Lora Staples - beginning violin and fiddle expert

How to play Monti's Czardas

One of the most famous violin pieces explained.

In this video, Lora teaches you, step-by-step, how to approach and study the famous and beautiful Czardas by Monti. This video is great for intermediate players, and it is a wonderful 20-minute long lesson you don't want to miss!

Released on January 7, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Laura Staples with Red Desert Violin and I'm here today for Virtual Sheet Music to give you a few tips about the piece "Czardas" by Vittorio Monti. We're going to start with the largo, that's the beginning, of course. The way I have my students learn this first is, the largo features lots of shift way up on the G string. It's very sultry and very sexy and slidey and lush vibrato.

But before we can ever really do that well we have to learn the melody and the rhythm. We have to learn the phrasing and the bow distribution and the dynamics. The shifting just makes it harder than it needs to be so first I have them learn it rhythmically, not rubato, but rhythmic without the fancy shift. So I'd have them start something like this and four and one and two and three, crescendo. I have them do that shift because it's easy, it's just third position. But we're still crescendoing. I don't have them shift here. Just first position. To get that difficult up-bow staccato and so on and so forth. I won't demonstrate the whole bit for you, you get the idea.

Some students really have a hard time with those grace notes and so I have them take them out because the rule with these grace notes is they shouldn't change the big notes. The big notes stay the same. You have to fit the grace notes in without changing the main notes. For instance, the very beginning, that fast little grace note there? The students will sometimes go, they don't know the stop. It makes all their fingers go fast so I have them do it ten times perfectly. Then I have them throw in the grace note. It helps them if they know what the skeleton is that they're supposed to hang the grace notes on. That's also an issue in measure nine. Bar nine is some more, a couple of grace notes that need to fit in without disrupting the rest of the notes.

After they can do that rhythmically and they're doing the grace notes then we start working on the G string, vibrato and shift. That's just a matter of target practice. It's a matter of being able to hear the pitch before you hit it. The very first shift you have to nail goes from A on the G string, up one octave to the higher A.

Your music has a fourth finger or a second finger suggested. You can do a third finger there, too. Whichever finger helps you nail that note the best. I'd say two or three because you can get a fatter, stronger vibrato but just pick which finger is best for you and then just practice some target practice.

Here's a couple of hints for big shifts. Besides hearing the pitch in your ear before you do it, shift fast until you're in the area of where your note is, then slow down. Watch. I'm going to go fast. Then I slow down and I make an expressive slide into my target note. But I don't do the whole thing slow because that sounds really weird. I go fast. That was a little too much. Ideally, you just slide a millimeter or two into the final target. So shift fast until you're very, very close and then ease into it a little bit.

All right. Another hint about shifting is straighten that finger out. If you try to shift with your finger curled, it's going to get stuck and roll and you'll get in your own way. Shoot that finger up there straight, especially when you're going in fifth position and above. When you have to come around the shoulders of the violin, straighten out your finger.

Final tip for a big shift is straighten up and move your head to the left a little bit. It lifts the machinery up and just helps you to hoist that note up. It worked so well I over-shifted. Just throw your head mass to the left a little bit and it'll help you, it'll pull your left arm up to that note. So that's enough tips on the first 13 bars.

Bar 14 starts a little bit different figure, we're still in the largo. I can't do any other bowing but my own bowing on that passage so I'll just tell you why I have to change bows on that top note in measure 14. I have to change to an up bow on that G and it helps me to nail it so you might want to consider that. Then my little, I like to separate all the other bows after that. Really, there's a lot of individual choice when it comes to bowings in this type of piece so do what feels comfortable to you. Okay? There's no real trick for this. It's kind of a hard passage. Doing those slurred arpeggios just takes a lot of practice and rhythmic control. Other than that, I love to change strings there. That's the note at the end of bar 14, B-flat. And the note on the downbeat of 15. Same pitch, different strings. Let us hear that shift. That's just part of that gypsy style.

[playing violin]

On that particular passage, I think you'd have to, on measure 17, I'd go to second position right here. Then get back to third position. You have to do something to get that C-sharp. That's a nonissue. I'm sure you can figure something out for that.

Here's my final suggestion for the largo. After you do that measure 17, start rubato. Now watch. I love to switch on that F. The downbeat of measure 18, I love to slide into a second finger. Let it here. Isn't that nice? Then I slide down and I slide back up. Of course you don't have to do it but it adds to that improvisatory style and that gypsy sound.

All right. So that's just a few basic tips for the largo. I think that is one of the hardest sections in this whole piece. That's why I spent more time on it than the other parts.

The first little bit of the allegro vivace is really short, sharp spiccatos. So find the magic place in your bow. For me, it's right around here. I use the same one inch of bow until there. So don't travel, don't go, because it doesn't work as well that way. Stay in the same inch. Then you have this delightful little spiccato section. It's a repeating pattern three times and then the fourth time is different. So that really takes a lot of drilling on your part to be able to change on that fourth pattern. Practice it slowly with a metronome and gradually move it faster and faster.

Here's a trick that works for a lot of fast, separate spiccato-y sections. If you're struggling with those, play it in slurs. I guarantee you it'll help you. Learn to control that really fast. I'm looking at measure 27. Then, same here. Practice that whole section legato, slurring four notes at a time. It magically cleans up the problems that hold you back on your spiccato because if your left hand stumbles or stutters at all it will totally get in the way of your spiccato. Because you can't slow down your fast spiccato for a left hand that's hesitating. That's a real, solid practice tip for getting that vivace section cleaned up.

All right. Then the following section has some grace notes. It's more spiccato section. So more spiccato, the technique, bar 38. So the same rule applies. Try to do it slurring four notes at a time until you can get it really, really fast and even and metronomic. Practice this with a metronome. Leave the grace notes out until you can get it perfectly up to speed because you have to have that solid structure to hang the grace notes on. Then, you just have to learn to do almost a vibrato grace note and it takes a split second longer but you can learn to squeeze that time in if you've learned it solid first without the grace notes. So first you learn it, etc.

Then you try squeezing in the grace notes and then faster. Next is bar 42. It's the same section, same practice techniques apply. But this passage is the hardest passage in the whole piece. It's a finger twister and I cannot find a magic fingering for it. Your music is suggesting the third position and I think that's the best fingering that I can find. It's just a finger twister. You've got high four and low four and grace notes. Leave the grace notes out at first and practice my famous rhythm practice. That's where you practice really fast pairs of notes like this. You have to use tiny bows, otherwise, you get trapped out at the tip. So just do short, short short, short short, short short.

Then do the flip side of that rhythm like this. Those two rhythms combined fool your brain and fool your hand into thinking that you've played that passage, the whole thing fast. Because you've played every pair of notes really fast. It doesn't take care of all the difficulties with the bow but it really helps you to increase your speed. I use that technique all the time, especially when I'm cramming for a symphony or something like that. So leave out the grace notes, practice slurring fours, use your metronome and, especially in measure 42 for that whole line, use practicing in rhythms.

The next passage is your molto meno, bar 54, and it's just double stops for days. The trick with double stops is don't press harder with your bow because it's more strings. That'll backfire and give you a really bad sound. A good way to prevent yourself from doing that is to force yourself to play that section piano. It's hard to do.

I'd shift down here, gentle. Then shift down nice and slurpy in bar 58 on the A string and stay on the A string. It's a harmonic and I do a double-up bow there in measure 59. So that high "E" harmonic is on your A string. Then go to first position. After you get your accuracy up with the double stops then, of course, put it back to forte.

All right, I think most of that you can figure out on your own. That's the only real tip I have is to not press harder with the bow. The next section is your quasi-lento and that's my favorite. They're all my favorite but this is really nice for the left hand. It's fingered artificial harmonics.

The whistle tones. The best way to work on these is to just play the bottom note with either a first finger or an open string. Pretend like you don't have these three fingers right now. So you learn the melody like this. See what I'm doing? Play that whole passage until you can nail it really well in tune. Then adding the harmonic is easy. The trick with fingered harmonics or artificial harmonics, play a solid bottom note and a light, feathery top note and play with your pinkie straight. Don't try to curve in and hit with the tip of your finger. Hit with the flat of your finger. It's just a broader target and helps you to find that harmonic. Keep your fingers straight and that way, wherever your first finger goes, you've got your measuring stick out and it'll find that harmonic every time. You're going the distance of a fourth. That's where your artificial harmonic is. There are others that we use but that's the most common one that you'll ever run in to.

One final trick on these harmonics is with the bow and that is to play pretty hard with the bow. Just because it sounds delicate and whistley, don't be a wimp with your bow. Move closer to the bridge and use lots of bow weight and you'll get an amazingly piercing harmonic sound. That's more than I need. I just wanted to show you how powerful it can be if you move the bow next to the bridge.

One thing. The last two bars of that quasi-lento, bar 84. You will play that all on the G string. It just makes more sense. You'll see what I'm talking about when you learn it in context. Watch, start at the rallentando, bar 82. I have to do that C-sharp on the G string. Now, do I really want to go? No. It's easier to go and then up to fifth position. All right, you don't have to do that but that's my suggestion.

Then, bar 86, the allegro vivace. Does that look familiar? It's the same technique, same identical passage as bar 38 so you've already got that learned. The allegretto starting in bar 100 is the same technique as the very beginning after the largo. Your allegro vivace. So bar 22 is the same technique as bar 102.

So for all those separate spiccatos, you might consider practicing those with legato, slurring fours. From there until the end it's just accelerando and fast fingers and coordinating the left hand with the right hand. The trick for getting the two hands coordinated is to temporarily exaggerate an accent on every beat. Look at bar 126. I'm not thinking of all those notes. I'm only thinking of one note and it's my second finger. The rest is automatic. I'm making sure that the second finger is right on time with my down bow and I'm keeping him glued down.

Now, when you get this fast enough and when everything is working right and the two hands are coordinated and you're in the right spot of the bow, something is going to happen. Something magical and that is sautille', which is that kind of bounced bow stroke but not quite spiccato but not detache' either. I don't know if you can hear it or not. My violin is ringing like crazy right now but the bow is jumping on its own and it's because I'm just the right speed. I'm relaxed and my two hands are perfectly coordinated. That allows sautille' to start happening automatically. I'm not going to do a lesson on sautille' right now. Just be aware that that will start happening on this piece you'll start discovering sautille' and when it happens remember exactly what you're doing when it happens because it's a good thing.

That's it for this video. I hope that it's given you lots to chew on and a lot of tips for tackling this piece. Go ahead and take just one section at a time and treat it as an etude because, as you can see, this piece covers a lot of different techniques and all of them are good for you. So have fun and I will see you next time.
Automatic video-to-text transcription by DaDaScribe.com
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

eliane cabal on August 19, 2023 @4:14 am PST
This will help you make progress.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on August 19, 2023 @2:04 pm PST
It's a GREAT piece! Have fun!
Jiyoung Kang on July 25, 2023 @7:33 am PST
I love your articulation. I mean your pronunciation as well as your violin sound. May I ask where you are from?
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on August 19, 2023 @2:03 pm PST
Hi Jiyoung,
Thank you for the compliment. I'm just from the Western United States, Colorado area. But the real reason for my diction is that my mother was a speech therapist! We were not allowed to mumble. LOL
John on March 26, 2021 @12:51 pm PST
Wow! What a great violin teacher!
Loralyn - host, on April 13, 2021 @8:37 pm PST
Hi John, You are too kind! Thank you!
Rhoi on December 20, 2020 @12:36 am PST
I don't remember ever considering stretching to a C# in 3rd position on the D string. When I saw that "most difficult passage of the piece," which I agree with, my thought was to instead use a low first finger for the C#. It seems to be ok enough for me since I'm very confident about my 3rd position E so I focus on it as my anchor (been playing for many years, just working on cleaning up technique), but i can see it wouldn't be too good for many people. Stretching for C# feels awkward too though, and trying to de-stretch from C# to land a Bb grace note feels rough. I'll try your way too to see what works better.

I simply wonder if doing a low first finger for the C# is a legitimate consideration for anyone.
Nathanael on June 18, 2020 @10:18 am PST
Very nicely explained! Question for the spiccato sections: my bow is either bouncing uncontrollably or not bouncing at all. How do I get it to bounce ever so slightly at that crazy fast tempo???
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 21, 2020 @1:12 pm PST
Hi Nathanael,
Glad you enjoyed the lesson!
So the bow stroke you are describing is not actually spiccato. When you get up to really fast speeds, the spiccato becomes a "sautille. A good sautille requires that you find the "sweet spot" in your bow, do not allow the bow to bounce too high, keep the hair ON the string, don't use huge amounts of bow, and relax your fingers and wrist! The best way to learn this is to learn the passage of 16ths REALLY well, then try to play it at about mid-bow.....with plenty of rosin, and do it ON the string using only about 1 inch of bow. I GUARANTEE your stick will start to bounce of its own accord.....and then your only job is to stay out of the way!
Nathanael on June 21, 2020 @7:39 pm PST
Hi Lora,

Thank you so much for the quick reply, I will keep those things in mind when practicing! It's so amazing how many different kinds of techniques and sounds you can apply with just the bow on the string, and sautille sounds incredible when done correctly!
Bizzy M. on June 11, 2018 @7:29 pm PST
what violin, bow, and strings are you using and/or which do you recommend?

´╗┐the violin I have now is a beginners violin and all the sound I play sounds cold and like... metallic? and the strings I have are D'Addario strings but for some reason when I try playing in fourth and fifth position on the g and d strings it just makes a squeaky sound so I'm guessing it is because my violin and strings are cheap... my bow is a beginner bow too so that also may have something to do with it.

I really want to impress my orchestra teacher next school year and I want to sound really good when I play! What do you recommend for the warmest sounds? thanks!
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @11:11 am PST
Hi Bizzy, Well, the answer to your question depends on how much money you can spend.
Let's assume you can't get a new violin, so let's talk about how to improve the violin you HAVE.
You probably have harsh strings on.
Some good, professional grade, affordable strings which will give your violin more warmth are: Infeld RED. (they are $60)
A more affordable set that I LOVE almost as much are the D'Addario Pro Arte. I did a comparison of those strings against 2 other brands, and they blew them away.
Then, if you can take your violin to a luthier, it sounds like it needs a sound post adjustment. That can work miracles.
Also, when student violins sound harsh and metallic, it is often because their bridge is too high, adding too much tension to the strings.
If you can afford to spend $650 on a violin, I can recommend the Yuan Qin model from Southwest Strings. (I think that includes a bow and case) It is an awesome violin for the money.
Good luck! I'm happy to see your motivation!
Bizzy M. on June 13, 2018 @9:13 pm PST
Thank you so much!!!! :D
Lynn Rixson on October 3, 2017 @1:07 pm PST
Please could you tell me the name of the music at the beginning and end of this video. Thank you as I realise my request is off topic.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @11:15 am PST
Lynn, so sorry I never answered you! There was an issue with these posts getting forwarded to my email! I believe the in/out music is my recording of the Beethoven Minuet in G, the arrangement from Suzuki Violin Book 2.
Bardia Safari on June 27, 2017 @11:43 am PST
HELP! I'm 12 years old and told my violin teacher I want to play this, she said I can't and I'm too young, but I'm determined and I can do it!
Please help with the fast part at the begging on measure 14. It's so hard to play it so fast and when I play it slow it does not sound right! Please give me some tips!
Harald Hvidlykke on September 29, 2017 @1:48 pm PST
What have you been playing before?
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @11:18 am PST
I'm sorry, I wasn't ignoring you! (I wasn't getting these messages forwarded to me.....so sorry!)
By now, you are 13, and you possibly already learned this piece.
I had a piece that my teacher told me I was not ready to learn.....and I was stubborn and learned it anyway. It was Fritz Kreisler's "Praeludium and Allegro".
I brought it to my lesson half-learned, and she finally agreed to help me with it. I ended up spending an entire year learning that song, because it was a level beyond my abilities. I would have been better off raising my playing level with the GOAL of tackling Praeludium and Allegro....it would have made me a better violinist.
So, I would advise you to ASK your teacher: "What do I have to learn before I can do Czardas?" That way, you can prepare yourself, and it would be much better that way than to spend a whole year learning one song.
Anyway, this advice probably comes too late.
GOOD LUCK to you, and I'm so happy to see a 13 year old with love for music and motivation to learn!
Bardia SAfari on June 15, 2018 @10:49 am PST
Thank you! I have played the piece now, and I realize what you mean. I learned the whole piece a few months ago, but thanks anyway!
Harold Braunstein on June 17, 2017 @7:32 pm PST
Thank you Lori for that excellent lesson on Monti's Czardas. It will take time but maybe, possibly, hopefully, I'll be able to play it someday with a reasonable amount of expertise. I'm playing the violin almost a year and a half. I always wonder if my vision exceeds my abilities. But that's not your problem; that's mine.
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @11:24 am PST
Hi Harold!
Only a year and a half? Yes, this piece is probably a little beyond you, but it's GOOD to have a piece that motivates us, and keeps us stretching and striving.
It's good to make a list of skills that you need to acquire in order to tackle your dream song.
Here are some skills you'll need for Czardas:
Mastery of bow slurs
Fast detache'
Fast spiccato/sautille'
Fast string crossings
3rd position
If you can get those skills up to snuff, you will be in good shape!
Ramo Aicnescalp on March 18, 2017 @1:04 pm PST
Hello Lora, so im a 10th grader in McKinney,Tx and im doing this piece for my solo contest. About the artificial harmonics, They don't sound as clear and good on my D string and im not sure why, im playing the right notes. It just doesn't want to ring much. Do you have any suggestions?
Lora * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2018 @11:21 am PST
Hi Ramo,
Sorry, I wasn't getting these messages forwarded!!!
How did your solo go? Did you figure out the harmonics on the D string?
I would have advised you:
Put the bow closer to the bridge when doing harmonics on the D string, and add a little more bow weight. The D string is our THICKEST string, and it takes a little more effort and sweat to play on the D string.
IF that doesn't work, make sure you have enough rosin.
Try new strings. Sometimes strings just DIE, and things like bad harmonics are the first symptoms of dead strings.
Anyway, I hope your solo went well! Keep up the good work!
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