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Teacher of viola and violin

Orchestral section leader



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The Études

    Concert Études

    Robin’s set of 12 concert études was published in January 2014 by Spartan Press. Their website gives a link to
    recordings of the études performed by Robin, and also offers samples of the études to look at in print.  Here is the introduction from the published version: Robin Ireland: Concert Études for Viola

    Many violists have grown up on a diet of violin studies transcribed for viola, and plenty have thrived on them, even though the studies are often composed with melodic patterns and fingerings that suit the violin better than the viola. My first aim in composing some new study material for the viola was to write specifically for it, in ways which suit it both technically and tonally.

    The twelve concert études set out to be musically attractive pieces, which, in addition to covering most basic aspects of technique, will encourage the development of “musical” and expressive playing. The set of études is unusual, perhaps unique, in that it covers a range of styles, and thus provides a focus for developing an understanding of bowing and articulation appropriate to different periods of music. The first eight études move through baroque, classical and romantic styles, while the later études include material for developing confidence with metre change and other basic rhythmic skills and with atonality. The last étude introduces some extended techniques and an improvisatory style of playing.

    The concert études should be appropriate for viola students from Grade 8 upwards. Copies are available at £9.95 from Spartan Press. Detailed notes on practising the études will be available on this website soon.


    • Étude No 1 - Baroque (Bach)
    • Étude No 2 - Baroque (French Overture, Italian Allegro)
    • Étude No 3 - Classical (Haydn)
    • Étude No 4 - Theme and Variations (Early Romantic)
    • Étude No 5 - Fantasy in D Minor (Early Romantic)
    • Étude No 6 - Fantasy in G Major (Romantic/Salon)
    • Étude No 7 - Fantasy in B Minor (Romantic. Slow bows and bow distribution)
    • Étude No 8 - Fantasy in F# minor (Romantic, chromatic)
    • Étude No 9 - Metre change Study 1 (East European Folk)
    • Étude No 10 - Metre Change Study 2
    • Étude No 11 - Atonal (Second Viennese School)
    • Étude No 12 - Improvisatory

    Technical Études (awaiting completion)

    Each technical étude is focused primarily on a specific area of technical development and, as of January 2014, about half have been written. Some of these, to my knowledge, are not commonly found in other study material, for example the étude for developing agility and independence with the first finger. The set is intended to provide creative material to encourage development in areas which commonly provide difficulties or are not often focused on or well understood. Each étude will be prefaced by a brief outline of the area of focus and some tips on how to practise it.

    Here is a provisional list of the technical etudes currently planned:

     LEFT HAND: 

    • Half-position
    • First finger agility
    • Contracted hand positions
    • Playing fifths and fourths
    • Harmonics
    • Basic handshapes juxtaposed
    • Finding notes: a) tonal, b) atonal
    • Shifting on semitones
    • Shifting, different types and speeds
    • Chord playing
    • Vibrato variety


    • Slow bows
    • Playing in different parts of the bow
    • Bow distribution and bow speed
    • Off –the-string playing: a) varying lengths and speeds, including string crossings, b) changing speeds
    • String crossing: a) legato, including multiple string crossing, b) détaché and off-string, including mixed with slurs. Use repeat signs
    • Accents and portato
    • Pizzicato
    • Starting notes, giving leads, counting rests, changing tempo
    Preparatory Exercises

    Also planned is a set of preparatory exercises to include the following:

    • Diminished seventh practice
    • Dominant seventh practice
    • Fourth finger strengthening
    • Agility in putting fingers across to other strings
    • Extended hand positions
    • Preparatory for thirds
    • Preparatory for sixths
    • Preparatory for octaves
    • Second position/fourth position
    • Dotted rhythms
    • Finger stability exercises
    • Shifting:  beginning finger, ending finger, cross-over fingerings
    • Sul pont and sul tasto
    • Jeté, ricochet and col legno
    • Developing speed

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