The Strad’s November issue cover star on why pieces contain almost all the technical components necessary for practice


Violin teachers are probably going to be angry if they read me saying this: I never practise scales and studies from books.

For example, today my plan is to run through Prokofiev’s Concerto no.2, then Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and then a little Janácek piece that I’m performing this month, as well as a contemporary concerto I’m learning. That’s going to cover all the scales, arpeggios, chords and other technical things that I need to practise.

If there’s a very specialised type of technique that I know I’m going to have to use, such as a lot of left-hand pizzicato or something peculiar that doesn’t come up in other repertoire, sometimes I’ll be more careful about working that technique up in advance.

But if I have to play a Paganini concerto with all those darn double-shop harmonics, what good is it going to do me to practise an etude of double harmonics when I can just practise the piece with the double harmonics in it?

That’s always been my philosophy. Although I guess maybe it’s just laziness masquerading as practicality!

Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

The Strad's November 2014 issue, featuring a cover interview with violinist James Ehnes is out now. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial. To purchase single issues click here.