Trouble with Scales!

May 2, 2011 at 03:25 PM ·

I'm an adult beginner who's been playing just over a year and a half and currently half way through Suzuki book 2 with my private tutor.

I've been supplementing the Suzuki studies with Sevcik 40 vars and the ABRSM scale book, however I'm REALLY struggling with my scales and arpeggios considering how long I've been tackling them.

Generally my intonation is OK for a beginner but my problem is learning all of the major and minor keys in a non-robotic way and well fingered.  Does anyone have advice on how best to approach the learning and practice of scales and arpeggios as I currently dread picking up the violin for practice for that very reason!'s quite disheartening :(

Replies (37)

May 2, 2011 at 03:59 PM ·

Scales are important.  You need to know where the notes are and what they sound like.

It's okay to be robotic about it.  Because you develop muscle memory as well as your ear.

Finally, don't get discouraged.  If you need a break from scales for a while, that's okay too.  While knowing your scales definately makes you a better player, you can also play without practicing scales.

What's most important to getting to keep playing...and if dropping the scales for a while has you playing more...then drop them...


May 2, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

For purposes of using scales to learn all the major and minor keys "in a non-robotic way and well-fingered", I remember from student days that Carl Flesch's Scale System (Das Skalensystem) came nearer than anything else to fulfilling this aim.  On the other hand, I agree with N.A. Mohr on the great importance of keeping on playing.

May 2, 2011 at 04:48 PM ·

Well, part of playing scales is not in just doing them over and over, but overlaying an understanding of their structure. For example, all major scales follow this interval formula in each octave (W = whole step, H = half step): W W H W W W H

Knowing that, you should be able to pick any random starting place on the instrument, and play a major scale in tune, regardless of the fingering or the names of the notes.

Obviously knowing the names of the notes and their relationship to one another is important; at the same time the physical experience of playing a scale successfully depends on building in tune whole and half steps in the proper sequence.

May 2, 2011 at 04:59 PM ·

Scales and arpeggios are daily practice for violinists at all skill levels, and a major reason is because we can learn many different things from the practice. At early levels, we learn things like intervals between fingers, familiarity with 12 keys, and positions.  Later, its skills like speed and seamless shifting. Even later, its more speed, rhythms, bowing techniques, memorization, etc. So think about where you are in this path of learning and focus on a particular set of skills to improve as you play your scales and arpeggios. Not everything will be great at first, but work on improving some aspect(s) of your playing in scales and arpeggios,  then another.  Its is a process of building layers of technique.

If you are really frustrated with fingerings, may I suggest something.  I hope this is not interpreted as a commercial, because I'm just making you aware of an option.  My book, Arpeggios, Rhythms and Scales , has multiple fingerings written in for each scale and arpeggio, major and minor, for all twelve keys.  Fingerings are yet another aspect of the learning path - many will work, but some better than others.  Having some well-tested, written fingerings for scales and arpeggios may help your frustration problems.

May 3, 2011 at 03:08 AM ·

I'll second Gene's recommendation.  There are only a few (4-5?) finger patterns for all the scales.  If you start with A major and work through all the majors up from there (to F#), you will have that pattern pretty much well under the hand.  It is just a matter of moving up the fingerboard in half-step increments with the first finger - the pattern remains the same.

May 3, 2011 at 03:50 AM ·

 As a teacher, I try to look for consistent errors, such as a 3rd finger that doesn't produce an open, ringing sound, or half steps that are not close enough. The problem is, we don't know what troubles you're having. Is it just that you're bored and hate scales in general? 

At this level, Carl Flesch scales are not indicated. I use Hrimaly. 

One thing I tell my students is that while practicing scales, they should focus on their bow as 50% of their practice. I have them play each scale with several bowings, such as slurring 2, 3, and 4 notes. This can keep you from getting bored, and let you practice bow distribution at the same time.

May 3, 2011 at 06:47 AM ·

I suggest two things: first play scales on the piano.  Itsa  great way to understand the note interrelationships and how these are maintained in all keys.  Second, get involved.  And the best way to do that is to put the violin down and sing them.  Once you have the scale 'tune' in your head its easy - and once you learn to do a few a semitone appart then there really is only one (of each) scale to learn.

Of course you then have to apply them to the violin (I assume you are doing 2 octave scales now?).  But once they sing in your head and you fully grasp the finger patterns discussed above your fingers will tell you where they should go

May 3, 2011 at 06:48 AM ·

"Everyone knows that to play scales correctly (cleanly, evenly, and so on) means to play well in general .  But in practice we often find this not be the case;  the student plays his scales well and his pieces badly.  Here is a contradiction which in fact doesn't exist.  What is wrong is the lack of understanding of the purpose of scale playing.  The student who plays his scales more or less satisfactorily but his pieces badly has simply learnt those scales by heart with a particular fingering, as if they were studies.  While in fact the purpose of scale playing is the following: the succession of notes we know as a scale is the simplest possible melody, which is easily and completely assimilated by the ear, so that it is easy to control purity of intonation when playing with different fingerings.  In other words, the scale is the controller of intonation for finger exercises...The easiest way of acquiring complete independence of finger movement is by playing scales, and for this one must be able to play them with any fingering."

The Principles of Violin Fingering (Oxford University press out of print)

May 3, 2011 at 07:24 AM ·

I've been working on a guide to the notes with a young niece in mind, so let me first say, while Gene makes a good point about learning the structure of the scales, he has made a slip and switched the place of half steps and whole steps.  The major scale is W-W-H W W-W-H and not the other way around. 

I would just add that many violin scale exercises are indeed repetitious, brainless and robotic.  I would suggest that once you have the general path of the scale learned, you spend some time playing children's melodies or Christmas carols or folk songs in as many different positions as you can think of.  The technical exercises are excellent for dragging you out of your comfort zone, but playing familiar melodies and improvising on them can begin to make all the zones comfortable.

May 3, 2011 at 11:47 AM ·

Maurice (who started the thread) is struggling but it is not clear to me what the problem is. However, if it is disheartening maybe best have a break and return to scales fresh later. Even if mechanical repititon has some value, any practice (at least for an adult) when you don't really know what you are trying to achieve can be depressing and unproductive, IMHO.



May 3, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

Frank wrote: The easiest way of acquiring complete independence of finger movement is by playing scales, and for this one must be able to play them with any fingering."The Principles of Violin Fingering (Oxford University press out of print).

Thats great news - every time I play a scale it comes out differently.  And once you thin about it its totally obvious why this is so imporant since few pieces translate from the shifts in a standard scale book. 

On the other hand, learning these is probably a great way to start - but then surely you shoujld be able to get up and down your three octave by any possible route.... 

May 3, 2011 at 08:59 PM ·


the point is kind of abounding in here in various forms but basically it is importnat to recognize that scales are a finished product that brings together a number of complex techniques even before considering Scott`s crucial point about bowing.  Efficient violin playing for me is based around initially getting a concrete grasp of finger patterns,  one at a time.  This is the aproach to the insturment Gerle emphasizes very strongly in his book on How to pRactice the Violin..  It is exemplified in the Doflein method for example.  However,  the best recnet resource forthis is,  in my opinion,  Drew Lecher`s book on technique. There are four basic relationships between the fingers one should have complete command of before adidng the more complex variations.  I color code these patterns for my students so that they can analyse what they are playing in terms of patterns at a conscious level before the approach becomes truly automated,  at which point one has a highly efficient technique in this regrad at least.  However,  I am getting ahea dof things.

The general idea is that instead of cluttering up the head with complex and varied arrangements of the fingers in the early stages (later this becomes importnat) one actually gives the mind only one pattern to work on.  In this way it is absorbed without interfernece and provides a solid foundation on which to base the next work or steps.  The beauty of Drew`s work is he shows clealry ow one can choose one pattern for a day if one has already learnt them or a week etc if new.  The pattern is then exclusively used for any and all technical exercises for that day or week.  This includes finger exercises,  shifting exercises,  vibrato exericses and so forth.

So,  if you were confused about scales becaus eyou have not fed your mental computer clear data to work with you would start perhaps with a pattern that gives you a one octave scale starting on `a` on the g string.  This can be practice in all positions on the g and d string. One can also transfer the patterns across to the upper strings and do a differnet scale there as long as the spacing between the fingers remains the same.   Once this pattern is establishe don might move to two octave scales and something like the Hrimaly scale book. (Flesch is -definitely- not indicated at this stage) .  Adding a second pattern will give you the ability to analyze and reconstruct a two octave scale in any position.  Notice we are avoiding the comlication of shifting.  However,  you should be adding ther comlications at your level,  a point that Scott already mentioned.   The factords of rythm,  bowings and accents should be added in various forms incremntally.  Start with varied bowings until you can do lots of interesting things.  Now make a simple rythm change,  using the same bowigs you have just worked on.  Changin the rythms within long slurs is easy.  Playing new rythms using separate bows will be more challenging.  Once you are used ot this approach adding accents can make the process even more entertaining.  The whole point is that if you are bored or ot focuse don what you are doing,  your praciticng is a waste of time.

And,  as Galamian said over and over,  the art of praciticng is the presentation of incrementally more complex puzzles to the mind in order to strengthen the mind to finger connection.

notice that we still haven`t metnioned shifting.  You need to study the shifts separately and learn how to do them correctly.  One then analyses whatever new patterns the diffenrt posiiton requires the fingers to be in and continues with the kind of cognitive practice previously described.

Another way of praciticng you might try is to set your mm at forty. Play the first note of a scale and stop.  wait for at least one more beat before you play the next, but don`t play the next or move a muscle until you are absolutely sure where the finge ris going to go and what the intonation is going to be.  The abilty to pracitce not doing anything until you have aclear mental image is very neglected by players at all levels.



May 4, 2011 at 03:17 AM ·

Hungry? Play a scale.

Tired? Play a scale.

Apathetic? Play a scale.

Bad intonation? Play a scale.

Bad hair? Play a scale.

Relationship problems? Play a scale.

Anxious? Play a scale.

Acrimonious? Play a scale.

Lugubrious? Play a scale.

Incarcerated? Play a scale.

Self-destructive? Play a scale.

Want to quit smoking? Play a scale.

Want to quit drinking? Play a scale.


Playing a scale can solve all of your problems!


May 4, 2011 at 03:53 AM ·

Lecher's book is simply another naive attempt at short-cutting the required process of acquiring the necessary hierarchies of foundational knowledge.  Knowledge precedes application and all you get in his kernels of concepts and actions  is a glossary and marked - up notation.   Its a minimalist approach designed for maximum efficiency.  And the following verbiage:

Flesch:  Art of Violin Playing Book 1

Galamian: Principles of Violin Playing

Yampolsky: The Principles of Violin Fingering

is full of fluff?  They are minimalist too.  Todays "instructors" fast track students by stripmining the foundational knowledge.  The consequence is that students are ridding themselves of scale practise altogether.  With the elimination of scales, so goes the classical repertoire in favour of mediocrity (swing jazz, rock fusion, bluegrass ,,,whatever).

May 4, 2011 at 04:41 AM ·

 Flesch as fluff? Minimalist? Hmmmm.....what else would you want in a scale book? Actually, I can answer that: 1 position scales in all the positions. If Flesch had included this most necessary of scales, there would be no need for any other books.

"And,  as Galamian said over and over,  the art of praciticng is the presentation of incrementally more complex puzzles to the mind in order to strengthen the mind to finger connection."

I'd put it another way: the art of practicing is the breaking down of passages into easily solvable parts, and then the combination of those parts into the to complete whole.


May 4, 2011 at 05:52 AM ·

 "Todays "instructors" fast track students by stripmining the foundational knowledge.  The consequence is that students are ridding themselves of scale practise altogether."

What do you mean by this? Every teacher of mine had me on a thorough regimen of scales in addition to etudes, additional technical studies and repertoire. Every serious violinist who I have ever known has had scales worked into their daily routine. I don't think scales are going away any time soon.

May 4, 2011 at 07:11 AM ·

Scott you quoted buri: 

"And,  as Galamian said over and over,  the art of praciticng is the presentation of incrementally more complex puzzles to the mind in order to strengthen the mind to finger connection."

and added:

"I'd put it another way: the art of practicing is the breaking down of passages into easily solvable parts, and then the combination of those parts into the to complete whole."

I think these are related, both important but also quite different.  The latter is how you develop a set of particular technical skill to master a specific task.  However, Galamain's quote goes (to me) much furhter: he is referring to how you develop your mental-physical links to become a compete musician - where you get to the point of mastering the instrument because by challenging the mind with complex, and not minimalized, technical challenges down you learn to deal with virtually anything that comes along

The difference to me is attaining the level of an art teacher that can tell you how to do any particular effect and an artist who can execute anything their mind conceives.  It may sound mundane but Galamain's comment strikes a very deep chord in me (thanks Buri).

May 4, 2011 at 07:27 AM ·


Frank, I don@t undertsand if your post is serious of not.  If it is its barely worth the efofrt of replying.  You haven`t done anythig more than looked at the covers of these books.  That is the ultimate in fluff:  the ignorant wearing their lack of knowledge and ability with pride in areas they nothing about in order to insult as many people as possible.

For anyone else who is not a bleating fraud note that Flesch is a book of scales,   Galamian`s work centers around a book of scales and Drews book is full of scales.   

Today`s one point advice.  Read a book before commenting on it.

Incidentally ,  War and Peace is in Russia.

May 4, 2011 at 07:32 AM ·

"learning all of the major and minor scales" Why?

Don't burden yourself with learning too many scales , this approach is wrong. Look at it this way.  If you have a bread pan with a dent in it ,every loaf of bread made with this pan will have this imperfection molded into it ,  This analogy applies to scales also. Your most important scale is the first one you learned , generally the two octave  G scale. Your goal should be to play this scale perfectly in pitch, then move on to others.


May 4, 2011 at 11:17 AM ·

Perrhaps references to the Flesh and Galamian scale systems is a bit confusing for a begiiner My preferance for the order in which scales are learnt is:-

G , D , A major 1 octave - first finger pattern

C, G major (starting 3rd finger D string) 1 octave - 2nd finger pattern

G major 2 ovtaves - joining 1st and 2 nd finger pattern

A (starting 1st finger G string),E, B major 1 octave - 3rd finger pattern

A major 2 octaves joing 3rd and 1sr finger pattern

Ab , Eb ,Bb 1 octave - 4th finger pattern

Bb , F, C (starting 2nd fingers) 1 octave  - 5th finger pattern

Bb 2 octaves joining 5th and 4 th finger pattern.

Only after this do I tackle minor scales.If the finger patterns are understood its easy to work out and understand the mechanism of converting major to minor starting from the same note ie G major and G minor not the relative minor.Most kids seem to understamd this progression and build up solid intonation.Incidently this progression is used in the Sassmanshaus method, the Colledge series (Stepping Stones etc) and the Associated board so it has been tried and tested , is super squacky clean and no sign of dust or fluff anywhere.


May 4, 2011 at 12:58 PM ·

Even after a lifetime of playing the cello it is still necessary for me to start off each playing session with a couple of scales and arpeggios (let's hear it for the arpeggios!) to remind my fingers exactly where they are supposed to go. Likewise nowadays for the violin. If I don't do this it takes several minutes of valuable playing time for my fingers to settle into the right "groove", as it were.

May 4, 2011 at 01:43 PM ·

Wow - the spin here is like the news these days.

To keep yourself interested I would play the scales as if they were music. Pick a mood, rhythm, and varied dynamics to keep you musically engaged.

If you're having problems with where the notes are on the violin you may need some remedial work. Check out




May 4, 2011 at 02:52 PM ·

The others have replied so well with technique stuff, I won't even comment there. But just wanted to say, I can relate to what you're saying about this sinking, disheartening feeling when the technique stuff takes over the playing-music stuff. (I'm an adult beginner too.) That said, I take a certain pleasure in the soothing routine/ritual of scales enough that it doesn't drive me crazy -- but you add 3rd position exercises, vibrato exercises, whatever exercises, and yup, I'm right there with you. I had to wave a flag at my teacher a few months back and tell her some of the joy of just picking up an instrument and playing was gone. So we agreed to incorporate more fiddle tunes into my practice. The Fiddler's Fakebook is wonderful, and I now treat the memorized songs as little appendages to my scales/arpeggios in certain keys. That means that now my scales are interrupted once or twice by a cheerful little 60 second tune that pleases me. Then it's right back to the next key and its scales and arpeggios. I find the little break of "playing music" amid that 25 minutes devoted to purely technique stuff achieves a lot.

I also find it's good to incorporate variety in my daily technique practice. When you're new and learning stuff - or at least this was my case - you include everything b/c it's not too much. Well, you figure after many months of accumulating new stuff, that makes for a full plate. I've divided it all into every other day, and have since divided the stuff into every 3 days, which has made everything feel much fresher as well. (This epiphany came alongside the fiddle-tune idea.) Doing too much of the same thing day after day, year after year, will burn you out.

Good luck with both technique AND motivation!

May 4, 2011 at 06:30 PM ·

"once you thin about it its totally obvious why this is so imporant since few pieces translate from the shifts in a standard scale book. "


oddly enough, I've been experiencing the opposite.....I'm now doing scales on a regular basis (can't say that I did in my formative years) and  I'm finding that I've been changing my shifting in pieces to match what I do for the scale

May 4, 2011 at 07:45 PM ·

"For anyone else who is not a bleating fraud note that Flesch is a book of scales,   Galamian`s work centers around a book of scales and Drews book is full of scales. "

And you have no idea of what the purpose of scales is if you advocate a beginner buying Drews scale book when it  adds nothing to the book on scales he already has.  The book only complicates a beginners aversion to scales by introducing double stops immediately.  But since you're here to peddle the  latest and greatest garbage, I'm not surprised.

Drew's "methodology" doesn't even exist even though he claims as much on the back cover ("...a new perspective or a new methodology").   He had to include a seperate sheet indicating how to use the book because people had no idea what the big fuss was about when finger relationships as they exist in a perfect fourth hand frame are old news.  He simply invented a new name "Hand Groups" and declared it a new methodology.  Look at what the sheet advises:

1. Planes/String Crossings

2. Open and Closed Hand Groups

3. Basics I, II, III (Studies)

Eventually Scales and Arpeggios. 

There are no principles and stages of development.  No careful development of the ear and most importantly ear sensitivity as discussed in Flesch Art of Violin Playing.  There are no discussions in Drews book at all.  A glossary that is it.  This is sufficient for a beginner who already has a dedicated scale book?  Of course not.  There is no careful layering upon layering of skills.  In fact, he advocates the Suzuki anything goes mentality  ad-hoc approach of jumping about practising here and there as you see fit.  In other words, he has no understanding of the purpose of scales, just like you. 

The simple fact is...beginners are not reading the 3 reference books I mentioned earlier and the instructor is not providing the foundational knowledge.   Otherwise how can it be possible to make progress through Suzuki and yet not grasp either the purpose of/the ability to play scales?.  No, Art of Violin Playing Book 1, The Principles of Violin Fingering, are not full of fluff (as some incorrectly comprehended my intent) but are essential reading.  There is hardly anything to read in Drews book at all and Flesch has a seperate book "The Flesch Scale System" as a companion to his book Art of Playing.


May 5, 2011 at 02:56 PM ·

 >Frank, I don't undertsand if your post is serious of not.  If it is its barely worth the effort of replying.  You haven`t done anythig more than looked at the covers of these books. 

I too am a little baffled. Please correct me (and your bio) if I'm wrong here, Frank, but you are self-taught, yes? And you consider yourself a "fan" of the violin versus a violinist? Please don't bash the long-time teachers and pedagogues that post here and/or are referenced here. It's only making you yourself look bad. There's a way to respectfully cite examples of why one methodology works for you and why another doesn't. And it doesn't require using bold print or vitriol.


May 5, 2011 at 04:05 PM ·

true terez

one of the most interesting informative (and wnoderflluy riddled with misspellings) posts here are those of mr brivati. i only wish he were my teacher!

i'm not against you frank, i think the your oxford quote is really well placed about the scale being the simplist melody line (although i would contest simplest...its not so easy to alternate between semi tones and tones, the mode is learned not apriori "simple") ...but i think the attack against stephen is just not couth! why all the nonsensical vitriol?

(edited)...i posted question here derived from the above but i thought it best not to derail this topic...

May 5, 2011 at 06:23 PM ·

 >one of the most interesting informative (and wnoderflluy riddled with misspellings) posts here are those of mr brivati. i only wish he were my teacher!

True! And I only wish he could spell! ((Said with a wink and a cyber-nudge in Buri's direction, as this is one area that we are free to make fun of. Right, Buri? Right? Uh oh...))  

May 5, 2011 at 06:29 PM ·

 Thanks for spotting that, John. :)

May 6, 2011 at 12:41 AM ·

Perhaps learning Movable-do solfège would help?

All scales follow the same simple rules, and if you know the rules, they are not hard at all.  I don't know how important it is to know the note names in each scale, because I don't. If you ask me what the 6th note is in any scale except C Major and A minor, I will have to think about it before answering, but I can play any scale if you ask, even though my fingering may not be the same as the scale book, and my intonation won't be perfect - I have been playing for less than two years...

Here are the rules as I understand it (and it's the same regardless of the number of octaves):

  • An ascending major scale is Do-Rei-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si/Ti-Do' where Mi-Fa and Si/Ti-Do' are half steps and the rest are whole steps, and  the descending scale is the reverse of the ascending scale.
  • A natural minor ascending scale is La-Si/Ti-Dol-Rei-Mi-Fa-Sol-La' (W H W W H W W), and again, descending scale is the reverse of the ascending scale. 
  • An ascending melodic minor scale is La-Si/Ti-Dol-Rei-Mi-Fa#-Sol#-La' (W H W W W W H), and descending scale is the same as natural minor.
  • A harmonic minor scale is the same as natural minor except that the seventh degree is raised half step: La-Si/Ti-Dol-Rei-Mi-Fa-Sol#-La' (W H W W H W+H H).

May 6, 2011 at 01:07 AM ·

Maurice, in your original post, you said, "Generally my intonation is OK for a beginner."

I hope you won't think I'm being too hard-nosed; but your intonation either is OK or isn't OK, regardless of level.  Last fall, I challenged another writer when he said that being a little off in intonation is acceptable at the beginner level.  Well, more forgivable, maybe, but definitely not acceptable.

He then added that intonation is a life-long journey for any violinist.  Posts I've read on the board over the years indicate that, regrettably, some teachers perpetuate this notion -- a concept that is 180 degrees wrong.  I don't know your situation well, but let's hope your teacher isn't one of these.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of hearing the tune -- or hearing the scale -- clearly in your mind before playing it.  In the wake of the Alabama tornadoes, I went through about 103 hours without power and had the last 60 minutes or so of each day's practice session in near-total darkness.

The ear-training and muscle memory training from my student days really paid off.  I had to rely on the aural and tactile faculties as never before, not being able to see what I was doing.  Now I see -- or hear, if you please -- the value of practicing this way more often -- even when the power is on.  I don't recommend that you should try it yet yourself -- I'll leave that to you and your teacher.

May 6, 2011 at 01:30 AM ·

Oh crickey! .......So many scales to learn and so many notes on those 'fingerboard charts'....

( Beats me why one would need a 'chart' to find a high A way up at the end of the fingerboard when it probably is the next note in a sequence, or it is approached from an interval.)

To play  all the diatonic scales and modes there are only  4 tetra chord patterns.............

W W H ....1--2--34

W H W.....1--23--4

H W W .....12--3--4

W W W .....1--2--3--4

Arranged so that they form the structure of a major scale and it's relative modes.

May 6, 2011 at 06:57 AM ·

Maruice (OP) has not commented since first post. Is probably either not reading, or is irretrievably confused. So maybe nothing is lost by continuing the wider debate on scales.

How many people do practice multiple fingerings? Or how many learn one fingering which works and stick with it? Does Flesch really still have as many fans as he appears to from this thread, as the best guide for basic scale fingerings to learn?

May 6, 2011 at 09:32 AM ·

John, to complicate it further - not all that uses Flesch book uses his fingerings :)

May 6, 2011 at 02:32 PM ·

"How many people do practice multiple fingerings? Or how many learn one fingering which works and stick with it? "

For  3-octave scales, my teacher prefers to use the same fingering for most keys, always starting on 2nd finger except for G (start open string), Ab & A (start 1st finger). The harmonic minor of a given key is also the same pattern as for the major.

May 6, 2011 at 02:45 PM ·

Not sure if it has been mentioned earlier in this lengthy thread, but do you see value in practicing scales by starting the scales on different fingers? For example, practice the D maj starting on open D, then starting on 4th finger on the G, then 3rd finger (2nd pos), etc and so on? That would be a LOT of scale study, however I figure this would help with becoming comfortable with finding any note, in any key, in any position. Same goes for arpeggios, being able to find any interval wherever you are on the fingerboard. Or am I just crazy and making life difficult (which I'm not ruling out, lol)?

May 8, 2011 at 02:50 PM ·

 Hi Maurice, here's my two cents for what it's worth at this late stage, and I hope you haven't given up reading yet.  I'll keep it short.

All major scales sound like each other. The tune is exactly the same no matter which note you start on.  As Jim said, learn this tune in your head first, record it, sing it and then pick up your violin and copy it.  Then just start on the note belonging to the key you wish to play in, ie: for a major start on A, for c major start on C. You won't even have to look at the music, just use your ears.

The tune for minor scales is slightly different (my teacher calls it snake-charmer music as it has that type of sound). But all minor scales sound exactly like each other, etc as per above.

If you are having trouble getting the notes just right, try playing two notes up, then going two notes down again until you are happy, then three up and three back, then four etc.   This helped me learn double stop scales where positioning two fingers correctly at once matters.

You will quickly discover that you don't need the music for basic scales, but at some stage you should allow yourself to learn the key signatures for each key you are playing in, because the scales will have taught your fingers the correct positions for any music written in that same key.

That's why scales aren't going to go away any time soon!

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Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine