Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting from Can't to Dont

There's an old viola joke that is truly viola-specific:
What do you call the viola transcription of the Dont Etudes or Caprices, Opus 35?

My father always practiced Dont Etudes on the viola, so many years ago I got myself a viola transcription of Opus 35. Luckily for me, the Etudes were too difficult for me to understand physically as well as intellectually. I couldn't wrap my brain around what went in which position, and didn't have the strength to keep the required fingers down, so I never got close to the point of injuring myself by trying to practice them. I put them away, and they became "Don't" etudes for me because I simply couldn't.

This morning, on a whim, I picked up my archived copy of the Dont Opus 35 Etudes (in the original violin version), and it seems that after devoting these past four years to building technique on the violin with Sevcik and Dounis, I can now practice them. I also actually enjoy practicing them, because I can now understand them both physically and intellectually. They are challenging, but they feel good in the hands and fingers, and they encourage the constant and conscious use of a good left hand position.

Perhaps, I'll try a few them on the viola one of these days. A long time ago my father gave me a list of the ones to avoid. I'll make sure to write "Don't" on those pages.


nobleviola said...

I'd love to have that "don't" list!

Elaine Fine said...

The ones he recommends practicing are 1-3, 5-8, and 13. The absolute "don't" even try (or you'll hurt yourself) list would be 15-18 and 20.