The Study of Paganini's Twenty-Four Caprices


A new descriptive treatise based upon Paganini's secret methods, explaining how these famous studies can be mastered by all violin players.

*Especially designed for players with small hands*

By Emil Kross with translation from Gustav Saenger

Published by Carl Fischer, Cooper Square, New York, 1908.

Preface and Explanatory Remarks

Precisely like their talented creator, Niccolo Paganini’s volume of 24 Caprices is absolutely representative of a distinctive and individual class in the art of violin playing. Musically Considered, they are conceived in such original and fascinating fashion and are possessed of such demoniacal fire and passion as to fairly electrify every sympathetic listener. However, while their musical worth, alone, entitles them to be classed as masterpieces of composition, their value is considerably heightened in view of their remarkable technical difficulties. In this particular, they surpass everything which the exercising literature of the violin can boast of, and they may justly and fittingly be termed the ne plus ultra [the greatest, endmost] of all similar works. Paganini’s caprices can be completely mas­tered only by violinists possessed of unusual and extraordinary technical ability. This is one of the principal reasons why they are resignedly abandoned as invincible by all violin players with natural drawbacks, such as faulty hand formation, with short fingers capable of only average stretching possibilities. However, in order to bring these beautiful, highly important and necessary studies within reach of other than specially gifted violinists, I was prompted to revise and edit them in a most thorough and practical manner, as would best be fitted and adapted for this special purpose. There can be little doubt that the careful and painstaking indications as Io fingering, positions, bowing, marks of expression and interpretation and special explanatory hints with which I have provided my revision have been the means of saving infinite time and exertion for the student. With these indications he will be guided correctly in practicing them. Let him but understand the correct application of these indications in the practical and artistic sense in which they are offered, and he cannot fail in ultimately reaching the desired goal; naturally this one sooner, that one later, in accordance with each student’s individual gifts, enthusiasm, diligence and endurance. Furthermore, in my edition of these Caprices, I have changed their numerical order from that of the original edition, my purpose having been to let them follow each other more in progressive order as regards technical difficulties. Furthermore, I have included Paganini Perpetuum Mobile, as well as his Duo for One Violin. The Former is a most effective solo number admirably suited for public performance, as well as being an exceptionally fine study for the right arm, demanding not only endurance old dexterity of, but also imparting these necessary qualities to the latter. Owing to its original peculiarity the Duo is also most excellently suited for public performance. The ingenious pizzicato passages which form the accompaniment, impart the greatest skill and dexterity to the left hand. Above all, I anxiously endeavored to impart the necessary courage to many students to enter into the study of these exceedingly difficult Caprices (the execution of which, in former days, was considered as nothing short of witchcraft), with the proper spirit; and at the same time indicate such means and methods as would enable them to pursue their study with intimate real success. It has been repeatedly proved that after only a few preliminary trials the majority will lose confidence; and, arguing that these Caprices are so difficult as to make them absolutely unplayable, abandon them entirely. Investigation as to the causes of such lack of courage and confidence on the part of even more than ordinarily gifted musical aspirants, has produced two very weighty and important reasons. As applied to many violinists, the first of these may be found in the unfavorable build of the hand, which, according to rule and in the customarily accepted position of the hand and the instrument, will not admit of extraordinarily wide stretches, such us occur most frequently in Paganini’s Caprices. The second reason, however, may be accounted for in the insufficient preparatory training of the average violin player. That is to say, the greater number of violinists have not studied the technical requirements, such as scale studies, position studies, chord studies, double stop studies, thoroughly, practically or carefully enough. Furthermore, they may have studied the exercising works of Mazas, Kreutzer, Fiorillo, Rode, Gavinies, with more or less competent teachers or from faulty editions.—Complete and perfect mastery of the above mentioned works, however, is absolutely necessary before the. Slightest hope can be entertained mastering all of Paganini’s Caprices. Naturally there are many instances of very gifted violinist talents, for whom it will suffice if the teacher will select the most necessary and important studies from the above-mentioned works, in order to hasten their progress. But these eases are few and far between. To begin with, I shall direct my attention towards the principal hindrance, which with so man if players is caused by a little hand and inadequate stretching possibilities, and how this may be remedied by a better, a more suitable and a more practical—if somewhat more difficult—position of the hand and arm.

Paganini Caprice No.1 in E major


  1. The Study of Paganini's Twenty-Four Caprices: Preface
  2. Correct Position of the Hand and Arm
  3. Chinrest and Correct Positioning
  4. Louis Spohr's Fourth Position
  5. Paganini's Hand Positions
  6. Playing Demanding Music with Proper Hand Posture
  7. Practicing the Left-Hand Hold of the Violin or Viola
  8. Records and Witnesses to Paganini's Manner of Performing