Most effective exercises/etudes?

July 18, 2021, 3:59 AM · Hi All,

I was wondering whether anyone had any thoughts on exercises or etudes which give the most 'bang for the buck' so to speak. i.e. which provide a huge benefit (more than other practice).

For example, lately, (past 5-6 months) I have been spending a lot of time practicing arpeggios (almost obsessively) which I never did much upto now (Flesch, 1 string and 3 octave) and I feel like it has made my playing very noticeably easier and better.

When playing a piece I'm not very familiar with, its like I know where the next note is almost intuitively without having to think about it (usually I rely on the numbers written in the score or in higher positions have to stop and find the note first, like which string and which finger etc.)
My shifting is much better as well. The impact feels almost magical.

another example: I think practicing Kreutzer no 7 has improved my string crossing considerably.

So my killer practice tips would be:
1) Arpeggios for intonation and learning your way around the fingerboard.
2) Kreutzer 7 for string crossing

I haven't played them a lot but I also think the Dounis daily dozen are quite good in this sense. seemed to make playing feel easier overall.

Son File I know is really good too though I very rarely do it as its painful and I'm lazy :p

Has anyone noticed any other exercises or etudes which helped you a lot?

Thanks in advance.


Replies (20)

Edited: July 18, 2021, 6:45 AM · Arpeggios in one position are also extremely beneficial as they include "diagonal" intervals across the strings; and they are good preparation for double stops.

I use Kreutzer, but it is better to perfect one or two lines (e.g. up to a cadence) in a session, rather than loyally grinding through to the end with steadily decreasing vigilance.

Edited: July 18, 2021, 6:53 AM · Greetings,
as Adrian says, you can do pretty much anything with Kreutzer, but it may not be necessary to kill yourselve playing all the way through all the time.
I prefer Simon Fischer’s ‘Warming Up’ to the Daily Dozen although I have all the Dounis and do the independence of Fingers material everyday. One exercise in this book is to play the colle stroke first at the heel, then at the point then middle. He uses a huge number of variations on this exercises which has a -miraculuous- effect on bowing. Surprise , surprise, you do it using Kreutzer etude no2.
The Vamose book of exercises is fatntastic. A sort of very condensed version of sevcik that covers everything the left hand needs to do. RBP swears by it and her technique is not to be sniffed at. Vey expensive by the way. Comes with a CD .
Rodney FRiends book on fifths is excellent and if you do his exercises the improvement is extremely rapid. Also very expensive….
PS Yeah I forgot an absolute classic that not so many people know: Albert Sammons The Secrets of Violin Technique. One of the best collections of exercises around by someone who really understood the fundamentals of playing at any level.
Edited: July 18, 2021, 7:56 AM · Here is my opinion based on my experience as an intermediate player who enjoys working on studies.

When you are in the early books of your method (say, through Suzuki Book 6), I feel that the best studies are those that have you moving your bow back and forth a lot -- basic detache strokes -- such as you will find aplenty in Wohlfardt, Dont Op. 20, Mazas Op. 36, and some Kreutzers such as 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10. These studies help you improve your left-hand security mainly in lower positions (Kreutzer goes up more), but most importantly they will help you groove your most important bow stroke and your tone.

When you have learned shifting then as an intermediate player I feel (based on my own individual experience) that studies where you have to shift around a lot between the low positions are very helpful in improving the fluidity of your left hand, and you will find many such studies in Dont and Schradieck, to name just two. Also important are exercises that just get you moving your fingers faster such as Schradieck, Fiorillo No. 28, etc. There is a reason why so much of the Kreutzer book focuses on trills. A lot of students only play the first study in the Schradieck book. Turn the page -- they get hard quickly -- quite the left-hand workout.

After you have reached a certain level, say a fairly strong intermediate level, then you should have widely varied studies because then each one will teach you something different. The more advanced you are, the more targeted you want to be about that, and the more precious your time will be, so you also want to choose studies that will shore up your weaknesses, and you definitely want to engage the advice of your teacher increasingly with regard to study selection, whereas for a beginner, "One study per week" is probably not as bad as it sounds.

Finally, the rather endless supply of studies and their availability on IMSLP means they can be used to practice one's sight-reading.

July 30, 2021, 1:54 PM · Hi Sandeep I'm intrigued to know what you mean in terms of time scale by "almost obsessively"?
August 1, 2021, 4:34 AM · Hi All,

Thanks for the helpful advice. @Adrian, I'll look into first position arpeggios. I use the Flesch scales, dont think that they have this type of fingering. I 'll try sevcik. Adrian and Stephen, thanks for the Kreutzer suggestion. I usually never play just a part of any etude but its a good idea. Thanks Paul for great ideas and guidance. @Rich.. hmm I wasn't thinking of an absolute time scale as such but rather that I spend a large proportion of my limited practice time on arpeggios (something like 75-80%) I mainly practice on weekends (and sometimes early mornings before work) and i often spend 1-1.5 hours on arpeggios.

August 1, 2021, 4:37 AM · @Stephen, also thanks for those suggestions on books, I'll look into those. I tried looking for vamose but was not able to find. I'll keep looking.
August 1, 2021, 5:25 AM · Greetings,
I think I got my copy from Amazon… It is extremely expensive but does include a demo DVD. According to all the blurb , these exercises were sort of passed around in the violin community rather like underground copies of banned literature in Stalin’s neck of the woods. Apparently a lot of violinists understood they were the real deal but you only got the full benifits in the temple of Vamose. Or something like that. Rachel Barton Pine , who is far and away one of the best violinists around these days, states that although she studied a huge amount of etudes with the Vamoses this became her main technical thingamyjig. She says in her intro something to the effect that even now when she finds a difficult passage in a concerto she will find the sam pattern in th ebook and practice it there. In this sense it is like a -very- minimalist version of sevcik. I think Daniel Kurganov does a bit of video stuff on it. If you aren’t checking out his videos you should be anyway…
PS Sammons is still fantastic though….
August 1, 2021, 6:26 AM · I agree with arpeggios. Scales and their fingering systems are more like comfortable slippers, but arpeggios get you visiting every part of the fingerboard very quickly.

As to détaché, crucial, especially for me, but all those exercises can keep you away from Vivaldi and Handel and Bach. You don't want to be saving the music up for after you are dead.

August 1, 2021, 6:50 AM · Thanks Stephen. I guess you must be talking about this? : Exercises for the Violin in Various Combinations of Double-Stops Its the only Vamos book i could find (Cursory search)

I have this: Sevcik-Preparatory Exercises in Double-Stopping, Op.9(similar sounding title) which I think is really good, but i hardly ever get down to practicing to be honest, as after i'm done with my flesch (with double stops) i usually call it a day (laziness) or sometimes muster up the energy to practice bach or something.

I just ordered a copy of Sammons though , on prestomusic. Havent heard of this,will try it out. Thanks very much for your help. Cheers.


Edited: August 1, 2021, 11:06 PM · @Gordon Shumway, ha ha... i get your point. I often spend many a practice session exclusively on scales and arpeggios. But then I must admit i am not very advanced and I feel I have a lot of work to do on intonation and shifting etc. and I feel like I need to do the drills before I can play music.

But I do feel that after months of playing scales etc, when I do finally play some pieces after a long break.. they sound so so much better.
And recently, I find I am enjoying playing music... for maybe the first time ever.. becasue of the improved intonation and bowing.
Usually I feel very disheartened by my sound. But things are looking up.

In general, playing violin is has never ever been a nice relaxing pastime for me. its always been a hard slog.. struggling with intonation, bowing phrasing . phew! I played a bit of guitar a long time ago and also tried piano recently. So easy and fun.
I dont do exams or anything. started learning violin about 20 years ago, but had multiple long breaks (5+years) in between without any teacher but I estimate I am at about grade 6 now at least.

Edited: August 1, 2021, 9:12 AM · Hi Sandeep, may I offer two more obvious suggestions: (1) play detache etudes with *full* bows, but still at rather fast tempo. various Kreutzer etudes lend themselves to this kind of exercise, obviously 2 and 8, but also for example 24 and 26. the thing here is to play with very fast full bows but still keep everything under control, i.e., it should be fast but still with full control of the situation! initially it seems crazy with the bow flying everywhere, but you soon get the feeling.

(2) a classic but since you don't mention it: the Flesch scales in double-stopped thirds.

happy practicing

edit: to add that exercise 1 actually also helps for the left hand. because the strings are vibrating so maximally, your fingertips need to be placed especially clean otherwise a neighbouring string might buzz into them.

August 1, 2021, 8:37 AM · "I do feel that after months of playing scales etc, when I do finally play some pieces after a long break.. they sound so so much better."

Yes, it's essential to play scales for intonation, in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions. People who go through them mechanically aren't doing much good.

August 1, 2021, 9:23 AM · @jeamn dubuisson, Thanks for the tip. I am struggling with bow control in general and full bows at fast tempo sounds like a good idea esp. kreutxer 2 and like you said! excellent thank you. havent gotten to no 24 and 26 but ill try them out. I play flesch thirds quite regularly. @Gordon Shumway thanks for the message. I play a fair bit of scales. ... more than music or sure. :p
August 1, 2021, 10:16 AM · Sammons is very interesting, and comes with crib notes from the author on what to do if you're really tight on time.

I did just order the Vamos book-- not cheap, but under $30 so a decent investment if rumors are correct.

The Friend book is fascinating-- a look into a very fine violinist's somewhat peculiar brain. Just sorting out what he wants you to do will expand your capability, and the idea of playing 5th with vibrato is a fantastic way to build strength and avoid bad posture, while developing muscle memory for parts quite differently.

Edited: August 1, 2021, 10:51 AM · I found VAMOS for $24.29 at SHAR
August 1, 2021, 4:09 PM · Greetings?
in this superb new video Daniel Kurganov introduces some little know in the west etudes by Yanshinov.
He says they are the bees knees for both students and teachers and analyses the first one in depth. You can download a free PDF of it from his site.
August 1, 2021, 5:22 PM · Vamos' book was available on Southwest String for under 20$ (after applying the coupon code)... I just got mine a few days ago.

August 1, 2021, 11:24 PM · For bow control: Sevcik, Op. 3, 40 variations.
Favorite etudes, with "most bang for your buck":
Kreutzer # 8 ,9, 11, 13
Rode, #12
For scales and arpeggios, any book will do, Or substitute:
Rode #6, Kreutzer # 12,
Or, a wicked idea, which I must admit I haven't tried yet: Beethoven concerto, then mentally transpose it up and down a half-step.
August 2, 2021, 2:49 AM · Interesting thread with great suggestions! For example these masterclass videos by Kurganov are such high quality.
August 2, 2021, 4:31 AM · It's Paganini caprice #2 for me. I use this caprice to warm up every day and I found it really helpful from multiple perspectives - string crossings, bow contact point, relative distances between notes, and it stretches my fingers well.

I also use Dont op. 35 #8 to maintain the accuracy of thirds. The etude covers almost all possible patterns of thirds.

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