This book was written after observing that most of my new students did not practice scales. Many considered it a waste of valuable time. I was astounded that musicians, many of whom were advanced, would neglect that part of their practicing and yet spends hours a day on solo, chamber and orchestral music. The scale systems presented here have consistently produced strong results both in my own studio at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and in the Viola Team Teaching program at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
My favorite question for a class of students was, “Why practice scales?” The answers usually came after some thought, as many of them had never considered that there might be a good reason for doing so. I believe that my job is to impress upon them that music is made up of scale, arpeggio, and double-stop patterns.
By knowing the fingerboard intimately through daily scale practice, one can save time in practicing. The practical reason as a performer is clear. If one has to learn a new piece very quickly because of unforeseen problems or a mixup of any kind, knowing the fingerboard gives the player confidence that he or she is capable of learning any piece of music in a very short period of time. Also, being a professional musician demands that one learns music very quickly. Knowing the finger pattern in all 24 keys is the key to mastery of the fingerboard.
I have devised a twelve-week plan for both the three octave scale, arpeggio, and double stop method as well as the one-position scale, arpeggio, and double stop method. The syllabus for a weekly curriculum as well as practice suggestions can be found in the following pages. I encourage anyone using this book to follow the plan, as it gives structure to practicing and covers many aspects of technique.
With the three octave method, the violist will practice a major and relative minor key each week. In the one-position scales method, since only the 12 major keys are practiced, the violist will practice one key a week. The reason for the slower pace in this section is that, because many students are unfamiliar with this method, they often need more time initially to let the left hand become comfortable. Please note that if you have never practiced double stops and have decided to begin with the one-position scales, do the Double-stop Section I that begins on page 35 before doing the double stop section for the one-position scales.
It is my hope that this book will help a student to get started practicing scales, or to revive a player whose scale practice has become routine. It is crucial that, once you start, you stick to the weekly schedule.
The first time you go through the method, the scales may not be perfect or even pleasing to you, but forge on, first, and begin again. This way, scales will seem less intimidating. Do not expect perfection—only expect improvement no matter how small. The second, third, or fourth time will be even better, so it is important to maintain confidence.
Scales are only as good as the focus of the person who practices them. Attention to detail and patience are essential! Be kind to your left hand, and it will serve you well.
February 2, 1998
Introduction to the Second Edition
The second edition corrects a few minor errors and reorganizes the former Appendix into the Syllabus describing the three Series (following pages). The pagination for the scales, arpeggios, and double-stops exercises is identical to that of the first edition from page 2 through page 78.