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Violin Pedagogy: How Did They Learn?

Traditional Violin Pedagogy

By Dr. Robin Kay Deverich

Instructional material designed for professional violinists did not begin to appear until the mid-eighteenth century. Many authors consider Francesco Geminiani's treatise, The Art of Playing on the Violin (1751), to have been one of the first violin treatises to detail specific instruction for professional violinists. Geminiani's treatise is a systematic explanation of violin playing. He covered topics such as: the proper playing position for the violin and bow, scales, fingering, position-work and shifting, bowing and bowing variations, double-stops, arpeggios, ornamentation, expression and dynamics. Twelve new compositions towards the end of the tutor were simply labeled "compositions", and are the equivalent of modern etudes.

Click here for Geminiani's Composition VI, found in The Art of Playing on the Violin

Click here to listen to a sound file of Geminiani's Composition VI

Musicologist Robin Stowell observed that it was not until the late eighteenth-century that pedagogical material specifically labeled as etudes became widely available for students of the violin:

Early writings about violin playing were descriptive and included little of musical content. However, as violin treatises began to multiply and their texts became more detailed, their musical content generally became more copious, many incorporating short dance pieces or even substantial etude-like compositions designed to assist in the mastery of particular technical problems. Pieces in binary form were most common, but sonata, variation, fugue and other forms, including two-movement structures, were also employed. By the end of the eighteenth century, several books composed solely of studies had begun to appear independently as pedagogical works in their own right, marking the beginning of the enormous etude literature of the nineteenth century. [31] 

Although the focus of this paper is the amateur violin student, the following selected list provides a chronology of traditional violin instructional material.


REFERENCE NOTES

[31]
Stowell, 1992: 229-230.

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