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Scale Practice Routines

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by David Abrams, Feb 10, 2003.

  1. What finger positions do folks here use when practicing scales? What your favorite scale practice routines?
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I usually begin a practice session by playing one type of scale (by that I mean Ma, mi, or Dom) in different subdivisions in 12 keys. All scales are two octaves, and one metronome setting is maintained. For example:

    Quarter Note = 80
    D Ma in Whole Notes, then Half Notes, then Quarters, then 8ths, then Triplets, then 16ths.

    The fingering for this warm up uses no open strings, but instead treats scales as sets of interval relationships broken into groups of two (until the scale reaches TP, which is another story). So, for the key of D in scale degrees: 1-2 (shift) 3-4 (s) 5-6 (s) 7-8 (s) 2-3 (s) 4-5 (s) 6-7 (s) 8.....then descending 8-7 (s) 6-5 (s) etc....

    I like this exercise, as it gives me a chance to ease into the metronome vibe with the whole notes and half notes, but eventually pushes my technique to its limits.
  3. I pick a starting pitch, eg. Ab, and play a bunch of different scales in three octaves, whole notes, half, quarter, eighth, triplet, depending on metronome setting, 16ths. Sometimes I practice scales in fragments, sometimes polyrythms. I select metronome settings at random. I often play the same scale two or three times employing different fingerings.
  4. I´ll generally start by doing a simple run through the major scales all around the neck through the 12 keys, then I´ll practice both the harmonic and melodic minors, also all around the neck in 12 keys, in different combinations, and in intervals of third, sixth, etc. I usually go through all the 12 keys through the cicle of fifths.
  5. How much of your practice time does it take to cover this routine?
  6. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I usually do the circle of fifths in three octaves alternating major and minor every session. Fingerings are a rather complex discussion, and would be different for every scale. I tend to use at least up to fifth postion or so on all strings to make up for years of neglect in this area, especially on the two lowest strings.

    I also recently aquired Eugene Levinson's "School of Agility" and have started following that to smooth out shifting and reevaluate the possibility of scale and arpeggio fingerings. For those who haven't seen this work (it's rather new, and not generally available... at least not in my neck of the woods) it's a rather exhaustive list of the possible fingerings of each major and minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) scale in three octaves followed by an exercise that goes through each chord arpeggio beginning with the starting note in question. Instead of beginning with C, it begins at the bottom of the bass with E and goes up by half tone. Once you determine a scale fingering you want to work on, you set your metronome, start by bowing quarter notes three per bow, then eighths six per bow, then triplets three per bow, then sixteenths four per bow, then sextuplets six per bow. Flying up and down even an E Major scale in sextuplets through three octaves at 1/4=50 has really taught me how much smoother my shifting could be. It's a great exercise to try even without the book.
  7. It´ll take me about an hour and half. But when I am short on time I usually practice just the harmonic minor, or the melodic.
  8. "I also recently aquired Eugene Levinson's "School of Agility" and have started following that to smooth out shifting and reevaluate the possibility of scale and arpeggio fingerings. For those who haven't seen this work (it's rather new, and not generally available" (Shlomobaruch)

    Thanks, Shlomobaruch, for the suggestion to order Eugene Levinson's "School of Agility". I ordered it from www.lemur.com and obtained it in just a few days ($26.95 plus shipping costs). As prinicipal bassist of the New York Philharmonic since 1985 and chairperson of the bass department at the renowned Juilliard School of Music, I expected him to be more based upon Simandl.

    However, Levinson appears to be radically breaking with Simandl's traditional technique by employing thumb rotations and lifting off the string of lower notes as one moves to a higher note, rather than the Simandl approach of whole hand shifts and keeping all lower fingers pressing down on the string to support the finger playing the highest note on the string. Levinson's method of notating his technical approach is also quite innovative.

    What do you think about Levinson's apparent break with traditional technique?
  9. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    His departure is fine by me. It's becoming more and more apparent that Simandl *alone* is not going to take left hand technique through the 21st century, in fact, not even through the first half of it. Pivoting is the future. I've done it for years before I even knew what it was called or that it was some newfangled technique.

    He has many good points in the book though. It's amazing how difficult it can be to even play a three-octave E Major scale smoothly, especially when it uses a fingering that I'm not familiar with. ...and since I'm not familiar with it, I would avoid trying it in the repertoire opting instead for the safety of the known route, and thus never become familiar with it - the classic vicious circle. Like I said before, it's really made me reevaluate things.
  10. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    I'm currently a student of Mr. Levinson's and his book is one of the most useful tools I use. His approach to the bass and scales is difficult at first but with some good practice for a week, his method makes bass playing so much easier and you will have a much cleaner sound. With Mr. Levinson I am encouraged to practice my scales for about an hour a day and my arpeggios for an hour a day, while always breaking down shifts and interacting both my left and my right hands. He also encourages scales to be played like a love song because after all, scales are music, and playing them like they are a solo, is also beneficial as the progress you make is incredible and scales start to become fun instead of a nuisance.

    Another fun trick while practicing scales is a little game Mr. Levinson taught me. Get 10 toothpicks and break down each shift. For every shift you get exactly in tune move a toothpick to the right and for every one you dont get in tune move a toothpick to the left. Shoot for getting all 10 but he always tells me 8 is exceptable on a day when we don't have a lot of time to practice. Scales lay down so many basic skills needed to acquire agility while playing the bass, and intonation is one that should be completely accurate, and interaction between the left and right hands is also very important while practicing.
  11. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    ^^^Who are you?^^^

    Nick? Stefan? You should tell me.
  12. Isn't this what private messages are for?
  13. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Yes. But I'm lazy. And impulsive. Want to fight about it?
  14. I need to work more scale practice routines into my daily session, but lately it goes like this. I pick a key, and then play a slow 3 octave (4 if its between E and G, and only if I'm in a good mood), with seperate bows, not repeating the top note. In general I start with the major mode of the scale. Then I repeat slowly again if it was out of tune the first time. Then I barely speed it up, and do a special bowing pattern (only 3 octaves here). Those are usually 2 legato-2 detached (two slurred, then two seperate), 2 det-2 leg, 2 leg-1 det (triplet pattern), 1-det 2 leg, or sometimes just slur two, three, four, etc. The patterns are limitless. Also, it depends on whether I choose to start the pattern up bow or down bow. My fingerings fluctuate in the lower positions, but in thumb, I try to avoid using harmonics, except to check the pitch (stop the note, then check the harmonic). Also, since scales are partly designed for intonation perposes, I don't use vibrato. And I try to make sure I have a good sound. I don't often do arpeggios. I think everyone will agree with me that they suck, at least in the 3rd octave. It only takes 15-20 minutes to do, but it seems to take forever to describe.
  15. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    never mind agree wth you, I don't even know what you mean. How can arpegiios suck?
  16. I just mean that when you get into thumb position, playing the arpeggios with patterned fingerings in mind is simply ridiculous. You're forced to do it all on the G string. At that point, it becomes slipping and sliding, or playing with the fingering t-3-t-3.
  17. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    There are many good routines you can follow. There is a near-infinite number of scale books.

    To me the key was not the actual routine but the lack of orientation from teachers (famous ones included). They all said: "play them slow with a metronome and slowly speed them up" which is all good but not nearly sufficient.

    It is very important to have a flexible left hand, relaxed but not flabby. My teacher in Germany told me that I should practice them without vibrato, but to test whether you're relaxed enough, you should be able to vibrate with all fingers down (lifting the fingers allows you to vibrate while still being tense). And you should be able to vibrate from one note to the next without stopping the vibrato. The contrary would mean that you tense up before shifting or changing fingers.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg, ask a lot of questions to your teachers.
  18. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Buy this book. The School of Agility

    Franz Simandl died almost 100 years ago.
  19. So, What makes this book any different than Any of Mark Morton's Books, Barry Green's book, Rabbath's books,etc.,etc...
  20. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Well, I'm partial to my teacher's methods. But the point was that playing just up the G string is a technique of yesteryear.

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