William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Learning to organize using a Dont etude

A useful lesson to better organize your violin study

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick teaches you how to organize your violin practice by using one of the Dont's Etudes Op. 37 as a template.

Released on January 1, 2020

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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

I decided to make this video about exploring one way to organize the learning of a piece. It is for this purpose that I propose using the Dont Opus 37 9 Etude as a way to explore this. By the way, I use this etude with my students when exploring organization. Let's start. Here is what I would do first. The first thing I would do is have the student be sure that the measures are numbered. I do this by numbering the beginning of each line like this.

While we're at it, please notice that the etude is divided into three parts, measures one through 16 or up to the double bar. Then, through measure 32, and the third part starting at the end tempo or measure 33. Understanding the form of a piece can be very helpful when one is making a strategy to learn it. With this, we can begin.

First of all, let's look at measure one. Here, let me play it for you. Now, the first thing I want you to do is to see if there are other measures exactly like that one. Let's see, there's measure three, 11, 33, 35 and 43 so that's six measures in all but what exactly does that mean, why might it be important? Well, if I practice the first measure, haven't I practiced the other five as well? I mean, they all are. Okay, so because that's true then I don't need to practice the other five measures. You see, this is definitely time gained. With this in mind, let's keep moving forward.

For example, if I look at the pattern of the first measure, it makes half step, whole step between. The pattern is then whole step, whole step, half step. Okay, so why don't we look and see if that pattern exists on other strings? Why don't we see if that pattern exists in another way? What about measure five, isn't that the same as measure one? Let's see. Well, it's exactly the same except it starts with an A sharp on the E string. Now, let's see if that measure is repeated in the etude. What do you know, it is, in measures 13, 25, 27, and 37.

You see, if I practice any one of these measures, then I have practiced all of them. I have practiced 11 measures. For the record, that's 11 out of 48, really, truly, truly saves a lot of time. All right, let's keep looking for these kinds of occurrences. I see measures 21 and 22 containing the same configuration, the same pattern as measure one. Remember? Or ... Or. Do you see what I mean? Moving forward, what about measure two? How many times does it occur? Only two, and it's measure two and then measure 34.

There's also measures four, 12 and 36, and nine, 28, and 41. If my math is right, we've learned 20 measures of the etude, reducing the measures we need to learn to 28. I think the amount of time that has just been saved by organizing this is considerable and this reduction in time will now allow you to truly go deeper into the learning of those measures to truly, really observe and get a better, deeper understanding about things like how your elbow is moving on the left side, you see?

It goes from here to there, from here to there. Here to there, so here to there. Or what is the weight of our left hand fingers, the weight into the string? What's the trajectory? How the elbow, wrist, and hand are moving on the right side. Here, look. Going this way, going this deeply into our mechanics will truly help us later when we run across similar mechanical challenges in the pieces that we play as we will have understood better the process needed to work on the problem presented.

Are you getting how this could help in the organization of learning a new etude, learning a new piece, how this could help build a strategy? Okay, let me go just a bit further. I mean, you could do one of the measures related to measure one for three minutes, you could do one of the measures related to measure two for three minutes, you could do one of the measures related to measure four for three minutes, you could do one of the measures related to number nine for three minutes, and there you have it. Effectively, you've practiced efficiently for 12 minutes.

You could then add in three per day of the other measures found in the A section, for example, measures six, seven, and eight or 10, 14, and 15 for three minutes each, totaling nine minutes. Adding measures found in the B section for 10 minutes the same way, those ventures being 17, 18, 23, 24, 26, 29, and 30, doing the same for nine minutes. Adding measures found in the repeat A section for five minutes, those measures being 44, 45, 46, and 47, by sets of two for three minutes each totalling six minutes. There you have it. With that, we've covered the piece, in this case, the etude, having worked 36 minutes per day.

Okay, cool so take a break and then you've got 20 minutes or so to organize your play throughs. Are you seeing how this idea could serve as a wonderful model? In fact, this is what I did and I wrote it down as it was very easy for me to find a way to procrastinate. Using this model, you will have technically laid out a blueprint for a strategy of a 50 to 60 minute routine. Do note that the numbers I've used about four minutes are fictive as you would need to figure out for yourself where your real needs were and appropriate your time accordingly. All that being said, it is a strategy. Oh yes, on a side note, learning this way also provides a great start in the memory process.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sue on January 7, 2020 @11:30 am PST
Now to use my colored pencils to shade the measures that go together! Thanks for your well-designed plan.
William - host, on January 7, 2020 @5:49 pm PST
Colored pencils! What great idea!!! Happy that this is helpful to you!
Chaim Hanstater on January 1, 2020 @4:08 am PST
This is such an amazing REAL tutorial. Thank You
john mackinnon * VSM MEMBER * on January 2, 2020 @3:14 am PST
Thanks ,William for this fantastic tutorial.Studying this etude at the moment and you have inspired me to put strategies in place to work more diligently.
Thank you
William - host, on January 2, 2020 @9:55 am PST
Pleased that you enjoyed it! Both of you! Thanks!
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