May 2011

Teacher Talk

A series of teaching-articles in the Strad Magazine

Most of my students really struggle to find the time to practise. Do you have any advice for them on how to use one hour a day as effectively as possible? For example, should they work on one piece for that whole hour, or work on lots of different things in a session? What do you recommend?
Jane Deacon, London, UK
Boris Kuschnir: Firstly, for a student who wants to become a professional violinist and practise only one hour a day, I would strongly suggest that they change profession. For a student who regularly practises many hours but occasionally has only an hour to spare, I recommend the following schedule:
1. 5 – 7 minutes
Play continuous open strings at a very slow tempo in piano and mezzo piano, aiming for 20 to 25 seconds per bow in both directions. You can also start in piano at the frog, make a crescendo up to forte at the tip, and then come back on the up bow making a diminuendo to piano at the frog.
2. 15 – 20 minutes
Practise different exercises from the first book of Schradieck. Play them on different strings and in various positions (even the very high ones), starting at a moderate tempo and increasing in speed.
3. 20 minutes
Practise scales, arpeggios and double-stops in 3rd, 6ths, 10ths and fingered octaves, in moderate and fast tempos.
4. 10 minutes
Play a fugue from one of Bach’s solo sonatas.
5. 10 minutes
Play Paganini’s Moto perpetuo in different tempos.

What scale system do you recommend, and what is the best way to get students to approach scales?
Rebecca Jorden, Michigan, US
Boris Kuschnir: I recommend the scale system compiled by Elisabeth Gilels, published by Sikorski. These are thorough, well-organized sets of scales with interesting fingering and shifting-suggestions. Many students practise scales first, then arpeggios, and only after the double-stops, for which they often don’t allow enough time. In Gilel’s system double-stops immediately follow the scales, and only after that come arpeggios and chromatic scales. This helps to remind students to play double-stops and to allow time for it.
It is very important to play octaves, 10ths and fingered octaves every day, from as young age as possible. They should all be practised in a slow tempo, then medium, and it is also important to play them fast, even though sometimes intonation suffers.
It is helpful to play all the different variations with different bow strokes and on different strings, and to include scales on one string up to higher positions, especially on G, D and A.
As a rule, I recommend playing all scales without vibrato.