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The warm up of death...

Written by
Published: March 6, 2008 at 1:02 AM [UTC]

Greetings,
Two blogs in one day can only mean…..Prune shortage!
I was really interested to see the expression `one hour of scales to warm up` occur twice this week on v.commie. No offence intended, but I think this way of thinking is fundamentally flawed. Of course no one except the protagonist really knows what happens during that one hour but language always reveals something about the mindset which is what is governing that particular practice session. For me this language is extremely revealing and just a little worrying.;)
One might begin by analyzing the concept of `warming up` just a little. It has three components: the physical- basically getting the blood to the extremities and its best done with a few minutes cardio vascular work such walking up and down some steps, calisthenics or whatever. It is not the same as stretching which should only be done after having warmed up. Be warned. The second component is emotional and might involve considering what mood you are in and playing a short extract or improvising around that mood. The third is intellectual and might be regarded as tuning in by playing a few scales with intense concentration or something of that ilk. I think the two octave scales at the beginning of the Galamian book are excllent in this regard... All this is a very personal thing but if it take longer than ten minutes, including planning out the next forty odd minutes of work then there is something squiffy.
Scales themselves are a very advanced exercise if you begin with a three octave set like the Flesch. They have perhaps one basic purpose which can be broken down further. This purpose is:

TO IMPROVE YOUR PLAYING

To approach scales with any other goal (or indeed any other practice) is destructive and is the primary reason why scales practice as opposed to any other is regarded as a burden and duty rather than an important and exciting time. The purpose has little or nothing to do with warming up. Some possible extrapolations of the primary purpose are:

1) To increase the mind finger connection by playing scales with combinations of rhythm, bowings and accents.
2) To increase the evenness of your playing by the use of combinations of bowings.
3) To improve the quality of your ear by refining intonation.
4) To improve a passage in a concerto by applying a specific bowing from a concerto to the scale.
5) To improve your control of dynamics by using a variety of crescendos /diminuendos and so forth.
6) To improve your ability to play rapidly by working on blocking techniques.

And so on.
At no time should one see scale practice as something designed to `sustain technique` since who really wants to stay in the same place for the rest of their life. The weak version of this idea is using scales to `warm up.` Scale practice is a time of devilry and imagination. Have fun and swagger a little. Make the point to yourself by beginning with concerto work and doing scales last in the day. What is different? How does it make you feel. If you think grinding out a routine makes you more alert for your concerto practice think again- it’s the violinistic equivalent of working at McDonalds.
There is no hard and fast rule about scales first. Galamian was quite clear on this point: changing the order of practice is desirable to prevent staleness, so in his mind at least, scales had absolutely nothing to do with warming up!
Cheers,
Buri


From William Wolcott
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 2:38 AM
" It has three components: the physical- basically getting the blood to the extremities and its best done with a few minutes cardio vascular work such walking up and down some steps, calisthenics or whatever. It is not the same as stretching which should only be done after having warmed up. Be warned. The second component is emotional and might involve considering what mood you are in and playing a short extract or improvising around that mood. The third is intellectual and might be regarded as tuning in by playing a few scales with intense concentration or something of that ilk."

Really enjoyed those points. Excellent!

I also like the idea of practicing scales in fragments, not just bottom to top, Galamian acceleration, etc. This includes scales on one string, chromatic, double stops, etc. The scale does not always have to start at the beginning- whole notes, or 4 to a bow, etc. Of course, everyone probably knows this already. I didn't figure it out until I hit 20 or so....

If only I had known about prunes at 13....

Also, starting scales at the top, going down, then back up.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 3:20 AM
Greetings,
thanks William. It`s interrsting the Russian scale book by Gilels has scales strating at the top included. It makes an awful lot of sense givcen how often we do have to start their in repertoire.
Neve ha d aRussian prune thouhg.
Cheers,
Buri
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 4:26 AM
Thanks Buri! Another wonderful blog! I think you expressed this point briefly a few days ago and I followed the spirit of it I think since then and just loved it. I used to do 20-30min/day scales each day to warm up and I found I always needed more time I have to do justice to the scales. Now I started with some passages of concertos, then scales or etudes, then concerto again. The result is a lot more satisfying but didn’t know why until reading your more detailed explanation now.
Prunes are amazing thing!
From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 3:19 PM
Kreisler said you didn't need to have a violin in your hands to warm up.

I practice every day but not for long periods since I have a job and a family. My best practice (actually my only useful practice) is when I am mentally fully engaged in what I am doing.

From Ray Randall
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 3:56 PM
Aaron Rosand told me years ago that when playing three and four octave scales it's useful to not come all the way back down, but to go back and fourth up high for awhile. He also said that he likes to play scales in the key of whatever he's going to be playing next. Sounds good to me.
From T Netz
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 4:05 PM
I enjoyed learning a new word today, i.e. "Squiffy". ; )
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 6, 2008 at 11:34 PM
Greetings,
I heard a superb idea from soneone on this site. Extract all the scales from the Sibelius cocnerto and make them into a scale book.
Why stop there You could introduce do the same with most cocnertos and everynow and again spend a week working on them ratehr than the regualr scale book.
It also helps to swicth scale manuals around so buy all of them.
Also remember Milstein didn`t ahve a sclae manual so he learnt them from Chopins paino music. learning @piano parts of the violin is very beneficial to technique,
Cheers,
Buri
From Willie M
Posted on March 7, 2008 at 6:19 AM
I think its good to practice starting and ending on a different note than the tonic. It really makes you concentrate half and whole steps while improvising a fingering. Most runs don't start on scale degree 1 anyways.

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