paganini caprice question

August 23, 2004 at 04:11 AM · Hi, i'm a high school student and though i have a private teacher, i usually do the majority of my learning by myself because i've surpassed the teacher in many aspects. i've been learning the caprices and i am so confused about how to achieve certain chords. for example, in op. 24, variation 6, right after the first repeat, there's a passage of double stops that seem almost impossible to stretch your fingers that far to play. a and c#..then b and d using 1 and is that possible? since i don't have a teacher doing this with me i just don't know what to do. maybe do it on the g and d or d and a? iii dunno. any help appreciated.

also, is there a certain caprice that is ideal to start with? i've been concentrating on op.1 because it's the first one :p

Replies (18)

August 23, 2004 at 10:15 AM · These are tenths - you simply have to stretch your fingers further than ever before!

Don't force your fingers to stretch that far - try and play some scales with tenths before launching into the Paganini. Just do it really slowly and gradually and eventually your fingers will be able to cope with tenths easily.

August 23, 2004 at 02:28 PM · From what I've read from this board from the past, when playing tenths, don't try to stretch your little finger! Instead, stretch back your first finger. Consult your teacher or someone else first though...I've never really played tenths or Paganini.

August 23, 2004 at 03:50 PM · It took me a long time to be able to play tenths without tensing up or hurting my hands. As has been said, don't overdo it and don't just launch into them. I would highly recomend doing them broken before doing them solid. You'll get them eventually, it just takes time, and let it take time, don't run the risk of hurting your hands. The stretching your 4th down to your 1st finger is a really good tip. That opens up your hand more and makes larger stretches much easier.

Curious while on the subject of tenths. Does anyone actually do the fingered tenths in the Ysaye sonata no.3? (I think it's No. 3 that they appear in)

August 23, 2004 at 04:19 PM · Change your thumb position for tenths as well, put it well forward of where you normally would. This allows for a bigger stretch between the first and fourth fingers.

August 23, 2004 at 04:43 PM · The idea of stretching your first finger back (instead of only reaching with the 4th) is sound and good advice.

August 23, 2004 at 04:42 PM · My observation has been that the most frequent cause of difficulty in playing tenths is the violinist placing his hand in the position of the lower note. This results in him trying to span the distance entirely with 4th finger stretch! Rather, the hand should find a placement higher up in the positions, such that the first finger is doing plenty of *back stretch*....This way, both first and fourth fingers are doing some stretch, so neither has to stretch as much as would be the case with the hand in the position of the lower note.

Example: If the notes are: First finger on D, on the A string, an octave above open D, and 4th finger on F#, a 10th above that, the hand should be well above 3rd position, not *in* third position. Each individual hand placement will be different, but the principle is the same for all hands: Let the hand fall into the place where both fingers are participating in the stretch.

August 23, 2004 at 07:13 PM · Galamian maintained that the hand should be neither in the position of the fourth nor first finger, but right in the middle.

For example, to play a tenth on the g and d strings, the bottom note being b in 2nd position and the top being d, you would put your hand in third position and stretch the 4th finger up a bit and the 1st finger down.

I've always preferred playing in the highest position, though, and stretching the 1st finger down by 2 positions. Either way, you should learn to do this kind of stretch gradually, and not risk damaging your tendons and muscles.

August 23, 2004 at 09:22 PM · Fingered tenths are possible. I practiced and practiced until I was able to do fingered tenths at the end of Wieniawski's Polonaise Brillante. And in tune.

There are a couple things about the Ysaye that I question. I really doubt that he intended for there to be markings for fingered tenths. I also question whether he meant for there to be quarter tones.

I've played it both ways but Ms. Thomas told me Galamian never had his students play the 1/4 tones...and Galamian had his students play it for Ysaye.

(most people won't notice anyway)


August 24, 2004 at 12:11 AM · good advice, i woudlnt start with 24 though, there are definetely easier caprices to start with. if you havnt run into tenths before, you may want to practice some scale systems like flesch or something before you attempt the paganini caprices.

August 24, 2004 at 12:17 AM · I can do elevenths on a good day, and stretch a tenth from

1st to 3rd finger, but fingered tenths as a regular thing I would suspect must take a lot of practice. Preston, do you find it makes things easier? Gives you a little more facility maybe?

In the Ysaye, which way would you say has a preferable sound, with or without the quarter tones? Is there anyway to find out what Ysaye actually intended? I find quarter tones quite interesting and have enjoyed the pieces that I've played that uses them.

August 24, 2004 at 12:41 AM · elevenths??, wow that seems painful

August 24, 2004 at 01:02 AM · I did this piece with my teacher and we got to that variation and she exclaimed, thats just impossible! haha. It obviously is, just keep your practicing slow and perfect, and after a while you should be able to nail that passage.

August 24, 2004 at 05:13 AM · For this edition of the Lipizer competition, the required Lipizer etude involves one repeatedly playing fingered tenths and going as far as 13ths (from an E sharp on the D string to a C sharp on the A string). So tenths and even fingered tenths are not only possible but don't even represent the extent of what one might be called upon to do.

But on a more important note, I'm bothered by recent posts both on this thread and on the Nel Cor thread. If you're at a stage in your violinistic development where you don't know what a tenth is, I really don't think you should be playing them, or trying to play them. If you call Nel Cor a "song", you also probably are not in a place of your violinistic development where you should even consider tackling the work. And if you feel that you've outstripped the teacher, you should either mention to that teacher that you would like more challenges or else look for a more demanding teacher. But you should NOT be playing things well above your level, attempting to teach yourself, as you are almost guaranteed to create huge problems for yourself down the road.

A great deal of playing the violin properly involves the correct setup of the hands - one which will allow you to "grow" into various techniques naturally and relatively effortlessly. But attempting to conquer Paganini before having an absolutely correct left hand position will only result in frustration. It is impossible for me to express in words how heartily sick I am of telling my students that barely making it through a simple piece with bad setup does NOT qualify as playing that piece or the violin, for that matter. In a way, the more advanced students I have - who have had teachers overlook fundamentals of hand placement earlier in their training - present me with my greatest challenge. I need to somehow, without destroying their desire to play, instill in them not only a DESIRE to play well, but an understanding of what playing well actually MEANS.

And, on the other hand, few things give me more pleasure, as a teacher, than to see a student turn a painstakingly acquired proper setup into second nature. It's something I know will stay with them years from now.

August 24, 2004 at 08:28 PM · Amen.

August 25, 2004 at 03:41 AM · thanks emil

fingered tenths? ick/

August 25, 2004 at 04:45 PM · What Emil says about the general setup seems very important to me and was one of the major reasons why I did not become a violinist. I also understand that more adventurous students want, out of sheer curiosity, to try out for themselves some of the technical mechanisms that Paganini developed. In the left hand, this involves stretches, so one should really approach these very carefully (if at all, I agree w/ Emil). In my personal case, I was interested in examining how these extensions had been transfered to piano technique by Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt. I wanted to have an idea of the extent to which one could say that Paganini's experimentations influenced PIANO technique.

The sixth caprice is also hard to bow. Harmonically I find it one of the most interesting and "haunting" of his compositions. But even the "simple" first change from the g-d fifth to the g-g octave (fingered 1 3) on the D&A strings at the beginning can be tricky to keep in tune.

August 28, 2004 at 02:13 AM · I am a huge Paganini fan and I happen to know that he had very large hands and could play in the first 3 positions without even moving out of first! Tenths for him weren't a problem! He also had a disease which made his hands unbelievably flexible, was double jointed, and had an unusually long pinky. But for us with smaller hands, I don't know. How about starting with the 5th caprice? I can even play that one on the guitar.

August 28, 2004 at 03:47 AM · I once had a student from France who was absolutely desperate to play Paganini but who couldn't play a scale and end in the same key he started with. I did all I could to discourage him from attempting it until he could at the very LEAST play a scale in tune. His scales gradually improved, but unbeknownst to me he was still working on the contraband caprices. One day he decided to surprise me. He brought a friend with him and announced that they had worked up a little number for me. They commenced to play the entire Caprice No. 2--trading off every other note!!! It was pretty funny. Now that's one way to get around having to play tenths. Just have someone else play the other note. :)

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