Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How I practice scales

Have you ever watched another musician practice? We observe each other in group rehearsals, but rarely see each other practice, another activity entirely. How do we possibly learn how to practice in this practice vacuum? If we're lucky, our teachers break out specific tasks for us to work on, but it seems to me that they do that less often for adults than for children. Somehow we are just supposed to know.

I adopted my current scale routine when I began working with my current teacher, a year and a month ago. I practiced scales before that, but somewhat haphazardly. He had me start with E major, shortly followed by c# natural minor, 4 octaves, to learn the standard (Duport) scale fingering that does not use open strings. I play with the metronome at 88, which provides an optimum bow speed for producing a rich sound with four beats/bow, as follows:
* half notes, changing note every-other note, i.e. not on the bow change
* quarter notes, four notes/bow
* eighth notes in three patterns:
- 8 notes/bow, repeat the octave
- 7 notes/bow, change on the octave
- 8 notes/bow, as it comes, starting down then up bow
I run through this every time I practice scales (daily!), then do the 4 octave arpeggio using the fingering 1st note - 1,3 or 4,2 - 1,3,2 - 1,3,2 - 1,2,3 where "-" indicates the shift. I do this in a variety of patterns from half notes to eighth notes, sometimes repeating the note at the string crossing and sometimes not.

It's a little more complicated than that, because I'll also apply a number of practice techniques to isolate troublesome shifts, or eighth notes, or intonation, or tone quality (especially in violin range), depending on the time available and what sounds worst on any given day. I usually do only one scale each day, currently d minor (to complement my Bach), and it takes 20-40 minutes.

Some days I add (attempt) thirds in double stops or triplets in double stop fingerings, and also broken thirds, but only for E MAJ. I haven't tried those in my lesson yet. If I'm really feeling ambitious I'll try other things from Yampolsky, like subdominant and dominant arpeggios, or more rarely sixths in double stops.

What about you? I TAG any musicians reading this blog to describe your scale routine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not so advanced, or so dedicated! I do 3 octave Galamian scales (24 up, 24 down). I typically set the mm to 40 (perhaps too slow) and play 1 bow per 2 clicks: 1 note per 2 clicks, 2 notes per 2 clicks, 3 notes per 2 clicks (hard to stay in time), 4 notes per 2 clicks, 6 notes per 2 clicks, 8 notes per 2 clicks, and for some easy keys, 12 notes per 2 clicks.

I do some variations in bowing patterns, but I'm not consistent in that practice, yet.

What I should do more of now that I have left hand going ok is fast separate bows and 2-1 and 3-1 bowing patterns (unequal times up and down). That's where my weaknesses are.