William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Creating a Path Through Etudes

Learn how to approach violin etudes

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick gives you a method to approach and organize violin etudes which will simplify your life a great deal.

Released on October 4, 2017

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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

Okay. All right. Why don't we start by me telling you what I feel about études as... you see when I was young I truly despised them. I remember waiting for a lesson at the Blair School of Music in Nashville, Tennessee, I guess I must have been around 14 years old. While I was waiting outside my teacher's studio sitting on a bench, I suddenly decided to look through my music that I was about to have for my lesson, I had about 30 minutes to wait before going in. While I was looking through my music I suddenly realized that I'd forgotten to work on my étude that my teacher gave me to learn for the week.

I panicked. Panicked. Then as my teacher was very dramatic and I absolutely could not tell him, I could not say that I forgot to do my étude, couldn't do it. So in my panic mode, I looked at the étude and tried to figure out what I could do. Because see in the hallway there were other teacher's studios so I couldn't play. So I got my pencil, looked through the étude and said "This I can do, this... that won't cause me a problem, what's the problem? Well the problem is..." whatever the problem was and I would circle it and I would put a little funny face to remind me about what I discovered while looking through the étude and so at that, I walked into my lesson. He looked at me and asked me for my scale, I played my scale. And then the moment of truth came as he asked me to play the étude that he had assigned to me. I took a deep breath, looked at the areas that I had encircled and started playing the étude for the first time. Well, when I finished I knew it was all over. I knew I was going to get, you know, yelled at. Well, my teacher with his stern face looked at me and said: "William, that was the best étude that you've ever played for me. I don't know what you did but keep doing it." Well, I took to heart what he said and fact, fact is that's what I did for the rest of my life with études as I always searched for the new études for those areas that caused me problems.

Well, as I am now, you know I'm at a respectable age I understand études may be a lot better as I see them as small pieces. Musical vignettes that are centered around one technical aspect just how I learned at that very young age when I forgot to do my étude. So I think that the first thing we need to understand is exactly how many études are there, perhaps even before that to discover what I want to be the order of those études by difficulty. So let's see, for me, études start with the German violinist Heinrich Ernst Kayser and his 36 études. And then we go to the Austrian violinist Jakob Dont with his 24 preparatory études or Caprices, those are the Op. 37 études. These are followed by the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, 42 études or Caprices. And these are followed by the 24 Caprices written by the French violinist Pierre Rode. Yes, I was getting the 42 Kayser études with the second violin part you know, duets with corrector études. And I played them with my students as it serves to wonderfully illustrate the musical values found in études.

So up until now we have 126 études in total from Kaysr to Rode, now we have the German violinist Federico Fiorillo who wrote 36 études which are followed by Jakob Dont, yet again, who wrote 24 more advanced studies or Caprices in his Op. 35 edition. We end with Pierre Gaviniès who was French 24 études. There are as well the Wieniawski études or Caprices Op. 18, but I rarely use them with my younger students so I will not include them in my list. So counting from Kayser to Gaviniès there are 210 études. I remember once considering it took two weeks, for example, to complete an étude then it would take 420 weeks to complete them all or over eight years.

Well I once asked a colleague who preferred on all 24 Paganini Caprices at the age of 18 if he could tell me how he learned them. And you know how long, when did he start, how did he learn them? Well, what he said was that he learned 12 of them before he was 16 and then had to learn the other 12 in the two years that followed his 16th birthday. So I considered what he said and tried to map it back. Let's see the first two Caprices surely took him, I don't know three, four months to do, let's ramp it up let's just say it took a year. After that, the remaining 10 must have taken him, I don't know, if he did three a year, four a year so why don't we say that would be what two to three years? So he got three or four years to have completed the first 12 Caprices. He told me that he had done this, remember, before the age of 16. So let's just stretch it, let's just say four years, okay. So that would mean that he had to have started doing Caprices when he was... 12? And so if he would've done all 210 études, say one every two weeks, this would take approximately eight years. He would've had to have started Kayser at the age of four, maybe even three.

I sort of doubt that this occurred... even though he was quite prolific. So with this in mind I organized études by skills, this means that I teach by skill and not in a numerical order, for example starting with the first quarter étude and going all the way through them, all the way through all 42 of them. Now do understand that I'm not the first teacher to do this. My teacher said just Steven Clap and Dorothy Delay always encouraged me to take material and organize it in a way that both reflected my teaching goals and help me navigate students through the medium of information. So I do encourage them to take this idea, manipulate this idea in a way that helps you understand the benefits of an étude study in this way. So in my vision of études study my main categories are intonation, vibrato or trills, shifting, arpeggios, octaves, sixths, rapid left-hand passages, sautillé, martelé, thirds, string crossings, mixed intervals, collé, up-bow staccatos, three note chords, ricochet bowings, tenths and finally mixed media, études with mixed points of view. As you can see these categories are as well divided into some categories, for example, arpeggios which I divide into detachés, slured and mixed points. Or the octaves which I divided into detachés slurring fingered octaves. Dividing them into more specific areas is obviously helpful to respond in a more clear fashion to the student's needs.

Now I'm sure that you've noticed that I did not use all the études. Well, the criteria that I use to decide which études I would use was based entirely on my musical taste, which may or may not coincide with yours. This to me isn't the important point, what is important is ordering the études to fit your specific needs, your particular courses. So that's it for this video on étude reorganization. My name is William Fitzpatrick and I'm the Tamianka professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music which is located on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, California. I am as well the artistic director of the "MusiShare" young artist program which is located in Costa Mesa, California.
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Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on October 4, 2017 @6:44 pm PST
I sure wish I had had Mr. Fitzpatrick as my teacher! None of my teachers were very organized with etudes, and hardly taught scales, they would focus mostly on pieces and orchestral repertoire. I still practice my Kreutzer and also Lillian Fuchs etudes (on viola).
Linda L Ford * VSM MEMBER * on October 4, 2017 @10:19 am PST
This information is very nicely presented . May I suggest that you read the transcription of William Fitzpatrick's talk and compare it to the talk. The written transcriptions appears to have been done by a service as there are many typos that I am sure William Fitzpatrick would like to correct. Please let him know so he can make the corrections. I'm sure as a professional, his written work is important to him. Thank you. Linda PS I mean to be helpful and not critical in letting you know here . Things like this can happen to folks.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 6, 2017 @3:49 pm PST
Thanks Linda for your feedback, you are absolutely right, the person who take care of the transcription made a pretty sloppy job. We have fixed the text, please, let me know if you still see anything out of place.

Thank you again very much.
Hank Schutz * VSM MEMBER * on October 4, 2017 @8:47 am PST
A printable version of the etudes-by-function table would be most welcome.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 6, 2017 @3:50 pm PST
That's a great idea Hank, let me ask Prof. Fitzpatrick if we can provide such list for everyone to download
aMaudPowellFan * VSM MEMBER * on October 11, 2017 @5:18 am PST
Yes, indeed, that would be fabulous!
Becky on October 11, 2017 @5:27 am PST
Yes! I was thinking the same thing!
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