Recommendation for Violin Etudes (for a Suzuki student)?

August 9, 2023, 11:43 AM · Dear group,

I'm looking for some advice/input/sharing of experience regarding the use of etudes, esp for a Suzuki violin student.

My son just turned 12, he's somewhere between book 8-9 in preparation for Mozart. He plays pieces from the Suzuki book (not all), plus songs from Barbara Barber's book, Bach Partita, some concertos.

I asked his teacher about etudes and her answer was that in Suzuki violin, some of the abilities were taught within the song itself (e.g. double stops, shifting, etc.) so etudes are already "included" so to speak. However, I do wonder what if my son never played etudes systematically, especially if he hoped to advance his playing to a higher level, or just to even have a good basic foundation of his violin playing.

With that said, in the past, he has used Yost shifting, Sevcik Op 3, 8, some Mazas, Kreutzer, Schradiek, etc. but nothing systematic/consistent. His teacher picked and chose etudes to learn depending on the technique he needed at that time. E.g. Schradiek for left hand articulation, and Sevcik for bow, etc. Also, a friend gave me a list of etudes suggestion from Mimi Zweig pedagogy, but I'm not sure what to do with those (me not being a teacher, of course).

What are your thoughts/suggestions on this? I apologize if the answer is obvious, but I do not play the violin so I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps you'd be willing to share your experience about playing etudes and how it has given you/your child advantages/disadvantages. My son is up to trying things out by himself, too, so a daily dose of something short with definite goals like etudes would be a good practice habit for him.

Many thanks in advance for your input.


Replies (23)

Edited: August 9, 2023, 12:00 PM · It sounds to me like your son's teacher basically has the right idea. When I was a child my teacher was a "one study per week" guy. So every week I would just get the next study in the book, whether it was Mazas or "Preparing for Kreutzer" or whatever. Sometimes if it was a harder study then I'd get two weeks. Then, regardless of how well it was learned, or whether I had mastered the techniques emphasized, the next study in the book would be assigned. If you feel that your son learns best in a more systematic program, and that it would be beneficial for the way he apportions his practice time, to have more consistency in the way he is assigned studies, you could bring that up with his teacher, I guess. What you should NOT do is just take your friend's list of etudes and lay that on top of what your son is doing with his teacher because that can be very counterproductive. Mimi Zweig is a great pedagogue, but she's never heard your son play.
August 9, 2023, 12:31 PM · The value of etudes/studies is not in playing all of them one by one from the beginning to the end of the book, but in working on the ones needed to develop the student's technique and musicianship.

If he's working on basics and scales every day in addition to his repertoire, you've got nothing to worry about. Trust the teacher to assign what material is necessary when it comes up.

If he's only working on repertoire with no basics and no scales (including arpeggios, intervals, and other appropriate things at this level), then it warrants a discussion with the teacher.

No two students are alike, and while I've had some that thrived on being assigned multiple whole studies from Kreutzer, Dont, and Paganini a week, there are others that would have just quit if that's what their violin pursuits amounted to. There are multiple paths to proficiency!

August 9, 2023, 2:12 PM · We were in a very similar situation with my son. He was in Suzuki book 8 around age 9 I think and had never done any etudes beyond what was in the Suzuki books (tonalization, etc.), though his teacher did give him the Barbara Barber scale book and he did that.

In theory, yes, you can learn everything from pieces, especially if teachers are filling in the gaps with appropriate etude supplementation. But I think in practice that is really challenging and often kids end up with a lot of gaps. I know my son most definitely had a LOT of gaps. It also makes learning new rep hard since you are often learning the technique while learning the piece.

Personally, I think by book 6 kids should have a full diet of technique work in addition to their pieces, whether Suzuki or not. To me that means:

1) A 3-octave scale book (you don't have to start with Flesch, but you should get there eventually)
2) Schradieck - it's good for everybody. This is the only one we always did mostly in order, with a few skipped ones that were brought back later.
3) A double stop book or other double stop practice - Sevcik is good, and we pull out Vamos to apply to specific difficult spots. We initially started with just double stop scales.
4) A position etude book, shifting book, or etudes with shifting - Sitt, Yost, or Sevcik; there are others - again, we initially started this with single string scales and simple position etudes.
5) A bowing book, or etudes with bowing variations - Sevcik, Tartini, even select Kreutzer ones are good choices.
6) A set of melodic etudes/caprices that address other areas of technique. This could be Mazas, Kreuzter, both Dont books, Rode, Gavinies, Fiorillo, and eventually Paganini and Wieniawski

It may sound like a lot, but it has been dramatic for my kids and has definitely shortened the time it takes for them to learn pieces because they have all the skills already. They spend 30-60 minutes a day on scales and etudes. My son started this at age 12 and is now 18 -- he really understands the value of it and still does it every day even though it is no longer assigned to him since he is heading off to college. My daughter has been doing it since age 11. It's a bit more of a struggle for her, but she is still young and getting through it.

August 9, 2023, 3:21 PM · What Susan lists is not even really "a lot" but is the standard diet for advanced and/or conservatory-bound students. I would also add:

1. Yost 1-finger scales, arpeggios, intervals
2. Josephine Trott - Melodious Double Stops books 1 and 2
3. Selected exercises from Yampolsky and Dounis (that don't involve destroying one's left hand--have to be careful here!)
4. Ricci - Left Hand Violin Technique

When my students who have those high-level aspirations complain about the workload, they need to face the reality that their competition for the spots in the major programs is efficiently practicing 3-4 hours a day and putting in the time and effort to make the kind of progress that will get them there.

August 9, 2023, 4:31 PM · I used the Suzuki books as the basis of my violin and cello teaching for 30 of the 40 years I taught. But I am not a Suzuki teacher.

However there was a very good Suzuki school in the California desert town where I lived for 33 years and at least 3 of the teachers played violin and viola in our community orchestra, so I got to know them. The head of the school was also the principal violist in the orchestra and the violist in my string quartet for a number of years. I also attended the annual Suzuki concerts where (typically) 2 dozen students at all levels played and even some former Suzuki "kid" college students came back to town to participate in those concerts (at least those where were then majoring in violin at college). Anne Akiko Meyers had her first years of lessons in that Suzuki school and soloed with the community orchestra twice before heading to LA for her lessons and eventually to Dorothy DeLay at Julliard.

One thing that seemed seemed unique to me was that about halfway through their Suzuki training the best students were advised to travel the 300 mile round trip to Los Angeles to get involved with more conventional pedagogy. It was there that they were exposed to the kind of teachers who knew exactly how to direct them into the appropriate etudes at the appropriate time in their studies. Before I moved from there a number of these "kids" (by then in high school) had joined our community orchestra - so it was possible to get some idea of their skills.

I was almost 39 years old when I participated in a master class led by Heifetz's assistant from USC and after playing my bit I was advised to work on a very specific Dont etude, 2 Paganini Caprices and 3-octave major and minor scales. That kind of laser-sharp focus into my weaknesses really impressed me. That advice became my daily 30-minute warmup routine for the next 10 years. That was 50 years ago.

August 9, 2023, 5:30 PM · @Claire - the advice above is good. The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all set of etudes that necessarily will work for you child. All aspiring musicians have different needs depending on where they are in their studies and their strengths and weaknesses. Your child is lucky to have a good teacher who appears to be giving appropriate guidance concerning the etudes. I would not second-guess the teacher.
Edited: August 9, 2023, 7:14 PM · Greetings,
It sounds like your teacher is very solid. The comments above just about cover it. Working systematically through every book is not necessrily the best way to do things depending on the needs, goals and character of the student. Having said that, a rock solid technical foundation that saves a lot of time if one is planning ahead with a viewto entering a music institute should probably include most of the following etudes:
-Both- Dont books
I think Mazas and Kreutzer are both necessary because they provide slightly different kinds of style awarness. Sort of French vs German which is imortant) Having said this, Kogan is on record as saying that the Rode Caprices provide the necessary technical foundation for advaced perfromace..
Scales are fundamental, and a careful study of the Nathan Cole course on scales is extremely helpful. Susan mentions the Flesch Scale Book I am guessing (apologies if I am wrong) as a kind of benchmark of the level scales should reach. Although the Flesch is good or detrimental, like evrything, depending on how it is used, I think the Simon Fischer Scale manual is substantially better and an extremely good investment.
One point to remeber is that scales in their complete form are not a warm up per se. Jumping straight in with scales has been the downfall of many young and not so youn violinsts over the years. There are many interesting warm up books, of which I recommend the following:
1) Dounis Daily Dozen
2)Flesch Urstudien (Espcially LH work
3) Fischer-Warming UP

Warming Up is my go to that I have been using for more than ten years. Simon has suggested, in the interests of practicality that it is not actually necessary to repeat every exercise , ever day, once they are mastered. This is good advice, but to the contrary, I have found that these exercises, by dint of the fact that they have been selected based on the experience of a master teacher, could in fact be the main technical work of an aspiring violinist. At the very least, played every day they will have an incredibly powerful effect on technical development which, is not what the are being sold as by any means.
Another incredible book that covers just about everything is The Secrets of Violin Technique by Sammons. A truly great and not well known British violinsts. This should be widely disseminated tome is freely available on IMSLP I think...
If you want other ideas for importnat things and how to work on, then subscribing to Daniel Kurganov's Patreon Channel is a marvellous investment.
Warmest regards,

Edited: August 9, 2023, 8:14 PM · Scales in thirds is something that has improved many aspects of my playing in ways that I didn't predict. My teacher showed me a simple way to practice them and that was a big help. The jump to Flesch is a very big jump, it could be quite discouraging. Trott's "Melodious Double Stops" book is a great starting point. A lot of teachers use it.

I'm willing to bet that your son's teacher knows everything that has been written in this thread. What you're after is to stimulate the full application of the teacher's professional knowledge and experience on your son's behalf. Sometimes lessons can stagnate a little, I've been there. Families will even change teachers when that happens, but I would consider that like "the nuclear option."

So, my suggestion is to hire an hour of the teacher's time at the normal lesson rate just for a conversation -- in the teacher's studio, not Starbucks. You could ask, for instance, whether your son is "on track" for a vocation, or what your son needs to do (that he's not already doing) to get to the "next level". The conversation could be wide-ranging and might include topics like particular summer camps, competitions, and the like. Prepare an agenda. You can have this conversation even if your son is dead set against a vocation as a violinist. It's still reasonable to ask how he can develop quasi-professional levels of skill and musicality.

August 9, 2023, 9:20 PM · You should play all of kreutzer and rode followed by dont. It is your teachers responsibility to give each of them to your child in an appropriate order.
August 11, 2023, 4:16 PM · Thank you all for taking the time and so generously shared your opinion and experience. Many of your comments resonated with our situation and there's a lot to think about and digest. My son's violin studio is taking a break now so it's also a good time for him to reflect and for me to take notes of what steps we want to talk to the teacher about etudes and vocation in general (as one of the above post mentioned, which is really a good point). I appreciate your comments, thank you once again!!
August 11, 2023, 9:44 PM · My etude list was similar to the other replies:
Wohlfahrt (unfortunate name) --Mazas--Kreutzer--Rode--Dont, Fiorillo.
Be careful about when to start the Kreutzer. It has a very wide range of technical difficulty, and is not in order of technical difficulty.
August 12, 2023, 6:01 AM · Actually Wohlfahrt is a good name. I am aware of the English association. But if you translate „wohl“ and „Fahrt“ it wood be „good journey“ which might be a nice blessing.
August 12, 2023, 7:21 PM · What a lovely explanation. Many thanks.
Continuing with the childish humor for no obvious reason, I believe a wool fart may be a blessing in the sense that during winter one is wearing wooly undies thus both sound and fragrance may be contained in safety. As you get older these things become important. As a child I had a lot of trouble with the words of the Erlkonig.
August 13, 2023, 1:49 PM · Let's remember that scales need a composite of techniques, and arpeggios and double-stops add yet more.
Etudes? In contrast to basic drills and scales, they are real musical compositions, and must satisfy our need for good harmony and form. (Personally I dare to find those of Wohlfahrt and Dont less satisfying in these domains.)
August 14, 2023, 11:46 AM · May I recommend Louis (Ludvig) Spohr's Method, not for the first few chapters, but when the real études start. I transpose the C major ones up into D major to begin with. They are short and very musical and in duet form.

On viola, Anton Hoffmeister's études are similarly a good example of classical style.

August 14, 2023, 6:56 PM · Couldn't agree more Adrian. Another , somewhat neglected in my opinon, composer of great material is Dancla. However, at the end of the day we have to imposesome kind of limit. It might also be worth noting that there is at least one awesome violin teacher on this site who leans towards a more minimaloist approach. In order to achive maximum results in theminimu of time he has written a book called 'violin Technique: The manual' which really fosters independentthought about technique. I find this one really saves time with adult learners in particular.
I think the main point being made here by a numbe rof people is thatthere is a need for a routine being established as a habit for the future. Aside from scales, what needs to be practiced on a daily basis and for how long? That would be the topicI would raise at Paul's proposed discussion.
August 17, 2023, 3:50 PM · It sounds like your son’s teacher has a good mix of using etudes when needed. As others have stated, it’s not always necessary to play through entire Etude books to develop technique.
One thing that you didn’t mention is whether or not your son regularly reviews his old pieces or not. One of the reasons that Suzuki can work without etudes especially in the early levels is because of review of older pieces and development of new techniques using those pieces. For example to develop spiccato bowing a Suzuki teacher might get the stroke going on an open string or scale, then add it to a twinkle variation, then Perpetual Motion, Etude, Gossec Gavotte, Gavotte from Mignon, etc… basically turning these pieces into the spiccato Etude of the week.
Where I find teachers and students get into trouble is when they do “Suzuki” by learning the Suzuki repertoire and maybe a few scales and only working on the current piece or two.
I would say that by your son’s level there should be some non-Suzuki studies happening almost all the time regardless of review, but up to probably book 4-5 a Suzuki student who regularly reviews and who uses the review to build technique is probably okay.
I generally find that my middle schoolers and up prefer to learn etudes and my younger Suzuki kids prefer technique focused review.
August 17, 2023, 9:17 PM · Your son will go places. Good luck.
August 18, 2023, 11:23 PM · Greetings,
I just found this astonishing video on youtube.

Ray Chen uses ChatGPT to presribe etudes in order to play Bazzini RondeDE Lutins better. At firts he thinks the suggestions suck but as he applies the ideas his playing improves like crazy and it seems like he feels he has found a way to revolutionize his practice.
Watch and weep (or whatever)

August 19, 2023, 10:54 PM · Buri, when you say "both" Dont books, which two do you mean? (My childhood teacher had me do op. 37, 38, and then 35. I can't remember whether I did 37 or 38 first.)

August 20, 2023, 1:40 AM · Hi Lydia,
Op37. the one preparatory to Kreutzer although I never managed to see it that way and then the heavy weight one.
August 20, 2023, 5:11 AM · Prompted by Buri's reference to the Ray Chen video with ChatGPT, I went and asked it to get help with the fast descending chromatic passage, each step with an additional grace note, in the first violin part of Danse Macabre. That is a tricky passage! First he suggested Fiorillo 23 because it was specifically about chromatics. When I pointed out to it that that etude has nothing chromatic at all, it apologized politely, and suggested Kreutzer 2 instead. When I pointed out that that is kind of a cheap suggestion, it is a basic etude, right, but again nothing specific for the passage I mentioned, finally it came with the following suggestions: create your own etude, and get a teacher! :-)
August 20, 2023, 5:29 AM · It seems to like Fiorillo. That is truly macabre.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker

Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal
Miroirs CA Classical Music Journal

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Classic Violin Olympus

Coltman Chamber Music Competition

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Jargar Strings


Violin Lab



Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine