March 16, 2010 at 4:39 AM
Scales encompass both major and the relative minor, thirds, arpeggios, octaves, & tenths in my little world...one key a day, like vitamins
or taking a dump....
or taking a dump....
rather crude Mr. Brivati
I'm don't know Repin and his habits. I've spoken to symphony musicians who told they have to practice 7 to 9 hours a day! So 2 hours is maybe not that much for a few professionnals who practice very much?
I can't say if it was tongue and cheak. I just know he stayed pretty surprised with a student who didn't control at all his sibelius. (of course I won't name names and my goal is not to tease him since not that much in the hall could have actually played for Repin...) In fact, it was a bit bothering for everyone since no one knew how to cope with this. We felt bad for this student but at the same time it really made a big contrast with the other students who were very much in control... Repin then started to talk about scales and made him do some... Maybe he wanted to put emphasis on the importance of beeing well prepared rather than only on scales, who knows???
But one thing is sure, Repin succeeded to get there with much work too. Co players said he was about the only one up at night practicing during his Queen Elizabeth contest days... How did Bron teach? Is it a component of the Russian school back then? Is it just because Repin is very perfectionnist? Many questions still remain to be able to fully analyse this...
I agree a normal student can't! As for futur professionnals who aim for perfection and practice up to a few times two hours a day, I can't judge!
Have a nice day,
If one isn't solving problems one isn't practicing no matter how much one may be playing.
My understanding is that you should be able to play everything in a very precise, metronomic, exact, clean manner. Only then do you build on it with musicality.
My teacher has me play whatever we are working on in this precise manner and then he allows me too "loosen up."
I think this really helps to avoid technical problems that distracts from the music. With that said, 2 hours should be for all technical work (scales AND etudes if you have any) if you play maybe 4-6 hours. I think technical work should be 1/4-1/2 of practice time.
As far as spending time on scales, I can tell that,at a very NORMAL collegial 2 level at my conservatory (not intended to produce professional musicians. It's exams for "everyone" or "the community" music program as they say) these are the required scales to pass your exam (everything is learned by heart except the studies and sight reading piece):
In thses keys (all keys) C,C#, D,D#(E flat), E,F,F#,G,G#(A flat),A,A#(Bflat),B
- 3 octaves sclaes, detached and twelve per bow maj, melodic min, harmonic minor,
- 3 octaves min and maj arpeggios detached and 9 per bow
- 3 octaves diminished and dominant sevenths detached and 12 per bow
- 3 octaves Chromatic E flat, E, F and F# scales detached and 12 per bow
- Two octaves octaves in B major and melodic minor
- two octaves thirds in D major and melodic minor
- two octaves sixths in B flat major and melodic minor
Now, for fun, if I do just a little arithmic to count how much different sclaes/arpeggios etc we are expected to know (of course, they will just ask a few random at the exam but you have to be prepared!)
93 different versions of "scale related" things they can ask (I don't count the different bow patterns)
180 different versions of "scale related" things they can ask!!!!!!!!!!!! (if I count that bow patterns variations!)
Of course, we must also prepare two pieces (a few pages each)
Two studies which we can read in the music (a few pages each)
The sight reading test (you must sight read something they give you there)
I would be very curious to hear about the required things to pass exams in other conservatories. (maybe more in another thread to not change Buri's topic?) Possibly similar? If I consider that I'm very ordinairly talented with little time to practice, the scales to prepare for my exam will take me a few years to master (I think)!!! I mean to be able to play anyone randomly well and in tune with eyes shut under stress. My teacher tells many students don't pass exams because of scales requirements.
So I guess at professionnal level, with even more challenging requirements, it could take up to two hours a day, no?
And I know many tell that scales are all the same since finger patterns are similar from one to another but, I'm sorry, the distances between the finger depending on the position you are in, just the feel of a particular mode and key in your hand to play in tune is all slight differences that one has to learn. No scale is exactly the same as another one in my humble opinion!
Just an observation... Don't know if it helps or not to have an idea of the task sclaes are for much more advanced players?
Have a nice day,
It's a treat to read your blog as always. Two points really stand out and stick to me:
`a volcano` inside and that `he needed them to stay calm
I often have a volcano inside and it shows in my scale practice:( That’s one way to distinguish a mortal from a genius I guess.
One slips more and more into the automatic groove and mistakes start to get practice in while the temperament gets practiced out.
So true, but in a way we all need to do the muscle learning and the long hour (technical) practice does give us that. But as Corwin wisely pointed out, you need to be solving problem at all time, or you are waisting time and worse, building bad habits.
Anne-Maria, I think the chances for professional violinists to afford 7-8 hours/day practice on a daily basis have to be quite rare these days. Yes, they’ll do this if they have solo performance coming up. Otherwise, most of them that I know have to spend hours each day teaching on top of the orchestra and sometimes chamber work. But rehearsal time can also be considered as practice time, so I guess as long as they are playing mindfully, they can claim to be practising for all these long hours.
Yixi, I`m not saying one should only do an hour`s practcie on technique. It`s just there is so much technical (semi techncial work such as etudes and exericses) that -also-need to be done.
Anne-Marie, I don`t know who said symphony players practice 7-9 hours a day. It really isn`t true. When I was at RCM the symphony players who taught there were almost always cocnerne diwth getting the maximmum possible techncial results in the most efficient and safe way simply because there was -so little- time for perosnal practice in the profession.
A clleague who has just joined the Tokyo Philharmonic tells me they =rehearse- 8 or nine hours a day. Maybe thta was what was meant. Much more likely situation.
>How did Bron teach? Is it a component of the Russian school back then?
Only know bits and pieces from observation and reading but..
Bron`s basic school is the style passed down from Igor Oistrakh. IE Franco Belgian type bowing etc. However, he broke away from the mainstream soviet institutes to develop his own approach and methodology out in Siberia. In many ways similar to Delay, he isolated a few fundamental errors in performance that make up the reasons why students are having problems. He has never publicaslly specified allof these to my knowledge. Some things he isists on is constant public performance, repertoire mobility( a lot of reperoire under the hands with maximum efficiency of learning) and modern fngerings. Of the last he offers the minor third stretch in an arpeggio type figire using 1-2 rather than the tradition .
Thank you for the infos! For the orchestra players telling they practiced 7 to 9 hours per day, it was with my father when I was young at a kids concerts of the Montreal symphony where families were invited back stage after the concert to talk with musicians...
And a musician from the Montreal symphony once came at school to do a little presentation. I think she said she practiced 8 hours a day.
But I'm sure about what has been said at the meeting with my father and musicians backstage!
Perhaps they count the hours you told!
I knew a bit about Bron's teaching, that he studied with Igor Oistrakh. I heard that he even was Igor's assistant for a while!
Have a nice day,
Hello- I think the basic principal that seems to be over-looked is that scales provide a way to really listen to yourself without looking at music. Every possible combination of bowings, tone colors, fingerings, etc.. can be practiced with scales. If you can obtain control of the bow and left hand with scales, then it becomes much easier to sound "good" in the rep. pieces. Ultimately what matters is how you sound,and practicing a good dose of scales( with proper listening) will certainly help you to achieve your sound.
Check out Capet's Art of Bowing, Flesh's Scale System, or Ysaye's Exercises. These books contain scales with written out bowing, rhythm, and dynamic variations. There are endless combinations that you can use, but ultimately the goal is to be able to achieve variety of sound and control of the bow.
I could never imagine playing the Beethoven Concerto w/o knowing and practicing my scales.
(I think this is true for any piece)
There's "solving problems," but then there's also playing things many times after most of the problems are solved. Sure, you should still be getting incrementally better, but you do have to put in the reps to achieve mastery, with anything. Scales are wonderful practice, make no mistake. A LOT of people do not realize that they actually have not yet achieved mastery with their basic finger placement and basic bowings. Two hours a day? Certainly not for a lifetime. But at certain points in development, or even re-development, this can be appropriate.
If we revisit some of Buri's previous blogs, we'll see how much he has thought about scale practice and practice in general... I completely agree what he says. Although the importance of practising scales is obvious, it's not so obvious to some of us (including some teachers that I know) that it is serious hard work that we are talking about here. I'm not sure our brain is designed to efficiently working constantly for 2 hours of this type of hard work. Mine is definitely not, and I'm not the kind of person can stand a lot of repitition either. Laurie is right and maybe this is why I'm not a consistent player. I much prefer to work on issues by dividing practice into 5-15 mintute chunks and to be very clear about which component I'm dealing with when I'm working on each practice 'chunk'. I get quick results this way and it's fun.
nice discussion. well, since my kid does about 2 mins of scales everyday, i think aiming for 2 hours is a good direction:) CLEARLY, INTONATION ISSUES WILL BE IMPROVED IF SHE SPENDS MORE TIME ON SCALES.
buri always has things beyond me but perhaps we should put things in perspective in that vadim was addressing a selected group of young people who are trying to make it in a field however competitive you guys know very well. my speculation is that if every player there had at least acceptable intonation, vadim probably would have concentrated on some other things. if during the masterclass for vadim you still have intonation issues (to me that means more than just putting the fingers on the right spots, but how enter and exit, etc, accuracy, efficiency, style etc), then we have a MAJOR problem. way beyond and much more fundamental than musicality issues, imo.
so it is kinda lucky that it was vadim repin there giving guidance. i wonder what repin's passionate teacher in that video would have done. perhaps a music gulag in siberia where you need 20 hours of scales per day to toughen up the western softies of the current generation? :)
Interesting that Anne Horvath started this discussion thread on Nathan Milstein just as Brivati-sensei posted this blog. Nathan Milstein insisted that Auer taught people to think and invent but not practice for its own sake. Practice is mind training not hand training.
i think practice should be both mind and hand training, with the mind telling the hands what to do, aiming for high accuracy and reliability. just knowing what to do is not enough. hands have to be in shape through practice. mr milstein in his older age probably did not sound as good as when he was younger. his mind was still sharp, but the hands could not keep up anymore.
similarly, for a young and yet to be developed player, one can make the argument that as the mind is being sharpened, the hands need continued practice to keep up with the mind.
one can invent different fingering for scales with the mind, but one has to practice the hands to make the new/different ways work.
further, nobody has dictated that playing scales has to be a passive, mindless activity. that is an assumption, perhaps applying to some folks who find scales less stimulating than pieces, etc. if the person is alert and oriented, each note played sends a message to the brain which in turn reacts and acts. the signals are all there; some learn to block them.
Al Al Al You are right about old age and fingers but "Let the record show" as they say, Nathan Milstein was as sharp as a razor in his playing right up to the end. The one artist you could never " accuse " on that score.I won`t accuse any players myself.You all deserve a medal.
you guys always talk about metaphysical stuff:) i luv it!
John`s on the ball here Al. I was at Milstein`s last concerto performance and it was just mind blowing. Ain`t been no yungsters who could do what he did that night. No allowances for age.
If you look at the new DVD being touted on another discussion thread (which I have) players on it speak in awe about how Milstein actually got better as he got older. And they don`t just mean sort of spiritually while the foundations crumbled and we made allowances. he did get better....I think this is a really useful thing for late starters to keep in mind ;)
Experience tends to show that even very advanced players more often than not play scales rather badly even as they play pieces rather well. Why should this be? One aspect of it is, just in my opinion, that fantastic though Galamian`s ideas and materials are, (I use them all the time anyway...) they have perpetuated a misunderstanding that is ingrained by excessive scalle practice. That is that constantly creating fresh puzzles through the mind via accents, bowings and rythms will correct deep rooted but very subtle problems in playing automatically. Although such praciticng does have enormous benifits, not only in scales, but througout one`s practice, the fact remains there a certain numbe rof techncial issues found within scales which in my opinion are best corrected outside of scales with more specific exercises that adress those issues directly. The Galamina material does not do this.
Nor am I opposed to the notion of repetition. It is essential and the mild suggestion that a9I am oppsed to repetition and b) more is better are both wrong in my book. Repetitioon is only okay once the fundamentla issues have been solved and in the latter case although two hours may be somewhat better for develpoping facility once those isses are resolved (frankly I doubt it) it is, agin just my opinion, at the expense of doing other things that will help develop a more all round artist and posisbly better technically player nayway. Those things include music (what we are actually here to do) chamber music, etudes etc as stated earlier.
There wa sno suggestion that playign scale sat a high level was either mindless or valueless. It is simply that the kind of mind involved is very focused, very mind and like it or not, minus the heart. I don`t perosnally find it surprising thta today`s player sare somwhat lacking in individuality and i do attribute it to an unbalanced diet.
It`s just too many prunes....
This thing about Milstein is interesting! I have notice (but didn't know if it was right or not) that some extraordinairly players form the old era got better when they got older in age! Even Haendel and Oistrakh! A sign of true artists that never stop to learn and work hard! While I have also heard on video (but again I don't know if it's right to tell this) kids that I though would become super super extraordinairly... and that became very very good but no better than any other soloist. I mean not as much as what their talent suggested when they were young.
Perhaps some (at = level) keep this passion to always become better while other sit on their laurels? Maybe I'm totally wrong here...
Anne-Marie, it does make me think of one small difference. If you consider players of yore then relatively speaking their early development wa s sometimes rather slow in comparison with today. Oistrakh was not considered a prodigy but is still considerd by many to be the bets ever. Stern got there real sloooow. My impresison is Ms. Hahn also worked steadily rather than meteorically in her formative years. Bron also talks about how his playing ability a ten would be considered low by todays standards. These days the real whizz kids are signing on with agencies , runing hither and thither to get ahead and I wonder if they just burn out. Its hard to know where to go if you have played everything by fifteen I guess.....
How true. Laurie recently interviewed someone (I don't know who?) Ah yes, Simon Fisher! And he told that because he didn't have internet in London, he though he was the best and he added something: "as a student, I could play anything they put on the stand but back then they didn't put Mendelshon on the stand, they didn't even put Bruch!"
Have a nice day,
buri, john's case with milstein is well taken, esp after your explanation. there is no denying of individual cases of wonder. however, we do need to acknowledge that those few are rare exceptions to the rule. in general, as people age, mind gets duller and body gets achier, making violin playing at very high level challenging. think of it as a stat.
something that you have mentioned is indeed worth noting, that someone like milstein kept on CREATING into the older age, instead of sitting back and enjoying the fruits of yesterday. as you said, some special people have that "heart" to not to kick back. most, don't, haha.
therefore, those who can create and invent what they need and want may not need the structure of hours and hours of practice/scales. they have been doing due diligence while others are drinking coffee. they are constantly figuring it out in their heads and fingers. in fact, this type will find structure detrimental to their creativity. be a violin giant or an arctic explorer or something,,,,just not 9 to 5!
on the other hand, :) the mass that are pro musical school/career bound, with under-developed cognitive and physical prerequisites, better get their scales in top notch shape:) that is violin 101.
>in general, as people age, mind gets duller and body gets achier,
Prunes. More prunes.
An earthquake scale trainer is on the wa.
Al, In the meantime, I repeat that I have never advocated anythign but what you, by dint of stating a position I already hold are apparently removing me from. Can you follow that? I can`t quite, but I know what I meant.....;)
The serious point I was making is don`t accept blindly pronouncements that are potentially make or break because of whoever is making them. Subject them to question, which I know you do. But I also perosnally feel a nuance of making scales a goal in themsleves in arather negative way at tyimes. The goal of playing scales well is to play music well. When the amount of time on scales / the scale practice itslef become the only goal , something to claim with pride in terms of time spent, then it is self-vandalism. The amount of time spent on scales cannot be decided arbitrarily by another. For some it may be more than two hours, for others a lot less. Only experience/ the experience of others can guide us here. Mine tells me that two hours is not a wise generla guideline. I refer you again to Delay, Flesch, Kievman et al on the subject.
For what is worth, milstein practice like crazy when he was young because a she remarked @there was no TV.` He did not have access to a scale book so he made up his own scale ssytem from his sisters copy of the Chopin piano works. He also knew the Paginin caprices inside out form a young age. That in itself constitutes a virtual scale workout....
good points buri, as usual and believe me, i enjoy reading and learning from you, not just on violin related stuff (which i really don't belong here haha) but also your take on things in general and other life lessons. your stuff is very readable because you are able to zone in and zone out at whim which is refreshing...
i absolutely believe a blind prescription of 2 hours per day as a doctrine is questionable, particularly if a less inspired teacher is to apply that dogma to a less inspired student, thus blind leading blind with a piece of other people's cheese:) because i work with my kids quite closely on golf training, i tend to agree with you on your stand on scales: everything one does must have meaning that applies to the individual need, with right now, near term and long term plan in mind. simply cannot flip open a golf magazine and randomly follow an one pager wisdom cheat sheet. more often than not on the practice range when i see what some other kids do, under this type of "scale" regimen, part of me tells me to shut up because they are not my kids and i am not their teacher, part of me screams murder. you can only go so far copying others. the rest really takes a lot of creativity and inventiveness.
one more element that came to mind is that often in violin or golf, i have noticed that performance suffers due to lack of confidence, aka, when i play in front of vadim, i somehow don't quite trust myself. other than gulping beta blockers, do you think, with longer exposure to scales, making fingers more automatic (like how i drive to shops to pick up bread,,,scary i never sometimes even remember i drove the car), some performers can learn to deal with stress that way? deaden the brain by a flood of scales? :):):)
Buri Sensei, with your permission, I’ll quote the following on my facebook:
The goal of playing scales well is to play music well. When … the scale practice itself become the only goal, something to claim with pride in terms of time spent, then it is self-vandalism.
>do you think, with longer exposure to scales, making fingers more automatic (like how i drive to shops to pick up bread,,,scary i never sometimes even remember i drove the car), some performers can learn to deal with stress that way? deaden the brain by a flood of scales? :):):)
Yes, but I don`t tinkit`s actually a question of deadening anything in the sense of sponging up any loose adrenaline floating around the body. One of the main purposesof practice is forming the correct psycholgical make up for appearing in front of people. As an example I have often seen from AT teachers, players pay very little attention to what they do immediately prior to any practice session. Imagine the case is across the room and you have decided to do some work. The way a player walks across the room is completley different from going to pick up a tin opener for the morning prunes. Theres a clealry visible emotional/physical disturbamce going on, possibly effecting the breathing. Then thebody is misuedstructurally as one opnes th ecase, in a peculiar bent over position. Already one is set up for a less than efficacious practice session. As adults we can can learn to observe these things and make choices to use ourselves better. In good scale practice we should be making the same choices thereby creatng new grooves associated with the insturment. These grooves should translate directly into what occurs on stage.
Another way of looking at it might be that nerves are essentialy our natural genius for focusing on the wrong thing. If we train the mind to pay attention to what we are actually doing then we can by pass the ego and all that other baggage. Scale pracitce is an excellent opportuniy to develop this ability.
Finally there is the confidence of knowing that your playing equipment is in the best possible shape. This can only be done through careful examination of the process of improving scales (scale practice rather than scale performance) and it makes all the differnence in the world.
One of the complexities of this kind of discussion is actually defining what each player means by scale practice . Playing through the Flesch in a creative way is obvious. But working on arpeggio type exericses from Drews book? Suppose I am working on the fast section of Rode Caprice no6. That would involve an extended period of workign on `scales` in all manner of ways as suggested by Galamina or Simon Fischer`s work.
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