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Apr 04

Scales: the Backbone of the String Players Practice Session

There is a certain segment of the string player’s daily practice routine that can be viewed as the least exciting, and it can be tempting to exclude this section of the practice session. However mundane practicing scales can seem, it is arguably the most important part of practicing the violin, or any stringed instrument. Why is this?

When it comes to learning the violin, scales are a basic, foundational exercise. There are many reasons to learn and regularly practice scales on the violin. Practicing scales will help the student develop proper hand and finger technique, and to become familiar with the entire fingerboard. Strength will be built in the muscles of the hand and fingers, and proper hand position will be enforced. The fingers will become fluent in shifting to all positions. Scales also provide an excellent opportunity to learn and enforce playing with a steady tempo, as well as becoming comfortable with a variety of different rhythms and bowing patterns. As the student plays scales every day, a warm, even sound can be developed, as well as various bowing techniques. This is also a good opportunity to practice pulling a straight, symmetrical bow, and implementing smooth string crossings. Learning scales makes it necessary to become familiar with key signatures and other important aspects of music theory.

Boy practicing violin

Boy practicing violin

It is a good idea to dedicate part of the practice time each day to practicing scales. The ear is taught to listen very carefully to the sound quality and especially the pitch when scales are played, and this will enable the musician to play more in tune during the rest of the practice session.

The scale book I recommend for string players is the Carl Flesch Scale System. This is a complete scale book that includes all the major and minor scales and arpeggios, in all major and minor keys. The exercises in this book also include scales and arpeggios played exclusively on one string, and the exercise is repeated on all four strings, within the exercises for each major and minor scale. This greatly helps the player in becoming familiar with playing in and shifting to all positions on all strings. In addition, there are a variety of double stop exercises for each set of scales and arpeggios. This is a great scale book, and will immensely improve any string player’s abilities when used regularly.

Virtually all proficient musicians agree that practicing scales is vital to becoming a better player. Including a daily regime of carefully practiced scales and arpeggios will not only help violin students play better in tune, but it will also help develop all the important skills needed in becoming an accomplished violinist, and the student will progress at a significantly faster and more efficient rate.

2 comments

  1. Frank Tolsma

    This is a very scholarly and well written article. Nice job, Marisa!

  2. Jerry Rice

    Practicing scales was a very interesting article confirming my direction in my practice routine. My learning to play the violin continues on my KV Ricard Bunnel G2 and music theory offered at our local senior center. Thanks, Jerry

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