100 Days of Scales: Flesch? Galamian? Fischer?

September 9, 2020, 11:29 AM · Hi all,

My friend and I (he, a rusty advanced player; I, a rusty advanced intermediate player) are trying to get out of our respective non-playing funks by challenging each other to play at least 15 minutes of scales, properly, every day.

He swears by Galamian (which I don't own). I have my old/overwhelming Flesch (with fingerings and notes from former teachers), the Barbara Barber version (easier!), Hrimaly (from the early days, I guess). But I'm intrigued both by Galamian and by the Simon Fischer book, and Sheet Music Plus is having a 20% off sale on methods books right now.

So, quickly: if you were to add either Galamian or Fischer to this library, which would you choose, and why?


PS: Started yesterday with B-flat major, first page of Flesch exercises. For some reason I never worked on one-string scales with my teachers and I find the novelty refreshing.

Replies (18)

September 9, 2020, 11:54 AM · Buy the Galamian, at least for the excellent rhythm & bowing variations. I still recommend the Flesch you have for thirds & octaves of both types, and the excellent 1-4 exercises. Easy to cover in 15 minutes, though I must add, it would be good if you had more than 15 minutes (I understand it may not be possible inany cases.)

The Fischer is excellent, but requires for you to figure out which of the scales you should focus on (tons of exercises, and double stops are not covered in that volume.)

(Worth having all if you are a violin "nerd." I love the Gilels, but it is hard to find in the US, though it can be ordered from the EU, and is also available as a PDF somewhere.)

Best wishes. With intelligent practice work you will enjoy these 100 days as you put it-perhaps it will become a lifetime of scale work?

Edited: September 9, 2020, 12:00 PM · "I love the Gilels, but it is hard to find in the US, though it can be ordered from the EU, and is also available as a PDF somewhere."
September 9, 2020, 12:07 PM · Really, for a 100-day challenge, you want something that you can do sustainably, that's not going to break your heart or your hands. Doing a whole Flesch "scale study" for a couple of self-described "rusty" amateurs sounds like a recipe for disaster.

So I'd ask you to refine your question by first defining what it means, in your view to "practice scales." If it means three-octave scales, four notes to a bow (or using "Galamian acceleration"), and picking a new key every three days, then you scarcely need a scale book at all. You just need a reliable uniform fingering system (starting with B major, just begin everything with "2" on the G string). You shouldn't need fingerings any more after the first week or two.

If it means arpeggios too, then you have to decide whether you're going to include "them all" including the diminished, augmented, dominant 7, and so forth.

One nice thing about Fischer's book (unlike Flesch) is that Fischer teaches you how to practice scales, and how to focus on the fundamental aspects of finger preparation, string changes, and shifts. If you don't have a teacher to show you that stuff, then Fischer's book is pretty good. I don't recall whether any of that is in Barbara Barber's books.

In the end it's not about the book, it's about what you decide to practice and how to practice it. In my opinion an amateur violinist would do well not to get too fancy too fast, but to focus on very smooth, clean, well-in-tune 3-octave scales at a reasonable tempo, and if you want to add something more high-tech, try two-octave scales in thirds. My teacher showed me a very good way to practice those if you are at all interested.

Edited: September 9, 2020, 2:44 PM · Wanted to add that perhaps it's best to ignore the Gilels for now, as it is rather advanced in nature. (Though of course, it is crucial to play in very high positions in due time, as scales are meant to be harder than most repertoire on purpose.)

Of the Fischer book, one octave scales in a single position accross the fingerboard is good practice (forgot where that section starts, do not have my book in front of me right now.) I mean, starting with finger 4, then 3, 2, 1, and so on, remaining in position, holding fingers down, no open strings. Perhaps Mr. Deck can elaborate. I use them a lot to warm up both LH/RA.

Galamian and Fischer are both good at the intermediate level, and the fingerings for 3 octave scales are pretty comfortable for both. Galamian rhythms and bowings section can obviously also be used with any scale "system" with few modifications.

But since you already had the Flesch, my previous comment was intended to suggest that you can stick to that if you are reluctant to get another scale book.

(Sorry I never really answered your question; Galamian would be my choice amongst those two-I am happy about the Fischer, but I was already familiar with Galamian and Flesch before I acquired the more recent Fischer book. What sells me on the Galamian is the bowings and rhythms insert, as I mentioned before. The double stops Galamian book is also useful, but I frankly do not use it that often, as Flesch has the essentials, and can be made as difficult as needed.)



September 9, 2020, 6:04 PM · We want to be able to do a variety of fingerings depending on the musical context, rhythm, and bowing. Don't get stuck on any one book. Postpone the Flesch, you have the Barber and Hrimaly. An inexpensive one is Sevcik, Op. 1, part 3, first half of the book. Then, to really break up the mental cob-webs; Ricci has a three-octave scale with only 1/2-step crawl-shifts.
Edited: September 10, 2020, 9:14 AM · Barbara Barber Scales for Advanced Violinists
(Really great for the advanced intermediate player)
September 10, 2020, 2:25 AM · These are all good scale methods discussed. There's also a Ysaye scale study which some of my friends really enjoy. From what I know, Flesch is the most complex out of them all. I like Hrimaly because it's more concise, and you don't have to play 100 arpeggios for each key. At the end of the day, it's more important *how* you play these scales, ratber than which method you choose to use.
Edited: September 10, 2020, 10:28 AM · You can be rusty in different ways and to different extents.
I'd say Barbara Barber. All those lovely 6ths are things you won't have met yet. And I hear pros with poor pinkie intonation, so a simple first position F major scale with no open strings would benefit more people than they might care to admit.
September 10, 2020, 4:02 PM · Another vote for Barbara Barber scales. Absolutely brilliant for many people, and I enjoy using it for my own viola practice.
September 10, 2020, 6:15 PM · Another vote for Barbara Barber's efficiently laid-out books.

But let us not forget YOST!!!

September 11, 2020, 6:16 PM · Alright; Barbara Barber it is. Thanks, everyone!

I know 15 minutes isn't a lot. My goals are pretty simple: play every day, at least 15 minutes of scales*, in tune. Anything else is gravy. I'm sure additional goals and opportunities will reveal themselves in time but for now, when our skies are clouded with ash, COVID and political dysfunction loom large, and any in-person chamber music promises to be months away, this level of focus/productivity is still a challenge. Baby steps.

(my non-violin daily challenge is to do two sets of real push-ups interspersed with some form of sit-ups every day, ideally upon waking up. It's not a full gym workout. But on days when I barely leave the house, it's better than nothing, and it's one thing I can say I've accomplished by day-end.)

*including thirds/sixths/octaves/arpeggios.

Edited: September 12, 2020, 12:30 PM · I think a couple of hours of playing, standing, would be a lot better than a few pushups or situps in terms of general energy expenditure at least. And playing music and striving to improve in that better than mechanical scales as such.

But I've also ordered a Barbara Barber book, and I'm somewhat relieved that my local store will take a couple of weeks to get it - that should give me enough time to clear some space for it on the shelf beside the Fischer scales book.

Edited: September 13, 2020, 7:13 AM · I have a book by Dalmasso which my third teacher made me buy (50 years ago). It is called "esercizi giornalieri" and has on about 40 pages a sort of concentrate of the most fundamental stuff from Sevcik combined with a series of scale exercises. My teacher at the time said it was ideal for amateurs who don't have time to spend a lot of time on scales. I think he was right and I still have the book (it came as a bunch of loose pages; a friend of mine had it bound for me as a birthday present) and use it occasionally.

I will readily admit that I am an undisciplined person and can't bring myself to do any systematic work on scales for any period of time longer than a few weeks. Which leads me to wonder if all those famous violinists who have stressed how much scales they do (I remember Kreisler, Menuhin and others) actually do them (or did them when they were alive) the way they have claimed. To me scales are the ultimate idea of dullness. Which is why I threw away my copy of Flesch.

Why don't you "rusty" people agree on some duos that you play together after preparing the parts separately? That would be an awful lot more fun than Flesch, wouldn't it (even if were just Mazas)?

September 13, 2020, 9:54 AM · To be honest, I love scales, and cannot imagine a day of practice without at least a bit of scale work. Daily thirds and some other scale practice are near essential in my particular case, even when time is tight-otherwise, everything else I practice suffers a bit, and thus I feel time is wasted.

In 15 minutes, for example, one could practice 3 or 4 octave scales, as well as thirds (some could practice most other scale work else briefly within that time, but I rather spend longer on less exercises, and my preference is more than 15 minutes.) Relaxed thirds are fundamental to me, whether your repertoire uses them frequently or otherwise.

To each their own, of course.

September 13, 2020, 12:38 PM · I had the opportunity to play several times for Nathan Milstein in a semester long series of masterclasses he gave at Juilliard in the early 1970's. At the conclusion of this remarkable series he invited the students involved to a little party at his NY apartment.

This gave me the opportunity to ask him how much he practiced scales. His response was, "Scales? There are plenty of scales to practice on in the music."

I now interpret his astute remark as meaning scales should always be practiced in a musical context. In other words if you are practicing a scale from your scale book, keep in mind WHY you are practicing on the scale. There are many possible answers to this question.

Edited: September 14, 2020, 11:44 AM · This reminds me of my teacher - who believes in keeping everything in context of the music we're working on. No scale books - rather we work on the scales/arpeggios for the current work at hand. As I learn different scales/arps/positions then I add them to my daily "warmup" which I suspect is more than that. I will say that I've progressed much further in the last 1.75 years than I ever dreamed possible since returning to the violin.

That being said I DO have the Fischer Scales book coming to have a reference on hand and this thread helped me to make up my mind which book to order.

September 13, 2020, 6:11 PM · I think scales can be interesting, especially if one is slow and thoughtful. I'm recognizing, for example, basic mechanical issues to be mindful of–e.g. a solid-but-not-tense hand frame, the need to work on the stretch between my third and fourth fingers, the left elbow movement that supports 4th finger intonation as I move up and down the strings, and certain shift patterns that feel less secure than others (the 1st finger 3rd position to 4th finger 1st position in the G Major scale, for example). And that's before I even start thinking about my bow arm.

To be clear, it's not the only playing I'm doing. I played in church this morning, for example. But the stuff that used to keep me motivated and in shape was playing copious amounts of chamber music. I was supposed to participate in the St. Lawrence String Quartet seminar this June and that was canceled. I was hopeful that I'd be able to join a weeklong chamber music sight-reading bonanza in Vermont before Labor Day and that, too, was canceled (for the first time since WWII!) And our local chamber music friends have been hunkered down due to COVID and inhospitable weather conditions (massive heat wave followed by fires that make the air unpleasant/unhealthy to breathe on much of the west coast.)

The scales feel pure, purposeful, a reminder of the very basic nature of my instrument–like drinking water when you didn't know you were thirsty. For me, worthwhile. YMMV.

September 13, 2020, 6:12 PM · Galamian is more practical as a daily scales book. You have yourself a handful if you get the contemporary violin technique book as well as the dreaded "Blue Book" of double stops :D

Fischer is really helpful for specific technical breakdowns of difficulties within scales. Perhaps given a long-term scale budget you can get them all over time? XD

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