online?

January 30, 2015 at 08:59 PM · Hi Shiloh,

I've never heard of it being available online. Then again, I saw someone reason that $50 is about the price of a violin lesson, and this book in my opinion is worth many, many lessons.

I hope you will find a way to join in.


January 30, 2015 at 09:01 PM · It's not available for free online because the book is under Copyright. Amazon has it starting at $40 from various sellers.

January 30, 2015 at 09:38 PM · Jenny, great! Another member, Karen, is going to create a schedule where all of us can check of the exercises we have gone through.

January 30, 2015 at 09:41 PM · Good point Zina. :) I'll look around and see where I can buy it from.

January 30, 2015 at 10:18 PM · Hello,I would like to give it a try. Sign me up.when and how will we officially kick it off or are going to choose a start date of our own choosing ?

Let's enjoy,


January 30, 2015 at 11:37 PM · Greetings,

I wish you all the best of luck. I am sure you will make tremendous progress as a result.

Pleas feel free to mail me at any time if something is confusing you and I will cheerfully confuse you even more. Simon may be too busy right now to read this thread so I will drop him a line. I am sure he will be delighted to hear about what you are doing.

You actually inspired me to practice the first 30 or so exercise in the book this morning. It felt great!



January 31, 2015 at 03:39 AM · All,

I created a really bare-bones spreadsheet that you can view/edit

January 31, 2015 at 03:44 AM · ok, let's try this again...

I created a Google Drive spreadsheet you can find here:

I arbitrarily chose the start date to be Sunday (Feb 1), and I went ahead and filled in the exercise numbers initially. Since I don't have the book in front of of me, this may need correction later (for example, if a given section runs out of exercises before the six months is over).

Let me know if this looks ok, or if you have trouble viewing or editing it.

January 31, 2015 at 02:28 PM · I'm in. If I'm going to do all those exercises, I need a big stick. ("Big stick" is what Google Translate makes of Dutch "stok achter de deur". I didn't know the expression).

Here's good luck to us all.

Edit: Karen, I boldly added my own column to your spreadsheet, and added two Xes. Can you see them?

Edit 2: I closed your link in my browser and opened it again, and the name and Xes are there. So far, so good. We have to take care not to overwrite one another's updates; I don't know how that is done in this case.

January 31, 2015 at 04:01 PM · Great, Bart. I didn't succeed in editing the spreadsheet yet .. Working on the exercises though! As soon as I find out how to add a column, I will add the people who have checked in so far. Of course, feel free to add yourself if you want (and can ;-).

I suggest we don't take the dates too literally and just check off the exercises we've done.

Buri, thank you for your support!

January 31, 2015 at 04:02 PM · Hi Carter,

Welcome! Some of us have already started, so feel free to dive in!

January 31, 2015 at 07:27 PM · Karen,

as you said, the exercises column in your spreadsheet is not quite correct. It has a few omissions and double entries. I made a new, shorter ( :) ) column which I hope fixes these; I put it next to yours.

January 31, 2015 at 07:46 PM · I'm in. Been waiting for impetus to get back to Basics.

January 31, 2015 at 09:11 PM · Sharelle, I put your name in the spreadsheet, you're good to go!

Karen & Bart, I hid the first column of exercise numbers so it won't get confusing.

February 1, 2015 at 12:23 AM · All right, what the hell, I'm in.

February 1, 2015 at 02:38 AM · I'm in! I'll be getting a copy for my birthday so I'll start on the 9th. :)

February 1, 2015 at 04:37 AM · Zina's got a head start I see. :)

February 1, 2015 at 06:44 AM · Greetings,

maybe you could color code the entries according to like/will do again, no strong feeling, not useful/interesting.



February 1, 2015 at 08:29 AM · Hi Paul & Meli,

Let's do this!

In the same vein as Buri, I was thinking we could put an asterisk with exercises that you feel need clarification or elaboration. Then we can ask for help on the confusing ones ;-).

Paul, Basics Has been laying about on my piano since December of 2011 (a month after I first picked up a violin), and I did more or less randomly try to find suitable exercises now and again. Hence the 'head start'.

February 1, 2015 at 09:25 AM · Thank you.

Will it balls things up if I do it in different order? Just that I have an immediate need for vibrato and straight bow exercises (yes, straight bow exercises. Almost 10 years down the friggin track!)

February 1, 2015 at 10:13 AM · Sharelle, of course not! Just do them in any order you need and check 'm off on the list.

EDIT This straight bowing thing trips me up time and again! My excuse is that I've only been at it from somewhat over 3 years, hahaha.

February 1, 2015 at 11:39 AM · Straight bowing?

Easy - just change to a Russian bow hold ...

February 1, 2015 at 12:53 PM · LOL why not spivakovsky bow hold

February 1, 2015 at 01:00 PM · If you don't want to put a code or an asterisk in the column, just add notes. It's a text column - you can put anything you want in there, even emoticons :-)

February 1, 2015 at 06:26 PM · My 'Basics'arrived Friday! I'm in, and will try to sign in?

February 1, 2015 at 08:33 PM · Zina - thanks for the addit.

Peter - yeah, I'd look at that. But I'm not built to go down the path of the Spiv.

February 1, 2015 at 11:01 PM · Good point.

If you want to be a spiv you have to be a tosser first.

At least that's wot me mum told the factory owner she sold me to.



February 2, 2015 at 01:46 AM · No worries Zina, I've got a head start too. Kind of. I got Basics a long time ago and I also have done quite a few of them already. But I was lazy and did not tick them as Simon recommended. :(

And thank you for putting the exercise numbers in there, that's so convenient!!

February 2, 2015 at 02:00 AM · Bart gets the credit for putting the right numbers in - I put the wrong ones in initially :-)

February 2, 2015 at 03:04 AM · Well, count me in. I tried doing this exact thing a while ago but the daily pressures of getting to whatever pieces I was working on made me leave it aside. I think this communal experience should be of great help, especially when we get to exercises that will undoubtedly stump the less experienced among us (that would be me). Good thing I have done a few of the easiest ones already (maybe I'll try to get ahead to those that require more work). Let's do it.

February 2, 2015 at 05:06 AM · Greetings,

well I wish you all the best of luck. Hereis something to encourage you. If you watch the Zuckerman masterclass at the RCM right at the end he talks about how the right hand fingers are the core of bowing technique. He said he practices the same exercises for them (pointing the bow up and rotating the tip, windscreen wiper and so on) which are right at the beginning of Basics. He does them on stage during concerto performances and the players and audience think he is trying to conduct....'

There is a truly direct demonstration of how whatever level we are we should all practice the same things in some form or another all our lives.

The import at thing is doing it!



February 2, 2015 at 03:24 PM · Hold on, hold on, we should record ouselves before and after the marathon.

Or Am I too late?

February 2, 2015 at 07:25 PM · Adrian, that's an interesting idea, I will see if I can find the courage to record myself playing somewhere in this busy week.

February 2, 2015 at 08:32 PM · Not only before and after but also make video of the execution of the exercise. Have competition for the video of the best executed exercise :-). The this thread will become really interesting.

February 2, 2015 at 11:48 PM · I doubt there's going to be much before-and-after from having done all of the Fischer Basics exercises once. Well, I guess I should speak for myself, so I will: Violin improvement doesn't work like that. Many of the exercises are little bits of practical wisdom -- "aha" experiences -- that might take rather a long time to work themselves into our playing. Save the before-and-after for your next haircut or makeover.

February 3, 2015 at 12:22 AM · Greetings,

Paul, I agree. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could dish out neat little exercises and watch a linear incremental improvement in everyone'S playing. Violin learning and teaching would be so easy!

But Basics does contain a fair number of exercises which do lead to instant improvement as well as the things that one might not get at all then come back to later, not to mention the bits of wisdom which may just be that. Just a small thing in our mental model of violin playing that hangs around and ultimately doesn't do much.

My guess is this project will motivate the participants to he extent that they find something that resonates with them and they keep on doing it or coming back to it while keeping on with the rather , dare I say , initially shallow run through the book. Not doing things in depth on a first run through is actually not a bad idea in a lot of field sof endeavor . For player such as yourself it might not mean so much, but for less experienced just as taste of so many aspects of playing before making concrete decisions about what to use long term is invaluable. Plus I think the effect of sharing in a group wil be so much fun and so inspiring when feeling a little down.



February 3, 2015 at 01:07 AM · I'm participating, because I think it's just fine to try them all once at the outset. I figure it's better than not trying them. I guess that's how we'll discover the ones that help us in an immediate practical way and the ones that are more long-term investments.

February 3, 2015 at 01:34 AM · I'd love to participate but i have already started doing the Dounis Daily Dozen.

Does the Simon Fisher's Basics book contain similar finger exercises where fingers are positioned on D-G-C-F and fingers are lifted in different sequences?

February 3, 2015 at 03:30 AM · yes

I like the daily Dozen. Some of it's left hand exercises are just great. It was very popular at RCM when I was there. However, I don't the bowing material in that book is particularly interesing. You could probably do as well or better looking around a bit. In fact I think the Fischertone exercises are Probaly more useful for most people.

But the purpose is different. You are comparing warming up with systematically taking a look at the basic range of classic violin exercises to see which ones improve you the most. Also Dounis won't increase your knowledge of the instrument and why it does what it does the way it does. or does not.



February 3, 2015 at 04:30 AM · Today I did one that is one of the first couple of exercises in the shifting chapter. I was supposed to shift my first finger two octaves up the finger board. This is an example of something that does not seem to be of any utility to me right now because I cannot fathom what repertoire I might play in the next five years (or perhaps ever) that will be that high. I could not physically reach it at all, I would need my teacher to show me how. I gleaned that there are three basic types of pivot so I experimented with that, but by shifting only a tenth rather than two octaves.

February 3, 2015 at 05:33 AM · Greetings,

well that is certainly one way of looking at it. It might well be that the exercise is one that you find less useful or salubrious at ht emoment. But I also think that in a general sense we sometimes have to move outside the comfort zone and do things that change our overall understanding of the instrument, although I am not claiming that doing this exercise now will have that effect.

For example, I have students in the hairy early stages doing one Nd two finger scales up and down the fingerboard far higher than they are going to go for some time. This over all geography of the fingerboard is useful in many way . But the awareness of having to move long distances , the correct way physically and the ability to stay relaxed does I think contribute to overall was wand efficiency on the instrument. Along the same lines striving to get a really good tone on these high notes when the string is shorter and can be pushed out of tune by the bow increases our sensitivity to the relationship between speed , weight and sounding Point which in turn improves our feeling for bowing in he lower positions. So there may well be stuff here that is useful as long as you don't force anything. It is the precess rather than always reaching the target which is important, especially in stretching,



February 3, 2015 at 05:35 AM · some of my most erotic typos to date.....

February 3, 2015 at 03:52 PM · Dear Buri, I am totally willing and eager to reach beyond my current limits, and I agree that one of the main points of exercises is to prepare technique well in advance of repertoire. But the quantum leap in this case was just too great. Just reaching that "A" at the end of the fingerboard on the G string with my first finger takes 10 seconds if I can do it at all without fear of dropping my violin. I found that the tenth was actually a reasonably challenging first step, although I'm not sure it enabled me to experience the "third stage" of the pivoting process that Fischer described. Next time I'll try to get to the 12th.

February 3, 2015 at 10:11 PM · Greetings,

that is absolutely the right way to do things with these exercises. Never go beyond ones real limitations .

Interesting thing for me is that I think you have already identified the value of this exercise indirectly. It really doesn't matter a jot whether you can 'do' this exercise but it has raised some interesting questions about how you feel both physically and mentally when doing certain things on the instrument.

Those are well worth exploring . I think this kind of experience is very much part and parcel of what we can get from the group challenge.



February 4, 2015 at 01:34 AM · This is a great idea! It's like the movie Julie & Julia, but with Violins :)

I would love to join the challenge but I am still a beginner and when I first browsed the book it was way above my level. It's still great to see how others are doing and will definitely give it a go once I am at a more appropriate skill level. Good luck to all who are doing it and keep us posted on your progress.

February 4, 2015 at 06:31 AM · Paul, you're "ah-ha moments" is spot on for me. I do the day's exercises and then go to my practice. Quite often I'll have trouble with something, then realize it was in one of the Basics exercises. I don't know how many times my teacher said that the bow sliding on the string without sound means you're too close to the bridge but it never stuck. Then it happened the very day Fischer said in an exercise that when playing too close to the bridge, the bow hairs can't grab the string. But maybe that just means I remember better what I read than what I hear!

February 4, 2015 at 06:34 AM · Here's one I can't figure out: exercise 59, pg 58:

What does "low, middle, and high positions" refer to



February 4, 2015 at 07:14 AM · Greetiings,

don't have the book in front of me but I am sure the only possible answer for left hand is something like first second and third are low. Four and five are middle and six plus is high. But it's very vague because some people refer to one to four as low positions.

If it's about the right hand it may mean dropping it from the wriist, sticking it straight out or raising the knuckles higher than the wrist. Tphis is confusing because when the hand is dropped that actually means the wrist is high and when the base knuckles are higher than the wrist the wrist is in the low position although the hand is actually high.

Hope this helps,



February 4, 2015 at 08:02 AM · Greetings,

my explanation is correct. Its left hand.



February 4, 2015 at 10:08 AM · I'm in! but first, I must obtain a copy of the book!

EDIT: one of the things about living in Australia.... lots of the online stores I found don't ship to Australia! and its way more expensive.. *Sigh*

February 4, 2015 at 10:23 AM · I find that different exercises mean different things to me, which are probably related to my level.

Some, like #1-4, #55-58, are awareness exercises, that I go back to during practice as soon as I feel for instance my bow hand getting into trouble (which, in my case, means fairly constantly) or my tone feeling 'flat' or 'dull'.

Then there are the ones that seem like an answer to my prayers, like #84-85 and #128, and earn instant incorporation in my daily routine. These are things that my teacher has told me to do many times before. Some of them (like playing without the left thumb touching the neck) just seemed too challenging. The thing that is different and, to me personally, tremendously helpful, is seeing the instructions written down and being able to return to them on a daily basis.

Next there is a category that I feel at home with because my teacher had me do them and I actually did/do ;-).

And last but not least there are those that I feel I will come back to and get the most out of at a later stage of development. The one that Paul referred to I found actually very enlightening, not because I could make an acceptable sound two octaves up, but because I got a better sense of what my body needs to do while shifting.

I'm looking forward to doing the rest of the exercises. Fran and I have already been scheming to plan a Scales challenge next, and after that go through Warming Up collaboratively.


February 4, 2015 at 11:10 AM · Great idea and the discussion has already been encouraging and informative. I'm IN.

February 4, 2015 at 05:23 PM · Interesting comment above about shipping to Australia being expensive. I wonder what it takes for a book like this to be made available in one of the various e-book formats.

February 4, 2015 at 11:39 PM · Zina,

I'm not actually that big a fan of the thumb off the neck exercise. It can be useful but in some cases it actually causes tension. You might find it helpful to get a big chunk of foam rubber . Yoi put this on the wall at scroll height and then gently lean the scroll into it so the violin is fully supported. Then practice without the thumb. Try to feel the weight of your left arm , as it hangs straight down (the elbow points down a such a sposisble) filtering through the finger tips. It's an interesting feeling.



February 5, 2015 at 04:31 AM · Buri, exercise 248, why is B (e string 4th finger) not included? Okay there is no B string, but On my violin this note rings very strongly and there is a corresponding harmonic on the g string. The B does not ring if the G string is arrested, so it must be a sympathetic vibration. The ringing B is relatively flat compared to equal temperament ... should it be ringing to be in tune? I was taught yes, but in the key of g major it sounds a bit low, honestly.

Teeny typo on p. 188, "42 etudes ou caprices."

February 5, 2015 at 06:24 AM · Thank you Buri, Simon Fischer also suggests this and it is how I am using the exercise, with the wall supporting the scroll (I am using a small sponge). Even so, I find that the tension from the thumb base joints tends to transfer to other body parts, and am concentrating on using my body the way my AT teacher is showing me. Hope that makes sense.


February 5, 2015 at 07:07 AM · Thanks, Buri. I'll redo the exercise with that interpretation. --Fran

February 5, 2015 at 11:28 AM · Hi Paul,

inresponse to your question about `why no B?` I can only hazrd a guess so you may wnat to post on Simons site to ask him.

The basis of Simon`s intonation philosophy (and probably a lot of othe rpeople for that matter) is that youhave to play the notes with the same name a sthe open strings dead in tune with the open strings. There is not much leeway here. the violin must be in tune with itslef. So exercises like 249 emphasize this point by only using those notes and have the purpose of ensitizing the ear to how the violin sound resonates when thosae notes are in tune.

One could go on adding extra notes because they all probably produce some kind of sympathetic vibration somehwre (Im not an expert) but they are `variable.` This is a point you are well aware of I know. You may tune the b to an open d in one cae or need to tune it to the open e in another. They are differnet.

One has to get the inonation constants down pat to create the context in which artistic variation of pitch is possible.

not very helpful im afraid,


February 5, 2015 at 12:23 PM · Which B etc, etc?

Quick but useful answer:

Tuning in fifths & fourths (i.e. B against open E) is best most of the time; the B as harmonic to G, or against open D, is a melifluous alternative. Sweet & Sour!

I could elaborate at length, but then no-one will read my post!

February 5, 2015 at 06:29 PM · I understand that if something is in resonance with an open string, that's "in tune" by definition. The reason I asked about the "B" (E string, fourth finger) is because this an important note pedagogically -- often the first note a student learns that is played with the fourth finger but *can't* be checked against an open string directly. So, there is the question of how one teaches a student to know whether his or her "B" is in tune.

So y'all pros ... find that "B" and play it so it rings. Does it sound in tune also? Does that "B" form a good sixth with "D" (third finger on the A string) if "D" is in tune as well? To my ear it does, but this is what I'm trying to learn here.

To find the "B" resonance on the G string, play the two-octave harmonic (at the "C" location, third finger in first position) and then slide the finger down just a little toward the nut. I think you'll be moving less than 1/4 inch.

February 5, 2015 at 09:03 PM · I think we should include prunes in our regimen.

February 5, 2015 at 09:21 PM · Greetings,

Paul I think the issue is getting confused because you are not a beginner.

In a beginners case this level of complexity is not necessary. The third finger a is tuned to the open string and then the player is required to Hera a tone higher. That is not too much of a problem. They can be shown how that note may be more or less in tune but have a dea dsound , and what it sounds like when out dead in tune, and that is about it.

In your case, suppose we were discussing a passage in the Haydn G major concerto in third position on the e string. We would come to the understanding that c should be in tune with the c on the g string which must be a perfect fourth higher. That is also a feature of tuning scales. Then the location of the b if it were a leading note could be a topic of discussion in relation to the c.

I am not sure there is that much more to the issue at this stage.



February 5, 2015 at 10:57 PM · Buri, a late starter like myself and many other v.commers may have a well tuned ear before starting the violin, which is then frustrating from both technical and aural standpoints.

Paul, the "B that rings" will not fit in the usual fifth-based scheme, but will provide welcome consonance in held chords in a string quartet. So:

- for "bright B", index-on-A-string to the E by double-stopping, then tune pinky-on-E to that;

- for "sweet B", tune with open D, or let open G "ring".

All this will apply to E's, D's and G's too...

So the open strings are not automatically in tune, just usually!

The differences are clearly audible!

February 5, 2015 at 11:17 PM · Greetings,

indeed, for someone like Paul with a sensitive ear it is useful to begin practice by listening for overtones. One I like very much is the b against open e string that you mention. Hopefully Paul can mess around with this kind of work and get something from it.



February 6, 2015 at 02:05 AM · What a wonderful challenge! It just so happens that right near the end of your plan, Simon is coming to teach for 5 days at our music festival in Michigan. He will be doing five hours of classes a day including private lessons and lectures.

February 6, 2015 at 05:57 AM · Ah, I came to this late. I'll start today.

February 6, 2015 at 07:02 AM · Nice to have you, Joyce. I suggest you just ignore the dates and go by the numbers.


February 6, 2015 at 09:37 AM · Oops!

February 6, 2015 at 09:40 AM · "..mess around.." ?!

Buri, these fine differences don't apply to fast, playing, but make the difference between e.g. a quartet drawn from an orchestra, and a full-time quartet.

February 6, 2015 at 11:01 AM · dont really understand this message. Mess around simply means explore, play with and so on. I am crediting Paul with the ability to look at the Basics exercises and spend time listening for overtones. A lot of beginners simply cant hear them so they dont need to be introduced too early.

Actually it makes a difference whether you are playing fast or slow I can hear the difference -extremely- well. apparently you cant.

You are quite right about orchestral players losing some sensitivity, often quite a lot actually, to these subtle nuances of oitch. I recently watched a good professional player teaching orchestral excerpts on youtube and the fine tuning of accidentls just wan`t there at all.

I have spent most of my life playing chamber music not orchestra and if, as seems to be the case, you are making assumptions about what I do and dont know about these intonation issues please refrain from doing so.

February 6, 2015 at 11:22 AM · Buri, please, I was not trying to teach you things you probably know better than me, I was simply trying to emphasise their importance, which you seemed (to me) to be diminishing.

Often these fine touches are audible to folks with no formal musical training, so I don't find it's ever too soon to work at them. After all, we play to our students with a finesse that we don't explain or expect straight away.

And I do make even children listen to overtones and resonance..(for a few minutes in each lesson). If they don't hear them it's our job to help them; I fing that sort of attention even improves their bowing!

Regarding fast playing, I just mean that then there isn't time for the minute, often intuitive, on-the-fly adjustments, that we make in more sustained passages.

PS on my viola, the comma between the two versions of the same note, in first position, is nearly 3mm wide, wider than the fingertip roll of my vibrato..

PPS in my circle, "messing around" suggests "wasting time", or what children do in class to annoy a weaker teacher. Sorry about the unfortunate misunderstanding.

With much respect, and appreciation for all your contributions, Adrian

February 6, 2015 at 02:52 PM · "... if something is in resonance with an open string, that's "in tune" by definition."

Not precisely. A pitch in resonance with an open string is in tune with that open string (harmonics of that open string.)

As I wrote in another thread about these issues, "good" intonation is complex, and often contentious (even the part about what is good.) There is a reason why professional quartets are "indivisible by 4." ;)

February 6, 2015 at 09:13 PM · Buri, I'll keep on messing around. I knew just what you meant. It's an appropriately pithy and informal description of the exploratory (dare I say, experimental) process.

What I have observed in young students is that they first learn to hear "ring tones" by playing single notes and releasing the bow from the string, and then trying it again with the stop moved a little. But being able to pick up that "special sound" while playing something like K2 with detache' bowing, or even a scale, where the bow is never released, that takes longer because it's just more subtle.

February 7, 2015 at 04:58 AM · I'm finding that for some exercises, 5 or 10 minutes isn't enough time; anyone else notice this? Unfortunately, these days I have more stuff to practice than I have time for, so I can't really spend more than 10 minutes on Basics exercises. I mark these intriguing ones on the spreadsheet so I can go back to them later when I have more time, like when hell freezes over.

February 7, 2015 at 11:46 AM · 5 to 10 minutes is fine for maintenance, but insufficient for development.


February 7, 2015 at 04:41 PM · "5 to 10 minutes is fine for maintenance, but insufficient for development.


Well, I think it depends on the person. If you are an oafish adult beginner with a slow adult brain (like myself), it takes much longer for some things to sink in.

I am thinking in particular of the exercise where you play the same note on the same string in various positions, paying special attention to the feel of the position so that you can find the position again after dropping your hand from the fingerboard. In my case, 2nd position is really difficult to memorize, and I am fascinated by the exercise. I spent well over 10 minutes on it, and could have spent hours.

February 7, 2015 at 09:47 PM · My point exactly! Once you have "got it", 5-10 mins may be enough to "keep it", with occasional refresher courses.

February 7, 2015 at 10:33 PM · Karen, I agree that some of these exercises like the one you mentioned could take up all of one's practice time. I just make sure that I get the point by doing them (but not always on all strings). and then I apply them to my pieces. I'm really intent on moving on through the book, so I will know where to find answers to my problems. So far, it is working out fine for me.

February 8, 2015 at 12:17 PM · I bought this book years ago, not too long after I started playing violin/viola again and posting here. It's been an expensive doorstop since then.

I am quite bad at reading things out of a book and teaching myself that way. I can teach myself things but usually it only works if I identify problems to work on through experience--so, if I run into a problem working on a piece, then I'll often be able to find/invent/ask for and implement solutions. But what doesn't work is having to figure out and implement solutions to problems I didn't even know I had in the first place.

Anyway, I ran into that again with this book. I like your idea of just getting an overview of what's there so that when I do run into a specific need in the course of practicing, I can find an exercise in the book and do that one.

February 8, 2015 at 12:33 PM · This is a very interesting idea. I did the first 3 exercises this morning.

However, I'm torn between thinking, "wow, this is neat, all these things I never would have considered before," and "Ugh. This feels like a case of overthinking and trying to fix something that isn't broken." Maybe that just means I'm not ready for that particular exercise right now.

Also, I find his writing style a bit difficult to read in general. For example, why does he call it the "heel" of the bow and not the frog? And I've never understood the point of referring to 16th notes as "semiquavers." It's distracting and doesn't add any new information.

But I think I should continue because I have already learned something interesting about how the bow works, and even about how my own particular bow works.

February 8, 2015 at 01:00 PM · Karen (A.), that's exactly how I feel. When I'm reading, I silently grumble "is this really necessary", "won't I end up a confused centipede", and such things. But today I did the exercise about fingertip placement (#132) and it, or rather the awareness it brings, helps a lot for the trills in the Schumann sonata I'm currently playing.

February 8, 2015 at 03:26 PM · Karen (A) and Bart, the hemidemisemibusiness is what they use in Britain, I just ignore it. When I come across exercises that do not seem to add anything new, I rejoice! Obviously I've learnt *something* in over three years of weekly lessons ;-). I actually like the written out awareness exercises a lot, they make me less dependent on my teacher demonstrating or commenting every now and then ('cause he always needs to pick his battles, there is always so much that needs work). It is as if Simon Fischer gives me the words to tell myself what to do. For now this is especially true for the bow arm and tone production exercises. But I guess our experience of the book will differ with our different styles of learning.

February 8, 2015 at 04:36 PM · I confess I am not trying the marathon; Basics is a book I dip into when reflecting on the day's (or the next day's) lessons. Or to correct my own old (and new!) weaknesses. But Mr. Fischer seems to have thought of everything.

February 8, 2015 at 08:14 PM · I wonder if there will ever be a "Preparing for Fischer" in the same way that there is a "Preparing for Kreutzer." LOL

February 8, 2015 at 09:17 PM · Paul, your post makes me wish for a Like button.

February 9, 2015 at 12:12 AM · Now I'm blushing...

Zina ... get ready to make a new thread for our 6-month-challenge discussions when we reach the 100-comment limit.

February 9, 2015 at 09:18 PM · I tried to do #87 (portato) and #131 (upward counter-pressure) today, but I really didn't understand either of them. Question about 87: is the point that you play the first measure detache, and the second on one bow, but somehow magically you make both ways of playing sound the same? Does that mean that you stop the bow between notes in the second and fourth bar? Sorry to sound ignorant, but I really don't understand.

For 131, I need someone to make me a video ;-). I'm joking, but an extremely kind v.commie recorded a video a couple of months just to show me how to do some things better that I had done in a 'performance' that I posted. Anyway, I think I'll have to ask my teacher about the exercise.


February 10, 2015 at 09:21 PM · "Preparing for Fischer"?

Maybe, but I find I use Fischer's material to create short but effective sequencies for my students.

The French teenagers I teach are very pressed for time, with very ambitious parents who will never put the violin before the academic work. It's more like 3 hours a week than 3 hours a day, so I have to provide extremely efficient practice routines: basics plus carefully analysed repertoire, with very few "studies".

Fischer's books contain all the tricks I had found over the years, plus a whole lot more.

February 12, 2015 at 04:39 PM · Something I've always wondered is whether the great players of yesteryear ever did these kinds of "exploratory" studies that one finds in "Basics." I'm having a hard time envisioning Auer telling Heifetz to move his bow up and down the string and push down to see whether the hair is curving or the stick. Just as an example.

February 12, 2015 at 06:20 PM · But it is not a method! Or even a warmup routine. Many of the tricks I found for myself over the years, plus many others which focus my attention on things I could do better.

5 minutes (per exercise) to refreshen things we do well, 50 mins for patching up things we avoid.

February 22, 2015 at 02:53 AM · Congratulations to everyone who is keeping up with this! I'm not. I'm discovering that there are some of these exercises that I really hate. Like #204. I'm not really sure why I hated that one so much, it looks perfectly innocuous on the page. It was ok on the E string, but I found the feeling on the lower strings, especially the D, to be very unpleasant.

I wipe off my violin after every practice session, but my strings are still sticky up at the end of the fingerboard, and I really hate the feeling of going up that far and sliding my fingertip along the sticky metal string. It's like fingernails on a blackboard. And when you do ever play up that high, such that your fingers are sliding over sticky rosin, on the D string?

It might help if I could clean off my strings and make them smooth. But other than wiping with a cloth after playing,what can you do?

February 22, 2015 at 05:19 AM · I just updated my practice column after a couple weeks of not doing that. I decided to just put down the numbers of the exercises I did for a given date. I skipped exercise 75 because the music itself seemed advanced for me, given that I'm trying to keep the exercises to 10 min/day. I also have "Practice", which my teacher didn't want me using because she said the music was too advanced. It makes me wonder what level of student Fischer wrote his books for!

February 22, 2015 at 05:22 AM · Forgot to mention--the exercises at the end of part B: 78, 79, and 80, are quite long. Because part A already has more exercises than Part B, I intend to break up 78, 79, and 80 into two or more days. What are other people doing with these?

February 22, 2015 at 04:48 PM · Maybe I'm the only one who is really bothered by the feeling of rosin on the strings up near the end of the fingerboard and the "screech" from wiping them with a cloth, but I was inspired to find this thread:

I have a cork, and a microfiber cloth that I'm going to try next. Alcohol is probably a bad idea in my case, because if anyone is going to spill it, that would be me :(

But maybe cleaning my strings better will make some of these shifting and sliding up in the stratosphere exercises more pleasant.

February 22, 2015 at 06:14 PM · I dont want sticky fingers either. When I use alcohol to clean my strings I get a cloth damp with denatured spirits and rub the strings with it while holding the violin with strings facing down. That way it cannot drip on the violin. 0000 steel wool works great too. Gently of course.

I think the books were aimed mostly at college performance majors but I still find most of it applicable. Not all ... not yet.

I need to get caught up here, but I have a performance in 2 weeks. Almost time to start a new discussion thread!

February 23, 2015 at 09:22 AM · I got a little derailed by getting assigned the first mvt of the Bach Double, which is a dream come true. Now all I want is to get it up to the level where I can play it with someone else!

In the meantime, I'm still doing Basics exercises and finding that many of them are beyond me. But I don't mind, I am still learning what the book has to offer and hope to one day be at a level where all of this is useful to me. If something is too hard/too advanced, I just try it out and archive for future reference.

February 23, 2015 at 12:13 PM · Well?

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