John Berger

Zigeunerweisen – Pablo Sarasate

Pablo Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is one of those quintessential showpieces every violin virtuoso performs at some stage in their career. This famous piece has everything a violinist loves: drama and excitement, dazzling speed and bowing wizardry, flamboyance and flair, genuine pathos and a moment or two of yearning – with appealing Gypsy-like melodies.

Has it become a cliche? Only a very jaded listener would think so. Part of the virtuoso’s rite of passage, a musical mountain that all yearn to climb and conquer, it remains an irresistible glittering treasure of desire for every aspiring violinist. Not all may reach the summit, but the climb is a whole lot of fun!

Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) is in one movement with four identifiable sections, three in C minor and the final one in A minor.

Moderato, the first movement, is a kind of slow introduction, written in an improvisational style common to Gypsy (Romani) inspired music, with frequent pauses and interspersed with long rapid runs and flourishes.

Lento follows, continuing the sense of spontaneous ad libbing in a passionate display of bowing fireworks and gymnastics – including flying spiccato and richochet.

Un poco piu lento comes next with a poignant melody by Hungarian composer Elemér Szentirmay called csak egy szép lány van a világon (in English, There’s Only One Lovely Maid in the World), often played with a mute.

Allegro molto vivace provides the scintillating finale, a dazzling display of wondrous violin pyrotechnics – long runs of spiccato, artificial harmonics, double stops and left hand pizzicato.

Below we’ve assembled a collection of videos and links for the brave at heart to study.

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Allamanda in D minor by JS Bach – Violin Solo

Transfixed at hearing Bach’s solo violin partitas and sonatas, a student asked me which one to learn first. At the time she was playing Bach’s Concerto in A minor from volume 7, the first big concert piece in the Suzuki violin repertoire.

Hilary Hahn plays Bach

From the point of view of ease of playing, two of the more obvious choices were the Allemanda and the Giga from Partita No. 2 in D minor, the same suite that contains the sublime Chacconne. My personal preference perhaps would have been the dancing delightful Giga. She chose the Allemanda in D minor, that lively earnest first dance in the suite, with its resonant opening D and free flowing melodies.

The Allemanda in D minor (or Allemande) provides students with a happy doorway in to Bach’s immortal solo violin works. It has all the richness and power of his unstopping musical logic and his seamless modulations and harmonic sense, richly compressed and concentrated into a single page of surprising beauty. Technically, the Allemanda is accessible by students at Suzuki volume 6 or so, who can then look forward to years of discovering the exquisite musical treasures within Bach’s solo violin works.

Where to start and how to learn it.

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How to Get Paid – Running a Successful Violin Studio

A job, a career, a profession or a calling? Violin teaching is all of these and to be sustainable it is also a livelihood, with the requirements of a business. Yet we teach for deeper reasons and rewards than riches, mostly for Love. Love of music, of playing the violin, love of teaching, learning and working with people, especially children, parents and all those who love music. Welcome to the latest post about running a successful Violin Studio.

Music and the Arts are the foundation and flowering of human culture and civilization, far more valuable to the soul and the spirit than politics or economics. Musicians and artists are more likely and able to create beauty and save our precious planet than mining magnates and arms manufacturers, so why aren’t they rewarded accordingly?

The truth is, it’s up to us to get organised and to make sure our wonderful profession is viable and renewable with a great future, which means getting paid – fairly and adequately.

Let’s talk about Money.

How to Get Paid (without the hassles)

  1. How to design the teaching schedule and determine the fee structure;
  2. How to set up the payment system and receive fees without the hassles (includes a sample application form).
  3. What to do about missed lessons, using a clear, simple and friendly policy;
  4. How to arrange your schedule and enjoy adequate holidays.

Full access requires TSV Gold subscription

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Ave Maria by Bach-Gounod – Violin Solo

Solemn, spiritual, moving, profound, beautiful! Ave Maria by J.S. Bach and Charles Gounod is music from two deeply religious composers. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846 from the legendary Well-Tempered Clavier Well-Tempered Clavier collection is the original melody for Gounod’s Ave Maria.

Charles Gounod

This deceptively simple and enchantingly lovely arrangement immediately took on a life of its own, spreading out into versions for a multitude of instruments and settings. Ave Maria continues to be recorded by operatic singers from Melba to Pavarotti and beyond.

Charles-François Gounod’s life story makes interesting reading, particularly his connection with the Mendelssohns, how he came to write Ave Maria, his deep religious impulse to become a priest and the time he spent in England.

Apart from Ave Maria, his opera Faust and a few others, Gounod’s illustrious body of compositions is relatively unknown to string players.

Study Points

Like Schubert’s Ave Maria, the Bach-Gounod song introduces few technical challenges for players at about Suzuki Book 4 or 5 level. Once again the primary area to focus on while studying this solo is interpretation – phrasing, expression, dynamics and tone quality.

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How to Find New Students for Your Violin Studio

When you’ve organised a good studio space and put together the scores and equipment needed to start teaching, it’s time to find new students. Actually, attracting them isn’t so difficult. As you and I know, learning to play violin is a very desirable activity, and as a school principal once told me, a rather prestigious one. Selecting the right students from those who apply is another matter, the subject of a later post. Today we outline some of the more successful ways to build up class numbers until the time when word of mouth becomes the trusted primary source.


A short advert in a weekly local newspaper for a few months will usually produce a trickle of inquiries, which I’d have to rate a limited success in our case. It has the advantages of being inexpensive and likely to draw people from the surrounding areas. We specified beginners in an age range from 3 to a maximum of 6 years old.

What to put in the ad – and what not

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Ave Maria by Schubert – Violin Solo

Franz Schubert composed Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen’s Song), eventually becoming known as Ave Maria, in 1825 at the age of 28, to the lyrics of The Lady of the Lake, a famous poem by Sir Walter Scott. The melody is commonly sung with the words of the traditional Catholic prayer, Ave Maria (Hail Mary).

Ave Maria has been performed by some of the world’s great classical singers, such as Andrea Bocelli, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti, and continues to be popular with audiences all over the world. Unlike many of Schubert’s compositions, it was acclaimed and published in his lifetime.

(Note: TSV Gold membership is required for further reading and access to score library.)

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Setting up for a Successful Violin Teaching Practice

Two or three choices become clear when you decide to become a violin teacher: take a job, set up your own studio, or have a mix of both.

Photo courtesy of Reuben Hustler

Each choice has its own advantages, benefits and challenges. A teaching job in a school or institution has the security of a regular salary and usually a prescribed curriculum, although you may sometimes feel that you follow someone else’s agenda and conditions.

Setting up for yourself and becoming successfully self employed entails more work and has less financial certainty in the beginning, yet you gain complete control over your time and energy and have the opportunity to create a flourishing violin programme founded on your ideals and vision.

Founding your own studio practice is an attractive and exciting adventure that will take you on an enjoyable and fulfilling lifetime journey.

Take into account the time needed to assemble enough students to make it viable. During this period a part time teaching job can be a good option, allowing time to build up numbers for your own studio.

Whatever you decide, setting up for future success means putting in place the right structure and systems.

Gearing up for a Successful Teaching Practice 

(TSV Gold subscription required)

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How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio – Introduction

“I’m so lucky. I have a fantastic profession, which I love. My work life is fulfilling and rewarding, and I’m excited by the opportunities and creative challenges it brings me.”

How often do you hear expressions of happiness and contentment like these – about work?

They are the words of a successful violin teacher running a flourishing studio of enthusiastic students who are all making great progress.

That’s the golden goal. How do you make it become a reality?

How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio

In the new series on TSV Gold, How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio, we’ll show you how to do it. You’ll learn from our greatest successes – and from our worst mistakes.

You’ll find out the important things to set in place to make your teaching life happy and productive, providing you with a healthy income and proper holiday periods to sustain a balanced life – while your students enjoy exceptional progress.

Here’s a brief list of some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Gearing up for a successful studio teaching practice;
  • How to set your fee structure and get paid fairly and appropriately;
  • How to develop and organise the Teaching Schedule;
  • How to attract and select new students to make your programme accelerate;
  • The initial phone call and qualifying newcomers;
  • The interview, the offer and how the process of choosing of students is critical to the success of your programme;
  • Important issues about accepting students who have been studying elsewhere;
  • Where to find and how to use the right venues for group classes and concerts;
  • How to keep up with the boring stuff like accounting, taxation, insurance and record keeping;
  • Accreditation – for you and your students.

If there’s a topic or question on setting up and running a teaching studio you’d like to ask about, let us know! Go to TSV Gold Support on the Gold Dashboard.




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The Swan (Le Cygne) by Saint-Saëns – Violin Solo

Le Cygne (The Swan) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, originally scored for cello and two pianos, is from The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux) composed in 1886. Due to its attractive and entrancing melody, Le Cygne was soon transcribed and arranged for other instruments, including violin, as it spread far and wide in the musical world. Not bad for something Saint-Saëns himself regarded as a piece of fun!


Photo by Igor Kaliush

A great little solo for a student concert, The Swan is a perfect choice to follow a concerto or any other quick piece. It’s easy to learn for students at Suzuki Volume 4 or 5 and beyond, and has an attractive piano accompaniment.

Both scores can be downloaded by TSV Gold members from the Solo Scores section of the Gold Scores page.

A Few Study Points

Time Signature and Entry

The 6/4 time signature sets a question for students, initially just to get a feel for the rhythm of the music. Should we count six crotchets (quarter notes), three minims (half notes) or what? A closer look (and listen) reveals an underlying structure of two dotted minims – groups of three crotchets – although putting too much weight on these two beats can upset the flow of melody, which is intended, quite obviously, to be swanlike.

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Romance in F Major by Beethoven – Violin Solo

When one of our violin students asked for advice about audition pieces for a university music course, I suggested Beethoven’s Romance in F Major (Op. 50). She became, as I had years before, entranced with its soaring melodies, mesmerized by the unmistakable sense of rightness of the phrases and harmonies, and awed by the perfection of Beethoven’s creation.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Romance in F Major flows along at the slower tempo of Adagio Cantabile. As you know, slow pieces are not necessarily easier. They require confidence, calm nerves and a steady bow. Nonetheless, knowing her deep love of the Romance I suggested she play it first at the audition, despite having spent a lot of time working up a dazzling quicker work. Afterwards, hearing that the panel didn’t ask to hear another piece, I knew the audition was successful.

In my opinion, of the two Romances Beethoven wrote for violin and orchestra, No. 1 in G Major and No. 2 in F Major, the second is more appealing for a student solo by virtue of the beautiful melody lines. They resound in your head and follow you into your dreams at night.

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