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  • Noa Kageyama

    April 2, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Hi Ehab,

    It might be that whether scales are worth the time, depends on what you feel you need to work on most to raise the level of your playing at the moment. If, for instance, you feel like you need to work more on trying to get a clearer concept of what you want to do with a particular piece, it might be that score study, etc. is a bigger priority for the moment.

    But then again, most musicians engage in some sort of daily warmup or “fundamentals” routine, whether it’s scales, arpeggios, etudes, and other exercises, and I do think these are an effective use of time, in that the things we learn here can be generalized to everything else we play. You may rarely, if ever, play a passage that is an exact replica of an A major scale or arpeggio, but the motor skills you develop by being able to (and I’m going to speak in terms of violin technique) shift smoothly, coordinate left/right hands, avoid squeezing or using too much pressure with your fingers, manage bow distribution, contact point, pressure, speed, bow changes, etc. are relevant to whatever you may be playing, except that you get to work on these in isolation without other distractions. So by “scales,” I suppose I include arpeggios, and all of the other variations of scales (note groupings, bowings, speed, etc.) that come with that.

    Of course, at some point we have to work on and apply these skills in context too, so the two are ultimately interdependent. It’s like in practicing tennis. You need match play, but you also need to work on your strokes in isolation, and go to the gym to work on developing tennis-specific fitness. But the relative balance between these activities might change from week to week or month to month depending on what you need to work on most – whether you are a couple weeks out from a club tournament, or if it’s the week after a tournament, for instance.

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