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What to do in thirty minutes. Not scales.....

February 14, 2010 at 2:54 AM


sorry this is actually in response to a discussion question posted by Rick.  The computer has gone haywire so I send it under the blog rubric. Hope it is of some interest.

Rick,,  I thought for a minute you were talking about the book by Flesch called `Urstudien.`  However, I am guessing you are now talking about doing Flesch scales for thirty minutes and you have raised some very interesting questions.


To begin with the books,  I am probably now in something of a minority but I think Flesch scales are introduced far too early.  I have young kids (aged 7-12) turn up at my doorstep with techniques defective in basic areas who are doing the Flesch scales.  Except they are not really doing them.  They are simple playing a few of them very slowly and often badly out of tune.  I do not think one should do Flesch before one has mastered Hrimaly.  In conjunction with Hrimaly I would use the techniques introduced in the Galamina scale system and gradually work on that.   The ideas found in the Galamian system ca be integrated beautifully with the Flesch.  One could do only Flesch and use a lot of creativity but Galamian has simply made it a lot easier to be flexible and systematic ,  as long as one doesn`t go too far.  

This is an overview of scales in the traditional sense,  but as I have pointed out for years on this site (and Mr Fischer much more articulately) scales are not always a means to an end. They are in fact a finished product that integrates all aspects of violin technique and this raises a whole new set of questions about how to actually practice them.  If your shifting,  finger pressure,  vibrato,  bow technique ,  is not in good shape then those are what you should be practicing,  with the scales as the icing on the cake.  Heifetz practiced scales for four hours a day because he could....

Thus, it makes far more sense to practice fundamental movements and techniques before doing actual scales. This position is supported by standard technical works such as those by Dounis,  Torkanowsky,  Sammons,  Fischer et al. and of course Carl Flesch.  The Carl Flesch in question is his Urstudien.   This book covers  all the major finger actions ,  a wide range of vital bowings ad finally just about the right amount of scales.  It is a marvelous system that Henrik Szeryng swore by and used his whole life (I belive Heifetz also used it though the actual wording he used was not definite).  One would,  In my opinion,  make more technical   advances using this approach on half an hour a day than starting in with scales.  

However, there is another important caveat.   I disagree with both the teachers who use this as study material and those who ,  once again,  give it far too early to students.  It was designed for professionals and in my opinion that is where it remains maximally efficient although intermediate students can use it well for a time.

At an earlier stage I prefer a work called `The Daily Dozen` which is a deceptively simple set of exercises which not only covers basic movements very effectively but will definitely build technique. The only problem is that I don`t feel it covers basic bowings to an adequate extent.   One might therefore supplement this with the basic bowings listed in Simon Fischer`s Basics or a few Kreutzer etudes.

There is now one more book which if used well will also develop technique including scale playing That is the one by Drew Lecher which I strongly recommend everybody has a copy of. It is worth very careful study over a lifetime.  Another excellent option is Agopian`s no time to practice.

If you weer stuck for practice time in the short term and needed to sustain an advanced technique I would suggest you spend your thirty minutes on a burst of pattern practice,  playing first in first position and then leaping up an octave on the same string and repeating it. Thus one combines patterns,  intonation,  shifting and tone production work to mention but a few things.  then do scales in double stops on one string as high as you can go. Thirds are especially important.  Agopian`s book mentioned above is a very good source of material.




Posted on February 14, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Buri, Fascinating line of thought or should I say verrry interesting

From Geoff Caplan
Posted on February 15, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Thanks Buri - I always enjoy your posts. You have this ability to create clarity in the confusing world of violin pedagogy! This makes a lot of sense, and I'm going to follow your advice. I particularly like your comment about scales being the end result, and the need to work on the individual components that combine to make a well played scale...


From Corwin Slack
Posted on February 15, 2010 at 4:01 PM

 Very good. I think that thirty minutes of thinking and problem solving are the most important things anyone can do in a day. 

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