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Scales without prunes

November 3, 2009 at 10:25 PM

been doing a lot of work on scales recently.   One thing I have noticed which interests me is that even on simple one octave scale and arpeggios with no position change there is no faster way to warm up my hands.   I can play things like the accelartion scale exercises up to extreme tempos and my fingers actually remain cold for some reason.   The key factor here is in the degree of mental involvement.  I practice the very simple scales in order to have absolutely perfect action in the fingers without any tension.   Then I am really focused on keeping all possible fingers down for as long as possible and the final factor is preparation of the fingers on an adjacent string ascending and below the current finger descending.  If I am paying 100% attention to these things then the amount of energy focused on the hands makes them extremely hot within a very short space of time.
One of the biggest flaws or difficulties with scales for many people is preparation of the first finger when ascending so it is useful to practice this daily.   At the same time, the note preceding the new note must be kept down until after the new note has sounded.  Auer stated that this was the secret of legato in violin playing.   In descending scales although it is pretty much the same thing I think the significance of finger preparation is a little different. It is here that it is vital to have a mental conception of the whole pattern of the fingers.  One cannot place a lower r finger silently and then when it is its turn to sound –slide- it into where it should actually be.  That is the basis of an extremely faulty technique and actually quite common.
All this work on left hand unfortunately may lead to another problem. The secret, in my opinion, of a good tone is the ability to draw he bow through the air without dipping it in either direction up or down.   It is amazing how common this is even to a small degree.   I suspect what tends to happen when one begins to focus on the left hand aspect of scales mentioned above the bow arm automatically drops, or the bow dips in accord –with the finger preparation-.  If this is a habit then the mental energy required to correct this may be considerable in the initial stages. One of the best exercises for the problem and playing in general is the independence of bow arm exercise advocated by Simon Fischer in Basics.  One plays long tones on the g string and plays the left hand as written while sustaining the g string bow stroke.   The technique should be applied to all etudes and piece son a daily basis.   Even doing this once on a three octave scale (the lower notes will sound of course) will markedly improve the delivery. One can of course bow any string one likes and do the fingering.   This is advisable.
Quote for Yixi et al:
The basics are only a guiding principle,
Your strongest posture is the one that fits your constitution.
That cannot be taught to you,
You have to find it for yourself.
It is not a question of widening your stance or narrowing it,
If the truth be told.
But, people will do what is comfortable for them,
So, If you allow them to, they will just make it up for themselves.
That is why, you must always return to the `Basics.`   (Small Fischer joke....)
This is what is important.
(Shioda Gozo- Yoshinkan Aikido)

Posted on November 4, 2009 at 3:06 PM

 Extremely useful advice !!

Thanks so much !

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on November 4, 2009 at 3:52 PM


Your statement about keeping the bow from dipping resonated with me.  The past few days, I have been practicing Clayton Haslop's adminition that the elbow, wrist, and shoulder should move in the same plane as the bow.  These two statements are different ways of saying the same thing.  Thank you for your blog (and repeated thanks to Clayton).

Fran Rizzardi

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 4, 2009 at 4:20 PM

Francheska I know what you mean. My teacher expresses a similar idea as well, she says that if it's not in the same plan and with = pressure, we hear "sausages". Because in her time sausages were all tied one after another in long strips : ) This is even more true in scales because it shows more.  She meant non continuous sound but I guess a visual image helps as well!   But of course we have to know how to avoid "sausages"...

Thanks for the excellent advice and quote on the natural comfortable position.


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on November 5, 2009 at 5:22 AM
Thanks Buri!
The bow dipping thing is trickier than I originally thought. On one hand, you want the bow hair to be in full contact with the string so there's no air in the sound unless you intend to make airy sound; on the other hand, you don't want to press/dip in to kill the tone. Recently I played Haydn Quinten string quartet in a weekend chamber retreat. I worked on the sound like crazy on this piece, as everything is pretty exposed being the 1st violinist.  I pretty much had to play everything on open strings again and again until I got the right sound before applying the fingers. By doing this for a couple of months, I learned a great deal on bow control and sound production.  I think if it weren't for performance, I wouldn't have worked so hard this way. That's maybe why I can't bring myself to work on scales the way you suggested; not yet I must confess. 
Thank you for the quote, Buri!
"But, people will do what is comfortable for them, So, If you allow them to, they will just make it up for themselves. `..." 
So true! When people make up what's comfortable for them, that's often where things start to go wrong. What's comfortable (such as slouching) can be bad for you. "That is why, you must always return to the `Basics'." That's why we need teacher(s) and prunes.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on November 5, 2009 at 5:25 AM

By the way, I don't know if it's my computer or it's this site, I had some problem submitting response. I find if I write more than one paragraph, the website won't respond properly. But if I submit a very short note, it will let me post right away. What I'm doing now is first submit a word, and then hit the 'edit' to put the rest comment in.  This works for me. Just thought to share this with you in case you run into the same problem.

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