Etudes for Suzuki Students

October 31, 2018, 7:28 PM · I am currently a Suzuki Book 4 student working on my Bach Double Violin Concerto (2nd Violin). I’ve heard a lot of good things about etudes and how they can improve your technical abilities. I’ve heard a lot of etudes like Kreutzer, Dont, Wolfhart, etc. Which etudes do you think I should start looking at first and which ones are most effective to technical improvement?

Replies (29)

October 31, 2018, 9:49 PM · This is a question for your teacher. If they don't like to use exercises or etudes, you should find out why. (Suzuki himself wrote two etude books for use with his Method -- the Quint Etudes and the Position Etudes.)
October 31, 2018, 11:47 PM · I’m not gonna see him in a few week but what can etudes can I start on now? And I’m gonna assume most are available in IMLSP?
November 1, 2018, 12:18 AM · What technical problems are you trying to fix?
November 1, 2018, 3:21 AM · I’m getting quite confident and comfortable with third position so I want to start in to 5th position. I don’t have a very clear staccato/spiccato so I wanna work on that as well. Also, sautille perhaps when I try Czardas. Also, I need to improve on overall intonation. I must say I also have a weak 4th finger.
Edited: November 1, 2018, 8:32 AM · I wouldn't try to self-teach new technique. And Czardas is a ways away, if you're in Suzuki book 4.

But the 4th finger is an excellent example of something that would benefit from an exercise. Try the first two pages of Schradieck op. 1, book 1. Use a metronome, starting with sixteenth note = 60. Drop and raise the fingers quickly, despite the slow tempo; you are aiming for perfect evenness and dead-on perfect intonation (i.e. the notes are placed absolutely identically every time). Gradually raise the tempo until you can do quarter = 60. Over the course of weeks (or months), continue to raise the tempo on the metronome until you can play the whole exercise fluently with perfect evenness at a minimum of quarter = 160. (When I was a kid, my teacher made me do it until I could do quarter = 216.)

November 1, 2018, 9:11 AM · I am tangenting this thread: I've been working on Schradieck I for a while. Was daily for quite a spell, and then I lost steam and am now back into daily practice with it. It took 6 months just to get those quarters up to 120bpm - I cannot seem to get past that ceiling.

Lydia - did you use alternate finger patterns when you did Schradieck op 1, book 1, exercise I - bringing each pattern up to 160/216bpm?

November 1, 2018, 1:23 PM · I did most of the exercise as a kid -- my teacher at the time cut out a few lines (the patterns that he felt were redundant). As an adult, I've been unable to remember which ones to skip, and so I do the whole thing. I play the notes exactly as written, in first position. It's really about accuracy and speed -- building muscle and myelination of the nerves, and having absolute control.

These days I really do not spend enough time on technical basics, but during the period of my childhood where I was really trying to build speed in that exercise, 20 minutes of practice time was dedicated to it every day for at least three months.

November 1, 2018, 2:28 PM · If you have the revised editions of the Suzuki books, there are some etudes at the beginning and end of the books you can get started with. There is one position etude per book, usually some scales, and tonalization.

Beyond that, the standard early books are Wolfhart. Then Schradieck #1.

November 2, 2018, 1:32 AM · Did you do every piece in Suzuki 4 that preceeded the Bach double?
November 2, 2018, 2:01 AM · So what I’m gonna add to my practice sessions are:
-Schradieck #1
-Quint Etudes and Position Etudes
-Wolfhart (which ones?)
-1 Octave Scale on each strings (using 1st, 3rd, and 5th positions)
-2-3 Octave Scales

Do these sound good for technical improvement? How long should I do each of these every practice session?

Another question is how should I do the scales? In chromatic order (G Maj, Ab Maj, A Maj, Bb Maj, so forth) or just the “white keys” (G Maj, A Maj, B Maj, C Maj, so forth)?

@Erik Well me and my teacher did the first 2 Seitz Concertos, but we skipped the 3rd Seitz Concerto in the book (he found it unnecessary). We did the Vivaldi Concerto 1st movement (my recital piece), and finished the Vivaldi Concerto 3rd movement but not really at polished performance level.

November 2, 2018, 6:13 AM · At your level I would recommend Kayser Op 20. That's a very popular book. Remember that it's not just doing them that counts, but HOW you do them. For example at the top of p. 1 of Schradieck there are instructions. Read them.
November 2, 2018, 9:48 AM · We use Rachel Barton Pine's editions of the Wolfhart etudes -- it's the usual collection plus a few extras.
Edited: November 4, 2018, 8:54 AM · Studies, as opposed to exercises, drills, or "basics" (urstüdien?), are musical compositions. The melodic invention may be repetitive, but the harmonic progression, musical periods, and cadences must be coherent, otherwise we are quietly destroying our own and our students' musicianship.
Which we have absolutely no right to do!

So? I will offer Kayser, Dancla, but not Wolfhart; Kreutzer, Spohr, Rode, Gaviniès, but not Dont (!)

For the first few years, the Doflein Method contains his own delightful and ingenious studies, and carefully shortened versions of Wolfhart and Hubert Ries.

November 4, 2018, 9:39 AM · @Adrian, also terrible are Sitt and Alard. But I have long enjoyed practicing Dont. They are rather unmusical but they're okay.
November 5, 2018, 3:54 AM · At 70, life is too short for the "rather unmusical"!
November 5, 2018, 6:01 AM · Right but I played them when I was a kid so they have some nostalgic value.
November 5, 2018, 12:54 PM · "How long should I do each of these every practice session?"
10 min of quality scales (dutifully checking and correcting intonation, mastering the intervals, etc.) is better than 30 min of blowing through sloppily.

"we skipped the 3rd Seitz Concerto" a.k.a. No. 5, 3rd movement
The big double stops section is hugely necessary in the Suzuki skill sequence (if not using supplementary material) but maybe your teacher has something else in mind for double stops. Intonation is vital - not only for tuning to the melodic line (horizontal) but also the chord (vertical). There are several areas in this movement, as well as in the Bohm Perpetual Motion between Vivaldi and Bach Double, that can be used to work on off the string bowing, again, if not using other exercises.

(Bohm has good spots for 4th position, and even the book 1 Perpetual Motion and Etude can be played in different keys, in positions, with various bowings. And how about 2nd position?! A lot of my early 2nd position practice came from being in school orchestra with all the beginners playing easy stuff. As for 4th/5th position, this is when LH needs to be coming around the bout, rather than keeping the same shape as in 3rd, and all my students who tried it on their own then had to break their initial bad habit. If you never did that with your teacher before, I really suggest waiting.)

I'm also going to point out that it's nice to see your taking initiative for your learning! However, if your teacher assigned any specific practice during your brief lesson break, please make sure to be doing that first. Few things grate on me more than when students experiment, to the exclusion of what I asked them to work on (experimentation is fine after doing the assigned work). I wouldn't have assigned it if it wasn't suitable and important.

November 5, 2018, 2:11 PM · Unfortunate that a student now in book 4 has only heard about etudes.
Edited: November 5, 2018, 8:29 PM · I started out with Suzuki and have been playing violin for 5 and a half years, now I'm playing Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. And my teacher never really prescribed me any etudes. Maybe it's just something that Suzuki teachers don't really like. I do think it's kind of weird, though, that I've only done etudes for exams (Trott Melodious Double-Stops). But I'm not saying you shouldn't play etudes, because they're great. I could probably be better than I am now at the violin if I did some etudes. I do scales often however. Honestly, I don't know how I'm playing Lalo without having done any previous etudes. I think it's just more "suzuki-style" for students to learn through pieces rather than studies. After all, the books are basically completely filled with specific pieces chosen to improve certain techniques. But then again, Suzuki did write two of his own etudes books. Long story short, I played a lot of pieces, and a few etudes. (Please don't criticize me for not doing many etudes, I know it's a staple in playing an instrument for most people. I'll probably ask my teacher why hasn't given me any etudes tomorrow at my lesson anyway. I should've asked a long time ago.)
November 5, 2018, 10:34 PM · Boy. Mozart 3 (Harrison's last piece, it looks like, to judge from the forum history) to Lalo is a huge jump, especially without any technical preparation via etudes.
Edited: November 6, 2018, 1:37 AM · Yeah, I know, it's a very weird and unconventional jump in difficulty. But I think it's working for me (think). I like to be challenged. But I think if I don't start doing etudes soon, some techniques are going to get really challenging if not impossible for me to move forward. What etudes/pieces would you have supplemented in-between? I mostly played Bach pieces (E major Concerto, 1st Sonata 1st movement). All this stuff is so confusing. Maybe I should find another teacher soon.
November 6, 2018, 7:57 AM · Going back to the original post. Some Suzuki teachers use the etudes as note reading material. When I did my training, it was discussed to start on the Wohlfarht at your level doing 2-4 pages a week for note reading practice. The Doflein was also discussed. I prefer the Doflein as it includes more rhythm practice and has all those wonderful duets.

In addition to the standard etude books for technique development, other possibilities would include the books by William Starr. His 77 Twinkle Variations covers a wide variety of techniques. The book Composer Teaches the Violinist (I think that is the name anyway) uses excerpts to work on various skills. He has indexes describing what skills each excerpt is working on which makes it easy to pick which ones to use to develop various skills. And you get exposed to some great excerpts.

November 6, 2018, 9:43 AM · Harrison, you might want to start a separate thread for your question.
November 6, 2018, 10:18 AM · Thank you so much for all the responses! I will definitely take a look at all the books and materials you mentioned. I’ve just recently incorporated doing one octave scales up each string and 2-3 octave ‘white keys’ scales into my practice sessions and just wow! I feel much more confident in my shifting and intonation when practicing my repertoire! I should’ve listened to my teacher that tells me to this at home everytime I practice. Now I know that teachers really do know what’s best for us. And I am yet to include the etudes you recommended but I will decide on which ones to do first. (I can’t do scales, 7 different etude books, and practicing my pieces at the same practice session lol)

However, my question still stands. “Another question is how should I do the scales? In chromatic order (G Maj, Ab Maj, A Maj, Bb Maj, so forth) or just the “white keys” (G Maj, A Maj, B Maj, C Maj, so forth)? And should I also play the minor keys?”

November 6, 2018, 10:28 AM · Regarding scales: one of my kids does it by circle of 5ths, alternating major and minor. In other words, C, a minor, G, e minor, D, b minor, etc. The other one of my kids did all the majors chromatically and then all the minors chromatically. But she is 9 and newer to 3-octave scales.
November 6, 2018, 2:47 PM · If you're new to scales, start with the keys of your repertoire.
Edited: November 7, 2018, 1:57 AM · Someone said *not* Wohlfahrt... but why, I dunno! I would offer "yes" Wohlfahrt! I went to Suzuki 5 initially and when I returned to violin last year my teacher started me on Wohlfahrt op 45 book 1. Technically this is beneath the level of Suzuki 4/5 but if you learn these with a lot of attention, it's actually kind of... not. It has helped me *immensely* in rebuilding/building my foundations. Many are very musical and allow for real interpretation like a tiny piece. I don't care (at my current skill stage) about difficulty if I can't play it well. I'd rather play an etude actually WELL than not do a piece (some sort of) justice... because then I make myself too sad, lol. For shifts I am doing Flesch. Also doing a concerto, but again, one that's below my technical ability... or "ability." Despite it, so far my technique is improving all over the place!
November 8, 2018, 3:21 PM · Lydia - thanks for that!
Edited: November 10, 2018, 4:10 AM · I apologise to those who like Wolfhart's studies, but their poor musical coherence make me squirm, brought up as I was on the English Hymnal, Tudor anthems and Bach choral preludes. I was terribly lucky, even if it has made me an insufferable snob!

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