2 octave scales vs. 3 octave scales

June 21, 2019, 6:05 AM · Did I imagine it, or did someone here say they thought 3-octave scales were over-rated?
I don't have any opinion. Some examining boards ask for G and A in 3 octaves, but, at that level, Barbara Barber seems to stick to 2 octaves.

Replies (12)

June 21, 2019, 7:00 AM · You need 3-octave scales if you're going to play up to 6th position and above. etc.

If you are asked to play a 3 octave G or A scale - BE SURE TO START ON THE G STRING!!!

Edited: June 21, 2019, 7:11 AM · Reminds me of a piece of music I've got which tells you to use your first finger to play a low A. Useful advice.

(Probably best if we make such discussions violin by default - it might get confusing if there's doubt over whether anyone means viola or cello). Ah, yes, I just checked the name of the website!

Edited: June 24, 2019, 9:23 AM · On the cello 4, or even 5, octaves are an option. That's for the standard 4-string cello – anyone for 6 octaves on a 5-string cello? :).
Edited: June 21, 2019, 9:23 AM · Its not, however, a case of 'graduating' from two to three octave scales; they really are different species with their own challenges/benefits. As mentioned above, the latter help you access the upper reaches of the fingerboard but the (first position) former teach you about the relationships between the strings; something that is essential at all positions and are terrific for working on string changes. Note also that first position scales are in someway the most difficult for accurate intonation because the distance between the digit placements are the greatest. I should add that that may be hand size dependent, perhaps if your hand is very large the first position is easy whereas scrunching the fingers together at the top of the fingerboard is difficult.
June 21, 2019, 10:34 AM · There are so many different ways to finger the scales. The one or two patterns that are printed in your scale book are inadequate for real life. Ideal fingering varies with the musical context; rhythm and bowing. Two specific complaints that I have about the conventional printed scales, that I rarely use in real music; 1) starting on the second finger on the G string; that puts a half-step on the first string change. 2) The 4-4-4 round-trip at the top of the scale. Default fingering pattern #1, that you can play from memory at an audition or test: Stay in 1st position until you get to the E-string, then 1-2-1-2 until you get near the top, then finish with whatever fingers are left over.
June 21, 2019, 12:37 PM · I don't think you can say one kind of scale is "better" than the other.

One octave scales - great for focusing on intonation while shifting up and down the string, building confidence about overall hand position during those shifts, and practicing tone production higher up each string

Two octave scales - great for practicing left-hand and right-hand movements in string crossings across all strings and (with bowing variations) at different points of bowstroke

Three octave scales - builds on both of those, particularly good for challenging you to sustain tone production and intonation right from the bottom of the instrument to high on the E string, lends itself to fast practice for 'brilliante' playing...

June 24, 2019, 12:45 AM · Joel, starting a scale on the second finger does have the advantage that the finger pattern is very simple: all whole notes between the fingers. But yes, you have to stretch back the first finger. However when observing many good violinists I notice that their first finger often seems to be stretched back almost by default, just from doing that so often :-)
June 24, 2019, 9:27 AM · I have said many times that 3-octave scales are overrated.
What I've meant is that by fixating on them, people neglect to play one-string and one-position scales, and thus miss out on much valuable technique.
June 24, 2019, 11:07 AM · I have been doing the Galamian 3-octave scales (4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 24 notes/bow) daily for the past month or so. I enjoy the various challenges it presents, and my bowing (and shifting, intonation, etc.) have improved tremendously.

Previously, was doing one position only scales - which was great for hand frame, learning intervals, blocking, and so on. I still do them, but not with the daily fervor as before.

June 24, 2019, 6:46 PM · Pretty much anything is overrated if you do it to the exclusion of other wholesome and necessary things.
June 24, 2019, 7:52 PM · Guess I'm the only one who regularly practises 4 octave scales...
June 25, 2019, 2:21 PM · I've always felt that if you practice 3-octave scales all around the circle of fifths (I'm looking at you, Fsharp major) then you've probably got all the notes you need.... ;)

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