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The Violin Teachings of D.C. Dounis

Tong Keat has an M.A. in Violin Performance from MTSU, TN. He is the founder of Just Violin—a free resources site for violinists.

D.C. Dounis 1886-1954

D.C. Dounis 1886-1954

The Doctor

Demetrius Constantine Dounis was an influential Greek violin pedagogue of the twentieth century. His treatises on violin technique cover many areas, but he was mainly known for his approach to the proper ergonomics of violin playing, as well as the development of muscular strength and flexibility in different parts of the hand.

Trained in Vienna with František Ondříček, Dounis later enrolled as a medical student at the University of Vienna. His enthusiasm for the physical aspects of violin playing may have stemmed from his medical studies. He worked as the professor of the violin at the Salonika Conservatory in Greece before relocating to England and subsequently, the United States.

The following discussions included paraphrased forewords from each of Dounis' publications.

The Artist's Technique of Violin Playing, Op.12

This book is divided into two parts. Part one addresses the left hand, while part two discusses the bow. It is one of his most extensive publications. The first part covers seven subtopics, including shifting, vertical and horizontal movements of the fingers, scales, double-stops, three/four-note chords, harmonics, and pizzicato. Explanations and instructions were given for each subtopic along with a list of exercises that covers the entire range of the violin. The goal of these works, according to Dounis, is to solve all the technical problems with the least amount of time and effort.

In part two, Dounis simplified the entire range of bowing techniques into two: the Simple Détaché and the Accentuated Détaché. Dounis provided a "Genealogical Picture of Bow Strokes" that explains how, for example, Martelé and Spiccato originated from an accentuated Détaché.

Genealogical Picture of Bow Strokes

Genealogical Picture of Bow Strokes

The Absolute Independence of the Fingers, Op.15

This book is also divided into two parts. It is as much an exercise for left-hand finger independence as training for the brain. The range of motions required here include vertical (dropping and lifting, trills), horizontal (moving the finger a half-step up or down), plucking an open string, and holding down a note. Each finger has a different task, and it requires great concentration and complete finger independence.

Dounis advised that the left hand should be free to vibrate as often as possible while doing the exercises. As soon as tension or pain is felt, the playing must be stopped. It is very challenging at the beginning, and the players should start by practicing with each and every pair of fingers before attempting to play with all four fingers simultaneously.

In part two, all four fingers will be moving either horizontally, vertically, or plucking. There is no passive action where a finger is just holding down a note like in part one.

The Absolute Independence of the Fingers, Op.15

The Absolute Independence of the Fingers, Op.15

Other Books in The Dounis Collection

Preparatory Studies, Op.16 - This prepares the left hand to play thirds and fingered octaves. According to Dounis, the practice of thirds is the most useful way to shape the left hand into the correct placement and position, while practicing fingered octaves promotes finger stretch.

Fundamental Trill Studies, Op.18 - Trills are essentially vertical actions - dropping and lifting of the fingers. The objective of these exercises is to promote speed and rhythm.

The Violin Players' Daily Dozen, Op.12 - This is a set of twelve fundamental exercises that cover a wide range of techniques, both in the left hand and right hand.

The Staccato, Op.21 - An entire book dedicated to the studies of staccato. Dounis believes that the mastery of staccato bowing is the "thorough development of accentuation in every part of the bow."

New Aids to the Technical Development of the Violinist, Op.27 - Exercises aimed to develop independence of the bow from the left hand. It contains unusual string crossings that are meant to challenge the players.

Studies in Chromatic Double-Stops for the Violin, Op.29 - This is a set of studies on the chromatic movements for double-stops of various intervals.

The Higher Development of Thirds and Fingered Octaves, Op.30 - A sequel to the Preparatory Studies, Op.16 that focuses on thirds and fingered octaves.

An hour of violin lessons in Berlin is an hour where you get the child interested in music. An hour in a violin lesson in Palestine is an hour away from violence, is an hour away from fundamentalism.

— Daniel Baremboim

© 2019 Goh Tong Keat