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Ruth Kuefler

Three cheers for scales!

June 18, 2008 at 10:22 PM

I've always had challenges with my bow arm, but this year especially, as I keep moving to harder repertoire, I've realized that I really need to make improvements in that area. This semester I had a master class with Brian Lewis on Introduction and Tarantella. The sautille was giving me some trouble, so he suggested that I practice it in my scales daily. Reading around this site, I've noticed several people discuss how important it is to practice different bowstrokes daily.

Ever since I started working through the Flesch Scale System, I've used basically the same practice method for scales. I think it originally came from some well-known teacher (Galamian, maybe?? or maybe I'm just imagining things). Anyway, the way it works is you set the metronome to quarter note = 60, and start with half notes. Then you do quarters, quarter note triplets, eights, eighth-note triplets, sixteenths, sixteenth-note triplets, and lastly, thirty-second notes. Also, you alternate two beats slurred and two beats separate notes (so you end of playing in all portions of the bow). Oh, and there's also this little turn at the end that makes the rhythms work out better (for example, if you were doing C major, you'd play c-e-d-c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c and so on up the scale). Later on I developed a similar system for arpeggios.

This method was a good start, but is not nearly thorough enough for the level I'm at now. I need a good system for covering as many bowstrokes as possible on a daily basis. So, I went through the Flesch and racked my brain for as many possibilities I could think of. Here's what I've come up with so far:

Legato (frog, middle, tip)
Spiccato (starting 4 strokes per note for the entire scale, then repeating that process with 3 strokes per note, then 2, then 1)
Portato (3 and 6 note groupings)

3 notes per slur (frog, middle, tip)
6 notes per slur (upper half, lower half)
12 notes per slur (whole bow)
24 notes per slur (whole bow)

1 separate, 2 slurred (frog, middle, tip)
1 separate, 2 up bow staccato (frog, middle, tip)
2 slurred, 1 separate (frog, middle, tip)
Up bow staccato (2 slurred, 10 stacatto, 2 slurred, 10 stacatto, 2 slurred, 17 stacatto; see Flesch, p. 56)
Dotted rhythms:
- Dotted eighth/sixteenth/straight eighth (separate bows up the scale, hooked on the way down; frog, middle, tip)
- Sixteenth/dotted eighth, straight eighth (separate bows; frog, middle, tip)

I'm sure there are a lot more combinations of rhythms and separate/slurred patterns. Probably way too many to do them all every day, so maybe I'll challenge myself to think of an extra 'bonus' pattern each day. :)

I tried this new method all the way though for the first time today, and I felt like my brain and my body were really engaged. It took just under an hour to do both this and my old system, plus arpeggios and double stops, but I never felt bored. After doing all those bowstrokes, I felt like I really knew my way around my instrument. I'll have to be careful and take some breaks so that all that repetition doesn't tire my left hand, but overall, I'm happy with this plan. Yay for scales!

If you have any comments/suggestions, I'm always grateful for advice. :)

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 18, 2008 at 10:43 PM
I strongly recommend you take a look at the Flesch Urstudien. In it you can find what he considered to be the fundamental bowings which are applied to scale sand chords.
The danger with this kind of excellent work is thta one can have too much of a good thing. That is what promted Szigeti to write somewhat scathingly about the 5000 bowings of sevick that have too little conneciton with the actuall musical requirement of bowing.
Actually there are some really good bowing exericses in opus 2 part three.I will dig out the numbers my yeacher at RCM inisted on.
Its also worth taking a look at Casorti bowing technique book.Another , even better, way of developing bowing hat might give you abreak once you startto get to comnfortbal is the Tartini Art of Bowing. Many older players swore by this as the bible of pure bow technique. And then there is Kreutzer...
From Bill Busen
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 1:06 AM
Since you mentioned bowing generically rather than specific strokes as the high-level goal, you could also add permutations of sounding-point, dynamics, bow rotation, etc.

Then when you finished one day's scales, you could just start on the next!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 2:45 AM
Ricochet: two, three, four to a note, down-bow and up-bow
From Mendy Smith
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 3:53 AM
Kreutzer - No 2 & 3 have 40 + different bowing techniques to practice for those etudes. A little fore interesting than scales. Many of the other etudes are good for other bowing practices as well.
From Duncan Osborn
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 3:29 AM
Volume 1 of the Galamian scale book (Contemporary Violin Technique) includes a substantial insert with hundreds of rhythmic and bowing patterns. While it's good to have a practice ritual, Galamian's main message to his students was to learn how to adapt to different left/right hand combinations, rather than to learn the combinations themselves. That is, in the setting of a piece, the violinist should be able to handle any pattern not as a result of having practiced that pattern specifically, but as a result of having practiced adaptation itself. To this end, I like to play various combinations of left and right hand trickery. If a pattern gives me trouble, I practice it until I am comfortable and move on, perhaps revisiting it a bit later. This method forces the mind's constant attention, whereas a set of exercises often become somewhat automatic when their execution becomes habit. But most importantly, a varied and dynamic practice style obviates the need to practice every pattern every day; instead it prepares one to play any passage, familiar or not--a rather more versatile ability.

Have you considered practicing bowing patterns daily in context along with your scale work? The Paganini caprices, Wieniawski Op. 10 or even Bach all help to cement the skills we gain in scales. One topic often overlooked in scale work is that of stroke transitions, which are more suited to the more intricate meanderings of etudes. Additionally, scales can cause us to underestimate how the hands affect each other (bilateral transfer); the rapid shifting and reaching of the left hand during complex passages can easily disrupt the carefully nurtured motions of the right hand, no matter their accuracy during linear scales.

Good luck, and please let us know how your investigation proceeds!

From Hannah Wright
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 4:11 AM
Ruth, have you ever heard of Tartini's The Art of Bowing? It's a huge etude that's a theme on fifty variations. I got it and am starting to look at it. You may find it helpful.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 4:18 AM
confirms my belief that noone ever reads more than the first line of anything I write;)
From Anthony Barletta
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 5:42 AM
I read everything, Buri. And I love prunes.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 2:10 PM
I have a wonderful scale book, Gammes Pratiques, by Nadaud (ed. Bozza). My teacher, Rene Benedetti, gave it to me in 1965, and my most recent teachers have commented that they think it is better than Flesch. If you can get it from somewhere, I highly recommend it. As Benedetti told me repeatedly, "On peut toujours faire des gammes." Words to live by.
From Jason Bell
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 4:26 PM
I had a lesson with a man who was a student of Galamian and studio-mates with Michael Rabin and I asked him how to practice scales efficiently. What he laid out for me was what Galamian had told him and it's pretty close to what you have here. When I started doing the program habitually I started seeing immediate improvement in my tone, intonation and coordination. I can post exactly what I have if there's interest for it.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 8:38 PM
Thank you all for the great suggestions! I think I need a combination of daily practice routine (for the bowstrokes I have most difficulty with), and then a rotation of constantly new patterns, so I develop 'adaptation' like Duncan was saying.

I raided my school library and found some interesting sources:

Galamian, Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching
Gerle, The Art of Bowing Practice
Flesh, The Art of Violin Playing, Book One
Cutter, How to Study Kreutzer

I've just skimmed through them so far, but I can already tell there are a ton of great ideas here. I also laid my hands on the Flesch Urstudien, so I'll see what I can do with that.

If only I had thought of this earlier . . .

I'm also thinking I should take a break from the Gavinies etudes I've been working on and go back to a thorough study of Kreutzer. That would be much more beneficial to me right now.

From Ray Randall
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 9:54 PM
Kreutzer #1, the super slow one, is superb for position changing and bow control.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 20, 2008 at 12:52 AM
Buri had a column here somewhere where he talked about each of the Kreutzer etudes. I think it was called Buri's Studio. Maybe it is archived somewhere. It was the last word on Kreutzer etudes.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 20, 2008 at 1:21 AM
it@s still there but i think it was at best only the -first- word.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 20, 2008 at 2:07 PM
Buri is way too modest. Besides, I doubt there is any other source of insight out there on the Kreutzer etudes. Have fun with them.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 20, 2008 at 6:29 PM
Buri is too modest . . . I propose we establish an annual Prune Award in honor of the MVC (most valuable contributor) on Buri gets the first one, naturally. ;)

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