Moto Perpetuo

June 26, 2006 at 11:35 PM · I'm going to be soloing with the piece Moto Perpetuo by Niccolo Paganini. As the title implies, it's a "lot of motion." Does anybody have tips on how to practice it? Thanks!

P.S. I'm on a schedule, although it isn't very tight. I have until August 17th.


Replies (38)

June 27, 2006 at 12:07 AM · I've performed this work with orchestra, so this is what I did to get myself into shape:

1) I threw out my violin part (lost it completely) and read from the piano part. That's because I wanted to figure out where all the orchestral hits were. I'd compare my Kubelik and Heifetz and Rabin CDs to the score to make sure I was hearing what I was reading.

2) Before I took on this piece, I did lots of Kreutzer #2. The only difference between Kreutzer #2 and Moto Perpetuo is that Kreutzer is shorter. I knew that if my Kreutzer 2 wasn't smooth and even, my Moto Perpetuo would not be either.

3) To memorize this song, I would start at the beginning and try to play my way forward. Every time I screwed up, I'd start at the beginning and mow forward. If I couldn't remember what was the next part, I'd consult the score and start at the beginning again. I did that until I could play the whole song with repeats. I also don't play it as fast as Rabin or Heifetz do because I'm trying to make the notes clear. I'd play the song slowly, emphasizing the shifts. Over time I ramped up that speed to performance pitch.

4) When I played this piece in rehearsal with the orchestra and then in concert, I played it a hair SLOWER than I typically did in practice. This allowed me to project in the concert hall while also using "hits" to line up with the orchestra. I did the repeat in the concert, which meant that I had to conserve my physical strength for the end. Without the repeat, I might have taken a faster tempo.

June 27, 2006 at 12:12 AM · One often ignored aspect of practicing this work is to control left hand rhythm and shifting. To focus on these two aspects, I recommend practicing the piece in patterns of 8 notes to the bow, slurred, evenly AND with various rhythms. The spiccatto or sautillee should not even be added until the target tempo has been mastered slurred. This type of work pays a VERY high dividend- try it out.


Odin Rathnam

June 27, 2006 at 12:12 AM · One often ignored aspect of practicing this work is to control left hand rhythm and shifting. To focus on these two aspects, I recommend practicing the piece in patterns of 8 notes to the bow, slurred, evenly AND with various rhythms. The spiccatto or sautillee should not even be added until the target tempo has been mastered slurred. This type of work pays a VERY high dividend- try it out.


Odin Rathnam

June 27, 2006 at 01:06 AM · I practice this (and everything else that has a consistant rhythm at a quick tempo) by playing each pitch 4 times in tempo (Four 16th notes per pitch). Then I go to 3 per pitch, then two, then one. I play each version 4-5 times until I'm comfortable and the bow is doing what I want it to. Then I move on. I also do other rhythms as well (as in the Galamian scale books).

June 27, 2006 at 08:18 AM · Greetings,

as well as all the above, the basic problem is the bow move sfaster than the left hand. So practice it with hooked bowings off the end of the metronome scale.

IE 1st note and second in one slur. Then 2nd and 3rd in one slur etc.

Also the ental aspect is to have the largets possible chunk subsumed under one command. So practice small units of notes with the metronome until you feel that those four notes or whatever are automatic as a result of one mental act. Then do the next iin the same way etc. After taht start combining these autoatic units into groups of double the size and repeat the same procedure. One day the whole piece will happen as the result of a single mental command...



June 27, 2006 at 08:32 AM · I would learn it in smaller groups and perfect the smaller groups first rather than just spreading yourself thing and going through the whole thing immediately. Learn two pages and work it up to tempo with metronome. Then another two pages, and join them, and then the same process to build up stamina, and before you know it you'll have it all down. Also the faster you go, the closer the spiccato has to be to the string in order for the bow to stay square parallel to the bridge. Also keep the bow fingers relaxed, let them do the work, and no gripping the bow!

June 27, 2006 at 01:59 PM · I NEVER used a metronome when learning this piece.

That's because in concert, the tempo fluctuates and I do subtle changes of rhythm according to what the orchestra is giving me. In general, I don't do metronomes because real concert tempo always fluctuates.

I'm not saying "don't use a metronome". I'm only saying that I didn't use one and I did OK in the concert.

June 27, 2006 at 02:07 PM · I remember that at some very strategic segments during the piece, you must enhance your spiccato with brief legato -détaché to add colours and accents, or sometimes, a kind of vibrato accentuation on particular notes ( sudden change in the harmony)...When you think that way, there is less risk and the piece sounds more interesting...I also tried every time it was possible to make the violin ring (internal resonance)when sequences are in accordance with such a practice...

June 27, 2006 at 06:56 PM · Well that's the first time I've heard a musician say that a metronome is not a necessitous tool. A metronome is so important in practice, and of all pieces this one. If you can't play with one, you're not in rhythm! It's pretty black and white. I can only think of one slight instance in the Moto Perpetuo where it is traditional to do a slight ritard (just before the recap). Otherwise it is very straight forward, and has to be metronomic and even. Marc you bring up a good point about strokes. In order to create a crescendo in fast passage work with separate strokes, it all has to do with the length.

June 27, 2006 at 10:34 PM · Greetings,

I think Kevin raises a useful point. It is very easy to become hooked on working with a metronome without realizing the actual skill one is developing is the abilty to adapt rapidly to discoordination with the beat. That isn"t actually doing much for your rythmic development. One way round the problem is to use a metronome ste at the lowest possible settins (Dr Beat is about the slowest I think) . That beat may cover a whole bar, 2 bars or even a four bar phrase. The player then finds out how out of time there playign really is and is forced to analyze carefully where they are being unrythmic and why.



June 28, 2006 at 01:34 PM · I always felt that rytmic is coming from the soul, not from mechanics...I was never able to set down a metronome and practice...You feel the beat or not...That is what I believe.

June 28, 2006 at 01:52 PM · Marc- There is truth to what you are saying but unless you have perfect technique, you are going to need a metronome. Period. There are too many things going on when you play the violin and having tools like a metronome and a MD player are vital for good practice. In my opinion, if you don't use one, you are missing out. I can't imagine practicing scales without a metronome...

June 28, 2006 at 02:13 PM · I used to practice expressive scales with vibrato, shades, colours,like if I was giving a performance of Brahms second movement...I do admit that in a particular case, mostly in rytmical passages that are problematic, the metronome could be useful...But not to practice an entire piece like a robot!And I desagree with those thousand of ways of bowings in 2 Kreutzer etude...It should be administrated only for a specific case to overcome a particular problem...It is dangerous to repeat and repeat when practicing, over and over again...Paganini's moto perpetuo is a real trap!!! You really need absolute fredom of your entire body and mind before playing that piece...Novacek's and Ries perpetual motions should be mastered before the Paganini...Great names in the history of the violin and great violin players of today are not able to overcome the dificulty of that piece...But it is a great challenge for all violinists and with caution, everyone should give it a try.


June 28, 2006 at 02:45 PM · I agree with you in the sense I that I do not use a metronome all the time but it is a great tool especially if your are auditioning for a symphony. Reptition is essential but only with the correct mentality during your practice will the reptition become fruitful. Even in chmaber music, Maria Lambros, former violist of the Mendelssohn Quartet, had us rehearse the last movement of Op. 59 no.3 with a metronome - it worked wonders!!

June 30, 2006 at 05:45 AM · The politically correct crowd today, call dumb kids, “learning disabled“, and prescribe Ritalin, and as a result they become druggies, but that‘s a whole entirely different story. That same pulpous crowd of today’s society, penalizes high school football teams, in certain parts of this country, for-get this winning in a blow out by say 30 or 40 points. The local school board demonizes winning as unsportsmanlike. Those that can't play in tune are called “expressive “ so why not call someone's rhythm that isn’t exactly in time “passionate” or better yet “abstract“?

June 30, 2006 at 06:35 AM · I have Jascha Heifetz's 1917 "Moto Perpetuo". This is THE RECORDING that Henry Roth held up as the standard against which all others should be compared, and Keith has repeatedly stated before that Heifetz is known as "the pinnacle" of classical violin playing, at least as far as Keith is concerned. I myself adore Heifetz's legendary rendition of this showpiece.

In the first measure, the piano doesn't even start out in the same tempo as Heifetz does. Not only that, I got out my metronome and tried to line it up to his recording. I ended up with tempi fluctations from 184-194 (actually beyond that range) on the first page alone, let alone through the rest of the recording. In fact, I couldn't line up A SINGLE MEASURE with the metronome. So much for "even", Keith.

Since Heifetz's rhythm on Moto Perpetuo is fluctuating in comparison against the gold standard of my Sabine electronic metronome, I am deducing that Keith would call that rhythm "passionate or better yet abstract". And hey, "passionate" and "abstract" are GOOD in the overall lexicon of art and music.

June 30, 2006 at 06:38 AM · Count the number of beats in a few seconds using your watch then multiply to get beats per minute.

June 30, 2006 at 08:18 AM · All I can say Kevin is that Heifetz had excellent rhythm..He did have the tendency to push ahead at times, but ever so gradually, really the passage work is very even if you listen to this recording. Heifetz had the technical facility to do this. It does not sound like he was rushing at all, the intonation is very accurate in the Moto Perpetuo. The amazing thing about this record is that it was done in one take. I don't think anyone does that kind of playing today. If you listen to Ricci, I think he actually played things faster than Heifetz, but not always as accurate or even. I'm not saying everything should stay the same tempo, but one should be able to play passages with a metronome cause intonation and rhythm are what hold music together first and foremost.

June 30, 2006 at 01:24 PM · Keith said: "All I can say Kevin is that Heifetz had excellent rhythm."

I'll second that.

June 30, 2006 at 02:11 PM · I get the most benefit from the metronome when I regard it as a means to an end. Or maybe as a conscience! The important thing is the result. I'm sure that Heifetz could have played the piece exactly with the metronome (at any speed) if one was provided, but in performance, stuff happens and if you have a great rhythmic sense it happens for the benefit of the music. That great rhythmic sense could be natural talent, or it could be developed through years of work, or anything in between.

If I find I can't play something evenly with a metronome, then something is lacking, whether I eventually choose to play it "metronomically" in the end. That's why I use the metronome to check myself, or better yet, use it to check a recording of myself. I use it at a slow tempo and at performance tempo, but I resist working something up to tempo with the click going on. I also like, as was suggested above, playing at tempo but setting the metronome differently: one click per bar or 2 bars; on the off-beats; against pattern, such as one click every beat-and-a-half or 3 beats. With less exposure to the metronome, my time with it is very sensitzied and thus valuable.

Whatever tools I use, my goal is to find the weakness, make the change and set the tool aside.

June 30, 2006 at 03:43 PM · Since you're telling me to "count the number of beats in a few seconds using your watch then multiply to get beats per minute", Jim, I want to know from YOU what Heifetz's official 1917 tempo is. Since Heifetz changes his tempo from measure to measure, I want you to tell me what do you mean by "a few seconds" (5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds?) He changes from the get go, so what's one tempo in a 5 second segment is DIFFERENT from the tempo in another 5 second segment. Multiply that out and the total WILL come out different from if you counted every beat. Yet if you count every beat and divide the total by minutes, you WILL come out with a different answer than what an individual measure or beats per second will tell you because Heifetz does not play every measure at the same exact tempo. Tell me what denominations of seconds am I supposed to use to come up with the answer you came up with.

I am not sure if I understand how to reconcile "it is very straight forward, and has to be metronomic and even" with "pushes the tempo at times" in a performance of Moto Perpetuo, Keith. I'm NOT trying to be disrespectful, I'm just not understanding which one I should be doing. You take issue with my not using a metronome on this piece(which I CAN if I wish, as will be explained later in this post), and yet Heifetz is performing Moto Perpetuo at what I've clocked on my electronic ticker to be an uneven tempo. Is it or isn't it OK for Heifetz to NOT be "metronomic and even" by your definition of Moto Perpetuo?

I agree with you, William. Heifetz had an EXCELLENT sense of rhythm, one of the best there is. But he's no metronome, and nor is anybody else unless they play along with a click track. I would know - I have Moto Perpetuo completely computer sequenced on Band-In-A-Box and my laptop and MIDI keyboard generate PERFECT rhythm at any speed I tell it to.

It goes to show that just because we THINK a live or recorded performance is metronomic doesn't mean that it IS unless you get out your clickers. And I also wish to point out that it is NOT necessary to be metronomic to do a great Moto Perpetuo, as I myself am a huge fan of Heifetz's tempo-fluctuating (by Keith's admission, no less) 1917 performance. And that's why I didn't use one when I soloed this piece with orchestra 5 years ago. Nathan Cole's above post illustrates the reasons why I love Heifetz's recording despite the imperfect rhythm.

June 30, 2006 at 06:19 PM · "I am not sure if I understand how to reconcile "it is very straight forward, and has to be metronomic and even" with "pushes the tempo at times" in a performance of Moto Perpetuo, Keith. I'm NOT trying to be disrespectful, I'm just not understanding which one I should be doing. You take issue with my not using a metronome on this piece"

Well I said in my post earlier on this thread that there are places for liberty in rubato ie before the recap and a few other areas. Yes I will still stand by my comments of how everyone should learn to play in rhythm using a metronome, but yes I have to agree with the concept that rhythm does come from the internal pulse. Obviously we don't perform with metronomes on stages, but nevertheless my point was to make sure that it is not being underrated as it is a very important tool, much like a hitting tee for a baseball player in order to keep the swing level. In game situations will players always use level swings? No, in a performance of the Moto Perpetuo would it have to stay in the exact same tempo? Of course not. I hope I wasn't sounding so black and white earlier. My main point that I was trying to get across was how practicing with a metronome, is a great demarcation point, and I will stand by my comment of earlier on how Heifetz's passage work was very even.

June 30, 2006 at 08:18 PM · Now that I completely agree with, Keith.

July 1, 2006 at 02:15 AM · Kevin, it's just something that might come in useful sometime. As for the rest of it, use Nathan's results-driven approach.

July 1, 2006 at 02:18 AM · Thanks for giving me your tempo markings, Jim. If you haven't noticed, your advice FAILS with the Heifetz recording I mentioned. Or would somebody like to step up and answer for you?

Besides, you failed to notice how I've already done Nathan's advice. I performed Moto Perpetuo 5 years ago with orchestra, didn't use the metronome, and did just fine. Today I perform it with computer MIDI, which is metronomic in itself. And I do just fine either way.

As always, your advice is so "useful".

July 1, 2006 at 02:29 AM · Kevin said: "As always, your advice is so "useful". "

Kevin, since you're agressive now, my response was to your message before you edited it, where you seemed to not know how to do what I then told you how to do. Go out and have fun. It's friday night.

July 1, 2006 at 02:39 AM · I have a CD with an arrangement for orchestra (without soloist) where I believe the entire first violin section plays the "solo" part. I would have to say they probably practiced with metronomes.

Obviously a metronome is the best way to make sure everything is even (using it how Buri and Nathan explained). What is also obvious is that this isn't how it should be performed, but is merely a technical tool. Similarly, you might suggest someone practices something without vibrato to perfect intonation. What should be obvious is that they shouldn't perform the piece without vibrato.

What makes a great musician, not just violinist, is their ability to have different tempi within a piece where the tempo is marked only once- a constant tempo- without the audience noticing. An audience member should be able to tap their foot without any noticable change in the tempo. A metronome gives you a good "average" beat in which to waver around in your performance while still sounding completely rhythmically even.

July 1, 2006 at 03:19 AM · Just reflecting your dislike of me back at you, jim.

Don't lecture me on tempo issues when you can't even figure them out yourself.

July 1, 2006 at 08:13 AM · Son, I don't dislike ya. If it'll make ya feel any better, you're my favorite person. Now belly on up to the bar.

July 1, 2006 at 11:41 AM · Actually I did this a few weeks ago, trying to get a tempo reading on Heifetz' Moto Perpetuo. It does fluctuate quite a bit and he is hardly ever in tempo for any length of time. However, this is not really disturbing at all, I think that he does it partly for phrasing reasons, and maybe also to make it feel like it is faster than it really is (which is VERY fast!!!)

If you want a tempo perfect recording, Perlman's is very rhythmical indeed. So is Fritz Kreisler's, but a little less so.

Again, I don't think that this means that it's a better or worse performance. Playing in metronomic time is good for practising and learning. When you have the piece lying very well in your hands and you KNOW where the beat is then you can do whatever you think is correct musically.

July 1, 2006 at 11:55 AM · Is that the really the case, Jim?

Then I APOLOGIZE because I actually do like your posts (farm animals gnashing before impaling? RAH!) and have a lot of respect for your style and ability.

That bar thing? That hurts a bit - I'm alcohol intolerant (allergic).

August 18, 2006 at 06:12 AM · James Ehnes played a game with his father when he was younger that helped him with rubato. His father (a pro musician) would tap out a steady beat, and James would play his music freely, pushing and pulling, yet was told that if were going to take some time in a certain place, he had to make it up somewhere else

The master of this was Kreisler. Lorand Fenyves, a renouned violin teacher, told his students that his teacher timed the first bar of the Kreisler/Rachmaninov recording of an Elgar Sonata, then multiplied it by how many bars were in the music. He then listened to the whole recording, and lo and behold, the time they finished was almost exactly the time he had calculated.

August 18, 2006 at 05:42 PM · whether heifetz fluctuated or not in playing his moto perpetuo is beside the point. none of us are heifetz.

August 18, 2006 at 09:50 PM · I've played this piece before.....There are two

things that play a huge role in making this one a success. Nonetheless, what I'm going to say is very basic...

First, left hand...

Second, what string you are on...

The way I practiced this, was to break the piece up into sections of a few lines at a time (of where the piece might SEEM to break off into different parts, if you can figure that out).

I worked this way...First, intonation - 4 notes slurred...then 8 notes, finally 16...All this at a slow tempo..Then I'd gradually (and I mean VERY gradually) work my way up to my goal tempo, as the days went by.

Then, in the same days I was practicing intonation, I'd work on open strings...again, using the advice above about tempos.

Once (after a few days) I was able to do the open strings and the left hand at tempo, I'd go back to the drawing board and combine the two at a slow tempo, again building up to my goal tempo.

Then, I'd repeat the whole thing on the next section...If I recall, I made it so that I had two sections per page.

I hope this helped!


July 7, 2008 at 11:44 PM · It seems to me that the various means of expression in music performance involve change over time. Sometimes the change is very gradual, over a long span of time, and sometimes the change happens in a very brief fraction of a second. The most unmusical or inexpressive use of pitch would occur in a performance in which every C# is exactly the same pitch. The most inexpressive use of dynamic would occur in a performance in which every note within, for example, eight notes marked forte were exactly the same volume. The most inexpressive use of time would occur in a performance in which the beat were metronomic from beginning to end. I use a metronome during my practice and I recommend its use to my students, but one must keep in mind that the metronome is a means of developing control, rather than a performance model. It's no surprise that a metronome doesn't track a thrilling Heifetz performance. It might well track a boring performance.

July 8, 2008 at 08:29 AM · Buri, you said in your first post in this thread,

"the basic problem is the bow move sfaster than the left hand."

What does this mean? How can this happen?


June 3, 2010 at 05:28 PM ·

I would like to resurrect an old thread.

Would someone mind sharing the time frame as to how long it (took them and) ought to take for a person to be able to play the Moto Perpetuo at a decent speed (so it sounds like Moto Perpetuo instead of Moto Slowmoto)?

Are we talking about two months (at 2 hours a day) or three months or six-eight months? As Buri mentioned earlier, it is easier to move the bow faster (using, maybe, sautille) and a lot harder for the left hand to keep up with the speed of the bow while ramping up the speed. The left-hand-right-hand coordination goes haywire.



June 3, 2010 at 11:22 PM ·


Graham, to answer your question two years late....

When I say `the bow moves faster than th eleft hand` I mean that the bow arrives on the next note (string) before the left hand.

Another interpretation is that you do an energetic bowing in the opening of Don Juan and the bow slips out of the right hand and shoot over the orchestra. You leap up and try to catch it with your left hand but were just too slow.   

Another day, another impaled flute player....



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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email 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 Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning 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 in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine