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three-octave scales
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scales & arpeggios
scales & arpeggis for patterns and intonation

SCALES & ARPEGGIOS

By Bayla Keyes

 

I.  SCALES - Your scales are the single most effective targeting tool you will have in building your technique.  Be focused, be disciplined, and be creative.

 

A.  3 Octave Scales - 30 minutes a day

 

LEVEL A.  Learn the top fingerings of Galamian Scales.  Plan on learning three scales a week.  Practice slowly at first; as the week continues, add the acceleration exercise printed at the beginning of the Galamian 3-octave scales, and use the metronome.  Memorize each scale fingering as you go. This will get easier and easier as you acquire more scales.    The first week you should be able to memorize all three G scales: G major, G melodic minor, and G harmonic minor.  The second week you should be able to continue practicing the G scales and memorize the three Ab scales.  Continue in this way until you have worked through all scales. Make sure to review your earlier scales periodically, so that you don't forget them.  This program should take you twelve weeks.

 

LEVEL B.  Once you know all 36 scales, play them through every day at a moderate tempo; this should take you about 20 minutes.  Use the other 25 minutes to woodshed three scales – pick ones with which you don’t feel totally comfortable.  Each day choose a few ways to practice, for example:
 

1.  In rhythms (see Galamian Part II)

2.  For maximum speed and evenness, with the metronome

3.  With a drone on the tonic, for intonation

4.  With a drone on the third degree of major scales, for intonation

5.  To practice left-hand form, watching your left-hand alignment

6.  To practice left-hand action and releases

7.  To work on smooth shifts

8.  To practice posture and comfort in holding the violin

9.  To practice releases while drawing the bow 

10.  To practice bow angle and bow control

11.  To practice strokes that are problematic in your pieces 

12.  To practice beauty and depth of tone 

 

LEVEL C.  Once you are completely comfortable, run through all 36 scales at top speed every day; this will take you about five minutes.  Continue to use your scales to work on specific technical areas (see above). In addition, go back and learn another set of fingerings, e.g. the Galamian bottom fingerings, or Flesch.  See if you can run through all scales by memory twice in a row, using the two sets of fingerings. This type of increased challenge will help your brain, improve your sightreading, and decrease the amount of time you need to learn new repertoire. (Heifetz was known to test his students in public masterclasses; he asked one to play an Ab minor scale using at least eight separate fingerings, always different going up and down!)

 

 

B.  Rotating Blocks – 15 minutes a day

 

1 Position Scales 

Use Galamian fingerings.  Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Go up through at least 8th position.  Pay particular attention to your left-hand alignment.  Put the fingers down cleanly and clearly, without pulling the string sideways.  Do not pull the string sideways with each successive finger.  Relax your hand; practice slowly, with vibrato, making each finger as comfortably balanced as possible at first, and later build your speed.  Notice the finger patterns.  

 

Scales on 1 String 

LEVEL A.  Use Flesch fingerings.  Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Make all shifts smooth and effortless.  Keep intonation consistent

.

LEVEL B.  Use Galamian fingerings. Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Alternate fingerings on each day, but spend two days in a row on 1234-1234.  As with your 3-octave scales, use the metronome for evenness.  Make sure your thumb and 1st finger are never squeezing; release each finger before a shift; keep your wrist soft and relaxed.  Let the fingers drop with elasticity and lift with electricity.

4-Octave Scales -  to be added at Level C  

Use Galamian fingerings.  Pay particular attention to the beauty of your sound when you are up high; do not put too much arm weight into the string or you will overpower it.  Play slow and fast.  Work to keep the half-steps close – remember your fingertip placement!  Keep the shifting curve smooth, and anticipate with your elbow as you go up.

Combination Slow-Fast Scales 

Without the Galamian turn, play through 3- or 4-octave scales using the rhythmic pattern of quarter, quarter, quarter, sextuplet.  Vibrate the quarters. (You will need to play through the scale many times in order to arrive back at the beginning of the scale on the first quarter note again.) This is a good one to do with the metronome.  You are working for absolute evenness and rhythmic precision; you are also working on slow vs. fast balance for your hand.  If you have any bumpy shifts or poor form, this exercise will highlight them and help you fix them.  Remember that in slow balance you balance the hand on each finger in turn, transferring the weight of your arm slightly through each finger; in fast balance (the sextuplet) you balance on the fourth finger, and your fingers are like butterfly wings

 

II. ARPEGGIOS – 15 minutes a day

   

A.  3 Octave Arpeggios 

LEVEL A.  Use Flesch, and pick the key that corresponds to your scale of the week.  Memorize each arpeggio fingering as you go.  Practice slowly at first.  Make sure that each and every shift is accurate, smooth, easy and inaudible.  Practice the finger patterns using as many doublestops as possible, so that you are practicing many notes at once, rather than one finger at a time.  By the end of the week you should be able to play through the entire Flesch sequence for your key. Continue in this way until you have worked through and memorized all arpeggios.  This program should take you twelve weeks.

LEVEL B.  Use Galamian, starting with top fingerings.  (Notice that the sequence is quite different from Flesch.)  Memorize as you go.  Use different legato bowings each day, slurred and separate.  Begin to speed up the arpeggios. Keep the shifts as light as possible, with no tension in the first finger or thumb.  Watch your left-hand alignment in the mirror: does your arm come around smoothly?  Are there any sudden jerks or interruptions in the flow?  Does your left hand look uniform throughout, or does it collapse or change shape at certain points?

 

 

B.  2 Octave / 1 Position Arpeggios 

Use Sevcik Opus 1, Parts I and II, or simply use the Flesch progressions. G starts with open G, Ab  and A start with 1st finger, Bb and all others start with 2nd finger.  Go up through 8th position.  Play as many doublestops as you can so that your fingers learn the patterns.  Be careful not to pull the strings sideways (this means you must put the fingers down from a certain angle, especially in the upper positions).  Pick up and put down the fingers with speed and clarity; cross strings with equal clarity.  Watch your left-hand alignment in the mirror.  Does your hand contort and shift positions?  Notice how this will affect your accuracy and speed.

 

C.  1 Octave / 1 String Arpeggios 

Use Flesch.  These are big shifts and must be smooth; do not squeeze with the thumb and 1st finger.  Keep your wrist loose but neutral, so that you maintain your frame. Make sure your intonation is consistent.

 

 

SCALES AND ARPEGGIOS FOR PATTERNS AND INTONATION 

By Bayla Keyes


Scales and arpeggios are perhaps the single most effective targeting tool you can use to build your technique. Investing time in them on a daily basis will mean you have technical money in the bank available for any difficult passages you encounter in your repertoire. 

FINGERING

For scales, use the Galamian upper fingering or a fingering of your own choosing. For arpeggios, use Flesch.

OPERATING PRINCIPLES

Establish the octave frame. The fourth finger is king; keep the hand open, with the fourth finger hovering directly above the octave at all times when it is not playing. This may seem effortful at first, but with practice you will be able to maintain this position easily and naturally. (See Galamian 4th finger down one position scales)

Move the fingers, not the hand and wrist. Keep the wrist relaxed, neutral, and still. You should be able to play each finger without having to change your hand or wrist position. (4-3-4-3-2-1-2-3 exercise in 6th position, heel of hand continually touching body of violin; when this is easy, try it in lower positions and imagine that the heel of your hand is still touching)

Match your contact point to each string. The lowest contact point of your index finger (the point where your index finger lightly brushes the neck) is on the E string, the highest on the G. Note the resulting change in your elbow position.

Leave fingers down when ascending; have them prepared when descending. This is especially important on shifts. Think pink and white -- the finger playing is white, but all others are on the string and pink, because they are not pressing!

In scales, use fingertip angling in order to be able to leave all four fingers on the string.  In half steps, the angle of your fingers should not match. (See Simon Fischer Basics: Fingertip Placement)

In shifts, lighten the finger before you move. Think position to position, not finger to finger. Practice in the patterns of your key. (See Yost Chart)


 

PURPOSES

Learn to think in patterns. Think in groups of fingers, not individual notes—whole-whole-half, whole-half-whole, half-whole-whole, whole-whole-whole, and half-augmented-half. You should be able to create these patterns without having to change your hand position or the angle of your wrist. You should be able to create these patterns in the air! (See Keyes Finger Patterns.)

Gain complete rhythmic control of your finger action. The Galamian scale and Simon Fischer arpeggio acceleration exercises done with metronome are ideal. So are dotted rhythms. It is easy to be imprecise, so don’t get sloppy; if you’re playing with the metronome make sure your fingers and bow land exactly on the clicks.

Cultivate perfect intonation at every speed. By establishing the octave frame and operating in patterns, you can greatly improve your accuracy. When first learning a scale or arpeggio, check every possible matching open string. Use the Keyes slur-and-stop exercise with a drone on the tonic of your scale.



SIMON FISCHER PRACTICE

Simon fischer practice
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technical tools

TECHNICAL TOOLS: A SYSTEM FOR ACQUIRING TECHNIQUE

By Bayla Keyes

 

(The following sections have suggested practice times based on a daily working schedule of four to six hours.)

I.  SCALES - Your scales are the single most effective targeting tool you will have in building your technique.  Be focused, be disciplined, and be creative.
 

A.  3 Octave Scales - 45 minutes a day
 

LEVEL A.  Begin with Galamian, top fingerings first.  Plan on learning three scales a week.  Practice slowly at first; as the week continues, add the acceleration exercise printed at the beginning of the Galamian 3-octave scales.  Memorize each scale fingering as you go. This will get easier as you acquire more scales.    The first week you should be able to memorize all three G scales: G major, G melodic minor, and G harmonic minor.  The second week you should be able to continue practicing the G scales and memorize the three Ab scales.  Continue in this way until you have worked through all scales. Make sure to review your earlier scales periodically, so that you don't forget them.  This program should take you twelve weeks.
 

LEVEL B.  Now you know all 36 scales.  Play them through every day at a moderate tempo;  this should take you about 20 minutes.  Use the other 25 minutes to woodshed three scales (e.g., the three Ab scales).  Do them:
 

1.  In rhythms (see Galamian Part II)

2.  For maximum speed and evenness

3.  With all possible doublestops, for intonation

4.  To practice left-hand form, watching your left-hand alignment

5.  To practice left-hand action and releases

6.  To work on smooth shifts

7.  To practice posture and comfort in holding the violin

8.  To practice releases while drawing the bow 

9.  To practice bow angle and bow control

10.  To practice certain strokes that you are having trouble with in your repertoire

11.  To practice beauty and depth of tone 
 

LEVEL C.  You are completely comfortable with the fingerings you have learned.   Run through all 36 scales at top speed every day;  this will take you about five minutes.  Now go back and learn the Galamian bottom fingerings.  See if you can run through all scales by memory twice in a row, using the two sets of fingerings. Continue to use your scales to work on specific technical areas (see LEVEL B).
 

LEVEL D.  Add the Flesch and Sevcik fingerings.  Play through your three-octave scales using four different fingerings.
 

LEVEL E.  Play through your scales using different fingerings on the way up than on the way down.  Combine fingerings and invent your own.  How fast can you do this?  (Heifetz tested his students in public masterclasses, asking one to play an Ab minor scale using eight different fingerings, always different going up and down.)


 

B.  1 Position Scales - 10 minutes a day, rotating block.

 

Use Galamian fingerings.  Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Go up through at least 8th position.  Pay particular attention to your left-hand alignment.  Put the fingers down cleanly and clearly, without pulling the string sideways.  Do not pull the string sideways with each successive finger.  Relax your hand; practice slowly, with vibrato, at first, and later build your speed.  Notice the finger patterns.  

 

C.  Scales on 1 String - 10 minutes a day, rotating block.

 

LEVEL A.  Use Flesch fingerings.  Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Make all shifts smooth and effortless.  Keep intonation consistent.

 

LEVEL B.  Use Galamian fingerings. Use the key signature of one of your current 3-octave scales.  Alternate fingerings on each day, but spend two days in a row on 1234-1234.  As with your 3-octave scales, use the metronome for evenness.  Make sure your thumb and 1st finger are never squeezing; release each finger before a shift; keep your wrist soft and relaxed.  Let the fingers drop with elasticity and lift with electricity.

 

D.  4-Octave Scales -  to be added at Level C  - 10 minutes a day, rotating block.

Use Galamian fingerings.  Pay particular attention to the beauty of your sound when you are up high; do not put too much arm weight into the string or you will overpower it.  Play slow and fast.  Work to keep the half-steps close.  Keep the shifting curve smooth, and anticipate with your elbow as you go up.

 

E.   Combination Slow-Fast Scales - 10 minutes a day, rotating block.

Without the Galamian turn, play through 3- and 4-octave scales using the rhythmic pattern of quarter, quarter, quarter, sextuplet.  Vibrate the quarters. (You will need to play through the scale many times in order to arrive back at the beginning of the scale on the first quarter note again.) This is a good one to do with the metronome.  You are working for absolute evenness and rhythmic precision; you are also working on slow vs. fast balance for your hand.  If you have any bumpy shifts or poor form, this exercise will highlight them and help you fix them.  Remember that in slow balance you balance the hand on each finger in turn; in fast balance (the sextuplet) you balance on the fourth finger.

 

II. ARPEGGIOS 

   

A.  3 Octave Arpeggios - 15 minutes a day

LEVEL A.  Use Flesch, and pick the key that corresponds to your scale of the week.  Memorize each arpeggio fingering as you go.  Practice slowly at first.  Make sure that each and every shift is accurate, smooth, easy and inaudible.  Practice the finger patterns using as many doublestops as possible, so that you are practicing many notes at once, rather than one finger at a time.  By the end of the week you should be able to play through the entire Flesch sequence for your key. Continue in this way until you have worked through and memorized all arpeggios.  This program should take you twelve weeks.

LEVEL B.  Use Galamian, starting with top fingerings.  (Notice that the sequence is quite different from Flesch.)  Memorize as you go.  Use different legato bowings each day, slurred and separate.  Begin to speed up the arpeggios. Keep the shifts as light as possible, with no tension in the first finger or thumb.  Watch your left-hand alignment in the mirror: does your arm come around smoothly?  Are there any sudden jerks or interruptions in the flow?  Does your left hand look uniform throughout, or does it collapse or change shape at certain points?

LEVEL C.  Learn the Galamian bottom fingerings.  Memorize and then try to run both Galamian fingerings.  Work with rhythms to increase your speed.  Use the metronome to ensure that you are even.  Try running the arpeggios without allowing your thumb to touch the neck (you may want to prop the violin scroll securely).

LEVEL D.  Play through all arpeggios daily.  Alternate days between Flesch and the two Galamian sequences. Begin to incorporate spiccato and mixed bowings.  Pay particular attention to the arpeggios for the dominant seventh and fully diminished seventh chords.

B.  2 Octave / 1 Position Arpeggios - 10 minutes a day, rotating block

Use Sevcik Opus 1, Parts I and II, or simply use the Flesch progressions. G starts with open G, Ab  and A start with 1st finger, Bb and all others start with 2nd finger.  Go up through 8th position.  Play as many doublestops as you can so that your fingers learn the patterns.  Be careful not to pull the strings sideways (this means you must put the fingers down from a certain angle, especially in the upper positions).  Pick up and put down the fingers with speed and clarity; cross strings with equal clarity.  Watch your left-hand alignment in the mirror.  Does your hand contort and shift positions?  Notice how this will affect your accuracy and speed.

C.  1 Octave / 1 String Arpeggios - 5 minutes a day, rotating block.

Use Flesch.  These are big shifts and must be smooth; do not squeeze with the thumb and 1st finger.  Make sure your intonation is consistent.

 

D.  2 Octave / 1 String Arpeggios - 10 minutes a day, rotating block.

For the advanced player.  Use Dounis.  Keep your left arm very relaxed so that you will not experience tension in these very high positions.  Feel the weight of your whole hand in the upper positions as it falls through your finger into the fingerboard.  Try to stretch all your fingers out in advance of the pattern.  Pay particular attention to the smoothness of the motion you use getting from low to high positions; release going down and up.  Remember to pick up and lift the fingers with speed and clarity.

 

Exercises to Promote the Independence of Fingers

Bayla Keyes

 

  1. Opening up the hand – invite, encourage, do not insist!

    • Play all stretching and widening exercises pp at first, to release and melt the webbing between the fingers.

    • Keyes sliding: hold one finger, slide other fingers up one at a time, do not allow held finger to buckle or move. Keep wrist in relaxed but straight line.

    • Kourgouf sliding:: place all four fingers on string, slide each finger up one half-step, beginning with fourth finger; do not allow hand, wrist or other fingers to move; then slide back down beginning with first finger.

    • Dounis Daily Dozen #3 - sliding.

    • Stretching: 3 fingers in third position on E string, first finger on A string, slide first finger back to first position, do not allow other fingers to move or buckle.  Continue with successive fingers.

    • Dounis stretching: Artist's Technique of Violin Playing.  1-2 minutes maximum, no finger pressure whatsoever.  Be very careful of this one!

    • Simon Fischer Basics: “Widening at the Base Joints”

    • Simon Fischer Basics: “Minimum Finger Pressure”

    • Simon Fischer Basics: Thumb Spa, Thumb Counterpressure

    • Dounis Daily Dozen # 2 - holding and releasing.
       

  2. Framing the hand – all the world is a quadruplestop!

    • The fourth finger is king, and the hand is balanced and energized between third and fourth fingers, while releasing and reaxing in thumb, index and second fingers.

    • The wrist is relaxed but straight.

    • The hand is melted and released to bring the third and fourth fingers closer to the neck/fingerboard.

    • Think finger patterns at all times – on string and in the air.

    • Keyes finger patterns on one string – chromatic and diatonic.

    • Galamian one-position scales. Hold fourth finger down continuously.

    • Doublestop for string crossings.

    • Sevcik Opus 1 Part IV # 2 - holding and releasing.

    • Kourguof - holding and releasing.

    • Schradieck "The School of Violin Techniques" Vol. 1 pp. 2-4 - air patterning and releasing.

    • Kreutzer #9 - air patterning and releasing.  Use second finger to fourth as much as possible.

    • Sitt 50 Daily Finger Exercises.

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