D. C. Dounis: Violin Pedagogy


ARNOLD BELNICK studied with Demetrius Constantine DOUNIS in the 1940s and 1950s.  I studied with Mr. Belnick in the 1970s-2000s. 

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

D C Dounis wrote several instructional books. Many of these were intended to develop the musician's mental map at the beginning of practice, after which scale drills would be more effective.

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 Artist's Technique of Violin Playing: A New Scientific Method for Obtaining, in the Shortest Possible Time, an Absolute Mastery of the Higher Technical Difficulties of the Left Hand and of the Bow, Op. 12 (1921).  In this 1921 volume The Artist's Technique of Violin Playing, Dounis emphasized the importance of shifting and finger exercises.

    1. First Part: The Left Hand 
    2. Second Part: The Bow 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.

Explanations and instructions are given for each subtopic and a list of exercises that cover 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. The first part covers seven subtopics, including:

  • Shifting
  • Vertical and horizontal movements of the fingers
  • Scales
  • Double-stops
  • Three/four-note chords
  • Harmonics
  • Pizzicato

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 in Violin Playing on a Scientific Basis (in 2 Books), Op. 15 (1924)

  • The Absolute Independence of Three Fingers 
  • The Absolute Independence of Four Fingers

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
  • Holding down a note

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

Preparatory Studies in Thirds and Fingered Octaves on a Scientific Basis for Violin, Op. 16 (1924) This prepares the left hand to play thirds and fingered octaves. According to Dounis, the practice of thirds is the most helpful way to shape the left hand into the correct placement and position, while practicing fingered octaves promotes finger stretch.

    1. Thirds 
    2. Fingered Octaves 

Fundamental Trill Studies on a Scientific Basis for Violin, Op. 18 (1925) Trills are essentially vertical actions - dropping and lifting the fingers. The objective of these exercises is to promote speed and rhythm.

The Dounis Violin Players' Daily Dozen to Keep the Violinist Technically Fit for the Day's Work: Twelve Fundamental Exercises for the Left Hand and the Bow, Op. 20 (1925)

The Staccato (The Accented Legato, the Accented Staccato): Studies on a Scientific Basis for the Highest Development in Staccato-Playing on the Violin, Op. 21 (1925)  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."

Preparatory Studies in Octaves and Tenths on a Scientific Basis, Op. 22 (1928)

    1. Octaves 
    2. Tenths 

Fundamental Technical Studies on a Scientific Basis for the Young Violinist, Op. 23 (1935)

Specific Technical Exercises for Viola (Left Hand – Bow Arm), Op. 25 (1941)

New Aids to the Technical Development of the Violinist, Op. 27 (1935)  Exercises aimed to develop independence of the bow from the left hand. It contains unusual string crossings that are meant to challenge the players.

    1. The Independence of the Bow from the Left Hand 
    2. A Neglected Phase in the Study of Thirds 

Studies in Chromatic Double-Stops for the Violin, Op. 29 (1942)  This is a set of studies on the chromatic movements for double-stops of various intervals.

The Higher Development of Thirds and Fingered Octaves: Twenty-four Advanced Formulas for the Violin, Op. 30 (1944)  A sequel to the Preparatory Studies, Op.16 focuses on thirds and fingered octaves.

Advanced Studies for the Development of the Independence of the Fingers in Violin Playing on a Scientific Basis, Op. 33 (1945)

The Development of Flexibility in Violin Playing: Studies on Scientific Principles for the Fingers and the Bow, Op. 35 (1945)

Chopin Étude, Op. 25 No. 6 for Violin (in 2 Books) (1945); technical studies after Frédéric Chopin's Étude, Op. 25 No. 6

    1. In Thirds 
    2. In Tenths 

The Development of Flexibility, Studies on Scientific Principles for Violin, Book II: Change of Position Studies, Op. 36 (1947)

Essential Scale Studies, on Scientific Basis, for the Development of the Rhythmic

Impulse of the Fingers for Violin, Op. 37 (1947)

Moto Perpetuo for Violin

Building Up the Technique for Young Violinists


Additional Books

References and further reading 

  • — Constantakos, Chris A. (1997). Demetrios Constantine Dounis : his method in teaching the violin. American University Studies 14: Education, vol. 13 (second revised ed.). New York: Lang. ISBN 978-0-8204-3895-5
  • — Eaton, Sybil (October 1954). "Dr. D.C. Dounis, a great violin teacher". Musical Times: 559.
  • Wrochem, Claudius von — (2001). "Dounis, Demetrios Constantine". Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Vol. Personenteil 5. Kassel: Bärenreiter. pp. 1345–46.
  • — Wasson, George Dwayne and John M. Geringer (January 2006). Elevators and escalators: the study of an innovative approach to teaching fingerboard geography to heterogeneous string classes. Theses and Dissertations from the University of Texas at Austin (Thesis). pp. 10–12. hdl — :2152/561 — .

External links 

A man in a suit and tie holding something.
Demetrius Constantine Dounis, Age 20
Demetrius Constantine Dounis, Age 20
Demetrius Constantine Dounis, Age 20