Transcribing works of other instruments for violin(for teaching purposes)

Edited: July 4, 2018, 4:00 PM · Hello everyone

Lately i had a conversation with a friend. During our meeting he mentioned that his violin teacher who is also a composer; uses piano etudes such as Czerny 599 and Clementi and transcribe them for Violin and piano for playing them with his students. We had opposite opinions about this. He also mentioned that his theacher composes new etudes for his students. I looked at some of theme and i didn't see something new.some etudes pattern were very similar to those from wohlfahrt op. 45-74 or Hans Sitt. Nothing special that you look at and say that they're composed for a specific need of a student. We got into this debate that he told me if it wasn't necessary to compose new teaching materials so at some point in Violin teaching history pedagogues and players such as kreutzer or gavinies or Rode should've stopped composing new etudes. I just wanted to know and hear different ideas about this issues :

1)do you find it useful to transcribe Piano studies such as Czerny 599 and Clementi to be played on violin?
Would they have any special value for a violin student to spend time on them?

2)are these types of work comparable to something like C sharp minor nocturne of Chopin; transcribed for violin? (regarding musical or pedagogical values)

3)is it necessary to compose or transcribe new etudes and studies? If yes; then why? What can't we get from the sequence that after many years had become a standard foundation in too many teaching resources and societies?

4)do you compose a new etude in order to eliminate a weakness in your students playing or you choose the best suitable study from the standard books like kayser; mazas-etc.

5)is it reasonable to transcribe studies of other instruments for teaching purposes?

Many thanks/

Replies (11)

July 4, 2018, 4:58 PM · I would consider adapting a specific musical composition as an etude for a student whom I thought had potential but needed motivation at that stage. But not likely for an advanced student who should not need that kind of motivation.
Edited: July 5, 2018, 12:36 AM · People compose new technical studies all the time, because they can end up with material that is more effective for them to teach.

Shirley Givens came up with an entire series, Adventures in Violinland, that have enabled her to achieve substantial results with the students she has trained.

My longtime mentor, William Fitzpatrick, wrote a series of sixteen etudes during his journey on the train to and from the conservatory he worked at each day when he taught in Paris. These "Melodies" form the basis for taking students from an introductory level to Vivaldi A Minor and the Kayser etudes, in a sequence he finds more efficient than drawing from the standard etude repertoire.

Good music is good music. Transcriptions are great because they allow people who don't play one instrument to experience works of music they would otherwise never get to play.

Another analogy: as a computer science teacher, I constantly find new ways to explain and teach the basic concepts, because different cohorts of students react differently to the material that I draw from. I wouldn't always teach a concept the exact same way, I have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the students and address the areas they need the most help with.

Edited: July 5, 2018, 2:12 PM · I had a student who was going no where. No interest at all in the violin.

One day I struck up a conversation about Star Wars with him and he immediately became as animated as I had ever seen him.

So I started writing out Star Wars melodies for him to practice and, lo and behold - it completely changed his attitude and outlook. He never became a great student but he lasted for quite a while after that and accomplished more than I ever thought possible, given his modest beginnings.

July 5, 2018, 5:46 PM · Heifetz and Kreisler did transcriptions so I guess it must not be more than a venial offense at most.

My piano student transcribes tunes that he hears in video games. I'm helping him learn how to break down the harmonic structure so that he can improvise over the tune and prepare his own arrangements. Tunes that I assign (such as jazz standards) don't generate the same level of enthusiasm, by any stretch.

July 8, 2018, 1:32 AM ·
July 8, 2018, 1:33 AM · For your interest: Fiocco Allegro originally was a harpsichord piece.
July 8, 2018, 9:37 PM · There was a time that Milstein learned Chopin on the violin because that is all that was available.
July 9, 2018, 7:49 AM · A couple of etudes are mandatory for RCM examinations, but when they're played, the emphasis becomes on their musical elements (assuming technical matters as a prerequisite), so in effect they're no different from repertoire. The same applies for concert etudes of course. I recall practising Hanon at home at one time on piano and a visitor remarked that she found it beautiful. Although I replied "it's just an exercise" at the time, I'll use that to support the point that anything less than that most dull exercise can be taken as a musical composition, and that many etudes were in fact mini compositions more than technical exercises although they would of course incorporate some of the latter.

So in this view, yes, there are already too many etudes as such, so the composition of them is not necessary but of course might be done by the budding composer as exercises in composition and education, and technical purposes, when required, are generally better addressed by very specific exercises, which might be developed ad hoc based on whatever music is being attempted or the needs of the student.

That said, if the Hanon or some other study is found to be beautiful on one instrument, and although they were intended for the mechanics of hands playing piano or some other instrument, what harm is there in playing them on a violin, and how much worse are they for violin education than any other piece which might be randomly chosen, even when written as etudes for the violin -- given that many of them are in fact mini compositions and don't do a great deal to teach any specific technique by themselves and largely serve as enjoyable practice material?

July 11, 2018, 10:05 AM · I use, or make, transcriptions to provide elementary and intermediate students with attractive, stimulating music. Folksongs, then dance movements transcribed from keyboard works suit the early stages.

Violin virtuosi and pedagogues often make mediocre composers, especially in the realm of harmonic progression, so essential for musicianship and intonation. I would prefer to adapt piano sonata movements and occasional pieces (e.g. Schubert, Dvorak) for violin rather than impose pale, incoherent, pretentious imitations from incompetent composers.

July 12, 2018, 7:08 AM · I have transcribed ancient lute and recorder pieces that sound wonderful on the violin or viola. In general, pieces originally written for instruments that can sustain notes are good candidates.

Music for piano, harpsichord and similar struck, polyphonic instruments are more iffy. It depends on how strong the harmonic themes are to the feeling of the piece. The more important the chord sounding are to the musical themes, the more challenging it is to get a transcription that sounds good on a violin or viola.

Edited: July 13, 2018, 12:24 PM · The piano piece arrangements I use or make are for violin & piano, not solo violin!

I have also arranged harpsichord pieces by Couperin for violin & viola, if the original has only 2 "voices". The result is charming and apparently unusual.

And the magical gamba music of Marin Marais, Sainte-Colombe etc. up one octave for violins , or up one fourth for violas; I find this transposition makes best use of our measly four strings...
Sometimes though, I will shift from e.g. C minor to D minor to get easier double-stops, or to have more open strings in the bariolages.


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