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Does anyone know any methods to help in learning how to play fingered octaves? I am trying to use them in the octave passage (the scale) in the first movement of the Wieniawski Concerto (#2), and right now, it's quite difficult (and slightly painful, with all that stretching). What can I do to make my octaves more accurate and more comfortable?



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Accuracy- Practice the fingered octaves on the first page of the Wieniawski by playing the first note, then the second note, and then both together. Do it very slow as well, and work it up to tempo.

Comfort- Practice scales in fingered octaves. I highly recommend doing the fingered octave scales in the Flesch scale book.

Good luck!

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In reply to:

Haha, try Paganini 17 using 1-4 up to tempo...

Heifetz could do it!

As far as fingered octaves, all the exercises mentioned, plus Sevcik, and practice tenths and scales in thirds as well. I have found it helpful to think of playing more on the side/tips of the finger rather than just straight tips - easy to demonstrate, impossible to describe. The advantage is, is that the push pull of fingers that we normally use to move the fingers up and down also now changes the pitch. The same finger angle also makes the stretch easier.

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Actually, I DO number 17 without fingered octaves. I did some research a few years ago and I read that fingered octaves didn't come into existance until shortly after Paganini (I don't know how accurate this is, but according to this info, Paganini didn't use them).

If someone has info to the contrary, please let me know.

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you can probably play most things without fingered octaves, but i think in the end if you take the time to learn them, they make life a LOT easier for things such as the last few bars of the first movement of sibelius, paganini, etc. of course, it's a technique you can choose not to learn, but in the end you can wind up with a much easier time with a lot of things if you just break down and learn it.

to respond to the question of how to practice them, one thing my teacher always has me practice is to play the top notes while "miming" the bottom notes, and then vice versa. i agree that scales will help a lot, but be careful not to hurt yourself -- especially when you start with fingered octaves, then can be *very* tiring to practice for any length of time. make sure to take a break every few minutes and shake your hand out.


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I don't agree with this, since I can site at least three works of Paganini that you HAVE to use fingered octaves. They are:

Caprice No.3 (measures 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19-23 and equivalent measures at the reprise)

Concerto No.3 (1st movement. measures 197, 198, 201 and equivalent measures in the recap)

Concerto No.4 (Swand publications. 1st movement. 4-6 measures after rehearsal letter G)

All three works have octave trills (both half and whole step ones). How anyone can play them with clarity without the mastery of fingered octave is completely beyond me.

As for Milstein, how would you know that he NEVER used fingered octaves? Did you meet/talk/study with him? He did make a live recording of Paganini 17th caprice in 1933 with some bowing modification, as well as some alteration of notes (not wrong notes, but added a few unprinted notes).


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Hey toile!

I'm not one for fingered octaves (they hurt my hand like a mofo if I practice them too much), but they're somewhat essential for a lot of things. Do you want to make that Sibelius sound good on the last page? Yeah, gotta use the fingered octaves. If you can't play fingered octaves...well...

At any rate, my routine kinda goes as follows:

I start out in the third position, because first is just a brutal beast, and I play a scale (let's take C for example) and go up on octave on one string. I'll go 1-3, 2-4 all the way up, and then I'll repeat the top notes but change the fingering so that it's a different fingering on the way down. I do this on all four strings, and attempt at playing all the scales above B major. I'll do C major/minor for about five minutes, play some Dont, then go onto D major/minor for a while.

Good luck, and DO NOT practice this stuff too much! Tenths and fingered octaves can kill ya if you overdo them.


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you are correct about the octave trills in paganini caprices being fingered....i used the term "fingered octaves"

in the context of quick passages, as in #17.

a former professor of mine performed and studied with milstein. he assured me that milstein always used 1-4 in

passages such as the end of the 1st mvt. of sibelius, the 1st mvt. of wieniawski #2, and paganini #17. i

admit it is possible that at some time, in some performance, he may have used fingered octaves for one

or more of those passages. i have not heard every performance of milstein's. however, let's not quibble about

semantics. i believe his view on fingered octaves is apparent.

my personal view is that if one can build the facility to play 1-4 quickly, the result is cleaner than if one uses fingered


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I think Toscha is obviously right. You can't do octave trills unless you can do fingered octaves (which are a kind of precursor to octave trills).

On the other hand, I must say that I have never heard any octave trills that didn't strike me as sounding really ugly. Far better, IMHO, to play a 1-4 octave and trill just the bottom note.

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Probably you all will disagree with me, but I practice fingered

octaves and tenths also for RELAXATION!! Yep, relaxation. To me they

are just like physical stretches (well, of course they're stretches,

but I'm referring to the kind of stretches you do in the gym

) and like them one don't want to over do. Usually I practice them in

pairs (in alternate days), fingered octaves *and* thirds, and octaves

*and* tenths. And I never put more then 5-10 minutes in either

fingered octaves or tenths.

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"On the other hand, I must say that I have never heard any octave trills that didn't strike me as sounding really ugly. Far better, IMHO, to play a 1-4 octave and trill just the bottom note."

Well, if composer asks for double octave trill, we have to practice it and make the best of it, rather than whine and chicken out from it. That is called artistic integrity. If one feels that one cannot do justice to such passages, I think one should not bother with such a repertoire.

As for phenominal example of double octave trills, listen to Michael Rabin' s recording of the Paganini 3rd caprice. One can hear the octaves really in tune and perfectly coordinated (with plenty of temperament as well). I don't find them ugly at all. If they sound ugly, that is a fault of performer, not the music.


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I agree with your comment about Rabin. But he is an exception. I think the reason that double octave trills are so rarely written for the instrument is that most composers understand how bad they usually sound. In other words, to adopt your gracious terminology, the composers "whine and chicken out."

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