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MingLoo

Ševčík, anyone?

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I ordered and a few days ago received the complete set of Ševčík for violin. I just now ordered the complete set for viola, also. After examining the books with one of my advanced students, it seems to me that I am probably completely mistaken in my attitude towards Ševčík. I mean that I am woefully and completely wrong about it. I think, as a project for myself, I'm going to work through this material, on both instruments (that should keep me busy!)

I am unfamiliar with most of this, and was only requested to do the shifting book, in both my undergrad and grad school programs, so I don't know a thing about it. I Googled Ševčík and nothing really came up which would address my concerns, so could teachers and students respond to the following:

1. Have you used Ševčík in teaching students, and/or has it been required of you from your teacher(s)?

2. How much of the Ševčík, or which books are you familiar with?

3. Do you like it, hate it, etc?

4. Do you have tips about using it? (The books recommend taking them in order, by opus number.)

5. What affect do you think this has on a players' abilities?

6. Erica Morini (one of my heroes) was apparently a Ševčík student; is there some general knowledge about Ševčík which is not to be found in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otakar_Ševčík

7. When (or if?) should this material be introduced into a student's work?

When you read about Heifetz (for example) it's mentioned sometimes that he would take a substantial part of the summer off, and then get back into shape with some special exercises of his own choosing, but no one ever reveals what these exercises are. I wonder if they're the Ševčík?

Thank you - I really appreciate the help.

*************************

Ševčík - Complete set, Violin:

http://beststudentviolins.com/sheetmusic.html#sevcik_violin

Ševčík - Complete set, Viola:

http://beststudentviolins.com/sheetmusic.html#sevcik_viola

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Years in a practice room with Ševčík, Schradiek, Bloodyeck, and others......

What do you learn ? Not much about life.

Well Ben, I don't know who Bloodyeck is (did you make that up), but I could not disagree with you more. You learn about self-discipline, and work ethic, and patience, and beauty, and the art of music, and endless reasons to get up and breath every morning. You learn what it's like to be an artist.

And one doesn't practice _all_ the time; three or four hours a day, at most. Then there is the performing and the teaching, traveling, reading. This the best life I could image for myself.

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Years in a practice room with Ševčík, Schradiek, Bloodyeck, and others......

What do you learn ? Not much about life.

Just a thought, and good luck.

Firstly, I guess Ben, like me was persuaded to study these exercises during our formative teenage years. We didn't like them (at least I didn't) and have mixed feelings about the usefulness.

I have occasionaly taught students who at an early age set out their preference NOT to attempt to become professional musicians.

With this type of pupil, I tend to concentrate on repertoire and musicianship, rather than push for hours of drills and technique building.

Of these, some have developed into fine players (one in particular changed their mind and will graduate this year with the highest honours from the RNCM in Manchester) and other have become fine MUSICIANS but deperately limited in their facility. No two players are the same, some can learn facility and technical accuracy without the need for daily "drill" exercises. For others, it is the ONLY way to overcome the hurdles that we all face.

1. Have you used Ševčík in teaching students, and/or has it been required of you from your teacher(s)?

2. How much of the Ševčík, or which books are you familiar with?

3. Do you like it, hate it, etc?

4. Do you have tips about using it? (The books recommend taking them in order, by opus number.)

5. What affect do you think this has on a players' abilities?

6. Erica Morini (one of my heroes) was apparently a Ševčík student; is there some general knowledge about Ševčík which is not to be found in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otakar_Ševčík

7. When (or if?) should this material be introduced into a student's work?

NOW for some answers.

1. Yes, and yes. I was trained with Sevcik and include certain books with 90% of pupils.

2. I don't over-do it, a little of the Shifting, a little of the Double stops and very serious study of the 40 variations.

3. Nobody likes it.....c'mon.....the trick is to do as much as is possible without destroying the enthusiasm to practice!!!

4. As with all these things.....the WAY you execute is everything. Luckily, I had a Czech teacher who'd studied with other Czech teachers who had specific demands.

5. In some cases, exercises (as opposed to etudes) and scales are the only way to improve co-ordination and facility.

6. OK

7. Quite early......once shifting/double stops/ complicated bowings are appearing in the pieces.

As for the Heifetz question.....almost certainly not Sevcik, more likely Etudes, Scales and hand exercises.

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Part of my training included more Sevcik studies than I'll now remember to write down: Shifting, double-stops, and, if I'm remembering correctly, trill studies. These studies were continued for quite a while, months, maybe a year or two.

In general, I agree with Ben and Recitalist on these studies. They can be pretty mind numbing. You can spend hours on these studies and get very little done because you're on automatic pilot doing them, daydreaming about other things. Violin playing requires training the mind as well as the hands. There is the danger that Sevcik puts the mind to sleep.

I would not assume that every student needs every kind of Sevcik there is, or even some of them. However, if a student has a noticeable problem that scales and etudes aren't helping with, such as shifting or double-stops, then a bit of Sevcik, in moderation and for a limited time, might be helpful.

The best advice I ever got from one of my teachers was to identify my own problems and, instead of running to some specific Sevcik book, make up my own Sevcik-like exercise that addresses that specific problem. That way, I will probably do a better job of addressing the immediate problem. That advice came from a teacher in college. So it may be of limited value for younger players.

I agree with Recitalist and Ben, too, that scales, etudes, and performance pieces make up good violin training. Sevcik exercises, if they're used at all, should not displace any of those three components of good training.

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I would not assume that every student needs every kind of Sevcik there is, or even some of them. However, if a student has a noticeable problem that scales and etudes aren't helping with, such as shifting or double-stops, then a bit of Sevcik, in moderation and for a limited time, might be helpful.....

I agree with Recitalist and Ben, too, that scales, etudes, and performance pieces make up good violin training. Sevcik exercises, if they're used at all, should not displace any of those three components of good training.

This quote should go with my response below. I'm new at this and pushed the wrong button (well at least it wasn't the wrong string). Sorry.

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I started re-learning the violin seriously as an adult after many years' absence. The "40 Variations" were given to me as a way to redevelop a VERY rusty (actually corroded!) bow technique. Yes, they were not very "artistically" satisfying, but used in moderation with Sitt and Dont etudes, they were vital to my returning to amateur fiddle playing. Now, the double stop exercises were not quite so successful, but that's probably more my own fault.

I'm a former science teacher, and though having never taught music, I do know that varying your teaching styles and materials is one of the best ways to reach the most students. It keeps you fresher as well. There's a place for both the drudge work (to address specific problems) as well as the fun stuff. Hope this helps.

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I am completely unfamiliar with the Ševčík etudes unfortunately. I've known many violinists however that were able to attain a good technique without studying Sevčík. Scales, arpeggios, and double stop scales are much more essential and important in my opinion.

In regards to your question about Heifetz, I do not believe he used Sevčík (although he did practice etudes quite a lot). He would sometimes joke with a student when they used too little bow and asked them if they had taken lessons with Sevčík (maybe Sevčík didn't use a lot of bow - your guess is as good as mine). Heifetz was a scale fanatic; my teacher Erick Friedman who was Heifetz's student put me through that same type of scale training which not only included learning single note scales but also scales in tenths, fingered octaves, normal octaves, sixths, and thirds in all keys. Heifetz used the Hrimaly Scale Studies book which I think is really a great system.

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Nate, you play so beautifully I'm surprised you don't know the Ševčík. Are you at Yale?

I'm not sure that Ševčík are "etudes," really. Certainly not in the usual sense. More like the Dounis, I think.

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Nate, you play so beautifully I'm surprised you don't know the Ševčík. Are you at Yale?

I'm not sure that Ševčík are "etudes," really. Certainly not in the usual sense. More like the Dounis, I think.

Thanks a lot :) No I'm not currently in school. I finished 4 years ago. I'll have to definitely check out Ševčík the next time I visit a music shop now. You have me all curious :)

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Thanks a lot :) No I'm not currently in school. I finished 4 years ago. I'll have to definitely check out Ševčík the next time I visit a music shop now. You have me all curious :)

Yeah, I love it (now). Ševčík is not just one book, but a whole series of books:

Ševčík:

Op.1, Bk. 1, Op.1, Bk. 2, Op.1, Bk. 3, Op.1, Bk. 4

Ševčík for Violin (Scales and Arpeggios)

School of Bowing Technics: Bk. 1, Bk. 2

Preparatory Trill Studies, Op. 7: Bk. 1, Bk. 2

Shifting the Position and Preparatory Scale Studies, Op. 8

Preparatory Exercises in Double-Stopping, Op. 9

See:

http://beststudentviolins.com/sheetmusic.html#sevcik_violin

I hated this stuff until I realized what it would do for you. I have it for viola, too:

http://beststudentviolins.com/sheetmusic.html#sevcik_viola

I'm doing a second masters in viola (first was in violin) and I love this stuff, now. I was pretty stubborn about not liking it, but as usual, I was wrong..

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I own most of the books because I spent some years with two teachers (one Polish, one Czech) who used the same list that their own teachers had used with them -- but since lessons were always short (and maybe for other reasons too) neither of them spent much time getting anywhere beyond the first pages of each book.

At college I studied with a professor who loved etudes but who would only let me play the 40 Variations from my pile of Sevcik. I started to like them a lot then -- to me they do have some musical content. (With a younger student who needs some more energy it's also very easy to make up characteristic and dynamic piano accompaniments for all of them!)

A good teacher can always make up Sevcik-like mini-etudes for whatever is needed at the moment. I've had a lot of those, and they do make more sense to me because I can concentrate on the actual movement of whatever arms and hands and fingers instead of trying to read the cramped notation in one of the books ...

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I found a xeroxed copy of How to practice Sevcik's masterworks by Antonio Mingotti, printed in 1957 by Bosworth. This book is listed on Amazon but not available. I'm glad I have a copy of it.

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See article by John Krakenberger:

Violin-Viola Pedagogy: Sevcik yes or Sevcik no

http://personales.ya.com/j-krakenberger/english/arteng6.pdf

Bad link.

I did the 40 variations, Op. 3. The bowing ones. I like them a lot. I enjoy the fact they're very short. I'm rarely able to get through very long single purpose etudes. I'm much more likely to play 3 lines of sevcik 8 times than 24 lines of kreutzer. I'm also more likely to practice the sevcik rather than merely play through the kreutzer.

I like Schradieck for the same reason. I feel like I've accomplished more, and it's easier to stay motivated when I see a double bar every two measures instead of ever 100. :P

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To quote a great violinist, Jacques Thibaud:

"Sevčik's purely soulless and mechanical system has undoubtedly produced a number of excellent mechanicians of the violin. But it has just as unquestionably killed real talent. Kubelik—there was a genuinely talented violinist! If he had had another teacher instead of Sevčik he would have been great, for he had great gifts. Even as it was he played well, but I consider him one of Sevčik's victims. As an illustration of how the technical point of view is thrust to the fore by this system I remember some fifteen years ago Kubelik and I were staying at the same villa in Monte-Carlo, where we were to play the Beethoven concerto, each of us, in concert, two days apart. Kubelik spent the live-long day before the concert practicing Sevčik exercises. I read and studied Beethoven's score, but did not touch my violin. I went to hear Kubelik play the concerto, and he played it well; but then, so did I, when my turn came. And I feel sure I got more out of it musically and spiritually, than I would have if instead of concentrating on its meaning, its musical message, I had prepared the concerto as a problem in violin mechanics whose key was contained in a number of dry technical exercises arbitrarily laid down."

Scales and arpeggios in all forms, major/minor, single note/double stop, plus etudes beginning with the most rudimentary (Wohlfahrt / Mazas / Kayser, many other choices) and then next to Dont op 37, Kreutzer, Rode, Dont op 35, Gavinies, Wieniawski Ecole Moderne is far more useful and more than sufficient for a solid technical foundation, provided they are played correctly and at a performance level. Very few people can actually play etudes on a performance level, not even Kreutzer etudes. Great violinists such as Heifetz and Oistrakh took etudes seriously. The reason the particular series of etudes mentioned above works (used sequentially in the Galamian method) is that technical challenges are presented within a musical framework. There's actually beautiful music in many (not all) of these pieces - they generally don't sound good because people don't take them seriously enough to master them. They are extremely difficult to play well. Sevcik's work, on the other hand, is pure abstraction; it is divorced from anything resembling music and is thus a failed idea. Fortunately, Sevcik has been out of vogue for decades and few major teachers use it to any extent other than a handful of exercises.

I await the predictable scathing rebuttal from Sevcik lovers...none of whom are professional violinists.

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[quo

++++++++++++

Are there any short cuts? Don't be so sure. What is necessary and what is sufficient,these are problems.

I had a few teachers before. Each one used different material. Some were more interesting than others.

What is more mportant is not to turn students off. I stopped learning violin at least three or four time in my life.

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To quote a great violinist, Jacques Thibaud:

"Sevčik's purely soulless and mechanical system has undoubtedly produced a number of excellent mechanicians of the violin. But it has just as unquestionably killed real talent. Kubelik—there was a genuinely talented violinist! If he had had another teacher instead of Sevčik he would have been great, for he had great gifts. Even as it was he played well, but I consider him one of Sevčik's victims. As an illustration of how the technical point of view is thrust to the fore by this system I remember some fifteen years ago Kubelik and I were staying at the same villa in Monte-Carlo, where we were to play the Beethoven concerto, each of us, in concert, two days apart. Kubelik spent the live-long day before the concert practicing Sevčik exercises. I read and studied Beethoven's score, but did not touch my violin. I went to hear Kubelik play the concerto, and he played it well; but then, so did I, when my turn came. And I feel sure I got more out of it musically and spiritually, than I would have if instead of concentrating on its meaning, its musical message, I had prepared the concerto as a problem in violin mechanics whose key was contained in a number of dry technical exercises arbitrarily laid down."

Scales and arpeggios in all forms, major/minor, single note/double stop, plus etudes beginning with the most rudimentary (Wohlfahrt / Mazas / Kayser, many other choices) and then next to Dont op 37, Kreutzer, Rode, Dont op 35, Gavinies, Wieniawski Ecole Moderne is far more useful and more than sufficient for a solid technical foundation, provided they are played correctly and at a performance level. Very few people can actually play etudes on a performance level, not even Kreutzer etudes. Great violinists such as Heifetz and Oistrakh took etudes seriously. The reason the particular series of etudes mentioned above works (used sequentially in the Galamian method) is that technical challenges are presented within a musical framework. There's actually beautiful music in many (not all) of these pieces - they generally don't sound good because people don't take them seriously enough to master them. They are extremely difficult to play well. Sevcik's work, on the other hand, is pure abstraction; it is divorced from anything resembling music and is thus a failed idea. Fortunately, Sevcik has been out of vogue for decades and few major teachers use it to any extent other than a handful of exercises.

I await the predictable scathing rebuttal from Sevcik lovers...none of whom are professional violinists.

I hate repetitive mechanical exercises. Every technical thing you could want to learn and play is to be found in musical compositions, including musical etudes, so you can learn it by playing music. I nearly was driven to quit violin lessons because of a strict teacher who was pushing me to do Sevcik. Fortunately my parents found a better teacher for me. If you really want to play a lot of repetitive mechanical stuff you can get that from playing Philip Glass's music.

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sevcik.jpg

Ah yes, those nostalgic good ol' days of tedium!

I think there was a Strad article about him some years back.

Here is the article mentioned:

Legacy

And here are Ten Commandments extracted from it:

1. To play beautifully, as well as practising diligently, pay constant attention

to the dynamic signs (i.e., sounding levels) of the music.

2. To achieve exact intonation (i.e., the musical intonation), practise

slowly and know the name of the note you are playing. Also, keep your

fingers on the string as long as you can.

3. To acquire skill in bowing, practise all the principle examples of bowing.

4. To achieve a strong tone, practise at the point of the bow forte with a

lot of different kinds of exercises.

5. When you practise bowing, play every note piano and produce a soft

flute-like tone. When performing, keep the edge of the hair near to

the finger-board.

6. To play rhythmically, count aloud the eighths and quarters and do not

beat time with your foot. When playing a piece that you know, pace to

and fro in time with the music.

7. When playing up the diatonic scale, don’t take off the fourth finger

before you put the second finger on the next string.

8. When playing octave and tenth double stoppings, put the middle finger

on the higher string.

9. Without active practice on the strings, the sound of the perfect fifth

will not be pure.

10. The notes between two double bar lines should be repeated several

times for practice.

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Ten Commandments of Sevcik! Great! :-)

I am now studying Sevcik again. I play cello since I was 5 years old and my teacher in Prague, Mr. Skampa (actually one of best, if not best, cello teachers in Czech) was giving me Sevcik for practicing moves of right hand. I do not understand, why there is so many hatred about him ;-) For me it is simple - Sevcik can have reasonable position next to scales, etudes and performing pieces. I like skiingfiddler's post about "You can spend hours on these studies and get very little done because you're on automatic pilot doing them, daydreaming about other things." - yes, that is always danger. But this danger can come not only when practicing Sevcik... I am 100% sure that if you know HOW to use these little tiny variations, you can train better your right arm/hand.

To steverino: At first yes, I am professional musician (if that is the question one must answer before talking to you :-). Did you study Sevcik more closely? Give him maybe second chance. For example I admire the work he spent on special editions of Tchaikovsky, Paganini etc. concertos. If you read his foreword, he is speaking about musicality, soul of musician. That you have to understand how to move your hands and then add a musicality. For me it works perfectly. My philosophy is - at first teach your brain, which signals should be sent to your body. After that you can enjoy (I believe) 20, 30, 40 years of performing the same piece again and again...

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