In this segment from his lesson for tonebase Violin, concert artist Stefan Jackiw breaks down his method for practicing scales.
Throughout he outlines his ideas for getting the most out of our practice time, especially when practicing one of his favorite resources, the Carl Flesch Scale system.
Don’t Immediately Jump into Repertoire
Stefan describes a part of his practice that he calls the “violin experimental lab.” This is when he would do his scale, arpeggio, and double-stop practice.
It is very easy to go straight into practicing repertoire since it is more exciting. However, practicing these foundational building blocks of our technique greatly helps in developing the muscle memory and accuracy that feeds into our repertoire.
Students often approach scale practice in a way that is very similar to how you’d play a scale passage in repertoire. However, there is a lot of benefit in practicing them in a way very separate from how you would play a scale in a piece.
Stefan recommends trying to play scales with the biggest focus being on accuracy and arriving at the correct pitch, especially on shifts.
Another very common approach taught for practicing scales is a speed-focused method. Starting with 2-notes per bow and continually increasing from there.
However, with this method, violinists often move on to the next speed when even at slower speeds, the scale is not perfect.
Playing In Tune
With intonation being one of the biggest challenges with violin playing, Stefan recommends you focus on pitch and accuracy when playing your scales.
To avoid missing a shift, making an adjustment, and reinforcing this mistake, try dragging your hand up to correct pitch. This method ensures that you’re reinforcing the muscle memory for the correct distance to shift.
Believing This Helps
It may take a bit of a leap of faith to feel that playing your scales in a way that you’d never play when playing repertoire to benefit your technique.
However, Stefan likens it to playing on a different violin and the spacing feeling different. After maybe a week or so, your mind will have adjusted to this new setup.
It’s very similar with playing your scales in this manner. Your mind will adjust and have a better centering of where those pitches are.
This lesson from Stefan Jackiw and other amazing artists are available on tonebase Violin.