QUOTE(AmandaL @ Sep 8 2007, 01:17 AM)
I agree - this is one aspect where scales are easier on strings IMO, in that it's pretty obvious what to do if you want to play a note sharper or flatter - you don't have to know the fingering.
...until that is, you need to play a scale fluently. An example of that is a student I inherited who'd been taught to play the violin by numbers instead of note names. Not knowing a fingering, or having to guess it, runs the risk of you not shifting and then running out of fingers at the last minute.
Regardless of instrument, scales rarely appear in works in the same format as a scale for an exam, that's why sticking to one fingering pattern (for string instruments), or one standard rhythm (for all instruments), is a bad move. In a composition some scale passages don't even begin on the tonic, so you need to be careful you don't end up playing the wrong notes,..... which leads me back to the keyboard image and another question:
How much use would the keyboard image be if you start on the dominant of a scale, for example?
FYI - I have never used a keyboard image to help me with scales. Being an excreble keyboard player it would be of little or no use to me.
Yes, of course one doesn't always (or even often) get to play scales starting on the tonic, ascending 2 octaves then descending neatly back to the tonic in real music... I don't recall anyone claiming that that happens a lot! I still maintain that scales and scalic passages are generally more intuitive (though arguably often more difficult to play in tune) on strings than on woodwind.
I do no string practice at the moment outside of a weekly (in term time - and we have a long summer off) orchestra rehearsal and a monthly chamber group. I've never learned scales formally on the viola and my reading of the alto clef still goes out of the window occasionally. I learned scales formally to G6 standard on the violin... a decade ago. I'll leave you to guess how much practice they have had since I stopped having violin lessons!
( Or even while I was still having violin lessons...
) I don't know or practise fingering patterns or scales on the viola and never have. I still managed to sight read several fast scalic passages in public at the local Fayre this afternoon with only a few missed notes in the last passage. Which position I use and which fingers depended far more on what seemed, in the fleeting moment, most efficacious... I wasn't thinking "ooh it's A major so I need to start in such-and-such a position and use such-and-such a finger pattern". I didn't need to know what fingers I should (in an ideal world!) have been using in order to play the scale (though I am sure that someone who 1) was better than me, 2) practised their scales and 3) ideally, wasn't sight-reading in public would be able to come up with more efficient fingerings than I did on the hoof! And the result would be correspondingly that much more fluent to the ear and that much less awkward under the fingers)
YES, pro musicians will have to cope with a lot more than I did this afternoon. YES, a fluent knowledge of scales beyond what I will ever have on strings would be required to play at the highest level. However in respect of playing at that sort of level, the same is true for flutes or horns or whatever. When it gets down to brass tacks, I can play scale passages more effectively "on a wing and a prayer" on the viola or the violin than I could on flute if I did not actually know my flute scales/fingerings (having actively learned them - and recently too).
On the violin or viola, if I see a sharp, I put my finger a semitone higher... because of aural feedback linked to fingering instinct. On the flute, especially in the higher reaches, I have to actually know the fingering - I can't simply hear "that's wrong" and move a finger up or down a string. I can hear the problem, but if I have forgotten the fingering, I'd be very lucky to correctly guess a fingering that made the note I wanted with good tone etc. Correct fingerings in the top octave of the flute are, as you surely know playing the instrument yourself, not always at all intuitive, and not intuitive to correct by a semitone if one has no idea what the correct fingering is! Yes, those fingerings are becoming more intuitive for me, and the ability to hear a wrong note and immediately play a semitone different is getting better and better. But that's because I've made a big effort to learn those fingerings, learn gets, and get things fluent. I have to know what the fingering is before it can become instinctive.
On the contrary, even as a child on the violin, even if my accuracy was hardly brilliant, it was simply downright obvious pretty early on that if a note was flat, I needed to move my finger a bit further up the string towards me. The very machinery that makes a flute easier to play in tune (because using the right fingering gets one in the right ballpark) also requires me to learn the fingerings intellectually to start with. I know that I learned "Twinkle Twinkle" with one finger very early on on the violin! Because, although, yes, over the years I had to learn the most efficient fingerings and shifts etc for certain passages or tunes, the lack of machinery that makes the violin more difficult to play in tune - it doesn't give you any help, and one can play octaves of "real" notes plus any number of random microtones on any given string - also makes it possible to play a given note in tune without needing to have a clue what position one is in. Someone who had no idea how a fiddle was played could, if they had a good sense of pitch, copy a ridiculously high note on the violin just by experimenting with moving a finger around till they hit the right spot. That would, I think, be rather harder on an instrument with more "machinery" intruding between the player and the note. Play a series of notes in reasonable tune
on the other hand is in many ways more difficult, for the very same reasons. But one can find any note essentially just by moving a finger about. Guessing fingerings on a flute would require someone to have some serious physics knowledge and/or know how the flute overblows etc... I couldn't do it and come up with all the best fingerings I suspect, though I guess without the knowledge enough patience would eventually come up with reasonable alternatives. Not efficient anyway!!
As I said in the original post - this is ONE aspect
where strings are easier when it comes to scales - ONE small part. I certainly don't think that means "scales are easy on strings" - the very fact that tuning is infinitely varied is what makes scales on strings blooming difficult if you ask me, and personally I'd far rather be tested on flute scales (having learned them) than viola ones (even though I could wing it for many of them). I DON'T find scales on violin or viola especially easy. But I can start on any random note and give you 2 octaves more-or-less of a major scale without actually having to learn the scale on the viola or the violin (even if it's not totally perfect) which I could not have done on flute (even badly!) without first knowing the relevant fingerings for the 3rd reigster. Heck, I could probably start on a quarter tone on a fiddle and play a scale from it. I'd be hard pressed to try that on flute
unless I just pulled the headjoint out! It's possible to play a scale really badly/make a total hash/run out of fingers and end up using really inelegant fingering on a viola or a violin if one hasn't learned it, but it's still possible to play the scale - if your ears are sharp you could play the scale by shifting one finger up and down the string. It would not exactly be a great idea but it's more than possible.
I'll say it again - I am emphatically NOT saying "oh, scales are easy on strings". They're not - I often find them flipping difficult. BUT in my experience, the ability to intuitive play a scale by ear is considerably more logical and easy on strings than on flutes which require one to play via a bunch of machinery rather than direct contact and "moving my finger this way makes it sharper and that way makes it flatter"! Knowing one's scales better, being able to play them starting in various positions/from notes other than the tonic, and so on and so forth, will undoubtedly make one a far better player, and I don't claim that playing on a wing and a prayer is necessarily a great idea. But being clueless is in this respect less fatal on strings
outside of being a professional and thus expected to be a great deal more competent than yours truly!
Hmmm. Lots of waffle - sorry. But hopefully you get what I mean now anyway...
QUOTE(kerioboe @ Sep 8 2007, 05:09 PM)
I would have thought that when people are learning scales they must have some way of reminding themselves what note they need to play next and different people probably do this in different ways. My non-keyboard playing daughter, for example, says the note names to herself.
I'm sure it also has to do with whether one is a visual learner. As someone who played the violin before anything else (even recorder!) it seems almost a bit weird to me to memorise scales in visual terms... I memorise them by feel and sound more than by visualise how they look on the page, instrument, or keyboard. But I suspect that has a great deal to do with my lack of pianistic ability and the fact that it's not my main or preferred instrument, nor was it the first instrument I learned, rather than that it's a weird thing to do! I think for me
memorising scales from how they feel under the hands and how they sound is far more natural than how they look. I know the theory, and know how the scales look on the page - but I play them right because I've learned how they feel, and I know whether I got them right because I listen. Even on the piano, I know and memorise and can recall a scale because I place the fingers correctly to start and then play by feel and ear, rather than "seeing" the scale on the keyboard. If that makes the slightest sense. Which it quite probably doesn't... I guess what I mean is that whilst being able to see my hands moving over the keyboard helps in terms of just general geographic sense of the keyboard, if given the choice of playing scales silently or playing them without looking, I'd find the lack of aural feedback FAR more difficult to deal with. And ditto the physical feel of the feedback... for instance on the fiddle I know by feel (not necessarily totally consciously) which position my hand is in and which fingers are close to each other or far from each other, which is part of what enables me to play a scale. Not because I am consciously aware that "I am in 3rd position and my hand has a semitone between the 2nd and 3rd fingers", a visual set of positions and patterns, but because I know how playing that scale feels and coupled with the aural feedback of "you just played 2 tones" I instinctively place whatever is the next finger a semitone up.
Argle. I don't know how to explain. But I definitely agree that it has a good deal to do with how an individual memorises. And certainly I memorise (not just scales!) much less by visual cues than other cues. And therefore a piano keyboard (especially when I play it badly) is not massively helpful... it's another set of codes to decipher before I know what I'm doing, rather than a useful mnemonic.