Scales practice

January 9, 2007 at 04:57 AM · I was just wondering, with all the various scale techniques out there, what do you practice, and how do you practice it?

Do you just work on a scale system such as Flesch and run through one key a day? Do you select a certain scale from Galamian and work on that till it's perfect? Has your teacher told you to prepare these scales in this pattern ready for Thursday?

Also, do you enjoy it, have you noticed any improvement from using it. Any other comments would be great.

Replies (27)

January 9, 2007 at 06:01 AM · Scales 'and' appregios are cool Ben, though I'm just starting to explore scales in 3 octaves. With that said, I speak as a piano player concerning appregios.

Scales to me, is like after learning to walk, and those days when one is learning to walk slower, or faster, or as in the case of formation, in unison--and more importantly being able to manipulate those speeds and variations--and finally, with style and agility.

I personally love running scales on piano, and have spent many hours just running appregios partly for fun, partly for warm up, and sometimes to get my inspiration rolling.

I will guess that scales to a violinist are probably critical in making the fingerboard really really sharp; and, one's own. I've heard of people who don't run scales, but I personally will be going with what I know works, or at least trying to, in making the instrument my own--to the degree that I am successful.

Another area where I personally think scales/appregios are important are in the case if one simply loves to play and interpret a wide variety of music. I think both, or I believe I will find, that 'they' make shifting and treatment just a lot more instinctive.

Eventually, I'll be splitting my sessions into two components: technical and playing. Already, I'm getting to where three hours aren't really enough to give each the attention I'd like; and, any more time is unreasonable because of other responsibilities.

So the program as I can see it now, will be warm ups with etudes to beat the arthritis, and then scales and appregios; followed by fine tuning elements. I hope to alternate sessions, this being the technical side of things.

And the next will be the music I'm working on and etc.

Finally, I'm not a professional teacher, and I think you will find many opinions out there about how much is enough and so on. For me though, I envision spending a lot of time on such things simply because I think they are fun and cool.

On the high ends of things, there is a subtle excellence in not only running scales/appregios quickly, but like the slow/long-bow exercises, especially slowly. Hope this helps.

January 9, 2007 at 06:41 AM · I go through all of my scales and arpeggios every day and I try to do thirds and octaves as well, although I quite often slack in that department.

I usually do some or all of my scales 2 octaves in different Galamian rhythms (2 note rhythms, 3 notes, 4 notes, etc.) This just warms up my hand and allows me to feel my way around the fingerboard. Then I do scales and arpeggios in different tempi and numbers of notes per beat each day. I find it helpful to run through everything because it gets my hand positions warmed up, so when I'm practicing a piece and I have to be high on the A string, it's not just a note that I'm playing, it's in a certain position. By running all 3 octave and some 4 octave scales, you know that you've covered pretty much any hand position.

That being said, when I have limited time, I shorten the routine.... I probably shouldn't have said that....

January 9, 2007 at 11:38 AM · I was told by my teachers from ages 17 - 23 to use Flesch, one key major or one key minor per day. I did this for pretty much all of those years. Unfortunately, I felt that one day was simply not enough time to play what's on the page well. So, in those years, I think I spent one week doing two tonalities, or something like that.

After age 23, I felt that I should expand my horizons and ever since then, I have been using all kinds of stuff depending on what I believe my needs are. I'm using different books of Sevcik, Shradieck, etc. and am finding that as far as scales go, I'm my own best teacher. I wish I recognized this when I was younger, because it would have saved lots of banging my head against the wall!

January 9, 2007 at 01:49 PM · This is really great, as I expected, people will use lots of different books. But I'm really wondering how people practice them. Anyone willing to share what their little routine is when they practice??

January 9, 2007 at 01:41 PM · Perhaps the reason that scales are so firmly established in violin traditon is that they can be anything we want them to be. By focus of attention on a specific quality in the playing, a scale becomes an intonation study, an articulation study, a vibrato study, a string change study, a spiccato study etc. Key to good scale study (pun intended) are imagination and clear goals. When I assign the three octave c minor scale to one of my students, I tell him: "Your assignment is *not* the three octave c minor scale, The assignment is to study and improve the specific techniques with which we are presently concerned.....The c minor scale is merely a vehicle."

January 9, 2007 at 04:05 PM · I use Flesch for my main scale routine. I use Galamian's accelerated system to practice the scales and the double stops, with all of the various rhythms and bowings. I spend ten to twenty days on each key, working me way through the book. I supplement this with the Rostal stuff in the back. I also add on a little extra Dounis, Schradieck, Sevcik, and that extremely nifty book "Basics".

January 9, 2007 at 04:57 PM · I have to admit my scale practices can be up and down a lot.

January 9, 2007 at 05:55 PM ·

January 9, 2007 at 05:55 PM · UP and DOWN, RIGHT TO LEFT!

January 9, 2007 at 11:07 PM · Yeah, a full key of Flesch takes a long time to work through (for me, although I'm sure there are people out there who can roll out of bed in the morning and whip through the whole system in half an hour) so I used to break it up to work through one key over a period of a few days.

A long time ago I was taught with the Galamian scales and still like to use those rhythms/bowings for the three octave scales. With a good mix of variations you can practice anything with scales and arpeggios (echoing Oliver Steiner's advice.)

But actually, I've been on a Sevcik kick lately, not just the shifting book but also (especially) the double stop book -- better double stops in a week or your money back... :^) For me it works about as well as scales for technical work.

January 9, 2007 at 11:30 PM · Why bother with scales? Just play music!

January 9, 2007 at 11:36 PM · Edward.... are you serious? That's kind of like saying, "Why bother putting gas in your car? Just drive!"

January 9, 2007 at 11:53 PM · > Why bother with scales? Just play music!

That's actually a good question. To some extent, *how* you practice is much more important than *what* you practice. Like Oliver Steiner said, when you practice a c minor scale, you should really be practicing many aspects of technique *using* that scale. One of the great things about scales and arpeggios is that you don't need to carry around a book to use them -- you just need to know what a scale is and then be thoughtful and creative about how to practice.

Why not just use music? Well, for one thing, developing technique using scales, arpeggios, and etudes keeps you psychologically fresh for playing music as music, rather than getting bogged down with the technique of it. There are lots and lots of other reasons.

January 10, 2007 at 12:26 AM · Greetings,

Ben, I don`t like starting with scales. I do a routine like this: begin with a warming up exercise like Tai Chi, a mental routine of integrating my body (pay attention to the left foot, then the right, then both, left calf etc....) then son file. I may pracitce son file for up to half an hour. During th is time I work on directions from the Alexander Technique so the mind is very active. I always follow son file with some rapid bowing, perhaps Kreutzer no 2 or7 and whole bow martele. Kreutzer 5 (always forget the numbers-its in c)

You might be surprised to hear that the most efficient warm up exericse for the left hand for me (its always personal) are vibrato exercises, especially one in which one does conrolled rythms to the metronome, gradually increasing the sppeed. I pracitce this for at least ten minutes everyday. When you get past forty this is the second thing that starts to go....

I think both Flesch and Galamian scales have served violnists well over the years and one should learn both to find what is useful for you. The conclusion I have come to , just for me, is that much of the Galaminan system is unneccasary. What I would pull from it is the two octaves scales on the first page (warming up without shifting) , the scales on one string, the acceleration exercise (fundamental) , and what? I think think the bowings and rythms in the Barbe r book of scale s for advanced violnists is more than enough-they also have the advantage of Ysaye`s fingerings which suit me. I don`t need ot spend a great deal of time on a routine of 3 octave scales . I prefer to work on two diffent things which have a lot in common* Dounis Artists technique and Ricci`s book on left hand tehcnique. What these emphasize more is , scales on one (two strings) and in the latter case a chordal approach. This implies something of a shift in what one doe s in scale practice. For starters, the arpeggio should be given at leats as much prominence as the regular scale if not more. Usually they are just tacked on the end. Doiuble stopped scales should be given precedencve of single if one is short for time. Scales in thirds should bepractice in all keys a greta deal using only 13 up two stiings. Then 24 up two string and then 13/24/13/24. This is much more efficient than conventional scales practice of thirds. The same applies to 4ths, 6ths and fingered octaves. Nor do I agree with too much of the sevcik idea of playing one note separate , then the top and then two together. I do think just playing one string while fingertwo is very helpful.

You will also see in Dounis that a great deal of sliding big intervals up the violin in double stops is pracitced. this is really important.

Finally, I spend time on `scales` from the Tchaik, Mendellssohn and Sibelius cocnertos . Just a little pracitc elike this everydya is very worthwhile. The thirds passage in the first movement of the Mendellsohn is a good example of a passgae thta could be made into an etude of sorts.

Finally, it is worth spending alot of time on four octave scales. The Gilels book is the bets one I am aware of.

Incidentally, it is advisbale to follow any session of tehcnical work, scale sor whatever, with a piec eof music that sings. Auer recommended this or one carries away with oneself a sense thta the violin is mor esabout technique than it is a singing instrument.



January 10, 2007 at 02:27 AM · I have recently changed my practice routine to include scales, etc to make the best use of my time learning difficult and new pieces. I plan the pieces that I'm going to be practicing that day by key, then by other factors (double stops, string crossings, etc.). I start my practice with warm-up scales in the key of the pieces that I will be working on that day, then on to the etudes and so forth that mimic the bowings, string crossings and so on. Then finally on to the "real work". I have found that this helps warm up both sides (left and right hands) and "sets" my ear to the key signature so I can focus on the intonation better as well as the other technical requirements of the piece.

January 10, 2007 at 03:07 AM · I agree that starting out one's warmup with scales isn't a good idea. 3 octave scales and arpeggios, to be played well and accurately, should have flawless intonation, a loose left hand for shifts, and a nice, warm sound with a loose but warmed-up bow arm. That's why I do simple exercises and 2 octave scales until my hands feel a little more warmed up, then I go on to scales.

January 10, 2007 at 03:49 AM · I'll never forget visiting Soovin Kim one day in Philadelphia - he was practicing when I arrived and I asked him what he was working on - he said "G" (scales....) I think he spent the whole week on G, it was a beautiful thing to hear.

January 10, 2007 at 04:01 AM · Have you done the AMEB technical work book II? I find them to be quite challenging. At your level, I’d only look at grade 8.

Personally, after learning the notes and fingerings, I usually concentrate on a particular element a day (say the three 3-octave scales and 7 arpeggios). Usually I start very slowing with detache to feel the hand shape in different positions, shift, intonation and maintain consistent tone. Then I speed up a little with slurred bowing (1 bow up 3 octaves, 1 bow down 3 octaves), then sautille. Once that is done, I work on the 7 arpeggios almost the same routine.

Other days I may concentrate on 4-octaves scales and arpeggios, then 1-string sequence, then harmonic scales, double stops in 3rd, 6th, 8ve, and bowing exercises. By the end of the week, I would usually run through the lot just to make sure I’ve got everything. If there are certain elements I still can’t play fluently, I’ll allocate more time for that the next week.

I find this better for me compared to trying to do the lot everyday. Since I have limited practise time, I usually spend slightly less than a hour on technical works, and another hour on my pieces. My teacher never specified what she wants to hear in the next lesson. So I set myself targets and play to her whichever I have progressed well, and those I have questions or problems.

Hope this helps.

January 10, 2007 at 05:17 AM · Until I started working with my current teacher, I had no idea there were so many things one could do with a scale. :)

Since I have very little practice time, I work on a single key for a couple of weeks. I do one octave scales on a single string with several different fingerings. I do a three octave scale in different positions and fingerings. I do four notes of the scale on a single string in first position, then shift to second, etc. up to seventh. I do thirds and sixths. I make up patterns like the stuff in Sevcik. The idea is to learn all the finger patterns for the scale in all the positions. My teacher's a firm believer in improvising, i.e. making the material your own, and one can do a lot. It's not just up and down, as I used to do; it's familiarizing oneself with the "language" of the scale by doing as many different things with it as possible.

January 10, 2007 at 08:31 AM · Daily scales and other studies are useless and even dangerous if played aimlessly just because one has to do his/her exercices.One can easily play arpeggio,sligthly move the hand, play it again and again through the 12 tonalities without noticing he's out of tune as soon as the second arpegio.To me, the only "muscular" warm up is sliding with each finger on each string on the full length of the fingerboard once up bow once down bow. Any other exercices depend upon specific goal as Oliver and Buri said

January 10, 2007 at 04:05 PM · Mr. Lefebure, I agree with you, which is why every student should be taught to play their scales intelligently. When I play through mine, I am by no means doing them aimlessly just to warm up. In fact, usually I've already warmed up my muscles, so it is more of what I call "placement practicing". Here's what I mean:

1) it makes you play through every key. This helps when you go to a piece that's in Bb major- if you are smart about playing your scales, then you've already played in that key today and your mind will remember it's positions and the sound and timbre. It will also help you remember which "tendency" tones should be shifted and what not.

2) it sets up hand position in every key and in every position. Trying to find a high note in a performance can be very challenging, but if you've practiced scales enough then you will be able to find that note because you are able to shift into a position to achieve the note, rather than just trying to aimlessly try to hit a shift. A shift with no context can just end up sounding like a hiccup.

3) music is built around scales and arpeggios. Most of the time, it's not just a bunch of pure, unadulterated scales and arpeggios (although the Beethoven concerto certainly has it's fair share), but even a scale that's been mildly tweaked and changed is recognizable. If you already feel comfortable with playing scales in all tempos, from extraordinarily slow to breathtakingly fast, then these become no problem to learn in a short time.

4) it helps with coordination, from large shifts to small.

5) if the student is smart and tries to keep his/her fingers down on string crossings, it will come in handy when doing pieces with fast runs that need to sound smooth. Yes, you can learn this with etudes, but why not double up?

If you are smart and concentrate on every aspect of your playing when playing your scales, you gain a tremendous amount of technical facility that can be applied almost anywhere in your future pieces. Even concentrating on one scale/key a day can help- if you do all of your B scales, arpeggios, and scales in 3rds, 6ths, and octaves, then you're teaching yourself pretty much anything that you'll be thrown if in BM. I know violinists who have gone far without scales and I admire them, but I've never known someone to not improve drastically by tackling all aspects of their scales and arpeggios.

January 11, 2007 at 06:21 PM · Hi Christina,

I totally agree with you except on the "Mr"

Just one thing,it's very important to start scales on each degree of the scale to get accustomed to modal music

January 11, 2007 at 07:04 PM · Modal scales? I have rarely practiced them, but you are too right about them being important. Most students, even in music schools at universities and conservatories, can't name the modes in order. I should practice those now too.

Here's an addition to this topic thread: vibrato or no vibrato? My teacher made me practice all of my scales with vibrato, first to get me used to the feeling of playing with continuous vibrato, and also to keep my hand fluid and relaxed. I go back and forth- I'll do scales with no vibrato to hear pure intonation, but then I'll add vibrato to them after since it's rare that you'll be playing a piece with no vibrato at all. Any comments?

January 11, 2007 at 07:10 PM · Vibrato -- yes, please. I have developed my own Flesch-based routine of daily scale practice, and as a last step -- after bringing the scales and arpeggios as close to perfection as possible -- add vibrato. I then practice the scale slowly, note by note, then with two, three, four, six and eight notes tied. The last step of that routine uses the common scale rhythm -- one quaver, six semiquavers, everything tied -- as a starting point, and then lets the quaver "wander" through the scale (i. e. sq - q - five qs; 2 sqs - q - four sqs etc). I use this step to get my intonation clean on every pitch of the scale.



February 1, 2007 at 02:38 AM · About modes...








Haha... all from memory, and I'm only in highschool!

About scales though... scales are SOO important. I couldn't believe that some people here say they don't practice scales!!

I mean, think about it:

All music is really just different arrangements of scales!!

Good scales, memorization of scales, and routine PRACTICING scales are essential to good intonation!!!!

February 1, 2007 at 02:56 AM · I have a friend who finds technical things like that in his pieces and then practices them.

Personally...I'll use Flesch although I'm interested in buying more of these books (like Basics and others)...

I do the three octave Major, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor. I've done modes here and there, like when I was working on them in Theory classes...but I'm so pressed for time those are kinda low on my priorities (until I begin playing pieces that use them or get to dabble in jazz once again, which I hope will happen eventually)...then the arpeggios are the minor, major, minor six, major four, minor four, diminished, and dominant (out of the Flesch book).

- Practice slowly. If you modulate a lot, say from F to with a drone.

- Different bow divisions (1, 2, 3, 6, etc. to a bow)

- Do an octave at a time just on one string.

- Break down & isolate the shifts.

- Practice backwards.

- Sometimes I start with G (all three octave ones)...and go chromatically a vocalist would. Other times I go in a circle of fifths, which if I'm not too warmed up I will begin with A and do the fifths from there to leave some of the harder scales for further along. Scales aren't really the best warm up, so I try to warm up the left hand and right hand in other ways before approaching scales.

- Practice in melodic thirds (like G, B, A, C, B, D...etc.)

- Practice in coils of 3-8 notes (G, A, B, A, B, C, B, C, D)

- Practice in harmonic intervals (double stops)...I'm not so great at these, I'm just starting to do them more often.

- Run scale passages in pieces.

Well, that's just a bunch of random things I thought of off the top of my head. Hope that helps.

September 23, 2013 at 03:40 PM · bonjour peeps,

i am from Singapore, just happen to find this and decided to have some small chats and discussion with all violinists in the world.

I was playing and learning violin for 1 year, i am going to grade 3 ABRSM now, i always have this in my mind, why bother practicing scales when i can just play the pieces? Sometimes when i have trouble with certain parts in the pieces, i will just extract that bar out and keep polishing it till its done. Surprisingly it turn out to be perfect.

I do not know what it is like to focus on difficult parts into scale form, but to me i think its all about getting the right technique in certain pieces and you are done with it.

Question, do we practice the scales of the key of the repertoire first or practice scales randomly?

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