How my Intonation Improved when I Stopped Practicing Scales | Violin Lounge TV #263
I play the violin for over twenty years, but my intonation improved most in the two years I didn’t practice scales…
The thing is… There’s a time and place for scales
I had always been playing scales on the side and it intensified during my conservatory study where I practiced around two hours of scales a day… that was the warming up, After that around three hours of etudes and repertoire.
One Summer I reached a plateau in my playing. I practiced and practiced… it was really hot weather, but my playing didn’t got better… it just got worse. My teacher made me feel terrible about that and I started to think I didn’t had the talent to ever graduate. I even thought about quitting.
In the end I decided to change teacher… my new teacher just gave me a lot of difficult repertoire… concerts, caprices… al stuff above my level… way more difficult stuff my previous teacher was giving me as she was giving me stuff below my level.
The difficult repertoire pulled me to the next level
Suddenly I broke through the plateau, could play things I couldn’t even dream of and two years later I graduated successfully. In those two years of fast progress however… I didn’t practice ANY scales.
Ok, there’s to put it in perspective… of course I could only make this progress because I had studied a lot of scales and technical studies before those two years of progress.
However… there is a time and place for scales.
There are things that are more important than scale practice…
First of all your basic technique must be on a very high level.
If you are doing things wrong in the way you place your fingers, have balance in your violin hold or the basic way you bow… you can practice as many scales as you like, but your playing will plateau until you solve these issues.
Secondly you should have hyperfocus, attention and high quality practice.
People who practice for long hours, but also people who practice after a busy day at work… might not do high quality practice. You might not stop and correct every mistake you make. You might think to clean little mistakes up later.
It’s very dangerous to play routine scales (or something else) for hours and hours.
This makes you lose your focus. You might think about other things while practicing. You practice in a mechanical way and at the end of the day you think: hey, I’ve practiced for so many hours… I did a good job. Nope, those hours can be an absolute waste of time!
The technique of practicing is more important than the practicing of technique.
Thirdly there are a lot of things you can’t practice in scales.
Strange jumps and harmonically difficult stuff are not things you learn in scales, but you need to learn them by playing a lot of repertoire.
So… there are things you learn from scales and things you learn from playing a lot of pieces and etudes.
Some people might focus a bit too much on technique, while you should also have a place where you can apply this technique.
I hope this video is inspirational to you and will make you think about deliberate practice.
What is your experience with practicing scales? Or do you have a question about this episode of Violin Lounge TV? Share it in the comments below!
THANK YOU FOR THIS ZLATA! I SEEM TO HAVE JUST THE ISSUES YOU HAVE DESCRIBED. FINDING IT DIFFICULT WITH FINGER PLACEMENT, THE FINGER STRETCHING,INTONENATION AND TRYING NOT TO STOP WHEN I KNOW I HAVE MADE A MISTAKE ARE THINGS I STRUGGLE WITH. SOOO FRUSTRATING! I AM DETERMINED TO MOVE ON, BUT AS YOU SAID YOU ONCE FELT…I THINK MAYBE I SHOULD JUST QUIT. SEEMS MY PROGRESS IN FOUR YEARS IS AT A STAND STILL AND FEEL LIKE I AM GOING NOWHERE. WOULD ALSO LIKE TO JOIN IN AS A FIDDLE PLAYER WITH OTHERS AND GET STUCK WHEN I START TO TRY. NOT LOOKING FOR SYMPATHY, JUST WANT TO GET PAST THIS ROADBLOCK (OR MENTAL BLOCK) :(( THANK YOU FOR SOME NEW IDEAS. APPRECIATE YOUR ADVICE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Hi Laurel, finding different ways to practice can certainly get you through a plateau. Getting some lessons with a different teacher can also be very helpful. All the best, Zlata
go into another area of the violin that you haven’t been yet harmonics, octaves, intervals ,chords, triads whatever it takes just dig online forget videos there is lots of good theory study the monochord too that’s fun good luck
Hi there Zlata, speaking of scales, may i ask a question about them? I’ve started to notice that while i’m practicing (been playing five weeks now), i’ve gotten fairly anxious about trying to hit that perfectly-tuned right note. Do you think it’s better, when starting out, to practice scales and get the basic pattern, just so long as you don’t hit any grossly wrong notes? And then the finer-tuning of the note will come later?
Or would it be better to go super-slow, and just work on say the G scale, making sure every note is exactly in the ‘green’?
(And, should say: I definitely know when i’m completely off [ie hitting a note out-of-the-scale] b/c i play piano and guitar, and can sing a scale, etc).
Thanks for your time, and all your tutorials!
Hi Jeff, certainly go super slow and stick with just one scale, for example the G major scale. If it takes you half an hour to get it right, that’s perfect! Have you seen my free beginner course right here? Blessings, Zlata
Hey, blessings to you too Zlata!
Have not seen your course, but going to check it out now. And, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question! Best, jeff
Hello Zlata, such an interesting experience you are sharing with us about breaking through your level without focussing on scales. I practice scales only 5 á 10 minutes a day with the Scale System of Carl Flesch. His system includes also double stops, hearing-training, string-crossings and position changes. So you will not get bored to much. My teacher also likes to present me pieces just above my level. It wakens up the pitbull in me and motivates to swallow the piece till the very last note!
Yes, I’ve worked with Flesch for many years and throughout conservatory. You might like my article on scale books.