The Three-Hour Challenge

Edited: January 7, 2019, 2:22 PM · In another thread, there was discussion of learning a piece within three hours, and it was suggested that a separate thread be started for it.

Here's the challenge rules:

  1. Learn a piece to the best of your ability with no more than three hours of practice time.
  2. Only actual practice time counts towards the three-hour time limit. Listening and the like does not count
  3. Take audio/video using consumer equipment (a smartphone, Zoom/GoPro/etc.)
  4. Post to YouTube (private link if desired).

It was proposed that there be three levels of challenge -- beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

The advanced challenge is Paganini Caprice #16.
I suggest that the intermediate challenge be Kreutzer #11.
I suggest the beginner challenge be Wolfhart op. 45 #3.

Learning something to the extent possible within a three-hour time limit is a really interesting exercise, requiring you to prioritize what's important and where practice time will make a big difference and where the practice time may have lower immediate returns (but possibly be an important investment in the future).

Replies (102)

January 7, 2019, 2:20 PM · Paganini #16 to date, from the other thread:

Irene Chen (the inspiration): Three hours
Lydia Leong: Sight-read - Ten minutes of practice
Chris Keating: First effort

January 7, 2019, 5:00 PM · Kreutzer 11? Yuck
January 7, 2019, 5:14 PM · The one with the slurred triplets? Well, for one, every intermediate player has surely already learned it. I won't comment on whether it's a nice selection or not...
January 7, 2019, 5:39 PM · It is tempting. It has been decades since I did P16. I have never posted my playing online....
January 8, 2019, 1:20 AM · I'd like to add to the rules: after the 3 hours of practice, you should only play it at the max speed that you can hit 95% of the notes with good accuracy.

Correctly played slow recordings will be given higher marks than fast, incorrect ones. No matter HOW slow it is, it's still better if you hit all the notes!

January 8, 2019, 9:47 AM · What Erik, if you can play it fast, you can play it slow -and boring...
Edited: January 12, 2019, 10:46 AM · I think Lydia means Wohlfahrt, not Wolfhart. I hear that name mispronounced all the time... I wonder if people say Wolfhart to avoid the fart in the guy's real name, Wohlfahrt (pronounced Vole-fart). Sorry, Lydia; I was unable to get the the Violinist.com email link to work in order to reach you.
Edit: I think I understand why the poor man's name is universally mispronounced: saying Woolfart (Wohlfahrt English version) fast is easily mistaken for Wolfhart, which is much easier for non-Germans to pronounce.
January 8, 2019, 4:39 PM · Erin, I'm pretty confident everyone knew what Lydia meant :)


Ok, at about 1.5 hours of practice (each practice separated by at least a few days), I'm basically JUST getting to the point where I can play from beginning to end with fairly minimal mistakes at a constant speed of around Quarter = 50 bpm.

This was with what I would call 90% efficient practice.

In essence, I'm currently at roughly 1/3 of the listed "presto" tempo marking, with only 1.5 more hours to spare.

I should also add: I had never even heard this piece before attempting this challenge, let alone looked at it.

I am a little curious whether Irene Chen had studied it in the past to any extent before her 3 hours of practice. Not that I can't see a professional doing this in 3 hours, but I'm simply curious, so I can criticize my inability fairly :)

Once I get to ~3 hours of practice, I'll post my play-through regardless of how bad it is. I feel that an important part of this challenge is actually posting how you did, rather than opting out when you didn't manage to achieve perfection in 3 hours.

We can all criticize David Krakovich all we want, but he keeps pumping out those videos, and that's something most of us would be unwilling to do.

Cotton, I better hear a recording from you!

January 8, 2019, 8:22 PM · I think that progress videos would be very interesting, by the way -- the initial sight-read, and then one-third or halfway through.

Irene said in the previous thread that she hadn't played this before, I believe.

Erin, I've never heard it pronounced that way, but rather has "Wolf-hart", regardless of whether or not that's an accurate pronunciation. (I doubt anyone misunderstood despite my incorrect spelling anyway.)

January 9, 2019, 12:33 AM · I agree about progress videos, Lydia, but my sight reading is so poor that it wouldn't have been much of a video.


Anyways, hopefully after I post mine, others will get brave enough to post theirs. Hopefully I'm not the only one!

January 9, 2019, 9:45 AM · I will be back with the Kreutzer when I have a 3-hour block!
January 9, 2019, 10:30 AM · Yes, Lydia, Wolfhart is definitely the wrong spelling and the wrong pronunciation. Readers are welcome to add the correct pronunciation/spelling to the three hour challenge!
January 9, 2019, 11:30 AM · I'm preparing for a recital, so I'll start with the Kreutzer and if that proves too "easy" then will attempt the Paganini in a few weeks (if this thread is still going by then).
January 9, 2019, 2:14 PM · I did the Kreutzer study back in high school. Am I allowed to write that off? Maybe I should do only one hour.

I'm with Erin on "vole-fart". Vole farts are responsible for approximately 0.00003% of available soil sulfur.

January 9, 2019, 2:28 PM · Have you done the Kreutzer #7 octave exercise? :-)
January 9, 2019, 2:41 PM · Now you are picking more musical etudes IMO Lydia. I do really enjoy the octave works especially 24 and 25.
January 9, 2019, 2:50 PM · Leslie, the rule is "3 hours total" of practice. It doesn't need to be one solid block of practice.

Also, I feel paganini 16 is pretty musical, at least when I'm playing it at a reasonably slow tempo. Feels like the speed takes away from it more than gives to it, but of course it's supposed to be fast for the sake of the challenge.

January 9, 2019, 3:15 PM · Yes, I agree that the Pag is musical at a slow tempo. I read through it a couple days ago. I also re-read a few lines of Kreutzer 11. I did the Kreutzer 30+ years ago, but don't think I'm ready for the Pag. And #11 is so unmusical, I don't feel motivated to re-learn it.
January 9, 2019, 4:15 PM · Ok, I spent 25 minutes this morning writing in fingerings and note names, and um, counting the lines and spaces above G, because my sight reading is THAT bad. So did this count toward the total?
January 9, 2019, 4:16 PM · And regarding 11, are people saying it’s unmusical? Good challenge!
January 9, 2019, 5:15 PM · I don't find K11 all that unmusical, but I don't want to cheat either. I'll tell you what. I'll flip through Kreutzer and Mazas and see if I can find something that seems comparable to K11.
January 9, 2019, 6:08 PM · So ... no new videos yet?
January 9, 2019, 6:20 PM · Here's Caprice 16 at what I estimate to be 1 hour in (not consecutive):
https://youtu.be/PHCCxY3CLMA

Here's hoping I manage to get another two hours in and it's more solid then. I read in an interview that Ivry Gitlis recorded the caprices one a day, and some of them, he hadn't played before (!), those days he learned it, then recorded it in the studio in the evening. He said something like "I've never worked so hard in my life." I can only imagine. Anyway, I'm not Gitlis, but then, this is only at about an hour (haha).

Edited: January 9, 2019, 6:42 PM · I've been having great fun mastering Mazas special etude 2 as currently an advanced beginner-early intermediate returner. For me it seemed hard at first, gradually becoming a musical peice over a few hours, and gave me practice with bowings and some 5th position etc. So i wouldn't participate but this could be a fun one to use at this level.
January 9, 2019, 7:11 PM · By the way, if anyone is curious about practice process, that first hour was just a series of run-throughs to get the notes - without any metronome becuase I have no discipline :-( You can see the results. For the next hour, I will probably do mostly double sixteenth bows (two separate sixteenths to a note instead of one) and other variant bowings, both to force me to slow down and to separate the hands in a different way. I am hopeful that will produce more or less solid notes. (If not, I might have to resort to the dreaded metronome for hour three, which I may or may not have the patience to do.)
January 9, 2019, 9:54 PM · If I may interject a piece of advice: If you're playing through, you're not making efficient use of the available time.

Interestingly, this is one of those pieces where having an idea of the musical direction will actually help your hands go where they need to go, and help your brain organize the mass of notes. Take the phrase (or partial phrase) as a unit, and "aim" mentally towards the end of that segment. Practice the segment. Join segments together by practicing the transitions between them, if necessary.

January 10, 2019, 2:21 AM · I'm not trying to be a party pooper but to my mind these discussions remind one of another recent conversation, about Paganini's being real romantic era music, rather than just a circus act.

Sure it's exciting to play something as fast as you can when your sixteen years old (or any equivalent point in one's development). However, most of Paganini's Caprices are beautiful music if and when played properly - and one of the elements of properly is not too damn fast, just because you can (or in the case of some, cannot).

January 10, 2019, 2:42 AM · Leslie, I am counting the note recognition phase into my practice time.
January 10, 2019, 5:30 AM · Lydia, that's interesting advice - so you're doing it one phrase at a time, rather than the whole piece through with variations and gradually faster? I'll have to try that, your ten minute video was significantly more solid than my 1 hour (though my hour was broken into several chunks and I knew I wasn't being very efficient).

As far as Paganini's music being real Romantic music, I tend to think this is more true of the concerti - pretty sure the connotation of "Caprice" around 1800 was essentially "Etude". Locatelli's Caprices were cadenzas extracted from his concerti, but as far as we know, Paganini never performed his caprices, while performing his concerti and variation works heavily, so I tend to think they are meant for technical development rather than performance. (24 may be an exception, and it is structured more like his performanec pieces.)

Of course, some of them are beautiful or exciting in small doses by our modern performance standards, but I also don't feel guilty using them mostly as exercises. (Or course, the early 19th century also thought the same about solo Bach prior to Joachim, so make of that what you will.)

January 10, 2019, 9:27 AM · Playing a piece through is never the most efficient way to learn it.

Here's approximately how I used my bit-less-than-30 minutes of initial work (I haven't had time to do more since I first posted those videos):

First, I sight-read the whole thing (that's the first video), at a slow tempo, in order to get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Then, I read it a second time, stopping and experimenting in places where I felt I needed to mark a different fingering from what was in the part. (I have the Henle edition, and for this, I started with the edited part rather than the blank part.)

Then I spent a little under ten minutes doing some concentrated work on the introductory section. Almost all of it was focused on the harder bits -- getting each of those segments comfortable, and in some cases stitching several hard segments in a row into something more seamless (hesitation between each segment has to be eliminated).

Then I played the intro through in order to make sure that I could get through those couple of lines smoothly. Finally, I played the intro through twice for the other videos.

Now, in terms of tactics:

If, for instance, I had a piece of orchestral music to learn with this kind of difficulty, in 3 hours, I would focus first on bringing the entire thing to a level where any problems wouldn't disrupt section sound. I wouldn't woodshed the absolutely most difficult spots, which I would try to get to a "fakeable" level, but would focus my efforts on the moderately-difficult spots where the practice time would make a noticeable impact on solidity.

That's probably what I'm going to do here, too -- I'm still going to work on the most difficult spots but they will probably get less time than the moderately difficult spots. Moderately difficult spots will probably improve a lot with practice time, whereas the hardest spots often require a significant investment of practice time and initially might not improve that much (i.e. they need dedicated work day after day to solidify them).

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek: The intro is what most people will probably watch on videos, so that should be the most solid thing. :-)

January 10, 2019, 10:43 AM · Thanks for that break-down, Lydia! That’s close to what I do now, although have to keep track of myself to not go funneling too much time into the hard bits early. I only learned to practice well as an adult returner, I think because I had to fit violin around my job and school... kind of amazing what you can fit in when you *have to* optimize the time you have.
Edited: January 10, 2019, 1:27 PM · I put about half an hour into K11 last night. Hopefully I can complete the rest tonight and make my recording. It's all pretty much the same thing but there are a few transitions that are harder than the rest. K11 is a piece that actually benefits from playing all through because there is a stamina aspect to it. I have an "issue" with my 4th finger that causes me to spend about 10% of my bandwidth making sure I'm not setting that finger down recklessly. It's much better now than when I was a teenager fortunately. But K11 has a LOT of 4th finger stuff.
January 10, 2019, 1:43 PM · I found a great series by an esteemed (piano, but applies to violin as well) professor on practicing, if anybody's interested. Better for repertoire that you'll be practicing over a longer period of time, though.
Anybody curious?
January 10, 2019, 1:43 PM · I found a great series by an esteemed (piano, but applies to violin as well) professor on practicing, if anybody's interested. Better for repertoire that you'll be practicing over a longer period of time, though.
Anybody curious?
January 11, 2019, 4:06 AM · Francis, I don't think your violin is in Tune.
January 11, 2019, 8:56 AM · I think Francis is using a baroque tuning. I remember that from previous videos.
January 11, 2019, 2:37 PM · Hah, is it the violin, or me? Erik, did you mean that my strings aren't tuned in perfect fifths, my stopped-note intonation has errors, or that my A is not 440? All are possible. :-)

Actually I virtually guarantee my A is well-below 440, as Lydia noted - I have only relative pitch, and my instruments often seem happier more in the 415-430 range, so if I'm playing solo I often don't bring them up to 440, and in this case I recently put all new strings on both instruments, so heaven knows what it was at exactly.

Of course, errors on the stopped notes are on me, and were doubtless present given the difficulty of that caprice, but I am curious if you meant the strings (relative), the A, or my fingers. I've been working a bit more using doubled sixteenth notes and about a line at a time, and it is getting somewhat more solid, hopefully. If I am happy with it at the 2 hour or so point I'll do another video.

January 11, 2019, 2:49 PM · Yeah I had wondered that but there wasn't enough consistency in the general intonation to tell.
January 11, 2019, 3:24 PM · Doubtless- hopefully I do better next time. I'll tune to 440ish too, so as not to confuse those with perfect pitch. How's evertbody else coming?
January 11, 2019, 3:37 PM · I agree with Erik. I could hear from that the violin had a lower tuning, but the rest was sufficiently out of tune that it was hard to tell whether or not the open strings were in perfect fifths.

I would suggest you do the next video at a tempo where you can keep most if not all at it at a single steady tempo, by the way.

January 11, 2019, 3:52 PM · Francis, if I might make a suggestion: I don't believe you're at the point yet where a metronome would benefit you. Try getting the notes to a point where you're able to accurately hit most of them consecutively, regardless of the factors of tempo, rhythm, or bowings. Then add rhythm, then add bowings, then make sure you can play all of the notes at a given non-metronomed consistent tempo. Once you're at that point, a metronome will be a great tool for bringing a slow, good play-through to a fast, good play-through.

Using a metronome for the sole purpose of forcing yourself to practice slowly is unlikely to work well, because no matter what speed it's set it, it still "pushes" you to play your weakest sections too quickly, which will just reinforce mistakes.

January 11, 2019, 3:53 PM · Also, I wanted to post a "teaser" recording of about the 2hr 20min mark in my practice, but SoundCloud isn't allowing me to upload it. So I guess I'll just wait until the full 3 hours and I'll post a video instead.
January 11, 2019, 8:28 PM · You could use the same technique that Irene did for posting an audio-only file to YouTube.
January 12, 2019, 9:30 AM · Alright, so following all the excellent advice I got here to the best of my ability (thanks!), here's where I am at about three hours:
https://youtu.be/hybF9pGtAOE

A is near 440 and strings began as in tune as I can make them, so remaining intonation issues are definitely the fault of the player :-). That's probably as good as I'm gonna get for learning one of the harder of the second 12 caprices in three hours. How's everybody else doing?

January 12, 2019, 4:02 PM · Still stuck at 2 hours 20 minutes (extremely busy lately) but I should have the 3 hours done within a few days. I'm actually feeling decently about what I accomplished so far. I'm assuming this must be one of the easiest 24 caprices?


Also, Francis, regardless of errors, you're still in 2nd place because you're the only one besides Irene that has posted the whole thing!

January 12, 2019, 4:59 PM · Hah, thanks!

IMHO, this is definitely not one of the easiest. The second 12 (including this) are mostly much easier than the first 12 which are true murder, but among the second 12, I think this is one of the worst. 13, 14, 19, 21, and 22 are easier than this for me - you have to be comfortable with thirds and sixths, and wrist-pivoting jump shifts, but in terms of left hand finger awkwardness to me they pose mess trouble than this one, which I had never studied before because when I tried to read through, it didn't.

January 12, 2019, 9:03 PM · I believe that #16 is widely considered the easiest of the caprices.

Which is easier for a particular person is dependent upon their personal strengths and weaknesses, but I imagine that anyone who is capable of playing Dont op. 35 would be capable of playing #16.

I still haven't managed to find time to come back to this since my initial video, but I'm probably snowed in tomorrow, so I hope to have time to practice.

January 13, 2019, 4:53 AM · I'm about 45 minutes further along than I was last weekend! Might actually get there by next weekend. And yes the 3 hour version will cover the whole caprice not just the first 2/3 ;)
January 13, 2019, 4:56 AM · Also, well done Francis for taking up the challenge! :)

And it is genuinely a difficult piece. Not just the tenths and the other bits of keyboard-leaping, but also the number of chromatic changes where you have to change finger layouts within a position between different notes. I suspect I'd find the other Caprices more difficult because they use a wider number of advanced techniques.

Edited: January 13, 2019, 7:11 AM · Yeah, I guess it's a "your mileage may vary.". I found it significantly harder than some, though I've never tried to get any of them recordable in three hours, nor have I ever gotten any into performance shape.

Chris, I think your nailed the bit that gives me the most grief here and in some of the other caprices, it's the chromatic finger rearrangement when it isn't just a chromatic scale. My fingers prefer to change keys between phrases, not within a beat, heh.

January 13, 2019, 11:54 AM · Don't think of it as a chromatic finger arrangement. Think of the harmonic structure. You are, in many cases, setting an arpeggiated chord, and possibly decorating it. The chord change may happen mid-beat. So your brain should be mentally setting up the whole chord rather than the individual fingers.

By the way, my teacher advocates and teaches arpeggios in triadic fingerings rather than the usual Flesch ones. I've found this really useful, along with doing arpeggio groupings in 1-3-4 (or 1-2-4) triads, with the 4th finger as an extension. Doing that instinctively in repertoire that uses arpeggiation -- which is practically everything -- can be a huge boon.

January 14, 2019, 12:51 AM · Is changing the fingering for Pag16 permitted in order to make it easier to play..? Because those 10ths in bar 10 (that's the fingering in my Peters edition) could injure my hand if I try to play them in only 3 hours of practice.
January 14, 2019, 12:55 AM · I've certainly changed a few of my fingerings.
January 14, 2019, 10:19 AM · I think if you're going to do K11, though, you have to do the fingerings in the book. That's kind of the whole point of it.
January 14, 2019, 10:37 AM · The urtext for the Paganini Caprices contains basically no fingerings, so you can do whatever you want.
Edited: January 19, 2019, 1:12 AM · I just wanted to say that I learned “K11” but did not make the vid. now I’ve put 4 or 5 hours in .. but I still didn’t want it anywhere near a public forum....so lol! It improved my reading and shifting though!!

*And yes.. with the fingerings in the book.

January 19, 2019, 7:43 AM · Here we go - my final entry!

https://soundcloud.com/chris-keating-18/paganini-xvi-after-3-hours-practice

January 19, 2019, 9:27 AM · So here is an experiment, regarding some of the prior discussion on this thread and the "on a bike" one, about differing abilities to hear intonation:

https://youtu.be/DLNmVwwwaFg

Can anyone who was bothered by the questionable intonation in my last video (quite admittedly there), listen to this one and tell me if the intonation (other than in the trickiest spots and the parts I intentionally retry) is significantly improved from my own prior efforts? (I know it still won't win any competitions yet, heh.)

There are a few variables in play, but before I describe what I think changed, I am curious to know if anyone hears any difference. (This is still very much an amateur recording a practice session, not a performance in any sense of the word, so be warned! :-) )

January 19, 2019, 10:39 AM · Quite coincidentally, my kid got assigned Pag 16 this week! He's only put 15 minutes in so far, but I will try to convince him to let me put up progress videos. But he's 13, so he may refuse until he gets it near perfect.
January 19, 2019, 1:58 PM · Francis, part of the problem is that you have mis-read many of the notes. For example, a G-flat should sound like an F-sharp but yours just sounds like a slightly flatter G-natural.

I think the mian issue is that you're currently unable to hear the song perfectly in your head, and so your notes come out as ambiguous.

January 19, 2019, 3:01 PM · Congratulations, Chris! Anything you want to share about your process and what you learned as a result? It seems like you made good use of your time.

(I'm still trying to get the spare practice time to work on this!)

January 19, 2019, 3:07 PM · Francis, this is much better than your first video. The first time, your initial arpeggio was so out of tune -- and the other subsequent groups of notes that did not have notes sufficiently in tune in a row -- that I was never able to re-baseline my ears to your violin's lowered tuning. The G minor chord is not perfectly in tune, but it's close enough that I could orient my sense of pitch.

On the other hand, your overall intonation is still pretty unstable. It's closer -- enough to identify the notes. And also, you are playing quite a few wrong notes. It might be useful to look through and mark the accidentals, but also, to listen to some clean recordings of the work. I would suggest Hadelich's YouTube video, because the way he plays it causes the instrument to ring through the chords. Hearing the harmonic structure will probably help you hear what the notes should be.

Edited: January 19, 2019, 7:13 PM · Thanks, Erik and Lydia! I probably should listen to more recordings of this one, though I may also just give it a rest for a while. I think I know about all the accidentals (unless my old public domain edition misses some), though I know I tend to hit the g flat downshift a less flat than it should be (I am thinking of it as F#, just missing) and clearly some others need work. Nice, Chris, and good luck everybody!
January 19, 2019, 5:19 PM · FYI, I still only have the 2:20 recording, because I've been busier recently than I've ever been. In addition to teaching 40+ students each week, I've been working mornings and nights on both weekdays and weekends constructing the violin studio portion of my new house.

I think this might screw up my 3 hour progress, because there has now been a substantial break between my initial momentum and when I will finally have the time/energy/focus to dedicate to the last 40 minutes.

But I will still do it! Just waiting for what feels like a good opportunity.

January 20, 2019, 7:44 AM · Reflections on the process - as requested by @Lydia!

On the whole I'm pretty pleased with where I got to.

For most of the first half hour I was actually a bit terrified by the sheer amount of notes, and that sort of shows in the 1hr-mark recording. I found it was tough to just get my fingers around everything. It wasn't until the 2-hour+ mark that most of it started to feel at all comfortable. Normally when I'm working on left-hand material my priority is to work out what position my hand needs to be in, and then usually I find my fingers fall into place. Not with this, however! So I spent much more time than usual woodshedding to build familiarity with the music. Around 2h30 in I started to test my ability to play passages with my eyes shut to make sure I'd internalised where my fingers were meant to be going. Obviously hand positions were still important but not sufficient, and normally they feel sufficient.

The second and third hours of practice were much more spread out (15mins chunks across a couple of weeks) which is my normal approach to practice, - play something, improve something about it, move on.

January 20, 2019, 10:34 AM · Hats off for anyone learning this, I think I'm pretty close to three hours now and it's not enjoyable at all (and I'm just doing the intro...). These arpeggios and hand shapes are really tasking because I have never played anything like this before, those little grey cells are firing on all cylinders.

I think I'd rather learn caprice #1 than this haha

I have invested so much time into this that I need to get at least the intro, which sounds cool anyway.

January 20, 2019, 11:56 PM · I find your commentary on the hand shape interesting, J I. I hadn't even really thought about it, other on the places where there are big extensions. Certainly not in the intro, which for me feels like it falls quite well under the hand. I wonder if there's a clue to difficulty / a particular technical skill there. It may be useful to think of the hand centered on a triad.

Chris, that's quite interesting. Did you do the notes in rhythms and the like, or pick another woodshedding method?

Edited: January 22, 2019, 12:17 AM · Well, I haven't put any more time in, but here's the recording I took of myself almost 2 weeks after 2hrs 20 minutes. The practice up to this point was split up something like 40 mins, 20 minutes, 15 minutes(x3), and then 25 minutes. The issue here is that much of each of the smaller practices was just wasted on warm-up and remembering the song. Ideally, the 3 hours would be a solid chunk.

I was just trying to do a quick run-through to see where my weak spots were when I took this recording. I didn't do multiple takes or anything, and I wasn't recording with the intention of posting it anywhere. Right after the recording, I realized that I needed to reverse all of the bowings in the 2nd half of the piece and it cleaned up a lot after that.

Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30sk1SSdGnc&feature=youtu.be

Edited: January 22, 2019, 6:37 AM · Erik I think with actual practice time you could lick it. And I bet it would be good for you. It's not every day you find a study that's right at that level where serious effort could ratchet up your skill half a notch.
January 22, 2019, 9:11 AM · I agree with Paul. The portrait in your video is neat, too!

I am still trying to find the practice time for this. I do intend to complete it. (I figure it's a good exercise for me, too, likely worth pinging my teacher about once I've got the foundation of the notes.)


January 22, 2019, 2:05 PM · Don't discount how much I can improve in my remaining 40 minutes! Perhaps I can lick it with just those! (Probably not)

I've found that my weak link isn't my ability to learn things, but rather the willingness to so. Getting myself to practice even just a couple of times a month is a serious chore. But, I think a big part of that is the fact that I have to practice in a garage. Now that I actually own a house, I hope my practice will improve because I'll be able to practice inside where the atmosphere is far less dreary.

January 22, 2019, 11:23 PM · I'm predicting 40 minutes isn't going to do it. Your basic intonation is pretty good but it's far from clean.
January 28, 2019, 1:41 PM · Three hours on Wohlfahrt Opus 45 No 3.

I did it in ten 20 minute sessions: 2 minutes for tuning and warm-up, then 18 minutes of practice.

I broke the piece down into 4 "logical" sections and learned each section in one session. I then spent the remaining 6 sessions practicing and memorizing the etude.


January 28, 2019, 2:06 PM · Carmen - not bad! Also, your practicing methods look very methodical and smart, which is a good way to practice.
Anyways, did you tune your violin before this? Because this piece is in G major, and the starting note is an E, but your tuning I believe is a half step down, my perfect pitch is telling me.
Otherwise, sounds great! Don't forget to tune your instrument.
January 28, 2019, 5:22 PM · Thanks for the feed back.

Your perfect pitch is correct. The violin is tuned to A415, which would be a half step flat. It is a low end violin and suffers from a wolfish G string when tuned to A440.


January 28, 2019, 10:25 PM · Great idea. I’ll do this when my teacher is gone for a week so I can take a few days on a detour.
February 5, 2019, 2:37 PM · I'm disappointed in how many people actually attempted this challenge.

What I especially wonder is this: how many tried it, didn't feel the result was good enough, and then decided not to post a video/recording?

Or, on the other hand, maybe people just didn't find it that interesting?

Edited: February 5, 2019, 2:53 PM · Getting there, Erik. The violin part is done -- well, at least my three hours are up! Now I need to record the piano part so that I will have accompaniment.
February 5, 2019, 3:05 PM · I still haven't found the spare practice time to finish this out, but I intend to.
February 5, 2019, 3:36 PM · I'm disappointed in how many people actually attempted this challenge.


Sorry, I forgot what the point was...?

February 5, 2019, 3:55 PM · Sounds like you're having an existential crisis, Henry.
February 5, 2019, 3:58 PM · Why do we do anything, really?
February 5, 2019, 6:09 PM · The point was to learn something difficult in a narrow time constraint. It's actually a very instructive exercise in practice prioritization.
Edited: February 5, 2019, 6:41 PM · Maybe it could be expanded to 'or a piece of your choice'. I find none of these options quite fit the level I'm at. I'm thinking the idea is to find a peice or segment that is at the harder edge of one's abilities but ultimately do-able, with the purpose of practicing organizing effecient practice, and to learn from the process. For instance after hearing Jean's beautiful rendition of Schindler's List I downloaded it and am excited to start working on it, but i know it will be hard for me.
February 5, 2019, 6:28 PM · Sounds like you're having an existential crisis, Henry.

Not at all, St Patrick's Day is just around the corner, and you never know when they'll call me to play a 'Bush Dance'.. Much purpose, and value there. So busting my hand on those 'Paganini 10ths' will ruin my jigs and reels...……..

February 6, 2019, 8:43 AM · Lydia - question for you: I've already completed Kreutzer 11 and while I have the Paganini on my shelf all but untouched, if I were to participate in this challenge what would you choose to do? I suppose I could try the Paganini even though it is above my level? I could do a different Kreutzer - is there one slightly later in the book that would be appropriate?
February 6, 2019, 9:54 AM · Pamela that's what i was going to do. Except I was going to do Schradieck XI instead. (The fact that XI = 11 is mere coincidence). Schradieck XI is a fair bit harder than Kreutzer 11 too, so it's going to be a little rough, but I'm willing to stick my neck out for this. I'm about 1 hour in on this one.
February 6, 2019, 10:10 AM · I was thinking of a Schradieck as well, I'm re-doing X and XII at the moment (I completed XI already). And am slower than slowly working my way through K12 too. Will have to take a look at both books tonight, or wait until what is assigned to me at my next lesson.
February 6, 2019, 11:26 AM · I think there would be more participation if there are a lot more options or just allow for picking whatever piece you wish.
February 6, 2019, 12:58 PM · If you post something outside of the three choices, I doubt anyone will cart you off to the gulag.
February 6, 2019, 7:42 PM · What if the Wohlfhart is too easy but the Kreutzer is too difficult? /:
February 6, 2019, 8:57 PM · Pick something that you don't think you could learn well in three hours, but could make meaningful progress on, and where trying to do your best within the three-hour constraint would be an interesting intellectual problem. :-)
February 6, 2019, 9:10 PM · Yeah, I was about to post what Lydia said. Just pick something you *can't* do well in 3 hours, and post the results.

If we're being extra specific, pick something you think you could learn reasonably well with 10-20 hours of effort, but only give yourself 3 hours, and no matter how good/bad it ends out being, just post it.

Some thoughts on what you learned from the experience could be a nice addition, too. For example, "after doing this challenge, I realized how inefficient my practice normally is."

February 7, 2019, 10:27 AM · Hm that's a good idea. I've been wondering if I'm ready for some real rep (so, not violin II stuff in orchestra or chord chart improv stuff at church), so maybe I should look into some stuff.

What are some good intermediate sonatas or concertos?

I've sight-read some rep from Suzuki 4-5 pretty well, so maybe something one would do after Suzuki? I've been thinking about trying Beethoven or Mozart, but I'm not well-versed enough to know where to start.

Edited: February 7, 2019, 10:35 AM · Don't you teach violin, Kristen...?

Paganini 16 ought to be in reach.

Edited: February 7, 2019, 10:57 AM · I do, but I usually work with beginners. My oldest is in 9th grade and is doing level 3.

I went to school for oboe/English horn, so I missed my own violin instruction from the time I was 13 to about 22. I switched to oboe in 9th grade. I got back into violin a couple years ago and took some lessons with the assistant concertmaster of the Buffalo Phil to get me back on track, but we didn't do much rep in terms of sonatas and such. Mostly just etudes and small pieces to get my muscle memory back, and to relearn basic/intermediate technique properly. I had to stop because I got too busy and it got to be too expensive, so I've just been working on my own.

During my 9 year haitus, I did string orchestra and fiddle club in my senior year of high school and did part of my student teaching for middle school orchestra.

I have no problem teaching young kiddos, but I'm a bit behind in terms of where my skill set should be. The last solo festival I did was Allegro by Fiocco in 8th grade. I think I made it to Suzuki 4 by the time I switched to oboe.

February 7, 2019, 11:39 AM · You know, I've been looking at Suzuki 7 and there are pieces in there that seem doable. The Paganini is a bit out of my reach, but these seem good! Maybe I'll try the Bach Concerto. Now, it's just a matter of finding three hours to practice!
February 7, 2019, 11:43 AM · Hmmm--I still have delusions of doing this challenge. I played Kreutzer 11 some 30+ years ago, at least according to the markings in my book. I think I could do it well enough to "pass" in three hours.... I was never taught 10ths, and I'm trying to figure out how to manage some arthritis in both hands these days while continuing to practice, so I don't think this is the time to take on the Pag 16 challenge.

If I'm going to do it, the etude I pick should be something I think will be helpful developmentally. I'm not sure it the Schradieck 11 fills the bill. Maybe I'll look at the Kreutzer etudes I haven't done and pick one.

Edited: February 7, 2019, 11:53 AM · Kristen wrote, "I've sight-read some rep from Suzuki 4-5 pretty well, so maybe something one would do after Suzuki? I've been thinking about trying Beethoven or Mozart, but I'm not well-versed enough to know where to start."

Ideally you would hire a teacher to guide you, but that's expensive and so on. My strong suggestion is to go back to the Suzuki Books and start with the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto in Book 4 and work patiently until you have cleared the Bach A Minor Concerto in Book 7. Some of that stuff might be easy, but by polishing them up you'll build your foundation. Then you will be ready for the Haydn G Major Concerto which is a lovely piece. I believe the Fiocco Allegro is in Book 6. Also get volumes 1 and 3 of "Solos for Young Violinists" by Barbara Barber. Great stuff in there. In volume 1 you should do "Elves Dance" and "Donkey Doodle." Great pieces. In volume 3 there is the Ave Maria which is good for vibrato. For studies probably Kayser would be about right to go along with this and perhaps Dont Op. 20. If you have a desire to practice scales, frankly I see no harm in starting with Hrimaly although the first part of the book will be too simple. Still it can be good for tone development.

I'm a returner too. When I left off, realistically I was probably at the Vivaldi A Minor or Accolay level. Now I am working on Mozart 5. Your experience may differ. I am unlikely to ever get beyond the fabled "Bruch Level."

February 7, 2019, 11:54 AM · Jocelyn, the marking in my Kreutzer book for No. 11 includes the date I was assigned the piece: Sometime in 1980. I was 15.
February 7, 2019, 12:04 PM · Kristen, I think Kreutzer 11 may be easier than the Bach A minor. But then it all depends on your strengths and weaknesses.
February 7, 2019, 12:26 PM · Thanks, Paul, I'll explore those! I did the Vivaldi in grade school (my teacher refused to let me do the first movement for solo fest; she hated it and made me do the third movement instead! I've since done the other movements as well so I could teach them) so I'd probably skip that one. I've done a few that I thought were worth my time in Suzuki 5 and 6, but probably not to performance level.

I've got the Barbara Barber scale book, which helped me a ton when I was working on getting back into the swing of things. I also worked out of the Wohlfhart books, but haven't finished them. I probably will never get to an actual performance level either, especially since I also have to keep up oboe and English horn (playing and reeds!) I'll be happy if I can get up to Mozart 5. Four Seasons or Paganini? Probably not feasible, but a girl can dream. I've tried the Saint-Saens Rondo and Capriccioso, but only got as far as the main theme in the Allegro part. And that super high C# going into the run right before the Allegro? No thanks, not in a million years!

Jocelyn, I'll check out the Kreutzer again. I struggle a bit with the upper positions (a combo of small hands/short pinkies and an abnormally large instrument that's 1/4 inch longer and a bit fatter than normal, both in the neck width and the ribs). I also struggle a bit with consistent vibrato (I think there's tension somewhere but I can't pinpoint it) and getting my LH fingers to respond in time when playing fast passages.

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