Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Most Efficient Scale System I Know

I have been spending a good deal of quality time with the scales that live in the back of the Sevcik Opus 8 book of shifting exercises, and I thought I would share them with other people who take pleasure in building technique. These two pages, I believe, contain everything any string player (or any player of any other instrument able to make its way through three octaves) might need in order to be comfortable playing passagework in any key, in any meter, and at any tempo.

If you practice these scales with a metronome, they work wonders. I think that they are beautifully set up and extremely economical: you get hours upon hours of really worthwhile practice out of just two pages. But, most of all, you have to think while you are practicing these scales. It is so easy to let your mind drift off when practicing "normal" scales. These modal scales keep you on task, particularly the minor scales in keys with a lot of sharps and flats.

I set my metronome at the quarter note in a conservative tempo (96-104), and practice the scales with sharps on one day and with flats on the next day (the Julius Baker approach). I vary the articulation (the bowings to string players), and I try to do it mindfully and deliberately.

The images will appear full size when you click on them.

Happy practicing.


socratidion said...

... all of which comes down to: when you’re practising scales, don’t always start and end on the tonic. There’s a whole load of notes below the tonic that you might have to play some day. Maybe it’s a bit more than that: it’s a different way of thinking about scales, as a quality of key that can be applied to any part of the instrument, rather than a ladder with a bottom and a top. Back in the day when I aspired to be a jazz guitarist (I’m an aspiring viola player now) I did something very like this: stuck in one position, and ran up and down from the lowest possible note to the highest, adapting my fingerings to whatever key I had chosen to be in. You catch me at just the point when I’m beginning to experiment with this on the viola.

Elaine Fine said...

There's an alto clef version of this (a fifth lower) in the viola transcription of Opus 8. The whole of Sevcik Opus 8 is really valuable for building up a technique and learning to navigate around the fingerboard.