V.com weekend vote: How often do you play scales?

August 6, 2022, 11:32 PM · Ah scales, they are wonderful and they are magical. I turn to them when I need to warm up, when I need to get in shape, when I need to work something out.

scales

When my students ask me, "Why do I need to play scales"? I tend to give strange and nonsensical answers, like, "It's so you can still play when you are 80," or "So you'll never be injured," or "So you'll play in tune, in every position," or "So we can use them to work out certain bowing challenges."

All of those things are true, but no student who is new to scales understands or believes it. In order to believe in scales, I firmly believe that you need to do them every day for a good long period of time. After several years, you'll understand that it's the scales that made your hand so strong, that set your fingers aright in every single position, that gave you a consistent bow arm, that improved your counting, that made all playing easier for you.

Of course, not everyone has come to the same view as I have.

What are your views on scales, and how often do you play them? What scale system do you use, and how many octaves do you play? Do you have a routine for working through various kinds of scales? Do you do something other than scales that you feel serves the same function? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts!

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Replies

August 7, 2022 at 11:59 AM · Every time I practice. That's 7 days a week, except for the week off I take maybe 3 or 4 times a year.

Some of my views on scales: I find scales most helpful for reinforcing hand shape and intonation. Still, I don't do them first thing in a practice session. I first do a warm-up routine for the bow arm, then alternate basic Schradieck left-hand finger gymnastics and vibrato exercises on each string - E-A-D-G - starting in 3rd position, then drop to 1st to open up the left hand still more. I finish the warm-up with double-stops and shifting exercises - e.g., scales in broken 3rds up to topmost D or E on the E string. Then I take just a few minutes for recreational playing - old rep that I can have fun with.

This whole opening routine takes 20-25 minutes. Once it's done, I dive into scales. Regarding scale systems: I use a blend of Flesch, Schradieck, Hrimaly, and Galamian. I play 3 octaves, following the Galamian model but with Hrimaly's fingerings. I don't play all keys every day. This week, I'm playing every day the 8 scales I'm mostly likely to need, working my way back through the circle of keys from 4 sharps to 3 flats: E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb. I'm also doing scales in broken 3rds each day in these keys, in that same order of keys, covering 3+ octaves. This I find to be another great discipline for reinforcing hand shape and pitch accuracy.

August 7, 2022 at 02:56 PM · Each time I practice, I play the scale of pieces I'm practicing. How I bow them depends on what bowings my teacher would like me to be practicing that week. I should pay more attention to the types of scale. I didn't use to this--I was inspired by my athletic coach, who is also a singer.

August 7, 2022 at 03:26 PM · i don't have huge amounts of time to practice and usually there are things I must absolutely learn such as quartet parts for the next quartet-club session. So scale practice has to be targeted. I'm trying to improve my upper-register facility so I work on the upper octaves of some of the "higher" three octave scales. I also find scales in thirds and broken thirds very useful so I tend to do a lot of those. But I would never have time to go through an entire Flesch "Scale Study" properly, it's just not possible for me at this point in my life and career.

August 7, 2022 at 04:33 PM · I often begin with the first few pages of the Ysaye Exercices et gammes (ed. Schott) before launching into scales. I found these to be excellent for warming up each individual finger of the left hand and developing legato string crossings. The Yanshinov six etudes (imslp.org) also offer immediate challenges to intonation and string crossings.

August 7, 2022 at 06:14 PM · Exercises et gammes? What do your legs have to do with it? :)

August 7, 2022 at 06:18 PM · Daily as a warmup as well as starting a new piece scales and arpeggios for the key of that piece.

This has been doubly important since my serious cervical spine injury almost a year ago. The new shoulder position to accommodate the fusion of C0, 1, & 2. Adjusting the neural super-highways between my brain and my arm and fingers.

August 7, 2022 at 06:59 PM · I never used to play scales, but finally got into them the last few months, and now I enjoy picking a scale or two each day and fiddling around with it to improve intonation and experiment with improvisation. It gives me a chance to focus on aspects of bowing too.

August 7, 2022 at 11:23 PM · My teacher’s opinion on scales was unusual—he believed that if one could play well, one could play a scale easily, and he argued that much of the violin repertoire contains passages that essentially employ the use of scales, but in a more musical context. I never practiced any scales, which didn’t cause any issues in playing, although it led to issues when I needed to audition for orchestra parts; since I wasn’t practicing scales,

I hadn’t learned the finger patterns for all the different keys, so I had to make up patterns on the fly at the auditions.

I’ve never been against playing scales myself, although I have to admit I still don’t ever do it, as my practice time is very limited and I’d rather work on other things (pace, Heifetz!).

August 8, 2022 at 04:39 AM · When I moved to another city, my teacher made me a present of the Carl Flesch scales book I had borrowed from him. I still use it every time I practice, and I treasure his writings in the margin ("Bow near the bridge, Bart").

August 8, 2022 at 09:45 AM · It was conscious scale practice (first Hrimaly, then Flesch) that got me to play in tune, or at least created an automatism to recognize and stop on out of tune notes.

August 8, 2022 at 02:11 PM · Everyday for decades, I must have had about 20 days off. Usually an hour but sometimes as little as 40 minutes or as long as an hour and a half. The instrument varies, sometime violin sometimes viola sometimes classical guitar sometimes piano. I remember asking my last violin teacher how do I know if my next teacher is any good, his reply was something like if he is good you will get lots of scales.

August 8, 2022 at 04:52 PM · I admit to not practicing scales in every practice session, which is counter-productive, because my general intonation is so much better when I practice scales. In my years of formal study, scales were always assigned and also listened to during my lessons. Reading the comments here has inspired me to get back into the routine.

August 8, 2022 at 08:21 PM · In between two of them. More than half of my practice sessions, but less than three-quarters. Scales are one of a number of different warm-up activities that I select a few from each time I practice.

August 10, 2022 at 08:55 AM · I usually play through at least one scale, to make sure my fingers aren't wandering from where they should be.

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