September 10, 2004 at 05:20 AM · Hi,

I read recently on many post about paganini and how difficult it is to play tenths, eights and so on? my question is this, what are they? and why are they difficult? I'm not yet as advanced in the violin so Im curious as to why is this a subject of importance.

Replies (45)

September 10, 2004 at 05:42 AM · A tenth is an interval between notes. Generally when we refer to a tenth on the board it's been in the setting of a double stop where you would be required to block for instance a B on the A string and then D on the E string at the same time. The thing that makes them hard is that they are an awkward stretch and are straining on the hand when you have not properly worked up your left hand technique.

September 10, 2004 at 06:33 AM · Greetings,

a tenth is your cut of the fee after a quartet concert. The other six tenths go to managers, wives and family pets which is why quartet players always look so serious. They are wodnering how to pay the next gas bill,



September 10, 2004 at 03:29 PM · Haha you are a funny man buri. Tenths and eighths (or octaves) are difficult becuse you can only usually play them with your first and fourth finger, which is naturally the weakest one, and you sometimes have to play scales with them, so you have to be good at sliding up and down the fingerboard and keeping your fingers exactly in tune. Sounds hard and it is!

September 10, 2004 at 05:35 PM · I like Buri's explanation better! :D

September 10, 2004 at 07:21 PM · haha buri

September 10, 2004 at 04:21 PM · Kind of random question but has anyone tried stretching their fingers so they can play larger intervals? I know that a lot of piano players can stretch large intervals (on the piano) because their fingers (I think) gradually become more flexible. I think stretching might also be able to explain how players with very small hands can stretch tenths. Out of fun, what's the farthest anyone has done? I've gotten a fourteenth (of course my hand wasn't in any proper form lol). Is their any pieces with intervals bigger than 10ths?

September 11, 2004 at 02:42 AM · Greetings,

it is importnat to gently stretch the hands every day. First by spreading them (not forcing ) for about ten seconds then bending them at the secondknuckle joint and holding. Whether this actually increase sstretch on the isntrument I don"t know. To some extent I would imagine.



September 11, 2004 at 02:28 PM · I can play 11ths quite comfortably. In first position a 12th is the biggest I've stretched, but that's on a day where I've been doing excessive stretching and playing lots of octaves and tenths (say like Paganini) that day. lots of pieces use intervals larger then a 10th, it often though is done with an open string, or in a chord so it's not as physically demanding to play.

September 11, 2004 at 04:31 PM · Tenths are evil. Unnatural and painful. Just my opinion:). If I could, I'd play them all broken in a cheating fashion where I move the hand quickly between, therefore eliminating all superhuman stretching. I have incredibly small hands. But, of course, that is cheating. Or, hm. I could take a pen to the music and some white out or an eraseur and make it easier. Or I could tell my teacher I lost my music and not play that piece. Or I could burn my violin. Or I could suck it up and do it right. Which is what ultimately ends up happening....since I actually WANT to be a violinist. Took me seven months but I think I finally have the 10ths in the Ysaye in tune. Without any cheating....


September 12, 2004 at 07:25 PM · I've played the piano for 11 years and violin for 7. On the piano, I can play 10ths without much difficulty, but I guess I'm fortuntaely to have pretty long fingers. It's different on violin - not stretching the same way, and you can't use your thumb to play the lower note :-D.

September 12, 2004 at 08:43 PM · Had to get comfortable with 13ths for a recent Lipizer Competition etude. And no, Rosemarie (and anyone else who's asked), I didn't go to the competition. But my reason for withdrawing had a great deal more to do with the absolutely hideous obligatory contemporary work (16 pages of solid dreck!) than it did with the finger-twisting requirements of the 1st round Lipizer etude.

However, as a result of having to have had to learn the Lipizer, I'm now a great deal more comfortable with finger tenths. Now if only there were any call for those...

September 12, 2004 at 09:48 PM · Jennifer, I sympathise with people with small hands having to play tenths! You may find it interesting that sarasate had very small hands, and he indeed never played tenths. Have you seen Perlmans hands, they are massive! No wonder he plays Paganini with such ease.

September 12, 2004 at 11:08 PM · Speaking of Perlman and Paganini...I was listening to a recording of him playing paganini the other day and something strange struck me. There are certain capprices that he plays beautifully. Amazingly. Superhuman-ly. But then there are others that don't sound polished. Rough, and not particularly clean. Is that just the nature of paganini and I am finding fault where there is no perfection possible, or what? I'd actaully like to find out the circumstances of that recording. How was the rep. chosen? How long did he have to record it? Prepare? His idea? Pressured? You know...I hate to even mention that because Perlman is one of my favourites. Anyhow.


September 13, 2004 at 04:07 AM · John, I have some of the smallest hands ever, and have no problem with tenths. In fact, I believe that hand size isn't so much an issue in playing any kind of interval, but your stretching capability seems to be more of importance.

September 14, 2004 at 12:52 AM · Jennifer, I have found a similar phenomenon with Ilya Kaler's recording of the caprices. Some of them are amazing, but on some of them you can actually hear the crunching of the strings and stuff, and it just sounds messy. I too would like to know why this is.

September 14, 2004 at 02:33 PM · yeah, I noticed that too, I actually noticed it late last night when I was in bed and all was quiet. I dont remember which one it was but there is a part when you can hear when he changes strings. Do you think maybe we are just being to critical?

September 14, 2004 at 07:39 PM · paganini can be played cleanly of course, its my personal theory that perlman doesnt play with absolute cleanliness because he has conciously decided that tone production, projection, power in general, and of course musicality take precedence over cleanliness for him. and of course in the concert hall that is the way it shold be.

September 14, 2004 at 07:56 PM · Has anyone ever seen Lang Lang (Horowitz, and I guess some other pianists)'s fingers? At least from the point I was looking at, his fingers were super super long. Do you think they were always like that or is it a matter of adapting from playing the piano so much? I wonder how far he could stretch on the violin.

September 15, 2004 at 11:39 PM · Yeah ive also noticed that with Perlman and Kalers recordings, its strange because they each play different ones better than others - Perman plays briefly out of tune on 5 and 8 wheras Kaler does on 4 and 17. But it just reminds us that they are human, but I cant get over how well Perlman plays those caprices. Hes so musical. Does anyone know when he recorded them?

September 14, 2004 at 11:28 PM · Greetings,

I agree with Owen. I once played a very cautious anfd well worked out (in the sens that the bow direction conformed nicely with the stirngc rossing and so forth)performance of Caprice 16 to Eric Gruenberg and he promtly turned half the bows upside down so that they were really counter intuitive and a little rough. But very exciting. he believed Paginini played that way,



September 15, 2004 at 05:54 AM · i dont know if i have this information right at all but i remember my teacher telling me that delay told him perlman didnt always have that big signature sound. In fact his tone wasn't all that impressive when he was younger and that he spent a great deal of his time addressing that issue.

September 16, 2004 at 07:44 AM · seeing as how no reptoire has fingered 10ths or any greater intervals for that matter...i see it as a waste of time to learn and practice this.

September 16, 2004 at 02:58 PM · The Ballade Sonata by Ysaye has fingered tenths in it. I think to be able to play them would be extremely useful, not to mention would make regular tenths seem like a breeze. But don't underestimate the use of larger intervals then a tenth. Didn't someone comment on having played a piece with 13ths in it? I've played a few pieces with intervals larger then a tenth in them (luckily in almost all cases have been very high up on the fingerboard, making them playable). Having the ability to play something like tenths would, I think, make tenths and octaves seem "easy" and give you more facility on the instrument.

September 16, 2004 at 09:22 PM · The Brahms Concerto has them. Pretty important work.

September 16, 2004 at 10:49 PM · ive looked through editions of the Brahms and the Ysaye ballade...no fingered 10ths. regular 10th and fingered octaves is plenty to stretch out your fingers (stretching is the only thing fingered 10ths would do) without hurting yourself. Paganini probably played them...but he had plenty of diseases and ego. No one can do what he did as we all know.

September 16, 2004 at 11:16 PM · Viextemps 5 has a 13th in it. Its in a high register though, so its not that bad. Mind you I have large hands and long fingers so its easy for me to say that! I have just managed to play a 14th in first position (in tune) boy that hurt


September 17, 2004 at 08:17 PM · tenths in a way is a virtustic way to play thirds. Its a third on an octave in a sense. it has a very "cool" effect when played. They are found mostly in music that exploits the violin such as works by Viextemps, wieniaw3ski, much of paganini, sarasate, joachim, spohr etc....

September 17, 2004 at 10:41 PM · fingered tenths, ow.

September 18, 2004 at 02:59 PM · Hah, I just managed to play sixteenths, in 7th position!, ahh who cares.

September 19, 2004 at 12:15 AM · Now do it in 1st position Rick! Fingered 10ths sound a bit pointless to me, what about in Paganinis 24th caprice, would a virtuoso play them normally or fingered? Hmmm who cares


September 19, 2004 at 04:29 PM · LOL John, I don't think I want to! The tenths in the 6th variation of the paganini 24th caprice, are to be played normally. I don't think fingered tenths, or anything more then regular tenths, are that much of a necessity to study. Besides the Ysaye "Ballade" sonata, I don't think there is any other piece of music (that are worth studying) that use fingered tenths, besides, there are plenty of other Ysaye sonatas to choose from. As for Paganini, I doubt he ever played fingered tenths, or anything more than that. And, I'm pretty sure Sarasate rejected playing or writing any music, with tenths in it, due to his small hand size.

September 19, 2004 at 06:21 PM · Sarasate wrote music with tenths, and frequently played others music with tenths. But that does not mean that he was comfort with them.

September 19, 2004 at 10:40 PM · Just curious - what did sarasate write that had 10ths in it?

September 20, 2004 at 02:06 AM · Just see his Maqic flute variations for one example.

September 20, 2004 at 05:06 AM · lots of stuff

September 20, 2004 at 11:09 PM · Owen, you are the oracle of all information ;-)

September 21, 2004 at 03:04 AM · In Paganini's day there were no such thing as fingered octaves or tenths..

September 21, 2004 at 03:17 AM · Greetings,

yes there were. Whether people used them or not is another issue...



September 21, 2004 at 04:34 AM · And Buri is of course correct :)

September 21, 2004 at 04:56 AM · Greetings,

Mattius, or anyone else for that matter, are there any reliable accounts of the kidns of fingerings Paginin used? Given the size of his hands and the type of music he wrote I cannot imagine him -not- using at lerast basic fingered octaves such as 13131313 in the upper psoitions.

I think one might also argue that the between positon technique Francescatti said he got from his father (?) the only student of Nicolo embraces the tehcnique involved.

Maybe I thhink too much that fingered octaves are the surface manifestation of a wya of using the hand the was normal for Pagiunini and post Pagnini technique? I cannot imagine the post Paginini era to stem from anything less than this kind of freedom of the fingers/hand,



September 21, 2004 at 05:52 AM · The fingering Paganini used is relatively well documented. In his Barucaba vars, he fingered most variations and on other pieces there are finger numbers as well.

Generally several things can be stated.

1) He liked second position.

2) He liked to use the same finger for several notes in melodius passages.

3) In melodius passages he often used the same string, with losts of shiftings.

4) In faster positions he oftens stayed in the same position, no matter if it was th 11'th or the first. (Spohr on the other hand often used the first three positions in passage works and fingered the shiftings on the E-string)

5) In double stops he often stayed on the same string for as long as possible.

6) In slower passages in thirds he often used 1-3 extensivly.

7) He almost certain only fingered 6'th's in thrill passages.

8) Octaves was "always" played 1-3.

9) The "only" time he fingered octaves where on thrills.

Paganini could do fingered octaves but it was against several of his basic ideas of interpretation to do so.

Did he finger his 17'th caprice?

First, there is not a single record of him ever playing a single measure from this so we can never know for sure.

Secondly, he fingered octaves for trills, so if he thought of it as slow trills, it is possible. But he probably did not.

Many great violinists played this caprice without fingered octaves. Flesch and Szigeti in their youths, Bull, Joachim, Ernst and David is known to have played these to a greater or smaller audience and none of them used fingered octaves in these kind of passages.

September 21, 2004 at 06:43 AM · Greetings,

well done my boy. Take my car keys for the whole weekend. No questions asked,



September 21, 2004 at 07:02 AM · No questions at all???

Do you dare that after the last time?

September 21, 2004 at 11:13 AM · Greetings,

I"m still trying to get the stains off the back seat. Prune juice I assume?



September 21, 2004 at 03:13 PM · lol i believe in minimalism, its a bhuddist statement that must be contemplated. actually i cant type well with my injury so i was keeping it short

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine