Carl flesch scales for a longtime jazz violinist

October 15, 2016 at 02:42 PM · Hello,

Im a jazz violinist who is looking at starting the carl flecsh scale system. I have been playing for 20 year but never really had much in the way of serious classical studies or formal technique teaining. How would you suggest i go about starting the system? I was think just looking at 1-5 but just up to 1-4-6-1 arpeggios. Changing key every day.



Replies (12)

October 15, 2016 at 04:41 PM · Once you have learned a few scales you should memorise them. This is actually easy, as there are only so many finger patterns. Also, play one finger scales (1-2 octaves) on each string using 1st finger, then 2nd etc. This trains the ear to hear and judge the intervals accurately. Putting each finger down separately in normal scales by-passes the ear and often leads to poor intonation. So you need to do both, at least in the early stages.

October 15, 2016 at 09:21 PM · I realise, looking at your profile, that you are in fact an advanced player, and so the ear training bit is obviously irrelevant! Sorry about that!

October 15, 2016 at 09:41 PM · Hi Matt. I just listened to a couple of your youtubes -- the limehouse blues and the Django tune. Great swing feel, very enjoyable tracks. I'm noticing you're in 1st position nearly all the time, but definitely getting a lot out of it. Your band's ensemble is real tight also.

I found that scales in thirds boosted my chops much faster than regular three octave scales. That's probably because I neglected double stops rather scandalously in my youth and the repertoire that I'm working on now demands some catch-up there, but scales in thirds do force you to think just a little harder about what comes next. I have played jazz piano for a long time and more recently some jazz violin too. Something I found useful is to write down a few turnarounds (eighth-note lines following 2-5-1 progressions, etc.) using software like Musescore, transpose that into all keys, and then practice that. I'm still at the stage where I have to work out individual fingerings in advance, but I can also see where I won't have to do that forever. I wish I had more time to follow up on it. I think that's a big part of scale practice -- just knowing your fingerboard for the kind of music you're going to play. As far as "classical scale training," Flesch does not really offer that. Flesch is for those getting the training from a teacher. In the absence of a teacher, you may find Simon Fischer's "Scales" book more tutorial in nature.

October 17, 2016 at 05:14 AM · First, you should never feel that what you are doing is inferior to main-stream classical fiddlers. The Flesch system may not be a good choice for you. 10ths and fingered octaves can be dangerous. He starts a lot the scales with the 2nd finger, which we usually avoid in real music because it puts the 1/2 step on string change. Definitely work out your own personal fingerings in all keys and memorize them to the point of automatic, so you don't have to do all that mental calculation while improvising. Optimum fingerings change with the technical and musical context. Also the expanded list of chords/arpeggios that jazz musicians use, instead of the 4 that classical violinists study. I saw Grappelli play up close once, and what I remember was that he used standard, conservative fingering in first position. When he wanted high notes he went straight up the E string. To use complex, too-clever modern fingerings while improvising can be a form of information over-load.

October 17, 2016 at 03:04 PM · Matt,

Here are some different ideas to consider. I've had the good luck to be located in Rochester, NY near the Eastman School. I've had several Eastman jazz professors (on other instruments) as coaches. None of them suggested practicing scales as a beginner exercise for improvisation, though it has value for intonation. The most frequent advice I got, repeatedly, was practice 3s and 7s in all their forms in all 12 keys, in lots of rhythms, in lots of tempos. Charlie Parker played a 3 or a 7 in almost every measure he ever performed. A few of the many reasons 3s & 7s are valuable: they - define the sound of every chord, can be landing and starting points for improvised phrases, propel the music forward, are the foundation of guide tone lines, are essential to the valued sound of 'playing the chords', are a fallback when you get 'lost', etc.

You might find Arpeggios, Rhythms, and Scales, my improv technique book for violin helpful. It is the only violin technique book with all the 7th chords in all keys - with multiple fingering suggestions. You might think of it as a Flesch book built around arpeggios and jazz scales, like modals and blues. It also has 20+ improv exercises at the end and blues etudes.

But however you go forward, enjoy. You will learn a lot about music, and I hope you have a good time with it.

October 17, 2016 at 03:09 PM ·

October 19, 2016 at 11:42 AM · Hi all,

Firstly thanks for the replies, some nice advice. I do think though that i may not have been clear with my post. I have done a lot of work and study on jazz and improvisation, as good advice as some of this is, that side of things is not really what I'm looking for advice about. I have spoken to some violinists who have looked at the flesch scales a lot and have found it has greatly expanded their technique in terms of shifts and tone production etc so I am quite sold on beginning to practise this. I also have had various teachers throughout the years give me the info I need on hand position, shifting and bow control. I am looking for advice on how to effectivly put the flesch book into a daily routine as someone who has not done that much in the way of singe string scales in the past. Would you perhaps suggest I start by looking at the 1 octaves scales at the very beginning of each section (key centre) and practice this in all of the keys before moving on to the arpeggios and the rest of the excersises OR look at one key and try to get all of the exercises in that key proficient before moving to the next key?

Thanks in advance


October 19, 2016 at 01:04 PM · Both or either would work. It depends on preferences. I tend to mix and match - i.e. different keys and major minor and arpeggios, just to warm up a bit sometimes.

The more keys you do the more comfortable you are in pieces and concertos (if you want to play those) as it helps you with the geography of the keyboard.

October 19, 2016 at 02:47 PM · Matt,

I spent over a decade in the Flesch book. My teacher started me on Exercise #5, but doing just 2 octaves. We spent a month on each key getting it in tune and up to the speed my teacher wanted. She changed some of the fingerings because some are 'antiquated'. We then did the cycle all over again with 3 octaves as written. The third cycle was Exercise #5 again, but everything from memory. The fourth cycle was Exercises #6 & #7. The fifth cycle was #8, #9, #10. The sixth cycle was Exercise #1 & #2. Exercises 1 thru 4 are aimed at 'crawling up' one string to play everything. Look at the fingerings. They are not beginner exercises, despite being the first in order.

FWIW, a much better book for shifting is Sevcik No.8. The entire book is shifting and it has every imaginable combination, e.g., start on X finger, shift Y positions, land on Z finger - both up and down. Flesch has shifts but they are much more limited and 'predictable'.

At this point, with a focus on improv, I play Flesch's 3 octave scales and arpeggios from memory at ever increasing tempos as my warm-up. I play a key until "its OK" - sometimes a couple days, sometimes a couple weeks, and just keep the cycle going.

October 22, 2016 at 11:17 PM · So, Mike, one key at a time, a day or two, or a week or two?

After more than a decade of Flesch, I wonder why "a week or two" might be necessary.

I do note that Matt is not trying to learn the scales, or positions, or shifting. His desire to study from the Flesch book is to improve tone and technique.

Maybe, just a line or two from a dozen different exercises, slowly, then faster, each key each day, many repetitions, working for nuances each time?

It is an interesting challenge Matt has set himself.

October 22, 2016 at 11:36 PM · Most people do not take the Flesch scale studies "in order" although it could be argued that many of us might have benefited from tackling the single-string scales sooner in our development. The normal starting place is not Flesch but rather something like Hrimaly, but I don't think Matt needs that. I agree with Mike Laird that starting with "No. 5" which is the standard three-octave scale, perhaps initially with two octaves and then moving up to three, is a very common approach. Once you can play the scale up and down reasonably cleanly and in tune, then you should be ready for the standard Flesch sequence of arpeggios, which come right after the three-octave scale. The scale in broken thirds is good too.

Matt, I wasn't trying to give you advice on jazz improv -- I should be taking lessons from you in that area! I'm only saying that you can design your own Flesch-like studies that will feed more directly into a jazz genre. Mike Laird's book (which I have) gives you some of that too.

The other thing that will help you is standard violin studies, and I really recommend Dont and Mazas. They have you moving around among the lower positions (first, second, third especially) and that really helps your general facility. And of course after that comes Kreutzer.

October 24, 2016 at 12:22 PM · Thanks for the advice guys! Will let you know how i get on!

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