List of must practice violin technique and scale books

March 13, 2017 at 06:12 PM · Please ignore the pieces/compositions of composers. I thought we could have a discussion on the list of technique books that one should practice for improvement in playing. I know there are many but you could share the list of technique books that you have completed so far and the impact it had on your playing ability.

Replies (42)

March 13, 2017 at 06:44 PM · I am at best an intermediate player, I work on Kreutzer, CF scales, and solo Bach everyday.

March 13, 2017 at 07:26 PM · Basics by Simon Fischer - If you only have one violin book it should be this.

Some type of Sevcik is essential - I did opus 8,9, and some of opus 1.Kreutzer is another must have. Also some kind of scale book - Hirmaly, Flesch, Galamian, or maybe all three. These a violinist can not live without.

March 13, 2017 at 07:43 PM · Fisher Basics, Fisher Scales, Polo Double Stops.

March 13, 2017 at 07:54 PM · Six Lessons With Yehudi Menuhin.

The Simplicity Of Playing The Violin, Herbert Whone.

Practicing The Violin Mentally and Physically, Louis Kievman.

March 13, 2017 at 08:41 PM · I learned in particularly commonplace way, I think. Suzuki's Position Etudes and Quint Etudes, followed by Schradieck, Sevcik, Wolfhart, Mazas, Kreutzer, Trott's double-stop books, multiple books of Dont, and then Paganini Caprices. I've also done bits of Rode, Gavinies, Casorti (bowing) and Wieniawski's Ecole Moderne.

Personally, I have found Simon Fischer's "Basics" to be enormously useful, but I've never studied them with a teacher.

March 14, 2017 at 03:54 AM · For starters, Auer Book 1 with all its open string work gives a solid foundation for bow control, rhythms, double stops, and dynamics. The etudes also emphasize musicality which kept it interesting. I still warm up every day with several of the etudes to develop tone and string crossing.

Wohlfahrt Opus 38 introduces basic scales, arpeggios and double stops in the form of musical etudes. It is my favorite of the all the elementary method books that have been mentioned on the forum.

March 14, 2017 at 08:37 AM · For me, Kreutzer, Hrimaly Scale Studies, Flesch Scale System, and Simon Fischer's Basics have been the crucial books to awaken me violinistically! I love the challenge of making technical exercises sound good, so I am also very fond of Sevcik Op 8 and Sevcik Op 1. Just cherry-picking a little something out of Sevcik and working on it for ten minutes, doing that daily, seems to help me stay in shape and even continue improving technically. Then I have a whole range of further technical books but let's leave it at that. Currently I am exploring Dont Op 35, he sure loved hand extensions!

March 14, 2017 at 09:04 AM · "I love the challenge of making technical exercises sound good,"

This is indeed the key to technique at the service of music!

March 14, 2017 at 07:01 PM · Scale book; start with Sevcik Op. 1, part 3, #1-->8, then memorize your scales and chords, use a variety of fingerings, don't get stuck on one system.

Shifting: Sevcik Op.8, be sure to transpose to other keys.

Bowing; Sevcik Op. 3, 40 variations.

Kreutzer Etudes.

Casals played Bach every day, but don't start with the Unaccompanied Sonatas- try the keyboard/violin sonatas, the concertos, the transposed cello suites, or the Telemann Fantasias.

I vote no on the Flesch Scales.

I vote no on Menuhin's book.

-JQ

March 14, 2017 at 08:09 PM · I'm very curious why Joel doesn't like Flesch. (I suspect that most of us have done Flesch and/or Galamian's scale systems.)

I recently got Fischer's Scales book, and it's extremely interesting. (I find his scales approach of starting with tuning the perfect intervals, then adding the leading tones, and then finally the 2nd and 6th, originally described in Basics, very useful.)

March 14, 2017 at 09:39 PM · I thought someone might ask that; I think it's for the advanced class of students. I have tried to do the Flesch book, but I can't do 10ths or fingered octaves, at least not in tune. A lot of the scales start on the second finger, which puts the half-step on a string change, which I try to avoid in real music. thanks, jq

March 15, 2017 at 12:02 AM · Are there any videos that show the different variations of playing scales (major and minor thirds, augmented, diminished, broken thirds, flesch, and I don't even know what else...)?

I read all these names and have no idea what they mean and how to play them, but I know they are really important for practising. All these books are great, but it takes me triple as long to learn from notes than it does if I see it being played.

March 15, 2017 at 12:32 AM · I agree with Joel. Flesch is just fine if you're already a good violinist who already plays nice smooth three octaves scales in perfect tune. The idea of playing through an entire "scale study" from start to finish just isn't within my horizon.

Maybe I can convey the point by trying to answer GA's question. If you get the Flesch book, you can do what lots of folks do ... just skip to the three octave scales and arpeggio sequences, where they're all nicely fingered with some suggested rhythms and bowings too. But why not buy Fischer's book which has other studies that show you, step by step, how to play scales in tune (how dare he actually explain this!!) and how to practice them to get them smooth?

As a child I studied Whistler (Developing Double Stops, Preparing for Kreutzer) as well as Mazas and Dont Op 20. Upon returning I did Kayser, then some of the mid-level Dont book (Op 37?), a few Schradieck, and now working on Kreutzer (about half of which is too hard).

None of the double-stop study books helped me very much. I suspect that is because my teacher (when I was a kid) never taught me the theory of intonation for double stops. So it was just guesswork and "target practice." My current teacher showed me how to practice scales in thirds and sixths. And it's very simple. Here I just have one note listed, the second note is a third or sixth above: G, G-A, A-B, B-C etc, where each hyphen is a slur. I did this simple study about 15 minutes a day for about a month, starting very slowly and listening carefully not only to the intonation but trying to get the transitions as clean as possible, and it really improved my playing across the board. I come back to it as often as I can find time.

I have to close this comment with my favorite violin joke:

What do they say about violinists who don't practice scales?

The spirit was willing, but the Flesch was weak.

March 15, 2017 at 02:06 AM · I'm curious, Joel, if not as scales, how do you practice fingered octaves?

(I tend to think scales in tenths are for people who are either crazy or have huge hands, though!)

March 15, 2017 at 04:47 AM · Amanda, I guess this is the kind of different ( i.e. lower) expectation others have discussed in another thread. The idea is that if you are never going to get to a point where you will need to do tenths, why bother?

As an adult student, I do get hints from my teacher like this sometimes. I have mixed feelings about it, though I think she is right that it is unlikely that I will ever NEED to do tenths, or fingered octaves.

March 15, 2017 at 04:54 AM · All, --well I seemed to have poked a stick into the hornet's nest, again. For some hands, like mine, fingered octaves and tenths can be physically dangerous, like a pianist with small hands trying to play Rachmaninov or Gershwin. How to sneak up on the 10ths and fingered octaves? Start with third position and work back to the lower positions. Start with the 1-3 octave, then add the 2-4 octave. For tenths, the minor tenth is different from the major tenth. I can play the minor tenth in second position by pushing the 4th finger out 1/2 step, then extending the first finger back, like a cellist, a whole step. The major tenth is beyond me. Out of tune doesn't count. I would rather see a student master the position system and the ultra-high notes on the E-string before tackling the double stops. Intonation of double stops is another big topic, 3 times harder to tune than single notes, in my opinion. The Whistler books are a good alternate system. "the Flesch was weak" - I like that. By the way, I am definitely Not a major-league player, like the others on these forums, but just a Mariachi fiddler. Regards to all-JQ

March 15, 2017 at 05:43 AM · Oops. The way your bio on this site is phrased made me think that you were a symphony concertmaster, Joel.

I have small hands, so I've generally been pretty careful with extensions in general. I've only ever done tenths in the context of repertoire. But fingered octaves (which I originally learned from the Kreutzer study in broken octaves, whose number I forget, but which I practiced in both regular and fingered octaves), I find hugely useful all the time -- I use primarily 1-3 fingered octaves, which I generally find reliable, whereas 2-4 is less so and much less comfortable. (I'm not really much of a fan of scale practice, but I do octave scales more often than any other kind of scale.)

There's a lot of repertoire where a fingered octave rather than a regular octave has a better sound (it's much easier to vibrate), and starting in about fourth position, a fingered octave is often easier to place than a regular octave. It makes some octave passages easier since you can alternate between the 1-3 and 2-4 if necessary. And the fingered octave basically represents the hand frame in an extended position -- and the right frame for reaching up one position.

It's also an easier way to set a tenth -- grab a sixth with 2-3, and then reach for the 1 and 4 to complete a pair of fingered octaves that are a third apart.

March 15, 2017 at 05:55 AM · I don't know if anyone, virtuosos included, ever play tenths with ease. Some get good at playing them with reasonable reliability, and it helps to have big, flexible hands.

I don't know how useful scales in tenths really are, since sequential tenths in a scale pattern rarely occur in the literature. A lot of students are simply taught to play them in the first piece of solo repertoire where they encounter a tenth. That kind of extension is also tiring, and ample caution needs to be exercised when practicing them.

March 15, 2017 at 08:02 AM · It has been said many times by Scott Cole before, but the Flesch one-octave scales on a single string are hugely useful (items 1-4 in his system). If you start on the larger shifting exercises in Sevcik Op 8 you can also start on these. They are immensely useful and provide patterns that, once you have them in your hands, you start noticing them in music almost everywhere. They are great for getting familiar with playing very high on the fingerboard. Initially this feels very awkward for beginners but it gets familiar quickly and also helps building strength and flexibility in the hand, as well as helping you to learn to bow close to the bridge and produce a clear sound high up the D-string, say. Not that a lot of music needs going up high on the D-string, but it is a technical exercise and if you improve on that you also greatly improve on more normal bowing. Moreover, often passages can be played just by "restez" in the high position, which many violinists do not like because the sound they produce on the lower strings up high is not clear enough. So that obstacle can go away and you become more reliable on fast passages. Furthermore, going up and down in broken thirds on one string (which is part of the sequence) is so useful to secure shifting up and down, you can use leading fingers, and all the other tricks used to secure shifting. Also the chromatic 1231231231234321321321321 scale on one string is incredibly useful. Chromatic runs which occur often in orchestral passages become no-brainers. Sorry for the ramble!

March 15, 2017 at 11:27 AM · Flesh is written as a shortcut for advanced students. It is not meant to be used until a student is comfortable with 3 octave scales, double stop scales, etc. Nevertheless, it is a great resource I think. As for stretching exercises, Basics 134-137 and some Dounis stretching exercises are great for improving one's ability to play tenths. If you play them properly, of course, which means taking a break if your hand hurts.

Jean, no need to apologize. That was a great ramble! :)

March 15, 2017 at 01:44 PM · "How do you practice octaves or tenths if not in scales?"

I'm getting kind of a "let them eat cake" vibe from this thread.

The problem with scales is that there are too many in a row to be effective as an introduction to the technique for an intermediate student. That's why the method my teacher taught me for thirds -- G, G-A, A-B, B-C, etc. is so good. You're still playing thirds, but focusing in on each individual change in a less intense way. Look at Kreutzer No. 24 for a similar concept.

If I were trying to learn fingered octaves, that would be my approach for sure: G, G-A, A-B, etc. You just take a few at a time so that you can really focus on getting them right in the short time you have before fatigue sets in, and making sure looking in the mirror to see that your hand positions are not getting too weird.

And that's why the other approach is to just wait until you have a piece that has a few tenths or fingered octaves so that you can just work on that little passage surrounded by other stuff that is hopefully not as physically taxing. The risk, of course, is that you cannot perform the piece and thereby enjoy the fruit of all of your other effort until you've conquered that one passage.

Another point is that a lot of pieces may have tenths but the passage might only be in higher positions where the interval is physically closer. For example first movement of Spohr No. 2, where I think the lowest position is third position and that one is a minor tenth but I'd have to check. One problem with scales is that they tend to start in low positions which is where octaves and tenths are the hardest.

And by the way there is plenty of gorgeous violin music to play that doesn't have tenths. You don't see people playing them in orchestra sections.

March 15, 2017 at 03:20 PM · [Edit: in a similar vein to what Paul said...]

You don't necessarily have to practice a lot of fingered octaves and tenths in lower positions, but you do need them for higher positions for an understanding of advanced fingering. It's misleading to suggest you don't need to practice them because you don't intend to play virtuoso rep.

E.g. of 8ve and 10th exercises before scales:

Hold lower octave, play 6th 7th 8ve on adjacent upper string. Hold upper octave, play 6th 7th 8ve on lower adjacent string. Practice feeling the finger pattern within the hand before placing the octave.

Hold lower octave with 1, play 7th with 3. Slide 3 from m7 to M7 to 8ve and back (making sure to curl 1 back and shift the forearm with 3 as needed.) Similarly hold 3 on upper octave sliding 1 chromatically down to lower octave (it's useful to start with the latter for smaller hands, as it's the motion needed for the former, while closing the elbow.) Repeat with 2 and 4. With 10ths, start with the octave sliding one finger over m9 M9 m10 M10 before sliding smooth, continuous 3rds.

For 10ths practice extension arpeggios: 1-3-4/i-iv-vi and across strings, 1+3-4/viii-x (measure it out as needed 1+3-3-4-4/vii-viii-ix-x, also chromatically.) Do these on each degree of a scale.

There are many many exercises you can do before cracking open a single printed book.

March 15, 2017 at 05:09 PM · I agree with Jeewon that practicing double-stops helps you do a lot more than just play double stops. I think that's a very general principle that applies to everything, not just octaves and tenths.

March 15, 2017 at 05:40 PM · Jeewon, thanks! Now we the peasants can find a way to get our bread : )

March 15, 2017 at 07:32 PM · Flesh 1-4 for each key is awesome. Fischer says much the same in his book regarding the value of one string scale exercises. I can say they certainly made my shifting very secure after only a year or so of beating on them for thirty minutes every day.

March 16, 2017 at 03:37 AM · I just found a great video by Eddy Chen which talks about 4 essential violin technique exercises. Like many mentioned above, here's what he said:

1. Slow tones

2. Schradiek book 1

3. Call Flesch scales

4. Colle exercises (e.g. Sevcik, Kreutzer)

4 essential violin exercises

March 16, 2017 at 05:28 PM · Ah... peasants and bread. I get it :) after reading Paul's cake reference again...

Yes, as Paul suggests it's almost impossible to play in tune without a solid double stop technique, which has to do with fine adjustments to fingers/hand-wrist/forearm/shoulder-socket, and of course ear training (interval training.)

That's why you need facility in same finger chromatics and coordinated pressure control as a prerequisite to double stops.

All doubles stops can be practiced by changing their quality, whether sharping or flatting by a semitone, to train the ear to hear the difference. Difference trains attention. Such exercise should be started as soon as the student is able to hear unisons/octaves.

March 16, 2017 at 06:07 PM · Wrong thread.

March 16, 2017 at 06:12 PM · Jeewon, I can't remember who here said this, but for understanding the principles behind tuning double stops I found the following example invaluable:

1) Play a D string-B natural sixth as a double stop.

2) Don't move your finger

3) Play the B natural with the open E string.

4) Now, shift your finger up about 1/4 of a tone while playing the e string, until it sounds "good".

5) Now, play that new b natural with the D string again.

Voila, harmonic tuning in action. Once I got this, the difference between melodic tuning (as outlined by Fischer in his Scales book, for example) and harmonic tuning became crystal clear.

One of the neatest things about the violin is that the meaning "in tune" is contextual based on what the music is doing. Not many other instruments have that level of control=)

March 17, 2017 at 06:50 PM · Wonderful discussion. I haven't tried Simon Fischer's basics, scales, secrets of tone production etc as they are so expensive. I have Essential Elements, Honeyman violin tutor, Carl Flesch scales, Rode, Dont, Josephine Trott, Whistler, Galamian, Kayser, Kreutzer, Sevcik, Wohlfahrt, Schradieck, Trinity Guildhall and ABRSM pieces(Grades 1-8), and Suzuki in my library. I wonder if Simon Fischer's books offer something far greater than the aforementioned books.

March 17, 2017 at 08:16 PM · If you own only one book of technical exercises, it should be Fischer's Basics.

If you own only one reference manual-type book, it should be Fischer's "The Violin Lesson".

If you own only a single scale book, I would vote for Fischer's Scales.

They are that good.

March 17, 2017 at 08:36 PM · Thanks Lydia. I've placed an order for Simon Fischer's basics and scales.

Is the secrets of tone production DVD worth the money if I already play with proper intonation all the way up the fingerboard without producing a scratchy sound.

And do you know of any other free or paid resources on increasing the quality of tone production.

March 18, 2017 at 02:57 AM · Jason, Kurt Sassmanshaus has a video demonstration of the same concept applied to the opening few bars of the Bach G Minor partita. When you play the chord, the Bb is at a certain place. Then when it comes back in scale form, if you put it in the same place it's wrong.

The thing is, we do not play the same pitches in our double stops as we do in our scales. And chromatic scales are not evenly spaced either. But as Jeewon said, the advantage of double stops is that they force you to experience the significance of small changes in interval spacing. That's because the effects are magnified by the audible interferences when the intervals are slightly wrong. What I learned about hand positions, finger pressure, and minimizing stress by playing scales in thirds carried over into improvements in my vibrato, etc., to an extent that surprised me.

March 19, 2017 at 05:39 AM · most of those small adjustments in pitch are about 1/4 of a half-step, not a 1/4-tone. It's the the "comma" and the math has been understood for about two thousand years. There are short and long 1/2 steps, whole steps, minor and major thirds. Violinists encounter the problem when they tackle the Bach Unaccompanied Sonatas. Piano-style equal temperment is a compromise that splits the difference, and is good enough most of the time. jq

March 19, 2017 at 12:38 PM · Piano-style equal temperament won't get you through a Bach sarabande. One reason why pianos get away with equal temperament is because the unisons are never perfect and that washes out some of the unfavorable resonances of the thirds.

March 19, 2017 at 09:33 PM · I can recommend this book for double stop study. http://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/5/5a/IMSLP303963-PMLP491835-EHerrmann_39_Violin_Etudes_Book2.pdf

March 19, 2017 at 09:33 PM · It's extremely helpful!

March 20, 2017 at 07:17 PM · Paul, would you mind posting the link to the Kurt S. video you mentioned? I was looking and couldn't find it.

Thanks!

March 20, 2017 at 07:29 PM · I'm going to go against the grain. I find Simon Fischer's books (mostly talking about Basics) to be tedious, and in some ways overly fussy, but sort of lacking too. Maybe it's in the way I take in information. A lot of the exercises don't make sense to me, and the explanations for them are inadequate. A lot of them seem sort of divorced from actual playing. The problem is likely mine.

I greatly prefer (perhaps more philosophical books?) Flesch - The Art of Violin Playing, as well as the new Yankelevich book, The Russian Violin School: The Legacy of Yuri Yankelevich. They just make a lot more sense to me. I wonder if Abraham Yampolsky wrote anything? It seems like he was the one teaching my favorite violinists, and had a big effect on Yankelevich.

I think the Fischer book could be more useful if it were more focused, but I'm not so interested in minutiae as he covers stuff. Perhaps it is better suited towards more analytical minds than mine.

March 20, 2017 at 10:39 PM · Heh, Christian, I think you're exactly right. I think his books are targeted to the analytical mind. That's why I like them so much, myself because that's how I am. I'm lucky to have a teacher who has a more organic, natural approach to counter and provide balance to my natural tendencies.

However, if you ever wanted an encyclopedic treatment on how to play the violin, Fischer's the guy;)

March 20, 2017 at 11:21 PM · Jason, here is the link you wanted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaYOwIIvgHg

March 21, 2017 at 09:00 PM · That's a really great video, thank you.

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