Fischer books for viola

December 13, 2022, 7:22 PM · Hello, I have read a lot of posts here about Simon Fischer's books. I'm in a position where I'll be trying to self-teach myself the viola until I can manage a teacher. I've a little background in cello and my son is learning the violin with a teacher. I'm using the Viola Time Joggers for the basic stuff

I received today 'Basics', but am unsure it's the right book, it intimidates me :)! Two questions:

Can I use his books to learn the viola? Do the techniques, bow hold etc translate to viola? If so, should I continue with 'Basics', or should I start with 'The violin lesson'?

Many thanks in advance.

Replies (20)

December 13, 2022, 7:31 PM · Greetings,
I use Basics all the time but it is not the easiest of Simon’s books. I think people tend to prefer ‘The Violin lesson’ which also happens to be a beautiful read at the same time.
December 14, 2022, 12:09 AM · Greetings,
Ella, I think I am going to respectfully disagree with you here. I think I wa sone of the first people ever to buy Basics all those years ago and, at that time, feeling that I needed to revamp my playing from the bottom up (although I did graduate from a music institute), I worked systematically through that book in great depth. I refer back to it frequently in my own practice and in my teaching practice. However, I have also noticed over these long years that amateur players or those with less time on their hands , or those who perhaps want less of a ‘do this, if it works use. if it doesn’t move on to the next one’ kind of style. are not always comfortable with this book.
Over the years Simon has produced more volumes that balance out this hard core approach. ‘Practice’ is delightful and inspiring. The scale manual is nothing short of revolutionary. I would recommend it over Flesch and Galamian’s any day. Simon evolved as a -writer- over the intervening years between Basic and ‘The Violin lesson.’ Of course that book incorporates some of the material from Basics, but what one tends to immediately find is how wonderful to read it is. Many people have commented how it is their ‘bed time 7read7. perhaps even their choice for the inscrutable radio program Desert Island disks. The content is marvelous and supported by anecdotes and philosophical musings which make its underlying premise readily absorbed and put into action. (That of proportion being the essence of violin technique).
These two books are indeed radically different depending on the user and their purpose. In the case of the OP I would strongly recommend The Violin Lesson over Basics.
I keep both on my desk, but then that’s my job.
Warmest Regards,
Edited: December 14, 2022, 3:29 AM · I think Ella was not so much specifically about Basics vs other books for the violin (by Fischer or not), but more that books for the violin can indeed be readily used for viola as well, right Ella? Actually, that point is contentious as well. Some good violists say the technique is identical, but others say it is an entirely different instrument :-) Now specifically back to Basics: indeed this is a book for people who have been educated already on the violin, for many years, so they understand what the exercises are about, what they try to correct or improve, for example. So, I agree, not for self-study for someone without experience. "The Violin Lesson" is great, but, in my view, also not really for beginners. It's more like Simon Fischer writing a book making the five or six main points about violin technique that he want to state clearly for eternity. To really appreciate them, I think you already need to "have been there".
Edited: December 14, 2022, 4:04 AM · I agree wholeheartedly with Buri over Simon Fischer's books: he seems to have appropriated all my own tips 'n' tricks plus ten times more!
However, like Galamian, he has very long fingers, and offers limited advice for small hands, which need more twists and turns from finger, hand and elbow, especially on the viola.

I even strung my spare viola as a violin (G,D, & A viola strings, and a fine Goldbrokat E stretched near breaking point!) Thus my slender handed young ladies could then film me on those smart-phone thingies while I demonstrated with my "smaller" hands.

BTW I found a fascinating article comparing Kreutzer and Bach editions by Galamian and Flesch: to simplify somewhat, Galamian preferred extensions while Flesch liked closer fingers and string crossings: he had stubbier hands.

December 14, 2022, 4:39 AM · Greetings,
sorry Ella. As jean pointed out, you were referring to the instrument rather than the choice of books. My bad. At least it gave me a chance to waffle,
December 14, 2022, 10:11 AM · Fischer's scale book and the Warming Up book exist for viola, but not the double stops one.
December 14, 2022, 2:18 PM · Most Violists are fluent in both Alto and Treble clef, so you can play any violin technical, etude, or solo book on the viola as is. It is the easiest transposition.
December 14, 2022, 2:28 PM · Greetings?
Adrian just jogged my thinking. Why not just get Warming Up for viola. It is a wonderful little book!
December 14, 2022, 4:19 PM · Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback. The fuller story is this:

When one son started on the cello, I started with him (Suzuki). I knew where he was, how to help him, etc. But the other started the violin at school and not Suzuki. I am not present at the lessons and can't help him much at home. At the same time, I decided to start on the viola, because I wanted to do something good for myself, and thought I could play sometime with him, and there also was the thought of me being able to help him better, if I learned a similar instrument. So I thought it would be good to have a reference book at home. I had read the forums and 'knew' to get 'The Violin Lesson'. But then I came across this description of the 'Basics' on Simon Fischer's website, and decided to buy the 'Basics':

"For parents, guardians, friends and family

Do you practise with your children? The clear, straight-forward text can easily be followed even by non-players. With Basics you can guide your children yourself to supplement the weekly lesson (many of the exercises are suitable even for the youngest), dramatically speeding up their rate of progress."

I was aiming at using it for myself, but also using it to help him. But as I said, it is far more technical than I expected. At least at first sight and after going through it a bit. I have now cancelled my viola scales book, thinking it might also be too advanced, but have ordered the 'Lesson', so I can compare.

Thanks to those who pointed out the 'warming up' books which I have in my cart at his website, but was unsure whether I should get them. It seems those might be a good starting point too.

December 14, 2022, 5:14 PM · I'm a violist primarily and find both "Basics" and "Double Stops" to be useful on both instruments. Yes, some adjustments need to be made but the fundamental techniques are nearly identical between the two instruments.
December 19, 2022, 5:02 PM · I have now had the 'Violin Lesson' book with me for a couple of days. I can see the genius of Simon Fischer and his knowledge on every page, but can't say these books live up to the marketing promises made on his website (if those are marketing promises). I am not trying to devalue his books, but I do think that Jean was right, when she wrote above: 'To really appreciate them, I think you already need to "have been there"'. I wholeheartedly agree. While some exercises might look easy, the whole underlying concept seems rather complex. There is a lot to read and to comprehend, and only someone with experience will truly benefit from the knowledge in these books.
December 19, 2022, 5:08 PM · Greetings?
I hope it starts to make more sense after a while. There is really only one underlying concept: pay attention to sound, rhythm, intonation and relaxation as you practice. If you think you can improve one, adjust the proportions involved and see what happens. This is essentially what self teaching is.
If you are still having problems then why not contact a teacher on line for a. little help? Just a thought.
Edited: December 19, 2022, 6:19 PM · I find that what I learn from the Fischer books is approximately linear with time. In the beginning I learned from them little by little, and I still do some years later. There have been a few "a-ha!" moments, but mostly it's been learning in increments. Noticeable increments, but still.

Speaking of excrement, Fischer is right when he says that his books are not meant to be read in the john (or words to that effect) -- but rather on the music stand. You read a little, then you do a little exercise. Just like a chemistry textbook -- and what could be lovelier?
December 19, 2022, 7:36 PM · Greetings,
Paul, that was a fantastic post. John will be happy too, or words to that effect.
December 20, 2022, 1:27 AM · Paul and Buri, you inspire me to not give up on these books! Maybe it's a matter and question of time. Perhaps my mistake was to be confused, or better intimidated, but the large amount of knowledge and detail whose benefits are not always obvious to the beginner. But I'll give it another try by breaking up my approach into smaller bits. And the books are useful for me as a reference and guide when I help my son practise. And yes, John will be happy :)

Regarding having a teacher: that will come, I just need to go through a busy time and wait for the teacher to become available too. Such are sometimes the problems and benefits of a small town.

Edited: December 20, 2022, 12:11 PM · Much of Fischer's work appeared as monthly installments in Strad magazine, which gives some idea of the time necessary to assimilate his ideas.
Just as in a live lesson, we can only "overthink" one thing at a a time!

And think of having been on a summer camp and seeming to learn more in a week than in the preceding year...except that such rapid progress is grafted onto long-accumulated wisdom; and often we do things that our regular teacher has been asking us all year!

December 20, 2022, 6:46 PM · Monthly installments turning into a book ... isn't that how "The Good Soldier Svejk" came into being? Now I'm wondering how that book might be parodied as "The Good Violinist Simon" -- which would cast Fischer as a blundering hack of a musician faking his way between freeway phils, showing up drunk to rehearsals, among other bawdy adventures. Could be funny if done right.
December 22, 2022, 4:30 PM · I wonder if Simon would find the comparison flattering?
December 22, 2022, 8:03 PM · No he'd find the concept amusing though.

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