Niccolò Paganini | Chapter 1

Paganini Caprice # 5 - Middle Section

By Prof. Lihay Bendayan - Head of the Violin Class Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance


Before we learn this caprice, we should be aware of its roughly ABA structure. The first and last sections are ascending arpeggios and descending scales (minor and major), bookending the middle section, with its quick spiccato (or saltato according to the original bowings).

How do we approach the middle section?

After taking the time to read and learn the notes slowly, it is important to deal with the difficulties of each hand separately at first.

I suggest the following exercises:

Exercises for the Left Hand:

a. Legato, four notes per bow. Pay close attention to intonation and reduce the number of gestures by dropping the fingers for the coming notes onto the string in advance (as much as possible).

b. Legato, four notes per bow, accenting the first note of each legato with the bow and a quick vibrato impulse. The idea here is to create momentum - the accented first note triggers the other three in each group, which becomes a free and relaxed consequence. This mechanism is important for high-speed capabilities and prevents the accumulation of left-hand tension in longer sections or during the performance of the caprice.

c. Legato, one bow per bar, at a quick tempo. Note that the fingers should drop onto the strings from gravity alone; we only need to use energy to lift the fingers from the strings. Also, make sure the left hand's fingers perfectly define the quality of the rhythmical precision. Try to create momentum with the first note of each bar, as above, but for the entire bar this time, and always drop the fingers on the strings in advance, whenever you can (as in exercises a and b above).

d. Legato, a comfortable eight notes in a bow, using various rhythms as demonstrated in video # 1. Aim for very sharp and exact rhythms and always relax on the short notes. The long notes should have an initial impulse and be quite relaxed afterward.

e. In preparation for the right-hand work and to develop the synchronization between the two hands, play a quick, deep, sharp staccato, followed by a short pause. During this pause, be sure to relax the right shoulder and drop the finger for the next note as quickly as possible, so the left hand is always ahead of the right hand. The faster the next finger drops, the more time you have to relax before the next note. In addition, this allows you to anticipate and think ahead better. In a speedy performance, your mind should always be with the left hand.

Paganini Caprice # 5 -Exercises for the Right Hand

a. Impulsed, quick staccato. This stroke is always followed by a release of the right shoulder and arm. Play 4, 3, and 2 repetitions of each note. This exercise should be practiced in the middle, at the tip, and the frog. In the context of the staccato, the idea is that with the strong resistance between the strings and the bow, we will create ideal conditions to develop sharp, “electric” movements initiated by the fingers of the right hand. The same feeling of “electricity“ is needed for the spiccato, but lighter and slightly higher in the right elbow.

b. Spiccato. Play each note 4, 3, and 2 times. If you feel the tension increase in the right shoulder and arm, stop with the bow on the string and release the tension. The idea is that you will gradually be able to play longer sections without stopping and relaxing the shoulder and arm. Start with a low speed for the left hand with several spiccatos for each note and playing faster and faster in the left hand toward playing one spiccato per note. Also, try different speeds of spiccato, starting slowly, closer to the frog, and moving higher in the bow the faster you play.

c. Also, for your right-hand technique, build your capacity to reduce the number of gestures per number of notes! The first spiccato movement should trigger 4, 8, or many more movements played freely and its consequence. Play each note 4, 3, and 2 times each, with a strong accent on the first spiccato for each note. The quality of the accent determines the quality of the released movements; like when you skip a stone on a lake, it will first jump following your gesture (accent) and will continue to jump, gradually lower, as a consequence of the first skip.

d. Spiccato, one note per bow. Perform this exercise with a metronome, starting at an easy speed and increasing the speed gradually. While practicing, pay attention to the following:

  • think about groups of notes and the impetus/momentum created in both hands
  • anticipate the movement of left-hand fingers, dropping them on the strings quickly
  • maintain good posture and free shoulders
  • keep fingers and thumbs of both hands free
  • always think forwards
P-C 0200101 Chapter 1 – Niccolò Paganini (Article & Videos) ultima modifica: da iClassical Foundation