William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Exploring Excercises

Learn more about applying exercises for improving violin techniques

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick talks about how often we waste time applying exercises to techniques we have already mastered, when we might, instead, focus more on those techniques that we need to actually improve.

Released on July 6, 2016

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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

As a musician, a violinist, a teacher, I have always been fascinated by how we do things, how we describe things. I've never shied away from saying what I think, Miss DeLay could surely bear witness to that. So let me run a few statements by you and see what you think. For example it amazes me, actually amuses me that we teach students to develop a flexible wrist. I mean, aren't our wrists already flexible? Could you imagine trying to do things with your hands without bending your wrists. Same thing with your fingers on the right hand. I mean aren't my fingers already supple? So why in the world would I need an exercise to help me to do something that I can already do? That I'm already capable of doing. Hmm, perhaps it's that we need to work to accomplish something. By that I mean that we have to, that we need to work at something to feel that we have accomplished it.

Well, I once had a student that came up to me and asked if we could speak and I said, "Of course". The student said that she had been speaking with a friend that studied with another teacher and that they were comparing their lessons. She said that the other student did exercises for up-bow staccatos and I said "Okay." But then she remarked that we didn't. I looked at her and asked well "Do you have an up-bow staccato?" and she said "Yes". I then asked if she had a down-bow staccato and she said "Yes". I then asked her, "So why do you need to do an exercise?" But she persisted, she said that the other student did exercises for her Vibrato and I said "Okay." But then again she remarked "Well, but we didn't do exercises for Vibrato." So I looked at her and asked "Well do you have a Vibrato?" and she said "Yes". I then asked if she had a fast and a slow Vibrato and she said "Yes". I then asked, "So why do you need to do an exercise?"

So why did the student persist on needing to do an exercise when she didn't really need to? Could it be that she had no faith in her ability to perform the task and so she thought that she needed to do exercises to believe that she could do it? So does all this mean that I don't believe in exercises? No. Of course I believe in exercises, I use them in my own teaching. Exercises can help us to further develop things that we already know how to do. Now what I don't believe in is the use of exercises to learn how to do things that we already can do. I mean why do an exercise to loosen up one's wrist when one's wrist is already loose. It would be like doing an exercise to learn how to bend one's knees. I mean seriously, don't you already know how to do that?

Well. If there's an issue here then just sit in the chair. So I've probably opened up Pandora's Box with all my questioning of exercises and, you know, maybe that's a good thing. My name is William Fitzpatrick and I'm the head of incoming Professor of Violin at the Hall-Musco, Conservatory of Music which is located on the campus of Chapman University. I'm as well director of the MusiShare young artist program.

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Comments, Questions, Requests:

tembisaaa on September 3, 2016 @1:15 pm PST
Hai sir can you please mak this video to Be downloadable
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on September 4, 2016 @8:02 am PST
I am very sorry, but at the moment that's not possible. We'll work on such a possibility. Thank you for your feedback and for watching!
Kikki on July 14, 2016 @5:54 am PST
I do not see the point in this video. Yes, we need to focus on what needs to be corrected, and we should be exercizing on priorities. However, exercises are needed for things that first seem obvious, ... yet are not! Wrist flexibility seems obvious and should be natural since we all can move our wrist freely, but not necessarily when you have a bow in hand. After all, all these Kreutzer or other studies for wrist and finger flexibility are there because there is a need!
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:21 pm PST
Hi! I think there is a misunderstanding as I am not talking about etudes as they are not exercises? Hope that helps to understand my point of view!
Mariko * VSM MEMBER * on July 13, 2016 @8:51 am PST
Thanks so much for this interesting video. I usually do exercises for all kinds of things but your video makes me realize that I could just focus on the things that I really need. It's really an interesting perspective and I hope it will help me to focus more on what needs improvement and that I will progress faster that way. :-
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:21 pm PST
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on July 10, 2016 @1:13 pm PST
Thanks for your reply. On a related matter, it seems to me that sometimes a technical difficulty is better solved by using an appropriate passage or piece from the repertoire than by using an exercise that has little musical value which often bores or fails to motivate the student.
William - host, on July 14, 2016 @11:23 pm PST
Big topic for the future! Thanks!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on July 8, 2016 @7:13 am PST
What you say makes perfect sense. The problem is that some teachers ask students to start with exercise 1 in a book and then to go through the book in order to the end last exercise, instead of focusing on what needs to be worked on and improved. That is just pedagogic laziness or incompetence.
William - host, on July 10, 2016 @12:36 am PST
I could not agree more!
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