4-octave scales

November 12, 2016 at 06:36 PM · Are there violists who practice 4-octave scales?

Replies (20)

November 12, 2016 at 07:32 PM · The good ones? :D

November 12, 2016 at 09:21 PM · I (as a violinist) imagine that the size of one's hands and the size of the instrument have something to say about that.

Now, fellow fiddlers: how many practice 4 octave scales? Proceeding chromatically, in the keys of G through C, my many variations and permutations of 3 octaves will include a 4th octave in those keys.

November 12, 2016 at 10:22 PM · What percentage of the repertoire requires pitches that high on the viola?

Requiring extremely high ranges on most instruments doesn't usually come across as virtuosity, more like an orchestration problem. :P

November 12, 2016 at 11:58 PM · I practice 3 octave scales only; b-flat and B major / minor already border with impossible heights...

Unless one uses an ergonomic viola with relatively small mensure, one has to be very careful playing 4 octave scales on viola in order to avoid injury.

UCL (ulnar-collateral-ligament) is particularly vulnerable if one spends too much time passing viola's body with over-supinated forearm. Easy to get injured, takes forever to heal....

Proper warm-up and stretching are of utmost importance.

Calling for trouble, in my humble opinion.

November 13, 2016 at 12:04 AM · ". . . orchestration problem . . ." like the 2nd G# on the E string to be played pp as a harmonic in the 2nd violin part of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. I was deputising at very short notice in a performance of the work last night, the soloist being the Lithuanian cellist Gunda Baranauskaite. Problem is, there doesn't seem to be a G# harmonic in that particular location, so it's a combination of slightly odd orchestration with an extremely high range. I opted to play it as the stopped 2-octave harmonic on the 1st G# on the E, which worked well and gave what I believe is the intended result, 4 octaves above the lowest G# on the violin.

November 13, 2016 at 12:19 AM · I don't practice 4-octave scales on either violin or viola. I would think that if you are interested in improving your nosebleed-region skills, then two-octave scales and the like, starting from two octaves up (so that you're working out the upper two octaves) would concentrate your effort.

November 13, 2016 at 03:11 AM · How high can the viola go anyway?

November 13, 2016 at 03:34 AM · Up to about F# 7, a fifth below the violin, although trying to squeak out the last half octave after that would probably work better due to the thicker viola strings. :)

November 13, 2016 at 12:08 PM · "How high can the viola go anyway? "

Depends on how hard you toss it! ;-D

November 13, 2016 at 03:13 PM · Thank you Raphael. Quick off the mark.

Yes I practice 4-octave scales, but not in public.

Provided we have a safe shoulder rest (thought I would get that in first..) we can copy Vengerov and Bashmet (no less) in bringing the thumb along the side of the fingerboard, although this makes the hand very high above the viola.

Also there is no need to hold the viola (or violin, for that matter) so high, nor so flat, nor have the chin over the tailpiece. A well-tilted viola, resting more on the chest than a violin, will reduce dangerous pronation. One part of the way to a viola da spalla?

November 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM · Simon Fischer's book on scales has two-octave scales on a single string, which he claims is the actual summit of scale playing, a four-octave scale essentially being just a two-octave scale followed by another two-octave scale on the E-string. He advocates practicing such scales just as a general psychological principle of practicing, from time to time, extreme things so that the normal stuff becomes more easy. By the way Trevor, about the story with the G# harmonic: isn't it true that a lot of scores just indicate the note value in diamond shape to indicate they want a harmonic tone, and let the player figure out how best to produce that tone, i.e., use an open-string one if one is available and otherwise use a fingered harmonic? What I mean is, that what you did is probably perfectly in line with what Tchaikovsky intended.

November 14, 2016 at 02:00 PM · Back to being serious for a moment, my daily practice routine includes 2-octave scales on one string with various fingerings - one finger scales, 2 and 3 finger scales.

November 14, 2016 at 07:12 PM · Two octave scales on one string helped me to rapidly improve my technique when I started playing again--after doing those for a while you really get accustomed to playing in high positions and it becomes no big deal.

November 15, 2016 at 12:11 PM · The scale books often have four octaves for C, D flat, and D, but not higher than that. If you stick with the original transcription, a few Paganini Caprices have four octave D major scales in them (nos. 5 and 21 come to mind, also many people insert one at the end of 24.)

I just finished a transcription of Beethoven's fifth for two violas, and the first viola goes nearly that high in the last movement (to the a in the middle of the fourth octave). It's part of a doublestop with an F sharp a tenth lower, which with the sound of the other viola playing lower double stops... kind of works. At least it brings across the excitement of the moment!

November 15, 2016 at 09:46 PM · I only play four-octave scales on violin up to A major. How do violists go so high without strain? Put their thumb on the fingerboard side?

November 15, 2016 at 10:22 PM · Yes, as I said above.

November 16, 2016 at 10:35 AM · Hi Adrian, I tried to contact you via your member page but there is no contact button. Could you please contact me via my member page, hopefully that works. Many thanks.

November 16, 2016 at 10:22 PM · 4 octaves? On my viola I run out of fingers after 2 octaves and a third.....

November 16, 2016 at 11:02 PM · It depends somewhat on the size of the hand and then playing position as to whether the thumb has to come around the side. I have students who need to do this, but I can get around without it. Stretching between the thumb and first finger helps, too.

November 17, 2016 at 05:25 PM · I play violin, but having pretty small hands, and slightly, though not insanely, deep-set pinkie. I maintain contact with my thumb on the fingerboard by just sliding up the side. I haven't had any issues with the violin falling or anything like that. Getting comfortable downshifting from the top octave takes some getting used to, figuring out the most efficient way to move between the different hand positions. Getting up there is relatively simple. I imagine, it might be a little tough with the bigger viola, getting over the instrument, but I don't know about the adjustments that a violist would have to make.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine