Nathan Cole Scale Book--has anyone tried it?

April 26, 2021, 12:05 PM · As the title states, has anyone tried out Nathan Cole's new scale book? I am always interested in trying out new ideas in violin.

Replies (30)

Edited: April 26, 2021, 1:51 PM · I just bought the whole kettle of fish (scale book and instructional videos) a few days ago. I'm a scale geek like my violin hero, Jascha Heifetz. (My other hero, Nathan Milstein, did not play scales because he said the scales were already in the music.) I've used the Elisabeth Gilels (Leonid Kogan's wife and great violinist in her own right) scale book for many years and swear by it. Unfortunately, she didn't write a "users manual" to accompany her scale book. I signed up for this new scale course because I'm always looking to learn something new to enrich my playing and teaching. I also happen to have great respect and admiration for Nathan Cole. I'm sure his scale course will be worth every penny. Everything he does is first class.
April 26, 2021, 2:58 PM · I'm going to buy it too. It's less expensive than Fischer's book!
April 26, 2021, 3:14 PM · Paul it's cheaper but it's a pdf download.
Edited: April 26, 2021, 3:45 PM · Greetings,
Honestly Paul, I feel some mild exasperation about your comment concerning Simon’s scale book. I am so tired of people sniping (which is out of character for a gentleman like you) about the price of Simon’s books. I would just note the following:
1) Simon’s books are sold at the lowest possible price he can afford to feed his family. (People have to live)
2) I don’t know the details, but I believe Simon had many long and hard fought battles with publishers to get his works out to people not only at the best possible price, but also as soon as possible. Yes, publishers will delay something for years if they think the market is not right...
3). It’s not just a scale book in the conventional sense, and for a manual of this size, with this much information it is actually quite cheap. Expensive does not necessarily apply to the price but rather whether or not a work has merit commensurate with the price and equivalent works. People who have never used the scale manual are simply not qualified to comment on its pedagogic value.
3) Nathan’s work is superb and well worth the money but it does not do the same things that Simon’s book does. Also note that in the introduction Nathan says that a lot of the content was actually inspired by Simon’s work and that one would be well advised to go out and buy his book as well.

Maybe it’s because i have been around for so long, but I feel like I have a better than average overview of the implications of all the years of hard work Simon dedicated to trying to help as many violinists as possible. I may have been the first person to use Basics! Unfortunately, I think citing his works has become so common there is a tendency to forget how he revolutionized the field of violin practice and performance in many subtle ways. (Anyone who does not get this or why he is as significant a figure as DeLay , Galamian’s et al should avoid joining this discussion and actually read what he has to say , to put it bluntly.). At the same time, comments like the above which, although mild in intent have had a tendency to gain prominence because of the nature of social media with a cumulative negative effect that, in my opinion, not reflects badly on the violin world in general, but also shows serious disrespect to a master teacher and deeply sincere pedagogue.
Sorry to say all this, but he deserves better from us.
Warmest Regards,

Edited: April 26, 2021, 5:04 PM · I’m with Buri. I have all Fischer’s books and Nathan’s Scale Book. They are all fantastic and worth every penny. They are numerous violin lessons and a lot cheaper than individual lessons! I have to say this even though I am sure I will offend people - musicians, especially classically trained musicians hardly get enough pay from the contributions they’ve made to our life. If we can’t regularly support them financially in some way, at the very least be very sensitive and refraining from talking about how much they are charging. To do otherwise hurts the dignity of musicians if not our own sensibility. There, I’ve said it.
April 26, 2021, 5:04 PM · Simon Fischer's family eats an entirely caviar-based diet.
April 26, 2021, 6:28 PM · I don't think so, Christian, especially the year-old baby! Both Simon and Nathan are well worth our support!
April 26, 2021, 8:10 PM · Laurie, no sweat. You can get caviar at Costco!

Though I'm not sure how Brexit may have thrown a wrench into the system for folks across the pond...

Edited: April 27, 2021, 7:25 AM · Dear Buri and all, I'm definitely not sniping about Simon's books. Otherwise I wouldn't have bought so many of them. I'm only pointing out that Nathan's book doesn't seem expensive in the grand scheme of things -- even though actually it's more expensive than Flesch or Glommian or Barber scale books by a comfortable margin. That's the trouble with internet conversations is that it's so easy to misunderstand and there's no quick gesture or rejoinder that can smoothly assuage incipient angst.

I also have all of Mark O'Connor's books even though I had to have them re-bound because they won't lie flat on your stand, and those books are much more expensive than Suzuki books.

I didn't realize that Nathan's book is just a PDF download. So for $27 or whatever it's not even printed and bound? I'll easily spend as much on good paper and binding at a local print shop.

But the thing about a book is that if you learn three or four things that are critical to your improvement then what price do you put on that? I would say that qualifies as the criterion for the price of a lesson.

I remember buying a book of jazz tunes called "New Jazz Standards" by trumpeter Carl Saunders. The book was maybe $65. My buddies were incredulous that I would spend that much for a "fake book." But it's all tunes by Carl -- they're not in any other fake books. And I don't know any of them. So I figure, if there are four or five cool tunes in there that I don't know, that pretty much pays for the book. What would you pay for a lead sheet for a gorgeous ballad that you've never played before? I say that's worth ten bucks easily.

On the other hand, contrast that with bassist Steve Swallow who just posts all of his tunes to the internet and you can download them for free and play them on your gigs without any royalty because he self-published them all.

I just bought the Vitali Chaconne (part and piano score) used from Amazon. Schirmer edition (David). I think I paid $12. Now you watch all the scolds tell me I could have downloaded it from IMSLP. The front cover even says "$1.00". No kidding. I have no regrets. It obviously spent 50 years in someone's basement, it's in great condition and there are no markings at all.

So I think I've got the right mindset for spending on books.

April 26, 2021, 10:13 PM · That's a good find, Mr. Deck, though I would try to add the other edition as well to your collection. Both would be nice to learn, though perhaps you prefer David's less elaborate edition.

Mr. Cole should invest in an affordable (to him, it's OK to charge a bit more for it to his customers) paperbook version. I will never buy any book in PDF form, on any subject, be it sheet music or books about perfumes. I know some people think we are all OK with tablets (I have none) and PDF scores, but that is far from the truth. I tried reading ebooks once during a train ride years ago on my smartphone, and never did so again. It was a nightmare. Prefer turning pages, making real pencil annotations, even sniffing the paper and feeling the cover under my fingers. Which is not to say any of you who prefer a pdf version of his scales-or any other sort of book-is "wrong".

I personally "hate" IMSLP, and much prefer to buy my own editions. IMSLP is only useful when something is out of print or realistic reach-not a substitute for a proper score. Crossing my fingers that books/scores are not eventually "faded out" of history due to some dubious claim about saving nature (I believe in climate change and preserving nature, that is not my point-however, companies take advantage of these issues for profit and cost-cutting concerns.)

Anyone has an actual edition of the Vieuxtemps 3rd Concerto? There used to be an Auer edition back when none of us did exist.

I love all scale books. New editions are always welcome as long as they are not utter clones. Still love the Gilels the most, though the Fischer has lots of good "modern" fingerings and is more of a pedagogical manual than just another scale book. I still do not have his double stops book-perhaps I should order it soon.

Take care of yourselves, and happy scale practicing.

April 27, 2021, 2:59 AM · I don't own any of the books in the title but I'll consider them when my teacher thinks it's time for me to practise all scales (I'm still learning just a few of them).

In general I love owning books and taking care of them. Digital formats have their advantages, but I'd take a book over a pdf or an epub any day. Reading is much more enjoyable with a paper book. Same with studying. I concentrate much better reading from a paper than from a screen. Music is no exception. IMSLP is great, but I think it's completely worth buying good books. Whenever I have a little spare money to spend, I add a new Bärenreiter book to my collection.

Being surrounded by well-edited and beautiful books is something that helps making me happy!

April 27, 2021, 5:23 AM · Adalberto, IMSLP is one of the best things that came out of the internet. You hear a symphony on the radio, listen to the violins, wonder how that part goes, and you can readily check the notes on IMSLP! Just one example. But when I really want to work on something, I will then buy a printed edition. Best of both worlds, no need to hate IMSLP!
April 27, 2021, 5:40 AM · Mr. Dubuisson,

That is why I used the word "hate" with quotes. I have used it some times to print out-of-print scores, and just like you, to satiate my curiosity about pieces for which a score is too hard to find (for instance, the aforementioned Vieuxtemps 3), but there are too many that are content to download things from there without ever wishing to pay for their own a score. So I hate it could be misused, and I do not rely on it unless I have to.

Another benefit is checking out old editor-violinists fingerings for editions that have been long out of print, and knowing "business", doubt they will ever be back.

Glad it exists, not so glad it could be easily misused. Much like a sharp cooking knife, it is what you make of it. Apologies if I appeared to hate on them for no logical reason.

Edited: April 27, 2021, 7:34 AM · I feel that IMSLP is most useful as a scholarly resource. Like Jean says, you hear something and you want to have a look at the notes, or you want to check out a certain Mozart Divertimento to see if it seems basically playable by your chamber group. But as soon as I have made the decision to work on something, then I order a bound edition. If I bought Nathan Cole's book I would take it to a local independent print shop and pay them to print it on good paper and put a good spiral binding on it. I have done this with out-of-print things that my teacher has given me (mostly by Soviet-era composers; that stuff can be hard to find in print), and when I use the local printer I'm supporting a local business too. I think everyone has a different way to define the boundary between spending money and wasting it. As for the Vitali edition that says "$1.00" on the front, the inside smells faintly of soap. I can't wait to sit down with a lovely cup of coffee at my dining-room table and number the measures -- a task that I curiously enjoy very much as I find it has a Zen-like quality. Like practicing scales.
Edited: April 27, 2021, 8:00 AM · I'll make a further observation about Nathan Cole, and this is just my own opinion. I have great respect for him as he is a terrific violinist, and he has thought deeply about pedagogy and how to reach people with his methods using modern online tools. And he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But Nathan is also a gifted businessman. He understands that the violin-hobby community, at least within the first world, is wealthy, and he charges what he believes the market can bear for his product. Imagine a summer online course that costs $800, joining, and finding that you are among around 400 who have done the same. You do the math -- and don't lose any zeroes. The same with the book. That's going to be a very lucrative enterprise. Nathan is merely doing his patriotic duty by charging what the market can bear and paying a portion of his winnings back to Uncle Sam. The other side of it is that I personally think it's just fine if someone makes money -- even a lot of money -- if they're doing it by providing a genuinely wholesome product or service. Some people get rich writing mystery novels. We wouldn't have an economy without wholesome and thoroughly capitalistic enterprise. Capitalism has done more for mankind -- including the third world -- than any other institution in history.
April 27, 2021, 9:24 AM · Hear hear, Paul - Capitalism really put the third world in its place so that real Americans like you and I don't have to fly down there and let them know ourselves!
April 27, 2021, 9:28 AM · Good points all around. I was not really commenting on the price. Violin playing is an expensive endeavor (my preferred strings are $100 a set). $27 for a PDF is not that objectionable, although I do prefer print.

I was really asking if it's a useful resource. I use the Flesch book and I'm always looking to study other books as well. From a "have it handy" perspective, it seems like a good deal.

April 27, 2021, 9:33 AM · I didn't say capitalism ended inequality. One doesn't even need to leave the U.S. for proof. I also never argued that capitalism should be unregulated. I believe it should be very closely regulated and highly taxed. Now ... back to scale books.
Edited: April 27, 2021, 9:38 AM · Dimitri the rationale behind Fischer's book is that he teaches you what you should be practicing for, and how to build yourself up to the point where you can get more from Flesch. If you have (or had) a teacher who does (did) that for you already, then maybe you're fine. But a lot of us had the experience that we only had short lessons as young people and we had repertoire and studies to cover too, so our teachers couldn't (didn't) luxuriate in the kind of meticulous, gradual focus on scale work that Fischer has distilled into his books. Fischer (and perhaps Cole) is for anyone who opens up Flesch or Galamian and wonders, "Okay, I see the notes and the fingerings. Now what?" In fairness to Flesch, his scale book is meant to accompany a larger treatise on violin technique if I am not mistaken -- a treatise unheard-of by 99% of violin students.
April 27, 2021, 10:04 AM · Paul - are the Mark O'Connor books bound like the top book in this stack: (pocket knife sitting on it to weigh it down, this was an example shot for the very small publisher of a bound sheet music book, about 100 pages, that I bought recently)

I'm not fond of reading music off a screen for more than a few minutes. I've bought PDF sheet music that wasn't otherwise available in print. I've wanted to have some of them printed and bound nicely but haven't gotten around to doing any. When given a choice, such as for string orchestra score and parts, I had always chosen the paper. In the age of Zoom teaching, students need their parts digitally though and it sure is convenient to screen share and annotate when I need to point out something on the page.

April 27, 2021, 5:26 PM · Mengwei, yes the O'Connor books are in stiff bindings like that. The glossy cover likewise is very stiff. Maybe Mark has figured this out by now.

I like working with a local independent print shop because then, once you get to know the owner, you can just email them stuff with instructions. "60-pound white paper, double sided, cover in separate PDF file on heavy cardstock, black back, spiral bound." And you pick it up the same day.

April 27, 2021, 6:59 PM · Greetings,
Paul, what you say above about Simon Fischer’s Scales is absolutely spot on. It solves the ubiquitous problem of both Ss and even professionals hammering away at the Flesch without a concept of developing good intonation and relevant techniques to implement the concept . If a teacher has already taught this, then this aspect of the book may be review to some extent but the s sheer number of approaches goes way beyond what a single teacher would normally present. that is one of the things about Simon’s books: he is a collector and organizer of innumerable standard exercises as well as a creator of unique approaches to problems.
Where I do take issue with your post is in the omission. I think it is very important for students to understand that this is not just a scale manual. It is a technical manual of the violin which demonstrates in myriad ways how to tackle specific problems in the repertoire without having to butcher the repertoire in question. . An investment in time and effort to study this work will elevate the level of anyone’s playing exponentially. That is why it is a unique work that stands apart form traditional scale manuals and teaching.
Other reasons to note why it is not merely a -how to- precursor to the Flesch is that it includes a huge array of vital and neglected scales that are neglected simply because they are -not in the Flesch.-
I hope this explanation does something to correct the the erroneous idea that ‘Scales’ is just a book that gives one advice about how to play scales. It is actually an extremely comprehensive tome on =how to play the violin.-
April 27, 2021, 11:07 PM · The Mark O'Connor books are being spiral bound now. Lay flat on the stand. Open easily.
April 28, 2021, 8:32 AM · I had pointed out the not-lying-flat problem to the publisher that I mentioned, who was adamant that no one else had an issue. It seems to be physically impossible not to have an issue so I'm a little relieved to be validated. If I want to use the book seriously, I'll have to have it spiral-bound.
April 28, 2021, 9:13 AM · After many replies nobody has actually offered anything resembling some kind of review of the new scale book under discussion, which was the original question. Who can offer something?
April 28, 2021, 6:22 PM ·
Edited: April 28, 2021, 7:04 PM · Greetings,
The book is divided into two sections. The second section is a relatively ordinary writing out of all the scales with Nathan`s fingerings. Nice to have, but in of itself not that intrinsically interesting.
In the first section he begins by discussing why we should practice skates in a very pleasant and motivated motivating manner. He identifies the central component of not only scale practice but violin playing in general that his rhythm sound quality and intonation and he devotes separate chapters to these areas which include a number of exercises.I am not personally so fond of the technology behind this kind of electronic book where one has to continually jump two links where Nathan has already explained in detail on line and demonstrated these exercises but that is the modern world we live in..
One of the most important points he makes, which I think underpins his whole approach to skills and learning the repertoire in general is that scales should be used to practice difficult aspects of concertos. by using this heuristic one can not only avoid building up psychologically and physically damaged passages in the repertoire but also sustain motivation and interest in practising skills because it’s such fun to, for example, practice the bowing of the last movement of the Sybelia‘s concerto on a scale passage when doing this kind of work.It’s a very important insight that we often lose sight of.
The style of writing throughout is engaging and interesting. Personally I am not so sure it is so applicable far more advanced violinists although the nuggets of technical advice are very valuable. If I had to choose I would buy Simon Fisher scale manual but I’m not sure this is exactly a fair comment because they are different enough to use the comparing apples and orange analogy I think.Perhaps the best way of making a decision about whether or not one wants to buy it is to spend time watching Nathan ‘s YouTube videos and getting a sense of how he teaches and where he’s coming from and let that decide for you whether or not you want to invest in this course. It’s certainly a well crafted labour of love from a master violinist.
Is this enough Jean? :)
April 28, 2021, 11:16 PM · One thing to add to Buri's excellent comments above is perhaps that Nathan gives some great examples of how you can fill your designated scale-practice time in different ways.
Edited: April 29, 2021, 3:51 AM · Many thanks Buri for the extensive and informative review! The idea to practice a tricky bowing pattern on scales instead of on the actual music is very nice. I think I already knew about it, but we hear so much and we forget to apply them, that it is very good that someone writes all these scale-practice-related ideas down in one place. So, if I understand it correctly, also from the following review, it is basically a textbook, which is great.

And here is the link that SW Chen posted, in a more user-friendly form:

Has anyone bought Nathan Cole's new scale book?

April 29, 2021, 5:20 AM · Greetings,
Jean, I suppose you could call it a textbook but the style vacillates between readable self deprecating prose, useful ideas and detailed technical discussion with the intention of applying that knowledge to the scales in the back so that :
1) One understands the importance of scales.
2) What to focus on when practicing them.
3) Being creative about systematic with routines tailored for your individual needs.


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