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Ryan Vaughn

On a Larger Scale

March 23, 2011 at 7:35 PM

One piece of the violinist toolbox I've yet to touch upon is the scale.  I've been doing scales, of course, but just never showed myself doing them.  They're more difficult than they seem like they should be.  Well, maybe they're not more difficult, just that standards are higher with them.  On a difficult passage, if a few things here and there are off, then so what, but on a scale, you're playing very predictable notes, so shouldn't it be perfect?

With my playing, that answer is clearly no.

Since Paganini Caprice 24 is written in A-minor, it would makes sense for me to be practicing an A-minor scale, right?  Probably, but Danielle wanted me to start with A-major first so that's what I've been doing.  At the beginning, I only went up two octaves, and I didn't even use a 4th finger - I played with open strings.  Then I used the 4th finger, but still played only two octaves:

Besides the fancy camera work, noting too exciting, right?  Adding on just one more little octave means several shifts going up and down.  Here's my valiant attempt:

Besides missing the cute little face at the end, not horrible, huh?  Several of the high notes are out of tune, but hey, my tapes don't go up that high.  An interesting thing to do with the last video is actually to mute it and watch it again.  My left hand actually looks kind of good.  My darn right hand seems to be messing everything up.  When starting the violin, I would have guessed that the left hand would be 99% of the problems.  Now, I'm not saying I've mastered the left hand or anything, but the right hand is surprisingly an equally (if not more so) beast to tame.

Read the whole story at

From Malik Chaney
Posted on March 23, 2011 at 9:14 PM

 Hey, y'know, it takes practice. It's actually pretty awesome to read this because I had a very similar experience, except with Sant-Saëns' Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, and while It's been almost two years and I can't play it yet (I was essentially a newbie when I started) by the end of this summer I'll probably be able to on entry to my junior year of highschool. But uh, It's quite an experience, isn't it? Lots of ups and downs. At any rate, good luck! Practice really slowly and diligently, that's all I can really say.

From Charles Yoh
Posted on March 24, 2011 at 2:06 AM

 Ryan, you are so right in saying that the right arm is a "beast to tame".  One of my teachers many years ago said to me when you watch a violinist at a concert "don't look at the left hand but at the right hand."  The bow arm is where we make the myriad of sounds that can come out of the violin.  It takes constant practice and observation to perfect (if that is at all possible).

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 24, 2011 at 8:50 AM


if you search this site for `Scales from a dead Fish,`   (or something like that)  you might be interested in this thingy I wrote in the beginning of tie.



From al ku
Posted on March 24, 2011 at 10:54 AM

 2 things are going for you.:)

1. the smirk at the end of the first clip, indicating a sense of humor and a sense of adventure.

2. you are using multimedia to get feedback.  you are a winner in my book because you are out of the closet which houses many who are fearful that they are not perfect,,,yet.  and they joke with themselves as if one day they will.

ps.  but the playing has touched me because it gives me the creeps; you'd better practice harder because i think i can even sound better than that! :)

From Smiley Hsu
Posted on March 24, 2011 at 3:05 PM


It is very cool that you are doing this.  I personally do not believe that anyone can play Caprice #24 after just one year, at least at a passable level.  But I am hoping that you prove me wrong and I look forward to your future vids -- very entertaining.

BTW, I had the pleasure of visiting the Colburn School recently and it is an amazing facility. 

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on March 24, 2011 at 8:37 PM


What you are doing is quite impressive for your level but I feel sure you're now ready to bite the bullet and get rid of the tape on the finger board. Its presence is in fact starting to hold you back. Your ear has got to be your guide when placing fingers – and your ears are ok because you noticed you were going out of tune in the 3rd octave – so the answer is slow (really slow) practice on the scales without looking at your left hand but listening all the time, and each time you make a mistake go back a few notes and try again.  If you're going to be looking at anything it will either be your bowing (as someone else recently pointed out), the music, or the conductor or another player, if applicable.

The regime I've indicated will probably take not as much time as you'd expect, and the effects will be permanent. I'd recommend a lot of little and often.

From Ryan Vaughn
Posted on March 26, 2011 at 6:03 AM

 Thanks everyone for the comments and the support.  

And Trevor, I was thinking about taking off the tapes, although I wouldn't mind replacing them with frets.  You do make some really good points about that though; I'll have to bring it up to Danielle.  I must say, it is embarrassing walking around Colburn with tapes on my violin!

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on March 26, 2011 at 11:27 PM

Replace them with frets and you've got a good case for going the whole way and playing treble viol :)

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