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A LOT of questions for you to answer.


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Last year, I was in my friend's car when I heard this amazing

concerto. It made me debate over whether I wanted to learn the

violin. The yesterday, I saw a CD at Borders: Michael Rabin/

Paganini:24 Caprices Op.1 When I listened to the CD, I found myself

spellbound. It was amazing. So, I have decided to take on the

violin. But I am just curious, how many years of hard work would it

take before I get to play my dream Caprices? 3 years? 5 years? Are

the Paganini C's really, really difficult? Are they harder than the

Tchovsky Violin Concerto? Harder than the bach S and Ps? How much

would they rate of out 20?

My favorite out of the 24, are numbers 13, 1, 24, 20, and 6. Which

are the hardest and easiest out of the 24?

(Btw, the concerto I heard in the car was the Butterfly Lovers

Violin Concerto. I have heard rumors that it is the equivalent of

the tch. concerto. Is it true?)

I know that was a lot of questions. I would be really glad if you

could take the time to answer all of them. Thanks.

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Hi Hilary,

Your violin learning progess depends entirely on your daily practice effort, and the

guidance of a good teacher. After 3 years ( 3 is not a firm number here), you may have some idea how close you are in terms of technical readiness of playing these pieces as you mentioned.

Learn 1st, 3rd 5th positions and some double stops. etc.

I think it is your determination that will get you there, not these number 3 or 5 years.

I have confidence that you will (if it turns out longer, then it still pretty good too, right?)

I am 70 and still play violin one hour everyday.

Concerti are usually harder, I would try sonatas first as step stones. Handel's, Coreeli's Sonatas are

very good.

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Originally posted by:

But I am just curious, how many years of hard work would it

take before I get to play my dream Caprices? 3 years? 5 years? Are

the Paganini C's really, really difficult? Are they harder than the

Tchovsky Violin Concerto? Harder than the bach S and Ps? How much

would they rate of out 20?


Wow..... that's a barrel-ful ok!

One contributor here some years back put this figure on violin practice hours: 10,000 for proficiency. Try making some calculations from that.

Some 40 years plus after first picking up a fiddle I can only manage to work my way through a few the the Caprices with great difficulty. Maybe if I'd concentrated on them they would be more fluent, but I haven't. On the other hand, I have had the great privilege in life to play some of the greatest chamber music works, an experience I wouldn't trade for a few flashy Caprices, as important and significant as they are.

Tchaikowsky and Bach, even Mozart, all equally difficult in their own way, I would think. Putting it down on a scale of 10 or whatever would be quite subjective probably. If you mean being able to get your fingers around the notes, one thing, if you mean a convincing interpretation and performance, perhaps another.

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Hi Hillary: These are not straight answers to your questions either. I've always wanted to learn an music instrument, but what gave me the final kick was not unlike yours. I saw a short recording of Menuhin playing Bach's Chaconne, and tears rushed down my face. So I started learning violin about 14 months ago, using the Suzuki material. Now I am half way through the second book. During which period i discovered that i am allergic to regular rosin, and burned my left hands which stopped me from practicing for several weeks. It is an hard instrument i must say. You just have to keep at it. On the days you are most frustrated and despaired, remind yourself what made you start the first place, then bite your lips and practice some more. The Butterfly concerto is absolutely beautiful. I also love the Caprice No. 24 very much. It is my favorite for an overcasting day. I truely recommend the recording by Ivry Giltis. It is so enchanting. It feels I was being lured by spirits into the misty forest, feeling both scared, yet so much want to follow for I just cannot break off the spell of the sound, not unlike the kid in Schubert's "Erl King".

So, just keep at it. The process itself will be most rewarding. I say this to you, but also as encouragement for myself.

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Brava to you for being so inspired! May your inspiration carry you to your goal.

How hard the Paganini Caprices are depends on the preparation you have had to get there. Since I didn't start violin until late (started in school at 11, but no private lessons until mid teens), it's been a longer journey for me. I studied a couple of them when I was ~26, but couldn't play them well. I'm now 50+ and have been working my way through them with my teacher for the past 5 years (with all of my other responsibilities, I'm not moving through them as quickly as I would have in college, had I been technically ready for them then). They're hard, but doable and each one teaches you multiple lessons. To me Paganini's genius is that they are so beautiful while teaching you technique (and breaking down technical barriers).

My master teacher (a pupil of Leopold Auer) told me that the technical works a violinist must progress through were (in order) Mazas, Kreutzer, Rode, Gavinies, Wieniawski, Paganini, and Bach (the S's & P's). It was significant to him that Bach came after Paganini. I've played most of the Bach movements, and the technical difficulties are different than those of Paganini. Many of the Bach movements are accessible to someone with pre-Paganini technique -- but not all of them. Bach is very difficult, musically.

I like the same Caprices that you do. They really are incredible.

All that said, I do have a young friend who started violin at 3 (I think), and she is now 12 and has studied a number of the Caprices (and she plays them very well -- which I can't say about myself -- I still struggle a lot with most of them). So, if you start young and have good training (as my friend has done), you won't take nearly as long as I have to get to these fantastic pieces!

Good Luck and enjoy the voyage.

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the good news it that some of your favorite caprices are also some of the easiest. 13, 20, 6...

as far as which is most difficult and which is easiest...it depends on what you're good at...and if you want to learn a technique that is really only good for paganini and little else. (#7 down bow staccato)

as far as where paganini rates with others...it depends. different things are challenging for different reasons.

playing a long concerto straight through from beginning to end can be a test of mental endurance.

with bach it's all about phrasing, voicing, and interpretation..

musically speaking a short paganini caprice isn't very challenging...and if you know the required technique certain things aren't bad either...if you don't it can be frustrating.

the bad news is that depending on your age and schedule...it will take A VERY LONG TIME to get to the point where you can play them. I don't count hacking through a caprice as playing it.

if one is at an older age, it may not be possible to develop the physical flexibility and mental/physical coordination to pull it off. i personally don't know of any adult students that have picked up the violin and subsequently mastered it...I'm sure there is someone out there...but truly the biggest enemy here


TIME...and how much of it you can dedicate to your instrument.

if you don't have a couple hours a day to seriously commit to the violin...you won't be going anywhere fast. sad to say...

violin is a very demanding and brutal instrument with a steep learning curve. it requires constant, diligent practice or you will lose it.

the two most important factors are:

1. your teacher.

2. your consistent daily effort.

when starting out, find a teacher that HAS mastered the violin...that CAN play the entire repertoire (and even then it can be a crapshoot)...otherwise you may be wasting your time learning improper techniques . i cannot state that enough. generally, the best violinists come from the best teachers.

the rest are left thinking that there is something "mystical" about what makes the best violinists so good...

unfortunately the best teachers also generally do not want to take on beginners...adult beginners especially.

if you want to get to a higher level faster you also can't waste your time learning through useless repertoire that won't help you get where you want to go...which imho is where a lot of the youth are getting bogged down in. you can even get bogged down with useless etudes....

for left hand purposes get to know, live, and breathe scales....and when you're ready the flesch scale book. rh technique comes from different things.

but most of all, enjoy yourself. don't play the violin to play the caprices...play for the love of it...

best of luck

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everything that con ritmo says is true, but don't forget the one thing...if you really love this music and it is dear to your heart, you will enjoy the journey irregardless if you ever arrive at your destination...I am an adult beginner, too, and my aspirations are to play the Bach S&P's, musically. It has been hard work, sometimes discouraging. At those times I take a step back and absorb where I have been and where I want to go. Sometimes this takes a while...6 months to a year or more, but I having a whole lot of fun in the time being.

You may also decide that your original goal will change and you don't want to play the caprices anymore. They are definitely fingerboard gymnastics, but there are a lot of other beautiful pieces of repertoire out there, too.

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The Paganini Caprices are mind bogglingly difficult. Think of them as one would of breaking the four minute mile or doing an Olympic class gymnastic routine. For the vast majority of athletes , what I mentioned are a physical impossibility, requiring an enormous amount of sheer natural aptitude, which can not be taught or developed. Purely from the stand point of technique, the Bach Solo Sonatas are easier and something one can more reasonably aim for over a long period of violin study.

I for example, can not even force my left hand, with my right, to make the necessary stretchs, which the very first measure requires. I simply don't have the flexibility in the hand to do it. All the praticing in the world will not change this fact of life.

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Let's see, 2 hour practice sessions, 5 days a week in a good week, that's 520 hours a year, divided into 10,000 hours, that's a bit over 19 years.

Yikes, ok, how about 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, well that's 8 years, a bit more manageable.

I recently read about a study of musicians that concluded that the highly proficient better players tended to have one factor different from lesser players. It seems that the better players usually had put more time into practicing and learning their trade.

None of this is to say "give it up", rather it's to say: getting anywhere 'serious' down this road requires a serious effort. The only hope a late-starter really has is their mind. One has to have the will to make the mental effort to practice enough and to practice usefully and efficiently, i.e. to understand what practice is for and what kind of practice is beneficial.

If it is the WAY the violin can express music that enraptures you, then be consoled by the fact that there is some very fine music which will be within reach in a few years, and learning to play that well will keep you happy.

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Oh wow. I didn't realize the Caprices were that difficult!

Thanks to all of you for your great responses. Now I realize that

unless I work myself to death for the next few years, I won't be of

Caprice skill anytime soon. This doesn't bother me though. Like

many of you said, there are a lot of fantastic pieces. I really

wish I had started earlier. What is an early age to start at? 6 or

7? I love the way the violin sounds and I know thta someday I might

have my dream come true. But that day (10,000 hours, years) is most

likely years and years away, so I will content myself to learning

what I can. =P

Besides, even if I can't play the hard concertos, I can still enjoy

them listening equally as much. I bought myself a ticket to

Carnegie Hall where the NY string orchestra are playing with Hilary

hahn.I have heard many good things about her and want to meat her

in person, to get an autograph or something. Is it possible? How

would I meat her? hang out afterwards? During intermission?

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Originally posted by:

I have heard many good things about her and want to meat her

in person, to get an autograph or something. Is it possible? How

would I meat her? hang out afterwards? During intermission?

She usually signs autographs in the lobby after concerts. Just ask any

usher where to wait -- they'll probably have a table set up for her.

She's very nice and (unless she has to catch a flight out or something)

will stay as long as it takes to greet everyone.

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