Scales by Simon Fischer

June 23, 2016 at 04:45 PM · I'm working on Scales by Simon Fischer. Just wondering why the scales are not presented more or less in order of the cycle of 5th's as opposed to C, Db, D, Db, E, Eb, etc as he wrote them all out to be read straight from the book?

Replies (28)

June 24, 2016 at 12:04 PM · Both sequencies are useful, one for an aural grasp of related keys, the other for scale identity regardless of pitch.

June 24, 2016 at 05:28 PM · I bought this book way ahead of my time... I don't even understand the first page. Lol

June 24, 2016 at 05:28 PM · double post.

June 24, 2016 at 09:09 PM · Corey, can you have your teacher spend a little bit of your lesson time working from this book. It is an incredible and invaluable book for my learning.

June 25, 2016 at 06:06 PM · Corey, if the basic principles of violin intonation have not yet been explained to by your teacher, then yes, the front material of Fischers book may be perplexing to you.

If so, go to and watch all the video tutorials on intonation.

One possible reason to do them in a different order is to differentiate from Flesch more. Also the arpeggio sequence is different. What I would have preferred is a guided, programmed approach to Flesch, but that opens the whole Flesch vs Galamian thing, and half the violin world would have been put off immediately! Also when you go from g to a flat, you are making a big change, maybe Fischer sees that as having some intrinsic value.

June 27, 2016 at 08:56 AM · I was hoping someone could suggest what the intrinsic value in making such a huge change (from G to Ab) might be. For the time being I'm cycling through the circle of 5ths myself when working on scales.

June 27, 2016 at 09:15 AM · I may be stupid (no rude comments!) but I do not understand what all the fuss is? G major to A flat major or whatever (minor) is just a semitone step change. Of course the finger pattern is totally different, but that is real life. Concertos and anything you play may go suddenly from G major to A flat major (or relative minor) and finger patterns are just different.

The reason we play scales is so that when we get a G major or A flat major (or minor) run, for example, we know where the fingers go, and how it should sound. That's why advanced players will often warm up in the key they are about to perform in. If it's an F major quartet, then the first fiddle will be playing scales in F major - etc., etc.

You don't need a book once you have done them all, you can just play them. Pick a key and fire away.

June 27, 2016 at 10:29 AM · Hi Peter,

G to Ab is not just a semitone step change. G major contains 1 sharp, Ab Major contains 4 flats. In real life a piece will very rarely ever modulate to a key containing more than one semitone difference (otherwise it will sound funny). So in other words C Major will commonly modulate to A minor (relative minor) or to G Major (1 sharp) & its relative minor E minor (1 sharp) or to F Major (1 flat) or its relative minor D minor (1 flat).

June 27, 2016 at 11:50 AM · It should be more difficult to play in Gb Major than in G Major as you don't have the natural resonance of the violin to help you play in tune.

June 27, 2016 at 11:54 AM · YES! David, I'm sorry to say you haven't got it yet! (Don't worry, I took ages to realise this.)

Don't think in terms of sharps and flats, but in SEMI-TONES, TONES and additions of more semitones to make minor and major thirds and on and on till you are making huge jumps in pitch.

G major to A flat major IS a semitone increase in pitch. OK, the finger patterns are completely different, but that's the way the fiddle works. (AND the viola, cello, D Bass etc., etc.)

You go on to say "It should be more difficult to play in Gb Major than in G Major as you don't have the natural resonance of the violin to help you play in tune."

Well, you do NOT have to be playing in a key that the fiddle is tuned to i.e. G,D,A,E - to still be making wonderful sounds. If this were the case we would never play most of the Beethoven violin sonatas, or the late quartets, or a hell of a lot of other music.

The violin is resonant in any key - and if it is not you have to look to your deficient technique, or find a fiddle that is a lot better... AND playing in tune should happen in any key. If it does not, then you need ear training.

June 27, 2016 at 12:51 PM · Wow

June 27, 2016 at 02:13 PM · I'm afraid Peter's right. For intonation, the resonance of open strings or their overtones is just the icing on the cake. Playing in tune starts in the mind, by imagining the sounds and intervals, whatever the key, followed by positions and finger-patterns to play the notes faster.

The value of following A major by Gb major is to appreciate how alike they are (as intervals) as much as how differently they resonate.

June 27, 2016 at 02:42 PM · I'm sorry I opened the can of worms on the G-to-Ab thing, but lacking commentary from Simon Fischer himself, I can only surmise that he thought it was healthy to learn to adapt to such a transition in key when practicing scales. The other "reason", to further distinguish his book from those of Flesch and Galamian, seems needlessly cynical.

I agree with Peter and with Adrian that the overall principles of playing in tune obviously must apply to all keys.

Peter wrote "the violin is resonant in any key" and surely that's true. But I believe there are differences in sound, otherwise why would Mendelssohn have so tormented us string players by writing his famous octet (Op. 20) in E flat instead of D? Different scales have different "ring-tone" pitches on the violin. In the E flat major scale the juiciest resonances are the third (G) and the seventh (D), not the tonic or the fourth or the fifth. Ask any jazz musician and they'll tell you the third and the seventh are the most important pitches in the scale. Old Felix was a clever fellow.

I do NOT have perfect pitch by any means. But when I am in the car with my kids, they are always amazed that I can identify the key of a piece being played on the violin, which often I can, even if I was not previously familiar with it. Sometimes it takes rather long (for me because I am not very clever), but if you listen carefully for the resonances you can usually tell.

June 27, 2016 at 02:46 PM · Hi Peter,

Yes you are right, the violin is resonant in any key. What I really meant was you don't have the sympathetic ringing of the open strings as a guide.

I think you're missing the point a little. Yes G & Ab is a semi-tone difference of every pitch in the scale, but what I'm saying is they sound very different.

I'm not sure what you mean by "think in terms of semi-tones & tones". I suppose you can alter each note in a scale until you get a very different scale but it sounds like a tedious & difficult approach to train your ears (especially going from G maj to Ab Maj off the bat & difficult for your fingers not to lose reference). I think it's more common practice to tune the tonic to the nearest natural & play the perfect intervals in the scale first as they are easier to hear. Then add the 3rd & 7th by tuning the 3rd close to the P4 & 7th close to the Octave and then finally adding the 2nd and 6th "half way" between the enclosing scale tones, all the while listening for sympathetic ringing from the open strings along the way.

Of course you can play every perfectly in tune, did I insinuate one cannot?

June 27, 2016 at 03:01 PM · Jenny, yes but for a beginner it may take a while to hear a tone & semi-tone perfectly from the beginning, especially on different strings & in different octaves. If you're off with even one note in the scale the others will then also be off.

Any note in the scale is close to a note that will produce sympathetic ringing.

June 27, 2016 at 07:41 PM · I don't teach the flatter keys until G,D,& A majors are spot on and then we often play it them in one of the "half" positions. "Leaning back" flats I introduce in G,D,& A minors.

And Simon Fischer's books are resource material, not methods.

June 27, 2016 at 07:49 PM · If you consider the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (E flat key) - SOME viola players do it in D major by tuning up the instrument a semi-tone.

It sounds awful (in my opinion) and I always prefer the viola to be normal tuning and playing it in E flat.

I always did it in E flat, but lot's of crummy viola players insisted it would be easier in D major, tuned up a semi-tone. But that said it all about their abilities. (Sorry if I've upset any D major viola players ...)

June 27, 2016 at 08:59 PM · Initially people often start with g and a major scales. You get the benefit of a lot of ring tones and its easier to reach three octaves. But hopefully you are also learning what a scale sounds like, with large whole steps and small half steps. In e flat major, if you want the first two whole steps to be large, then you have to start low otherwise g will be too high. Now look on p. 5 of Fischer, above the e flat there is a down arrow.

June 28, 2016 at 08:27 AM · Peter, Mozart wrote the viola part in D, pesumably for a brighter tone. It is not easier, requiring many more shifts,as so many motives turn above and below the tonic and dominant. Zelter and others used the same scordatura in viola concertos.

David, we need to come to the violin with an ear accustomed to judging intervals mentally. I think this implies a very great deal of intense listening to clearly written baroque and classical music, e.g. Vivaldi & Mozart, but avoiding like the plague singers with "wobblato"!

But indeed, on the violin you should be sure of the intervals in the "easy" keys before transferring them to the messy ones!

June 28, 2016 at 08:32 AM · Rambo, good question, well, I'm also gonna work in 4 hours so I can gather a few students, and eventually appear again in jazz stages :)

The reason is that indian tuning 5-4-5-4-5 (five sring) has an inner logic related (as another aspect) to microtuning in general :)

June 28, 2016 at 09:17 AM · Adrian, Agreed!

Krisztian, I'm sure if one reads all of your posts backwards it will reveal all the secrets to fine violin playing.

June 28, 2016 at 11:12 AM · ADRIAN

RUBBISH - sorry - but if you can'r play it in E flat then forget it!

June 28, 2016 at 11:42 AM · As an outside observer with little knowledge of viola playing or the piece in question but who has been following this thread I am more persuaded by Adrians arguments.

I would enjoy seeing you refute his logic Peter. If you can! :-)


June 28, 2016 at 12:05 PM · Er, Peter, I only ever play it in Eb, I prefer it that way, and if anything, it's easier. But Mozart wrote it in D, which makes the tone like linen in the midst of Eb velvet. No such retuning in the "skittle" trio, though.

And no need to SHOUT.. ;)

PS it was a poster who showed me how to do italics:

<, i, >, the words <,/,i,>, but without the commas.

If one forgets to "close" properly, the rest of the discussion is affected!

June 28, 2016 at 05:32 PM · YES Adrian, I was not serious! Just enjoying a dig at all the lovely viola players.

(I know how to do italics - but thanks anyway) I'm going deaf so I HAVE to SHOUT. (Or become a conductor ...)

Actually, I didn't know that about Mozart writing it in D major. I will have to have a serious word with him. Anyone got his email or mobile number?

June 28, 2016 at 07:59 PM · well I did tell you to practice Gb very fast scales in all positions :) hehe, shorry :)

June 28, 2016 at 08:03 PM · I'm such a rat ;-) hehehehe

June 30, 2016 at 08:40 AM · I think folks should smoke outside. Even tobacco.

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