Why scale class is important by Tegen Davidge

The following post is by Tegen Davidge.

Scale class is important because it requires you to practice your scales.

There! That’s all for this post!



You aren’t convinced, are you?

The reason that most musicians would underestimate the importance of a scale class is because they underestimate the power of the scale. I mean, how hard can it be? Go up the fingerboard, and go back down, while hopefully playing in tune. Simple, right?

Such was my thinking as I stood in my first scale class, going up and down the fingerboard while NOT playing in tune. Afterwards, I was asked the question “Is that a new viola?” I don’t know about you, but I understand that question to be code for “You seem to not know how to play your instrument” (even though that is probably not at all what the person meant by it!) Thoroughly discouraged, I went home intending not to attend the class again.

But I slept off the discouragement, practiced the pants off my scales that week, and went back the following Thursday. I am happy to say that I played more in tune.

Since then, I have discovered that scales are the perfect medium through which to explore (and maintain) an infinite number of aspects of viola playing. What exactly needs to be going on in our heads and bodies to obtain consistent intonation and consistently beautiful sound? How does the way we are using our bow affect our intonation? How can we use our bows to free up our left hand during technically demanding sections? What can I do we do with our bows to minimize the sounds of shifting? How can we balance our left hands to obtain maximum agility? How should this balance change depending on what we are playing?

I would have eventually been asked all of these questions by my private instructors, and would have tackled them while alone in the practice room. However, with scale class, discoveries happen more often, exploration happens more thoroughly, and there is a greater drive to obtain and maintain developed skills simply because there is more than one person (me) in the room.

So how about we start over…

Scale class is important because it is an amazing opportunity to, together with fellow artists, discover and explore the art of playing an instrument. It is an opportunity to build technical skills, as well as maintain them.

I hope you are convinced. I sure am. I am convinced that if one does not attend scale class, or attends it unenthusiastically, it is a missed opportunity. There must be a reason that Heifetz practiced scales for 4 hours every day! If you are reading from a place where you do not have a scale class at your disposal, I encourage you to start one!

As a Disney fan, I would like to conclude this post with some wise words from the Aristocats…

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