Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nifty Arpeggio Exercises That Really Work

When I first started playing the violin as an adult, my father gave me his book of 36 Studies or Caprices by Federigo Fiorillo: a Ditson Edition that cost 1.00 back in 1920 (you can download a PDF here). My copy has handwriting in it that I imagine must be Galamian's because I have seen it in all of my father's "student" violin music.

For years and years the etudes were simply too difficult for me to play or even to understand, but now that I'm working on music that requires me to spend a vast amount of time in the upper positions, I find the Fiorillo studies extremely helpful. The last etude (above) is a bowing etude that I found very enlightening. I have practiced arpeggios for years, but for some reason, as if by "default," I tend to practice them from the bottom up and not from the top down (like in 3, 12, and 15). Thinking of them as chords (someting I have always known, but until today have really never KNOWN) really opens up loads of possibilities. You could, for example, apply these articulation patterns (or similar ones) to any chord progression in any position on the violin. You could also apply the concept to any instrument, actually.

Going backwards through the book (the way I sometimes read magazines), I realized that exploring and exploiting the violin as an arpeggiating instrument is pretty much Fiorillo's whole schtick. Number 36 certainly worked to improve my control of my schtick (the bow schtick, that is), so I thought I would share it here.

If you look at Fiorillo's page on the IMSLP Petrucci Library, you will see that he also wrote flute music. Interesting.

1 comment:

peregrine said...

This is a very interesting post!

Arpeggios are a critical part of my own warm-up routine, which I think is unusual among singers. In fact, I don't know of any other singers in my circle who use arpeggios, or even scales, in their warm-ups. Perhaps it's a remnant of my initual training as an instrumentalist. I do have a reputation as a singer with a very flexible voice, good with roulades, arpeggios, and trills. Other singers say "how do you DO that?" and I answer "practice! every day!" It's too bad that singers generally do not receive this sort of training which is so basic to instrumental musicians.

In any case, like you, I find that working the arpeggii from different starting points is very instructive, and requires real concentration. Singers have to do this entirely by ear and "muscle feel" since we do not have keys, strings, bows, or frets to guide us. Arpeggii based on major-keyed chords are easy compared to those based on minor, augmented, and diminished chords; those require intense concentration to fight against the muscle-memory of major arpeggii. Whew! These are as much "warm-ups" for the mind and ear as they are for the voice.

Elaine, you really inspire me to better, more thoughtful practicing. I'm glad you are sharing your thoughts.