In the original manuscript of the 24 Caprices, Paganini did not assign titles or fingerings. The numbers that we know as "titles" were simply the order of the series in the portfolio as presented to the publisher.
I believe Paganini purposely concealed the correct order of the 24 Caprices,
deceiving even the greatest musicians.
Since the Caprices were Paganini’s showpieces, he would naturally want to protect the source of his fame and fortune. He hastily wrote the notes out in 1817, more than 10 years after he had finished composing the last of them. Paganini intended to conceal the secrets behind his extraordinary technique. These secrets include the cycle of the 24 caprices, the formulated fingering, and the bowing technique.
However, he showed great promise at a young age; even the most famous musicians recognized his talent. But his father, understanding that raw potential was insufficient, forced his son through beatings and starvation to master musical exercises. As Paganini grew into his late teenage years, he thought there would have to be a different way to play challenging pieces by memory with less practice.
Legend goes that Paganini rarely practiced his violin after the age of thirty. Though it’s possible he simply put on a façade, I feel it’s more probable that he had designed a particular training circuit for himself that was superior to simple exercises.
For Paganini, the Caprices were a song circle of etudes for his secret practice regimen - thus the only violin lesson for us!
Most people assume the Caprices are numbered in playing order. However, the published “titles”, numbers 1 through 24, are simply the order of the series as Paganini presented the manuscripts to the publisher - nothing more!
In the original manuscript he even had different opus and number designations: Opus 1 consisted of the first six Caprices, Opus 2 the next six, and Opus 3 the last 12; these were the folders he presented to the publisher as he wrote them out. Later the publisher consolidated them into Opus 1, and numbered the Caprices 1 through 24.
Paganini knew the correct and exact order of the Caprices, but he was not about to disclose such vital information to anyone. Therefore, he created three separate folders and presented them to the publisher as such.
Here is a portion from the published Caprice 12; in the original manuscript this section is taken from Opus 2, Caprice 6.
My name is Gregory Shir. I am a violinist and violin maker. As a professional violinist and teacher, I have always been fascinated by Paganini and how he was able to sight read and master the most difficult pieces and play them by memory.
Even after having many successful and recognized students, incuding five gold medal winners, I realized the classical techniques I have been using and teaching were incorrect. Once I recognized the mistakes in my teachings, I began concentrating on finding a technique to help my students.
After three decades of study, I finally broke the secret code and am able to expose all of Paganini’s secrets.
I wondered: What was Paganini’s secret?
I am certain that by utilizing proper technique, even an average violinist can achieve a high level of skill. But, as mentioned before, the original published manuscript of the 24 Caprices has no titles, little information about bowing, and contains no fingerings.
After decades of experimentation and practicing traditional scales and technical pieces for four to six hours daily, I realized I had been using the incorrect technique for playing the Paganini Caprices. Thus, I discovered a newly formulated fingering method of playing the violin which I call the “Paganini Technique”. My method enables easier memorization with less practice.
Each Caprice contains a lesson to learn! This information is revolutionary! By learning the Caprices with my corrected fingering and bowing, and following the pieces in the order I have designated, I can assure you that any violinist will become a master musician.
The 24 Caprices are a training cycle even for a beginning violinist.
I have discovered that if you start with Caprice 16 and follow the training cycle clockwise, using the fingering and bowing techniques I am implementing, you will master the Caprices with ease in no time. If the pieces are learned and practiced in this order and played with the correct fingering, it will become immediately apparent to an advanced player that these new fingerings are consistent and vital. The full song circle of etudes can be memorized and played easily once the player gains awareness of this new technique.
It is important to remember that in order to learn the correct technique, it is imperative to learn and practice the Caprices in the correct order that Paganini originally intended!
It is my suggestion for beginners to break the Caprices into three levels and start learning them eight at a time; then when one feels comfortable enough to give a performance, the Caprices should be performed in two parts: 1–12 and 13–24.
It is also imperative to understand that one cannot go back and start playing from the beginning without taking at least 30 minute break. In other words, keep playing the Caprices, starting from any of the Caprices in a forward direction until the end, or if need be take at least a 30 minute break and then start from the beginning.
A level one individual is one who plays 8 Caprices, starting with Caprice #16.
Once you are able to play all 24 Caprices together at once,
starting with Caprice #1-12 and 13-24,
you will be recognized as a professional!