Here is a question for you...

By James Dickenson  -  15 April 2015


“Why is it, that after many thousands of hours of practice, and a lifetime of dedication, so few violinists are able to play perfectly?”

Or, perhaps even more telling, 

“Why is it that within your own playing there are things that you can do, time and time again perfectly, a certain shift for example, but other things, that you rarely get first time”?


Or,

“Why can you sometimes practice something get it perfectly right, then under pressure it goes wrong?”

Constantine Dounis


Is this just “life”, bad luck, poor technique, lack of sleep, or is there a more obvious, neurological explanation for this. This is certainly the conclusion that Constantine Dounis came to, arguably the greatest pedagogue to have ever have lived, one time Doctor, student of Ondricek, and Teacher/Mentor to the greats, when you can name Heifetz, Silverstein and David Nadien amongst some of your students, you know you are doing quite well………

Dounis’ approach to pedagogy set him part from his contemporaries and all whom had come before him, as he himself remarked at the beginning of his first published book from 1921. 

“The technical training of the violinist is not merely a training of the arms and fingers but, principally, a training of the brain and memory.”

One of Dounis’ revolutionary ideas was that what is needed in order to improve is the building of series’ of brain reflected movements, and then the repetition of these mental practices in a logical and systematic order. This was in Dounis’ view what can truly be called Technique.  His desire was to enable instrumentalists to have total control of the instrument to allow themselves true self-expression.

In a highly competitive field, Dounis was the first tie together the two non polar issues of physical and mental training, and all of Dounis’ work revolves around this central tenant, namely that, repetition in of itself is entirely without merit. 

Which brings us nicely back to the beginning, or as Dounis said,

“ Why after years of intensive study, there are few violinists, very few indeed, who acquire an infallible technique.”

There is however a but, one of the problems with Dounis’ teaching is that he rarely ever wrote any of it down, and now if you have the books, the only way you can really find out exactly what to do is to talk to one of his students, who are now also very old. 

This is however what I set out to do 8 years ago, and it has revealed some remarkable information.


For more info see www.violinlesson.info

About James Dickenson

London based violinist James is the leader of the Villiers String Quartet and a freelance orchestral and session musician

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