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Violin Practice: integrated learning

Violin Practice: integrated learning

“Scales played in the correct musical way are very exciting and rewarding” and so too are studies. Shock, horror, disbelief resound across the internet. But those words were said by none other than the famous flautist, James Galway.

Yes, those scales, studies and technical exercises are incredibly rewarding but they can also help you learn your violin or viola repertoire more quickly and accurately too. When used as an integrated approach to solving problems in your pieces, these tools can break those seemingly impossible challenges down into doable steps.

How can scales help my performance?

Scales and studies serve as highly concentrated practice devices that allow you to focus on one or two technical problems. Scales and studies are immensely useful because they:

  • Focus on specific technical challenges in isolation
  • Follow a clearly defined set of achievable steps to your goal
  • Can be immensely enjoyable and satisfying in their own right

But to get the best out of scales and studies you need to integrate them with your pieces. So, if you are having difficulties with bowing a long phrase in your favourite piece you could try practising your scales with one, two or even three octaves per bow (build up in comfortable steps).

Maybe it’s a string crossing or a position change issue. There is so much great study material ranging from the classics such as Wohlfart, Kreutzer, and Sevcik to the many modern books of studies that will deal with your particular challenge.

The trick is to take that technical challenge away from all the other demands of the music and focus on solving that issue in a study or scale. Ultimately you want to recreate the challenge you face in the piece of music as accurately as possible. Do this by slowly adding in all the other musical aspects such as dynamics and speed as you gain confidence.

How do I make scales and studies work for me?

The key to making scales and studies come alive is to practise for sound. Learn to love the rich resonance that is possible on the violin or viola. And make every note more beautiful than the one before.

Slow practice too is critical to successfully getting scales and studies to work for you. Practise for accuracy. If you are just skipping over mistakes or not fully aware of every movement you make then you are just practising those faults.  

Practising in this way also allows you to create a mental image of the actions to come. This is an especially effective tool for reinforcing muscle memory for difficult actions such as position changes.

Remember the goal is to recreate the challenges you face in the piece of music so gradually add in the same dynamics and speed etc.

The Pro-am Strings’ High Impact Violin Accelerator Course can help you identify the technical challenges that are getting in your way. Your online violin tutor will also devise an integrated step by step approach using scales, studies, and technical exercises to help you learn your repertoire faster and more thoroughly than ever before.


This post was written by Stylus writer, a former professional violinist/ violist who has taken his gift for phrasing and tone into the world of words. You can learn more about his work at http://styluswriter.com/


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