Violins do not have frets. We don’t’ have black or white keys. This makes it extremely easy to play out of tune, and extremely difficult to play IN tune.

Lucky for us, our hands are like little brains that memorize the distance between notes. If we train them to play the distances correctly, we play in tune. If we don’t bother to train them correctly, well, they either learn the distances incorrectly, or they hit notes differently each time.

But we can’t train our hands in a vacuum. We have to involve our ears, which will become the master of our little hand brains.

We have at our disposal a silver bullet which addresses this issue and can end the scourge of poor intonation.
It is not exciting like a light sabre.
It is not sexy like Red Desert Violin’s “Speed and Dexterity” exercises. 😉

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Our silver bullet is the homely, humble scale. We all have access to this powerful tool yet few violin students use it! We might play a few scales, but we are not committed enough to truly reap the benefits.

Yes, but HOW do I practice scales?

Listen to me carefully: Don’t worry about doing it right. JUST DO IT. You’ll discover the way that is right for you.
But because I happen to have a few ideas, I’ll share. But they are only my ideas. No one taught them to me. I discovered them by obeying the first commandment of violin: PRACTICE YOUR SCALES!

    -Master the easy keys first.
    -Only play ONE OCTAVE scales until you are proficient in the easy keys.
    -ALWAYS practice the arpeggio that accompanies your scale. They are harder, and easy to skip. DON’T SKIP THEM! (that’s the second commandment of violin playing)
    -After you master one octave scales, move to two octave scales. When you choose to attempt harder keys is entirely up to you)
    -Three octave scales are an advanced (mostly classical) endeavor.
    -Four octave scales are for sadists and showoffs, of which I am both. But they are not required.
    -At some point, you may introduce bow patterns to increase your scale skill level.
    -At some point, you may practice scales with a metronome to introduce rhythmic accuracy.
    -At some point, you may practice scales using a tone generator to assist your listening.

Should I Use My Tuner?

Using visual aids like tuners or computer apps can be helpful. But they can also bog you down. Use them if they help. Remember your MAIN OBJECTIVE is to train your fingers to memorize the right spacing between notes, and to verify the accuracy using your ears. So if the visual aids help you to gain confidence in your ears, by all means use them! Just keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to go commando with just your ears and fingers!

Love your scales! Meanwhile, feel free to join my email list: