How much time should a student do scale practice everyday?

Edited: May 10, 2023, 4:46 PM · My daughter's teacher really takes Carl Flesch scale practice seriously. It is required to play it for entrance examination of some great conservatories in Japan.
However, I know that some great violinists don't practice scale.
Mayuko Kamio, a great Japanese violinist mentioned she never practiced scale as she couldn't find any meaning in doing it.
I wonder what proportion of practice time should be used for scale practice.

Replies (16)

May 10, 2023, 5:15 PM · I'm no expert on this, but scales are an important element of a player's technical development, as it helps them learn fingerboard geography and helps them develop intonation. Even 10-15 minutes of scales can make a difference, especially if you've never really done them before. However, I feel like more than 30 minutes of just scales is a bit excessive unless you're practicing at least 3 hours a day.
May 10, 2023, 5:40 PM · Minimum 15 minutes, maximum 30 minutes in my opinion. If someone is able to be extremely focused, maybe they can do more than that, but it often just becomes monotonous after awhile. It is better to do 15-30 minutes of really focused scales a day than an hour of scales without much thought. If the notes are easy, focus on posture, tone, or other aspects.

Also, don't neglect the arpeggios! They appear just as often, if not more often, than the scales within music. If you practice your scales and arpeggios well for years, you will be able to play the vast majority of repertoire because you have already learned the finger patterns and they are in your muscle memory.

May 10, 2023, 5:58 PM · I don't think there's a simple answer to that question. It depends on your skill level. It depends on your age. It depends on your goals. And also, it depends on how much practice time you have available to you.

I like to split my practice time into three equal parts. One part for warm-up exercises and scales, one part four studies and caprices, and finally one part for repertoire. However, I'm just an amateur doing this for fun.

May 10, 2023, 6:10 PM · By the way, when I first started working on that Flesch book again a few months ago, one hour disappeared in a flash working on only one key.
May 11, 2023, 1:56 AM · A lot of questions about scales it seems to me. It's something we struggle with as well. Not to do them, but how to spend 30 minutes or 60 minutes on scales alone. Maybe it is a nice subject for an article ;-)
Edited: May 11, 2023, 5:07 AM · For a child on a career ladder the most important thing is what the conservatories want, Eriko.

Whenever undergraduates ask me for advice ("Should I do a course unit that interests me but is impossible to get a good grade on, or do I choose a course unit that is boring but easy?") I say "engineer your results" then after that follow your interests.

Shortage of places higher up the ladder necessitates this.

Random stuff influenced by the thread and vomited out: -
(maybe it will trigger someone to say something better than I can)

A scale is a piece of music - many forget that - and could be practised when you practise a piece of music that incorporates that scale (see comment on instrument-dependent repertoire below). But if we define as technique anything that is memorised (and technique is good to have), then it's best to memorise anything that is at all memorisable, and scales and arpeggios are.

Scales and arpeggios require different shifting, and this should definitely be practised.

When I came to guitar from piano and oboe, the concept of a fretboard was new to me, and learning its geography was intereting and important. I learnt the Segovia scale system, but the CG repertoire has so few scales that I quickly lost sight of their point.

Violin geography is easier than guitar geography, as the interval between strings is always a fifth, whereas on guitar you have four fourths and one major third.

Scales and arpeggios remind me of bicycles and running.
The difference is between limited movement and stretching out.

Interval intonation on the violin is probably one of the most important things (how are we at aug 4ths on one string?): - scales only offer major and minor (and sometimes augmented) seconds: Arps offer in addition minor and major thirds and fourths.

(ugh, how did this post get that long?)

May 11, 2023, 1:58 PM · A third of your time in your early development.
Later in life, you can adjust accordingly.
May 11, 2023, 2:19 PM · When switching between violin and viola, I need some scales to recalibrate my fingers to the different spacing of the notes.
May 11, 2023, 4:23 PM · Nathan Milstein didn't practice scales. He said they were already in the music. At the other extreme was Jascha Heifetz, who practiced scales incessantly and demanded that his students do likewise. He once said that if he only had one hour to practice every day, he'd play scales for 50 minutes and work on repertoire for the remaining 10 minutes. Perhaps it is a bit extreme, but who's going to argue with the greatest violinist of all time?
May 11, 2023, 4:55 PM · Scales, once they are learned and memorized are very easy to play and play with little thought. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a bad thing if that's exactly how you treat them, in which case you're wasting your time and accomplishing nothing by playing them. However, there are so many other things you can be thinking about while playing scales. Tone, intonation, body position, tension, bow position, different bow techniques, different rhythms, etc.

Like many of you, I have long ago, memorized the basic scales , and arpeggios and their inversions, and consequently now more than ever, I am carefully watching where I am placing my fingers on the fingerboard . Don't just blindly play the notes. Think about the specific note that you are playing and exactly where your finger is on the fingerboard when you play it. Overtime I am finding that I have a much stronger, visual memory of the fingerboard's geography which helps with finding notes higher up on the fingerboard and jumping to those notes quickly and accurately.

In other words, if you're just playing the notes, you're probably wasting your time. However, if you actually spend some energy and time and actually apply the scales in a more interesting way, you can quickly eat up a lot of time, while improving your skills.
Yes, you can achieve the same thing with your basic repertoire, however, scales are much easier and free your mind to focus on other techniques while you're playing the scales.

May 11, 2023, 9:59 PM · I love playing arpeggios in particular, perhaps it’s the harmonic aspect that appeals to my ears.

Not sure what the answer to how much time should be spent practicing scales/arpeggios but it doesn’t hurt to practice them as much as possible. You can also practice the five modes of the major scales.

May 12, 2023, 10:22 AM · Milstein was absurdly brilliant, and would often sight-read Chopin Nocturnes to stay in shape.

My most recent teacher would tell his undergraduates to plan on four hours a day. One each to scales/exercises (Sevcik, Dounis, etc), Etudes (Kreutzer, Paganini), Bach, and only the last block for concerto or sonata work.

May 12, 2023, 4:28 PM · Greetings,
for something alitle different there are sone interesting comments on scales in here.
Maybe start at around 2 minutes in...
May 13, 2023, 12:13 PM · "Mayuko Kamio, a great Japanese violinist mentioned she never practiced scale as she couldn't find any meaning in doing it. "

That means, to me, that her teacher didn't give her the meaning of scales.

There shouldn't be a set time limit--that implies poorly guided teaching: "Play your scales for 15 minutes!"
That's a waste of time, because few students will do it efficiently or get anything out of it except, like Kamio, learn to hate scales.

I would give a VERY specific list of practice instructions, which to me means a complete routine of groups and rhythms, from simple to more complex. This can't help but to iron out the two typical "speed bumps" of playing the violin: Shifting, and string crossing. Students tend to initiate both too late.
And, by giving them a specific list of groups and rhythms, the student can internalize the process of mastering ANY passage work they need to play. Are you going to eventually teach it to them on the Tchaikovsky concerto? That would be too late.

Most of us are very uncomfortable at first with shifting up the G string. That's why the Flesch one-string scales are so important. What do you want to do--wait till they try to play Saint-Saens 3? That's way to late.

I'd add that only a little daily practice on one-string scales will help a violin to open up. Did you ever wonder why student violins often sound so bad in the highest positions? Partly because no one ever plays up there!

There are many other things scales can be used to practice: bow use is a big one. Have as an exercise the one thing all students hate: Playing colle at the frog. Do retakes at the tip.

Also, the ideal bow position is at a specific contact point on the string--but that changes depending on the position used. If you're high on a string, you should be almost on top of the bridge. Playing one-string scales in very high positions helps internalize where the ideal contact point should be.

Most teachers over-emphasize 3-octave scales. What a shame--so much lost technique.
Do you ever really reach the highest positions on any but the E string when you practice just 3-octave scales? Never.

"Nathan Milstein didn't practice scales"
Well, Milstein was a genius. Most of us aren't.

Playing scales is NOT about setting a timer. It's about efficiency and using them as tools to improvement.

Give your student a VERY specific process of how to practice scales and what to get out of them.
In a few weeks, they should be able to run through that list by memory.

May 13, 2023, 1:57 PM · I completely agree with you, Scott. This point about the one octave scales is very important. You are right, since I started working on this again with the Flesch book, my violin has opened up, significantly, high up on the strings. However, I would suggest it isn't just the violin that opens up, we as violinists open up and learn how to produce quality sound higher up on the string. The specific position of the bow close to the bridge is even more important when you're playing high up on the D string and A string because you need to be able to avoid contact with the other strings, while avoiding that squawk sound, that occurs if you're too close to the bridge.

I also like working with this book on the stops. There is a tendency to get accustomed to a single sequence of fingering, if you are just doing a regular scale. This book forces you to produce notes in tune for the same stop with both the 13 and the 24 finger combination. as a result, when you go to actually play the scale, you're suddenly much more open to multiple different fingerings.

Edited: May 13, 2023, 7:24 PM · How much? Never more than in tune. Find the correct pitch first before working the bow patterns.

If there's any value to "chunking," maybe break up the hour of scales throughout the day. That can help lighten the tedium (if that's a problem), but it also helps to keep in tune for each practice session.

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