Saint Saens violin concerto opening

June 24, 2020, 2:05 PM · Hi,

I just recently started learning the Saint-Saens violin concerto and I'm having trouble with the opening (first two lines). The shifts on the G string and tone while playing in high positions on the G string are both things bothering me and overall the opening feels shaky. How do I practice this opening so that the shifts are precise and the tone sounds clear and not squeaky, and how do I become more confident/comfortable with it?

I'm asking here because I'm unable to take lessons due to financial problems during this pandemic.

Replies (9)

Edited: June 24, 2020, 3:16 PM · Practice single-string scales and arpeggios on the G string. How do those sound?

Try altering your combination of weight on the string, bow speed, and distance from the bridge. In high positions you need to be closer to the bridge.

Make sure that your bow is far enough over, in terms of the angle that it contacts the string, that you're getting solid contact.

And how old are your strings?

June 24, 2020, 3:37 PM · Lydia's suggestion is a good one. There are also a good amount of Rode Caprices that start with lyrical sections that have quite a bit of playing high up on the G string. Those could be good practice.

Check this piece out:,_W122,_123_(Villa-Lobos,_Heitor)

It's supposed to be played all on the G string. Nice piece too!

June 24, 2020, 4:03 PM · My son had a lot of trouble with this passage, mostly because that range just doesn't sound great on his violin -- and a lot of others. The main things that helped him were having a luthier fix an issue with his fingerboard and then changing to a PI G string. Apart from that, lots of practice on each shift, flat hair, and finding the exact right bow speed and weight.
Edited: June 24, 2020, 5:43 PM · Honestly, just play on the g string more. When I had to work on a passage like this, I used that opening piano line from the adagio in Rachmaninoff's concerto #2 as an etude. All sul G and shifting to a different pos. for every note—worked great.
June 24, 2020, 8:23 PM · practice all your shifting and blocking fingers. Decide if you will shift on old bow, new bow or cleanly between the bows. As for the sound, I find it helpful to practice the passage on the D string first, and then take the same exact feeling to the g string - don't press too hard with either left or right hand and pretend you are playing in first position on the D string. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but most of the high g string sound problems we create ourselves by treating the position with a lot of work. Hope that helps
June 24, 2020, 9:22 PM · Nathan Cole has an excellent video titled, “Never miss a violin shift again.” You can find it in YouTube or on his website. Coincidentally, I’m working on this Concerto also. Lydia Leong’s advice is very good. I’ve been playing single string scales and arpeggios for decades. As a result, I feel very comfortable playing on the G string. Keep your left hand relaxed and free of any tension, especially when you make those shifts. Watch Aaron Rosand play this Concerto on YouTube. You can learn a lot from watching this great master. Good luck and best wishes!
June 25, 2020, 11:10 AM · Lydia,

In general, my scales and arpeggios are very strong but as soon as I do them higher up on the g string, my sound becomes kind of raspy and unclear. I also haven't changed my strings in a year and a half (oops!) which might be part of the problem.

Thanks for your suggestions.

June 25, 2020, 11:11 AM · Thank you everyone else for the suggestions :)
June 25, 2020, 1:53 PM · Just work on learning to draw a nice tone on the upper reaches of the G string using scales or the like. Then apply that to the piece.

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