Hi Guys and thanks for dropping by! I was inspired to write this post by Matthew, a new intermediate student who’s tonal quality and overall technique is quite strong, but who is finding it difficult to maintain reliable intonation as he moves to higher positions
Matthew’s two octave scales are pretty solid and he seems quite comfortable with a variety of first position finger frames; it’s definitely time to begin G major scale in 3 Octaves!
As per usual, good things take time and it’s incredibly important to develop strong technique before adding different bow strokes or increasing the speed of your three octave scales.
Also remember that there are a number of different finger patterns we can use for this (or any) scale. The techniques addressed here, however are of relevance no matter what finger pattern you use and can be adjusted accordingly.
Before you start
Make sure your fingernails are nice and short; You’re going to need to keep your left fingers round and relaxed at all times, so if your nails are too long, this won’t be possible and you’ll be introducing incorrect technique right away!
Practice my ‘Finger Clickers’ exercise as shown in the video; we’ve used this to prepare for vibrato previously so it shouldn’t be completely new.
There is absolutely no use in playing the whole scale until you have mastered the four key area addressed below, so please take time to watch and read carefully.
The Difficult Parts
Although everyone is unique and we all have our individual strengths and weaknesses, I’ve been around the violin teaching block a few times and as such, can pretty accurately predict the areas that you’re going to find hard!
Hmm… Let’s see, There’s:
- Moving into position on the A string
- Moving into position on the E string
- Maintaining a ‘tunnel’ position with the left fingers, especially at the very top of the scale.
- Moving down to first position when descending
Was I right? If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these, the following exercises are going to be amazingly helpful for you. If you answered ‘no’ to any or all of these, you probably don’t know that you’re doing them wrong so again, the following exercises are going to be amazingly helpful for you.
- Pop, Slide, Swap On The A String:
This exercise addresses moving into position on the A string and it’s purpose is to encourage effortless and accurate shifting from first to third position. Through practicing this exercise, you’re going to develop reliable intonation as you move from first to third position.
2. Pop, Slide, Swap on the E string:
This one’s a little harder and will help with moving into position on the E string. Until your ears know what’s right, you may need to check the ‘C’ with the third finger before attempting your shift. Be particularly careful to maintain your rounded fingers here and don’t be afraid to bring your elbow up under your violin a little more.
Moving On Up:
This is simply playing the top five notes of the scale whilst maintaining your rounded fingers and sound quality. If you find this difficult, your hand shape is most likely not correct.
Descending Slide And Swap:
This is our final exercise and it addresses errors in moving back to first position when descending. The shift from the first finger on C to the fourth finger on B is large and you may move down in smaller steps if you like.
Watch Out As You Shift!
Be mindful that your whole hand and arm move comfortably from one position to the next. Take a look at the series of pictures below and note that it’s not just your fingers or even hand that needs to move comfortably between positions
Tunnels On Top
As shown in the video, maintaining rounded fingers is imperative in all positions. For the top notes, however, it may feel more comfortable to lie your fingers down; this is absolutely unacceptable and must be quickly rectified. Take a look at the pictures below and ensure that your fingers match those that are correct
You have officially entered the realms of THREE OCTAVE SCALES! This is a big step in your violin journey and done properly will allow you to practice shifting and intonation accuracy.
If you found these exercises difficult, don’t despair; they are not designed to be mastered within a day or even a week. Keep practicing slowly and carefully and you’ll absolutely notice improvement in your G major scale in 3 Octaves over time.
If you have any questions or comments about this post or the accompanying video, please leave a comment in the comments section below and I’ll be back to you before you can pop, slide and swap!
Best of luck with your three octave scales!
Founder of myviolinbff.com