Help: My teacher thinks I'm not ready for paganini caprice 24

January 27, 2016 at 07:00 AM · I've been doing the violin for 7 years. I'm 14 and on week days I practice 5-9 (4 hours). Then I do my homework for school. My teacher is a really good teacher. Hes a bit of a perfectionist (we stay on a piece for a very long time) One day, I saw the Paganini caprice 24, I printed it out and I showed it to him. He said it was too difficult. I told him if he worked step by step with me, then it won't be very difficult. He refused. I printed out an easier version of the caprice, and I played it in no time. He said do it slowly. Couple days later, I mastered it. Then, I decide to print out caprice 16, presumably the easiest caprice. He still refused to teach me. He told me he mastered the caprice 16. I went home on a weekend and practice the caprice 24 by myself. I slowed down the speed of the second part on youtube and I played it slowly step by step for 2 hours and then I played scales for rest of my practice time. Eventually I played it really fast, so fast that I started making mistakes. Then I slowed down a bit and the slurred staccato was a piece of cake! This was all done in about 1 week, and I'm still perfecting it. Then I moved on to the 3rd part, a little challenging and at full speed it can be frustrating. But, I did the same with that and I am still perfecting it. I wanted to play the double stop on the g string and d string but I needed to do scales before I did that. So I asked my teacher if he could teach the scale. He said ok, but asked why, I told him, I was inspired by Heifetz or something like that but anyways he accepted and taught me it. I was playing the double stops, it was hard I admit, I played it slowly, and getting it intone is difficult. Plus, that certain area goes extremely high and making it sound it tune requires a lot of skill. My dad said he is going to find a different teacher soon I hope. Should I find a new teacher, is my current teacher not teaching me it because its too much of a hassle, and should I keep trying to master the caprice by myself?

Replies (23)

January 27, 2016 at 01:51 AM · I'd like to thank you all for your constructive criticism. It means a lot to me. I love my teacher a lot and I wasn't bashing him at all (: I just wanted to play that song and now I realize I need to advance more. Thank, I wish you a wonderful day (:

January 27, 2016 at 07:06 AM · Greetings,

Your teacher was right. But sin ce you dont trust him /her then by all means sghop around for a teacher who does not have the integrity to tell you you are not ready .

The best thing you could do right now is read the blog on this site by Ilya Gringolts about when and why one should play the Paginini Caprices.

Sorry to be blunt,


January 27, 2016 at 07:11 AM · You should listen to your teacher.

You don't actually know what you don't know.

January 27, 2016 at 07:11 AM · Or perhaps your current teacher knows better than you do what you are ready for? You seem quite dismissive of his expertise and quite confident in your own judgment...that's an extraordinarily toxic combination for a teacher-student relationship.

You might try working from the assumption that your teacher knows more than you do. It's very unlikely that you're ready for Paganini.

If one of my students were to so blatantly disregard my considered advice and go behind my back to learn a piece that was too hard for them, it would be very difficult for me to continue teaching them. I can't work with someone who has no respect for my knowledge or judgment.

January 27, 2016 at 07:49 AM · You don't need to learn it yet-all in due time.

Ask yourself why you really want to learn the piece, and whether it is at all appropriate to discuss this current issue between yourselves in a public forum. Is this also a matter of your parents wanting you to progress "faster"? Because really, each violinist does so at his/her own, individual pace (forget "others", focus on yourself-of course the repertoire is inspiring, but you are still learning double stops, etc. Be patient with your own progress.)

While some teachers can be overly strict with what their pupils can/can't play, the fact that he/she is giving you some reluctant leeway already shows it's not just laziness or trying to get in the way of your progress, IMHO.

I think Szigeti was a great violinist and musician-even then he stated that, rather than playing all the caprices, he focused on a few he chose to master.

In any case, most of us probably don't mean ill-just imagine how would you feel if you read online that your student and his parent are "secretly" planning to find a "better" teacher than you are, just because you sincerely believe your student is a few steps away from this or that piece and they happen to disagree.

Best of luck.

January 27, 2016 at 12:22 PM · I agree with everyone here. It's all well and good to mess around and learn things quickly for fun, but you risk I graining some awful technical habits that can stick around for years and years, and possibly harm your career potential down the road, (I'm going to assume at your age with your ambition to play the 24th caprice you might just want to try and do this professionally).

This may sound harsh, but nobody but you (and your ego) cares which caprice (if any) you're playing, or how fast. Repeat it over and over, until it sinks in.

If you're 14 and not already playing concerts regularly with orchestras, sorry, but you're not a prodigy. Don't aim to be one,because most burn out! Don't hurt yourself unwittingly by overpracticing things (like left hand pizzicato and fingered 10th runs on d&g) with poor form and technique! That is a RECIPE for tendinitis and future tension problems! Remember that you might heal overnight at your age, but you won't once you hit 25. Just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean you're not doing damage.

By all means keep an open line of communication with your teacher, and ask him WHY you are not ready! He's lucky to have a student as industrious and motivated as you.

And remember, once you hit a conservatory, everybody can play all of the repertoire. The good players are the ones who set themselves up with a solid technical and artistic base, not the ones who rushed to play everything so that they could be the first ones in their youth Orchestra to do it!

Cheers, and be patient!you're going to have lots of time to learn all 24!

January 27, 2016 at 01:39 PM · What do you want? Maybe we should pay a visit to your teacher and "make him an offer he can't refuse" Godfather style? You actually want to break up with your teacher over a Paganini caprice?

OK Buri, maybe it's time for me to check out a futon!

January 27, 2016 at 01:53 PM · Something to mention here, and in relation to other similar posts on this forum. Many of my friends are teachers, of a variety of subjects, and some have found find negative or critical posts about themselves on the Internet. It always really hurts them, and I imagine that this teacher would be really hurt as well if they found this post. I think that we should be actively discouraging this kind of contribution. Maybe a change to the forum rules is needed?

January 27, 2016 at 03:52 PM ·

January 27, 2016 at 03:57 PM · Spencer, you should count your blessings. Many a teacher will go completely the other way and give such pieces to students long before they are ready, and that's both demoralizing and damaging.

How about an actual *approach* to the Paganini Caprices? Maybe you could say to your teacher, "Okay, if I'm not ready for this, then I'd like to know why, and if possible I'd like to work on stuff that will progressively eliminate those barriers one by one." But don't be surprised if your teacher tells you that's exactly what you're already doing.

Some would say that if you've been with the same teacher already for several years maybe it is time for a change anyway. On the other hand, do you feel like you're still making good progress with the one you have? Being on the same piece for a long time -- I understand this is frustrating for you. But, having watched my own children proceeding through music lessons, and in my own study of the violin, I have noticed that there is a great deal of learning that is realized at the fine-polishing stage. Especially, I would say, the ability to really concentrate and "get everything right at the same time" and play something entirely through from memory without making mistakes with sufficient confidence that you could overcome nervousness intrinsic to a performance situation. Regrettably I have never been able to do this, but if you're going to be a performer, you need to.

January 27, 2016 at 04:09 PM · Your name is Spencer. I assume you're a young male. Well, instead of bashing your teacher, why not be gentle to talk to your teacher, ask him why you're not ready and ask him to give you etudes or other pieces for a preparation before stepping into paganini 24 caprices?

January 27, 2016 at 04:20 PM · Jenny, I had a similar experience (well, not the last part). I realize this will sound really unbelievable, but my childhood teacher assigned me deBeriot because I could not play the Accolay, Mozart 3 because I could not play the deBeriot, and when I stumbled around on the Mozart for a while, he decided maybe it was time for Lalo. That is when I changed teachers. My new teacher assigned me Seitz. A short time later I went off to college, and when I returned to the violin 25 years ago, I decided to try playing the first couple of pages of Mozart 3 for my new new teacher. He gave me a few pointers and then he gave me kind of a quizzical look, and he said, "Do you have any Suzuki books?" You cannot imagine how relieved I felt, because I know how bad that Mozart must have sounded to him. We started in Books 4 and 5 with Vivaldi and Seitz! That's five years ago and finally I'm getting around to trying Mozart (No. 5). But this time I feel like I'm actually learning how to play the violin properly.

January 27, 2016 at 04:27 PM · Rambo, the under the best circumstances, the relationship between a student and his/her violin teacher is one of apprentice and guru. There needs to be a deep level of trust and, I would even say obedience on the part of the student. Going off and working on something that is well beyond your ability -- at best it diverts your physical and mental energy, and at worst it can engender bad habits and even cause injury.

January 27, 2016 at 04:32 PM · Spencer,

You say (if I understand correctly) that you printed off Caprice 24 and within a few days had "mastered it."

First, I find that very hard to believe. However, it's possible you have entirely lower standards than your teacher. It's quite common for students to say they "have it down" when it's actually a train wreck. And your teacher, like any other good teacher, isn't interested in you just kind of scraping through something.

So I would ask that you post a video of yourself playing Caprice 24. You don't have to even play in tempo. If you can play it reasonably in tune without constant stopping and with correct articulation, I will eat my words. I would be willing to get that variations 3 is not in tune and that variation 6 is not even close. Of course, you may be a genius and have mastered it...

Most of this caprice is actually very doable. But unless you can play variation 6 in tune, in time,and with a nice tone, then you shouldn't be doing it. This is generally the stumbling block.

January 27, 2016 at 04:52 PM · I disagree strongly that we should discourage posts of this sort. Some people don't have great teachers, and do not have the resources to discreetly seek other opinions locally. And this is not a disrespectful post (and he does not name who his teacher is).

Also, we have no idea if the OP is totally delusional in thinking he can play these Caprices, or if he's sufficiently technically advanced that he is capable of tackling them with a lot of effort, or he's pretty close to being ready (or is ready) but his teacher is inclined to be conservative. Seven years of playing and four hours a day of practicing clearly indicates he's far from a beginner.

Also note that he's talking about having *begun* #16 and #24 (and "mastered" an abridgment of #24, which could be significantly reduced in difficulty). That's quite different from doing them as a whole. #24 clearly has more difficult and less difficult sections. With a really motivated student, he might learn more struggling with a section of a Caprice that he really wants to learn, than with something else -- as long as he gets the building blocks to work his way into that. (It seems like he's got the right tools himself and is seeking more -- i.e., breaking things down, realizing he needs one element mastered before he can try it in the actual Caprice, etc.)

Sometimes it's okay to fail, too. The OP isn't going to destroy his technical foundation by tackling something too hard. (Just be careful of tenths, okay, OP?)

January 27, 2016 at 06:47 PM · Reading my own post, it comes off kind of condescending. I don't really know anything about your level, but I will leave the rest of my post, because it may be useful to your situation.

Spencer, your post was both frustrating and understandable to read. I think the problem is that you have not learned to listen to yourself yet. You haven't given us any red flags from our teacher - It sounds like your teacher is trying to do what makes the most sense.

If you seriously have the drive to practice 4 hours per day, then you need to take a look at your practice schedule and get it focused. You are doing it backwards and cutting corners. I have spent a lot of time on repertoire I wasn't ready for, and it was only because I wasn't really listening to myself that I could justify it. You will get there much more quickly by doing the foundation work, which is scales, arpeggios, double stop scales, etudes and all the other work.

What etudes is your teacher having you play? If you hadn't done scales in double-stops before this, then you probably have a long way to go before Paganini 24. You need to be able to play the technical aspects, but you really need to be able to play it in tune and musically.

Why don't you lay out what your teacher is having you play and your practice routine, and people will have a better idea of where you are (although really the only way is to hear you play). One day when you have much less free time, you will realize just how precious every moment of practice is, but it's best to create an efficient practice schedule as soon as possible, before you get to that point. Sometimes work on something just barely out of reach can be a big motivator, but if you bite off something too big, then you can waste a lot of your own time.

January 27, 2016 at 08:05 PM · One idea for students who really want to tackle 24 is to do Milstein's Paganiniana first. A little easier, but still sounds very virtuosic.

January 28, 2016 at 10:55 AM · When I have a student who wants to play a very difficult piece, I would let him play, but I would constantly remind him about quality. Maybe you are not ready, but if I was your teacher I would give you difficult scale exercises from what you can benefit later. And it doesn't hurt to practice things outside of the lesson. The sooner you play a work, the better you can learn it later in life. So I don't believe that there is a "too soon" to practice something. Certainly there can be a "too soon" to perform it in public though. Maybe your teacher wants you to work on basics before threatening such difficult pieces. You should also listen to him and do his exercises. At your freetime, just play whatever you want. Record yourself to monitor your playing

January 28, 2016 at 07:57 PM · Simon, I must respectfully disagree with you on playing whatever regardless of difficulty - even if the teacher reminders about quality of playing. Many of the students I get have been products of that kind of teaching, and when I get them their technique is almost always riddled with problems. Worse, the student, and parents, oftentimes dont understand why it's necessary to take a step back, fix and then establish solid technique. And it gets even worse when the student is dedicated and practices a lot, like the OP, because the bad habits become even more deeply ingrained.

It boils down to this: if a student can't trust their teacher to lead them in the very best, most efficient way then get a new teacher. And, if they find themselves "teacher hopping" then they might need examine what kind of a student they really are - because the problem could be the student.

January 28, 2016 at 10:47 PM · Bev beat me to it but I was going to say, yes, it can and sometimes does hurt to practice things outside the lesson material, if the student does not yet have the necessary technique. I've seen the results of that and it isn't pretty.

January 28, 2016 at 11:25 PM · Greetings,

I agree with bothe Simon and the two following comments. It is actually a rather complex issue. Certainly students hacking away at works eyond their level can be extremely destrcutcive and the teacher should always be alert for this. But on the other hand I do femeber when I was about 12 my teacher saying that I could practice the double stops from caprice twenty four as a useful exer ise for preperation in the future. I think the practice of pulling put technical passages from works one is overall not ready for can be useful . But there are caveats. I think one assumes the student fully understands the notion deLay exemplified when she said 'even a Paginini concerto can be mad eeasy to practice if one takes us much time as needed even for just one note T a time.' Sorry I am paraphrasing very badly here. If the student understands the notion of qualit, intonation, and ease and is very familiar with essentail practice techniques then harm is unlikely. Simon is a great teache rand player so i think he can use this appraoch with some confidence iwth his advance dstudents.

Idle thoughts,


January 29, 2016 at 01:21 AM · A few years ago when my daughter was moving through Suzuki Book 4, she worked ahead by practicing the harder sections of the Vivaldi movements, and passages from the Accolay, etc., several weeks (not years) before those pieces were formally assigned. Her teacher was aware that I was creating these "studies" and he approved. (I had worked on the same pieces with him already, so I knew his preferences for fingerings, bowings, articulation, etc.) She practiced them carefully, under-tempo, etc., and it worked out fine.

January 29, 2016 at 01:50 AM · Exactly. It's a cooperative exercise involving all parties.

Auer recoomended this approach very strongly although his students were or an extremely high level. (at least tahts what his mother told me.)

The slight danger in this kind of work is that ones interpretation can become fragmented. This has never bothered me that much.

I would again refer anyone who is interested to Ilya Gringolts blog on the caprices. As he says, they Re in many ways the acme of the violnists art and really best studied when the technique is already in the same ball park. They are not etudes.

Personally I also starting following szigetis advice many years ago and start advanced students on the Barucaba Variations first. Now those -were- intended to be Pagininis etudes in my opinion.



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