When is one ready to start Flesch scales and Kreutzer etudes?

Edited: November 3, 2017, 5:53 PM · I was just wondering, honestly. Many people have told me so many different things on this particular topic. Is one ready to start Flesch scales and Kreutzer etudes after the completion of the Accolay no.1 and Bach A minor? Or do more repertoire or easier etudes need to be played first? I realize Flesch is a difficult system, is something like Advanced Scales for Violinists by Barbara Baker more appropriate?


Replies (29)

Edited: November 3, 2017, 3:59 PM · "Flesch Scales" means a lot of different things. If you're just looking for fingered three-octave scales and arpeggios, then you can start them in earnest probably around the Suzuki Book 5 level. If you are going to do the entire "Scale Study" in Flesch, some parts of that are much higher level.

As for Kreutzer, I would note that there is kind of a "progression" of study books and generally Kreuzter comes after Mazas although there is definitely some overlap -- the hardest Mazas are way harder than the easiest Kreutzer. Mazas, in turn, comes after Kayser.

And now for my favorite joke. What do you say about a violinist who doesn't practice scales?

The spirit was willing, but the Flesch was weak.

November 3, 2017, 7:09 PM · I have students do the Hrimaly scales first. Flesch can only be assigned when the student is comfortable with the higher positions (at least 5th). And I never have them do all the Flesch scales at the beginning-I start with just the basic scales and arpeggios. There's plenty of time to explore the double stops and other stuff later.
November 3, 2017, 7:41 PM · I also start with just the three-octave scales and arpeggios at first, once the student is comfortable with the higher positions. But honestly I prefer the fingerings in the Barbara Barber Scales for Advanced Violinists.

I'll just be showing myself out now.

November 4, 2017, 5:17 AM · I did Hrimaly scales first too.
November 4, 2017, 10:10 AM · Hrimaly is a fun scale book! But to answer Ronit's question, if you can play Accolay and Bach A minor cleanly and with good tone then you definitely can start with Kreutzer and Flesch, in my opinion.
November 4, 2017, 11:40 AM · I started Flesch around the time of Suzuki book 6, but just the three-octave scales and arpeggios.

I didn't start Kreutzer until after I had done a couple of student concertos and was starting to move past those -- I think around the time of doing Mozart 3.

November 4, 2017, 12:34 PM · I started with Hrimaly scales when I was young and didn't work on Kreutzer until I finished Kayser and some of the Mazas Book 1. When I returned to violin after 20+ years hiatus, my teacher made me realize that I didn't learn Kreutzer or Kayser properly when I was a kid. So I started to work on Flesch scales right away to fix pretty much all the issues need to be fixed. Flesch is not an easy scale system. I was told by some teachers that it was written for accomplished violinists. Kreutzer can be used for accomplished violinists too. It really depends on how you are taught/self-taught to approach and work with them.
November 4, 2017, 2:15 PM · Everyone should check out Simon Fischer's relatively recent book "Scales", which is really excellent.
Edited: November 4, 2017, 3:42 PM · With young students that aren't ready for 3-octave scales, I use scale handouts that I have made.

I usually start students with the Galamian scale fingerings and accelerated scales around the time they have finished major position work. The Galamian fingering system using the same fingering for any scale that starts on the G string (with the exception of G) and any scale that starts on the D string. This gives them easy approachability to the scales, and the acceleration component builds speed and metronome compliance. Also the "3rd" that he has you play sets up the ear to play the 3rd, 2nd, and the 7th correctly (for A major, for instance, 1-3-2-1....)

When get to Mozart G / D, we would generally be moving through the "Preparing for Kreutzer" etudes and I begin Kreutzer as soon as we finish the required etudes in that series. Usually we are past the aforementioned Mozart concertos at that point -- the start of Kreutzer is a slightly different for each student based on any etudes that still must be prescribed.

I do use the Flesh scale system and related exercises, but I have students do these at a later time. I find them to be intimidating for many, and not the best introduction to 3-octave scales. However, the exercises that go along with each 3-octave scale are indispensable.

November 4, 2017, 4:41 PM · 3-octave scales are over-rated.
November 4, 2017, 7:44 PM · I think you have to really take a hard-nosed look at what you're going to learn from scales. And if you have a teacher, then you and your teacher actually have to agree on those outcomes. I remember having a part of a lesson on scales once where my teacher was only interested in the string changes, nothing else. Well there are much more concentrated studies for that than 3-octave scales. If you have the Fischer "Scales" book, you might actually learn more from the step-by-step exercises that he uses to build up the key elements and features of scale, than you do from the scales themselves.

I'm one of those weird violinists who really loves studies. I can spend 90 minutes just working on three or four Mazas or Kreutzer studies. Honestly I have never seen the Galamian scale book but my teacher taught me an acceleration system and a systematic fingering so maybe that's it.

Doug I'm surprised your students do not start Kreutzer until after they finish Mozart 4. But it depends on what other studies you are having them to first and what your expectations are for how well they're learned. I remember being ready for Kreutzer much earlier than Mozart 3. Or .. so I thought...

November 4, 2017, 8:51 PM · There's Kreutzer and then there's Kreutzer. The first third or so of the book is not that hard; in fact, the first Kreutzer etudes are easier than the harder Kayser etudes. And then it gets very hard very quickly.
Edited: November 5, 2017, 9:13 AM · There are certainly a dozen or so Kreutzer etudes one could do before Mozart -- No's 2, 3, 4, 5 come to mind (going from memory)

There are so many great etudes and studies that build pre-Mozart fundamentals well -- some from Schradieck, Sevcik, Trott, Wohlfahrt, Galamian.

Too many throw the Kreutzer book to students too early and before you know it, the easy ones are done and only the very hard ones remain. Often the student is not ready with that approach and they flounder badly on the difficult ones, never facilitating them well and getting essentially stuck.

November 5, 2017, 9:37 PM · @ lydia (who mentions it) or others: How does the Simon Fischer book "Scales" compare with Flesch's or other scales works?
November 5, 2017, 9:52 PM · I teach the early Kreutzers when the student is ready for them, and when we get to the ones that are beyond the student's current level, I take a side trip to other études-- Mazas and the easier Dont, maybe some Fiorillo.
November 6, 2017, 6:54 AM · @Mary Ellen -- certainly a good approach too, and I have done this in the past. Kreutzer spans so many "levels" of a theoretical syllabus, that it is unavoidable to be weaving in and out of it into other etudes at some stages.
November 6, 2017, 7:48 AM · Carlos, the Flesch book provides a "system" of scales with fingerings for all the keys. Each "system" includes some single-string scales, standard three-octave scales, arpeggios, a scale in broken thirds, then scales in actual sixths and thirds, octaves, and finally some wicked chords. I've left several things out but I can't think of what they are. Flesch does NOT teach you how you're supposed to approach or learn any of that -- it is presumed that your teacher will take care of that. Flesch also meant his scale book to accompany one of his other books, but I think a lot of teachers don't ask their students to read "The Art of Violin Playing." (My childhood teacher among them.)

Fischer's book includes a lot of discussion of what you're supposed to be learning from scales and he provides exercises for getting your scales and arpeggios into correct tune, changing strings smoothly, etc., all quite gradually and systematically. Fischer's approach is more of a "system" than Flesch's, despite Flesch using "system" in his title. Of course Fischer has sets of 3-octave scales and arpeggios with fingerings too. His arpeggio sequence is slightly different from Flesch's and he inserts the augmented arpeggio into his sequence.

November 6, 2017, 9:25 AM · What are your objectives with the Kreutzer etudes? If you can play the Accolay concerto with good tone, good detache and good string crossings then you don't need to spend much time on the first third of the Kreutzer studies as they develop those technical basics. If however you're hacking through the Accolay with poor control of tone, intonation and bowstroke then learning more repertoire will not solve those problems for you.
Edited: November 6, 2017, 11:02 AM · "The spirit was willing, but the Flesch was weak."

Fantastic! I will use this.

Also, Fischer's scale book is excellent, he takes the best parts of Flesch but explains how to practice it much better. This is also true with his even newer double stops book.

As for what you get out of scales--I find practicing a key of three octave scales and arpeggios every day (the scales in progressively increasing speed ala Galamian) helps to improve my intonation, shifting facility, left hand articulation, and smooth bow changes and string crossings. I find doing dotted rhythms as part of this practice to be very important in making sure that I continue to make gradual improvements on the scales and making sure they don't become mindless, as well as whole bows of differing speeds and martele strokes as well.

And, it certainly makes a lot of music much, much easier. After a few weeks only I can play most of the first movement of Lalo because so much of it is just shifting which I learned via scales and arpeggios. Practicing scales seems to me like lifting weights, it's good for you in so many ways if you do it the right way.

November 6, 2017, 7:19 PM · Thank you Paul. I have been going through many threads that ask the same question as this one. In them you (and others) praise the Fischer book. Then now my question would just be if you think that it is sufficient in itself for scales or if it would need any complement.
Edited: November 6, 2017, 8:41 PM · I think the for adult student, Fischer's book is probably best. His other books are great too, especially "Basics" and "The Violin Lesson."

I don't agree with Chris that someone who can play Accolay can dispense with the first third of Kreutzer. Even though those studies may seem superficially not too hard, there is good fundamental stuff there. Upbow staccato, broken octaves, some stuff in higher registers than you find in the Accolay, some different keys, etc.

Note also that the "first third" ends with No. 14. Conveniently just before the first serious trill study! LOL

November 6, 2017, 10:58 PM · Carlos, Fischer's Scales is great but it's incomplete as a scale book because it doesn't include double stops, which is addressed in his newer book Double Stops. All Fischer's books are worth keeping, either as reference books or books to work through on a daily basis. They are a bit pricy so if money is a concern, you may want to start with something simple yet instructive such as Mary Ellen recommended Barbara Barber Scales for Advanced Violinists. The first 8 pages teaches you how to practice scales, arpeggios and double stops. Once you are familiar with this routine, you can practice on all keys. Barber also has a book called
"Scales for Young Violinists".

November 7, 2017, 12:10 AM · Thank you Yixi.
Money is no concern but time is. I actually have all Fischer's books and videos and most, if not all, books and manuals mentioned here. Most are there waiting for my level to catch up to them.
The double stops book was not published last time I went to Mr. Fischer webpage but it is -right now- on the way to my library :-)
November 8, 2017, 11:46 AM · The Kreutzer etudes cover about 4 grade levels on one of those 10-grade lists. So you should over-lap working on Kreutzer with Mazas Op. 36, book 2, and/or Dont Op. 37. It's tempting for both the student and teacher to start Kreutzer too early.
November 8, 2017, 3:19 PM · Part of the purpose of Kreutzer 2 is to firm up hand position in first position, so starting that pretty early would be very helpful. Also, it gives you time to work through all of the bowing variations and even different fingers.
November 22, 2017, 7:49 AM · I've also heard the Kreutzer books advance quickly in difficulty.
November 22, 2017, 12:20 PM · Yeah but if you're talking about playing Bruch in the near future, then you need to advance quickly too! Your teacher needs to guide your selection of Kreutzers but you can always buy the book and thumb through it in your spare time. Nos. 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10 are not very hard. You can make sure of having a basis for Kreutzer by completing at least half of Mazas beforehand and all of Kayser.
November 22, 2017, 4:14 PM · Part of Kayser is way harder than the easier Kreutzer. If you played all of Kayser well then you will find the earlier Kreutzer to reemphasis of basic technique and that being where it’s challenge really lies.
November 23, 2017, 12:00 AM · Some Kreutzers are very easy, some are decidedly only for advanced students - so it's a broad range.

Scales you can start as soon as you've learnt how to play high enough on the fingerboard. I think I started 3 octave scales after several years of playing, but you can do 2 octave or 1 octave at any point.

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