HELP...I Don't Know My Grade 4 Scales!

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Classical Violin By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Violin » Classical Violin
Last updated: 02/05/2012
Tags: approach to learning, grade 4 exam, violin scales

One of my adult students told me that her daughter was getting ready for her Grade 4 violin exam, but was having trouble learning her scales. She asked if her daughter could come to me for extra violin lessons. Straight away, I realised that this could spell trouble as having two tutors teaching in different styles can only end in tears and confuse a student.

Saying that, I had two violin teachers at music college! The big difference was that they were a husband and wife team, she knew what he wanted and the other way around. Actually, my other half Julie and I will sometimes teach the same student so that a certain problem can be viewed from a different angle.

Anyway, getting back to the point. I explained all this two teacher stuff to her and suggested that her daughter came to me just for her scales. The next week, her daughter (let's call her Jane) came for her first lesson armed with her Grade 4 scales and arpeggios book.

"OK, lets start with an easy one... G major two octaves, separate bow. Have you been taught the long tonics version?"

Blank face.

"G major, two octaves?" I ask again.

"Oh OK" and Jane plays her scale by reading every note from the book. Oh yeah, only some of the tonics where long.

"Great, we'll look at that in more detail in a while" I tell her, "but for now, lets do D major Arpeggio, two octaves, slurred".

Jane turns pages in her book until the correct arpeggio is in front of her and begins.

"Well done. Now Jane, I'd like you to play a scale of G harmonic minor but without using the music." I walk over to the music stand, take the music, give Jane a big friendly smile and realise that she is starting to look worried. She starts, but it quickly falls apart.

"Put your violin down for a mo and lets talk about these nasty horrible things."

As with a lot of students, Jane had no idea why she had to play her scales, arpeggios and dominant sevenths. The reason we all learn our scales is very clearly outlined in the front of the ABRSM scale and arpeggio books and it's well worth a read.

Jane and I spent a couple of hours a week for the next 6 weeks learning the key signatures and the position of the notes on the strings... "Remember 2nd finger forward for the C-sharp and 1st finger right back for the B-flat"... and Jane can now recite and play all the notes of all the scales etc. that she had to learn for her grade 4. Well done girl, I'm proud of you!

Oh, by the way, Jane passed her Grade 4 and is now working towards her Grade 5 violin exam (and theory exam).


Freddie August Classical Violin Teacher (Stockport)

About The Author

I am a professional violinist working in London and Manchester. After 17 years playing with the Halle Orchestra, I now freelance with with the major orchestras and appear regularly as a guest leader.

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