Recently, I was reminded of the dreaded Dounis exercises that I was introduced to almost two years ago when I visited the Czech Republic. At the time, I just couldn’t believe anyone would willingly participate in such torture.
I have come to appreciate hard rules of playing the violin. Here are the ones listed at the beginning of the Dounis Daily Dozen:
Five General Rules
To Be Strictly Adhered To
- Cultivate at all times a feeling of absolute comfort while practicing.
- In practising finger-exercises watch your bow; in practising bow exercises observe a good position of the left hand.
- Accent the weaker notes; make every note sound with a clear, full and round tone.
- Remember always that in technic evenness is that which counts most.
- Form the habit of listening to your playing with the utmost attention. Sharpen your hearing so as to detect the slightest disturbance in the flow of tone.
In taking into consideration the exercises that follow, I can only see contradiction in words and action. There is something more to know about playing that I must not yet know.
Exercise 1 is a finger independence exercise that sets the hand four whole steps apart starting with low 1 on the G string and placing each finger on a different string. The player must then lift each finger, or sometimes two fingers at a time in the manner listed. The most difficult exercises in this section alternate 1 and 3 with 2 and 4. Truly, finger independence must be developed for this exercises. Fortunately, it begins with the “Easy Setting.” The “Difficult setting reverses the finger pattern so that the low 1 begins on the E string.These exercises are to be practiced without the bow.
Exercise 2 uses independent fingers in a different way. There are two three fingers moving in different subdivisions of time. 3 and four move in quarter notes while the lower fingers move in eighth notes. All the while, the bow is moving in double stops.
Exercise 3 uses “Horizontal Movement” of the fingers. It should be clarified that in my class on Dounis, this meant moving the finger to a new position without shifting the hand. This exercise could also be practiced with shifting, but the author intended for it to be a stretching exercises.
Exercise 4 is an exercise in thirds. This builds upon the finger independence developed in Exercise 1. It has a variant for fingered octaves.
Exercise 5 is arpeggios used for tuning. I would imagine that playing this with a drone would be quite helpful for intonation. Shifts must be working solidly before intonation can be developed.
Exercise 6 is a shifting exercise. One note is played while finger replacement shifts are made through all of the fingers up and down a C major three three octave scale.
Exercise 7 works on different bowings and bow distributions at the nut. Exercise 8 does the same for the middle of the bow. Exercise 9 uses the tip of the bow. Exercise 10 develops the whole bow.
Exercise 11 is a tone development exercise that cycles through several accents in one bow in various rhythms. The second part of exercise 11 also develops tone while playing double stops with sustained tones on one string only.
Exercise 12 is for practicing left hand pizzicato.