Where are scales in your practice routine?

December 30, 2017, 7:10 AM · Not in order of importance, but what do you practice before scales and what do you hold until after? Why?

Replies (24)

Edited: December 30, 2017, 8:07 AM · I don't start with scales. I do my first warm-ups with a few minutes of bow-arm exercises, then 3-5 minutes of left-hand finger exercises without the bow, 3rd position, then 1st -- basic Sevcik or Schradieck. This helps me open up both hands right away and get the blood pumping fast. The basic warm-up continues with both L/R hands together for about 20 minutes till I feel like I'm operating at full power in both hands.

Then I review scales. I hold etude reviews, e.g., Kreutzer, and repertoire pieces till after scales.

Footnote about pumping the blood fast: I take a 20-minutes walk, about 3.5 mph, before starting a practice session. This gives me very warm feet and hands -- an effect that carries over for a long time -- most helpful in winter.

December 30, 2017, 8:24 AM · Thanks Jim. Looks like you've been at it for say 40 minutes before scales. Is being fully warmed up the deciding condition?
Edited: December 30, 2017, 8:45 AM · David, yes -- counting the walk, I'd calculate roughly 40 minutes before scales. The 20-minute L/R hand warm-up -- that's something I need only for the first session with the instrument in a given day. Later in the day, a subsequent session of practicing and playing requires of me, let's say, only 5 minutes of warm-up -- maybe not even that much.

But the next day, I have to start all over -- like a car engine that gets cold overnight and needs full warm-up again.

Yes, I like to be fully warmed up before scales -- sort of like warming up a car engine before going out onto the freeway.

Some players report starting a practice session with scales -- in fact, from what I've read here on this board, it's not uncommon. To each his own, but I prefer not to proceed that way. Scales are really demanding. Once I'm fully warmed up, then I can concentrate on tone production and technique during their execution -- and actually have fun with them -- instead of worrying about the physical conditions I need for effective playing -- e.g., ambient temperature, warm hands, secure grip.

Hope this helps.

December 30, 2017, 8:56 AM · Thanks Jim. So far my schedule has been random. Looking to put some reason into the routine.
Edited: December 30, 2017, 9:07 AM · First thing (including arpeggios) on my list - to remind me where the notes are before I go on to other things.

I've been doing this since my earliest days on piano and cello.

December 30, 2017, 9:55 AM · Thanks Trevor. That's sort of where I'm drawn to, after a short instrument warmup.
December 30, 2017, 9:58 AM · I start with all 24 scales, before doing anything else. Usually do moderately fast. If I sense something is getting sloppy I will stop and work on that, or vary routine with scales somewhat, but I always start with scales. Some how it gives me the confidence to proceed....

December 30, 2017, 10:08 AM · Wow Alice! That would be a week long project for me, but perhaps 3 or 4 would help a lot.
Edited: December 30, 2017, 2:49 PM · Warmup? At my age it would be warmup/weardown!! Maybe I'll play a 3 octave G/Cmajor and then minor scale on violin/viola (down bow-up and up bow-down) or 4 octave on cello - but that's it - I gotta save my strength. If I have the shakes that day I pretty much quit then!

But 40 years ago (in my early 40s, when I was taking another shot to improve, playing higher technique on violin really hurt after about 15 minutes and I found that if I made it through 30 minutes the pain stopped and I was then in a position to actually improve some each day. So I adopted a warmup routine that included some "one-bow" 3 octave scales and arpeggios, a set of remedial etudes (I can no longer remember which ones) and then I think I played from Bach's 2nd Partita and finished up with a couple of Paganini Caprices a couple of times - by then I was ready to work on whatever I was working on at the time for about an hour.

December 30, 2017, 11:21 AM · Scales for me, one key per day to begin each day's practice as follows:

Flesch's one octave on each string then his 3 octave scale and arpeggios on the same key. Double stops with my own melodic improvisation (I don't like Flesch's double stops).

I don't just run through them, but I start slowly with two notes per bow and increase with different bowings and end with one whole bow legato ascending and one descending 3 octave.

December 30, 2017, 11:50 AM · I might start with a few simple exercises, but not always. Then, I do scales; one major with its corresponding minor (e.g G major, G minor), followed by arpeggios (major, minor, dominant 7th and diminished 7th), then chromatic, then double stops in 3rds, 6ths and octaves. I don't do scales every single session.
December 30, 2017, 2:10 PM · My fingers prefer to start with scale based exercises and my ear keeps track of the ring-tones to make sure I'm maintaining correct intonation. Due to age, injuries and a bit of arthritis, I'm limited to fourth position and below now. Then I start work on an upcoming lesson or something I'm working on for myself. I always end with something that is just for fun.

Similar to Jim I usually ride my bicycle (in this season indoors) and that gets the blood pumping, then a quick shower and ready to tune up and start playing.

December 30, 2017, 2:13 PM · Jim , Which scale system/s do you use ?
December 30, 2017, 2:16 PM · Thanks folks. I've decided to put scales in after a short warmup and Son File and before some S F Basics and current gig programs. Then exercises and new tunes. Some will have to be on alternate day rotation because I also work on that fine line between warmed up and worn out.

Thanks all.
Stay pawSITive.
Happy Hogmanay.

December 30, 2017, 2:21 PM · My teacher regards scales as a canvas upon which to do other exercises. He usually specifies bowing exercises to do with scales. I tend to do these when I have a couple of minutes in which I can do something mechanical, but don't have enough time to do anything else. They get fit into the middle of my day, like when I have 10 minutes between client appointments and need a mental break from work.
December 30, 2017, 3:26 PM · David, are you taking lessons? Just curious. I tend to do bowing exercises as a separate thing.
December 30, 2017, 3:34 PM · Hi Ella. I do have bowing in my exercises. Used to take lessons, but now, not in the budget.
Lydia, very descriptive.
December 30, 2017, 7:38 PM · I always start with scales with various bow patterns before moving on to other material.
December 30, 2017, 10:52 PM · First in line for me is a thing I call taps and lifts. The fingers just move up and down with grace notes. Then the shifting motion with octave slides. The bowing warm-up is selections from Sevcik 40 variations. Then the scales; pick one key for the day; three-octave scale, harmonic minor scale, broken-thirds, the chromatic scale. By the way-there is only one chromatic scale, notated and fingered a variety of ways. Then the arpeggios/chords; in addition to the usual ones I add some of the "jazz" chords, like augmented, half-diminished, added sixths,etc. The material is all public domain, the fingerings are personal, depending on the context, so I don't use a specific book anymore. Being simple-minded, I don't combine bowing patterns with scales.
December 31, 2017, 1:31 AM · I regard scales as a warm-up, so I do them after stretching and Schradieck, but before etudes and pieces.
December 31, 2017, 1:43 AM · I only have about 45-60 minutes each day to practice because of work (sometimes broken up), so my routine is:

Tonalization - 2-3 minutes
Schradiek - 2-3 minutes
Yost 1-finger scales - 5 minutes
3 octave scales/arpeggios/intervals ala Flesch - 10 minutes

From there, it depends on what performances I'm preparing for, or which etudes/pieces my students are studying. At the moment, the pile is daunting, as I have kids working on Ysaye 2, the Bach Chaconne, Corigliano Red Violin Caprices, Korngold Concerto...and even the less complex pieces like Mozart 3, Kreisler Praeludium and Allegro, and others still need attention to the technical passages in both hands. From time to time, visits into Kreutzer, Fiorillo, Rode, and Dont are necessary, and I've got a concert on one of the Brahms Sonatas coming up at the end of January. Ack!

December 31, 2017, 6:33 AM · 5 to 10 mins of melodic improv (tonalization) then I do scales in thirds first, since I'm still doing those very slowly and they warm up my hands. Then maybe 15 mins on scales ... but these days I do not spend a lot of time on plain 3 octave scales. I'd much rather do one finger scales, scales in broken thirds, and jazz scales, as I am still on the steeper part of the learning curve with those.
December 31, 2017, 7:06 AM · when I find the time for a full practice session I indeed start with a Flesch scale (not all of it of course but as much as I can manage before losing concentration or needing a short break), however, the three very first things I start with are colle, controlled vibrato, and son file exercises.
January 3, 2018, 8:40 AM · Scales are already a combination of various techniques, so basics first; then one slow open string scale, one slow sharp or flat scale, both with mordents and trills, slurred and détaché; then full-blown scales or studies related to repertoire.
Arpeggios too are essential, for those "diagonal" intervals that hop across the strings.


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