This week, I am warming up with the 12 major scales, and then 12 melodic minor scales, using the universal (every key the same) fingering. Who’s with me?

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15 Responses

  1. How many octaves?

    When you are using scales for warm-ups like this, what do you play? Quarter notes? Half? Notes per bow? In what order do you run the scales? How long does it take?

    And you thought that was a simple little post.

  2. I’m with you, but not all 24 on the same day!

    My practice routine already includes warm up with a major and melodic minor scale, the key of C and C minor on day 1, then C# minor and Db major on day 2 etc. I also include 2 – 3 octaves of arpeggios in the same major and minor keys. I choose how I’m going to bow it (one note per bow, 2 per bow or other fun patterns) and do that differently every day just to keep it interesting.

    I got used to doing this with the piano, where I’ve warmed up with the day’s major and minor scales, in octaves, thirds, sixths, and tenths (there the trick is figuring out when you cross over your thumbs). the new complication with doing this on the cello is that I have to remember each day which key I’m on one each instrument. With my work schedule I’ve sacrificed practicing the piano, which I don’t play as often as I would like – try making time for practicing 2 instruments- ha!

  3. GG: 2 or 3 octaves. I find that the lower part is the toughest in terms of mechanics. If you get a case of the tightropes when you go above 4th position, then work the 3rd octave, too. I have my students go up there with aplomb, even if they’re not as accurate as they would like to be. They’re just notes, after all. 🙂 Speaking of notes, they are either slow quarters or half notes with pace. I would say, oh, between 58-72, with one click per note, when you’re doing this huge volume of scales. I run the scales chromatically most of the time, especially when I’m doing all of them. Other times I’ll do the sharp keys and then the flat keys, or even get jazzy and do ii-V progressions, but that’s when I’m extra zesty. The reason I’m doing these scales this week is that my students and many online cellists are complaining about “fighting” with their instruments lately. No better way to get that thing to sit down and behave like playing every single note on your own terms, right? I didn’t time myself yesterday, but I will today. I suspect that it will be in the 10 minute neighborhood, maybe up to 15. I don’t stop to polish too much and actually like to do it as one fell swoop, (I wrote swell foop at first..ha ha) where the last note of the scale meets the first of the next. Oh, and 3 to a bow works nicely, even if you have to invent a turn around at the bottom.

    CG: Aw come on! It’s a transcendental experience, and really is this great grudge match between fun-seeking and nose to the grindstone. I highly recommend it, even if you can just say (with a smirk) that you did it. 🙂 All teasing you aside, your practice schedule sounds very good, and I sympathize with the sacrifice. I only play one instrument, and I don’t get in the hours I would like, either. Do you do dotted rhythms in your scales?

  4. Howzabout I meet you half-way this week? Just the majors for now. Maybe even not quite half-way, I have my varieties of fingerings I want to review. Y’know, a bit of thumb and up the A string in 3-three-sies, and the occasional no-A string.

    In my sail-boarding days, I’d explain to neophytes how to pop the sail into position immediately so you don’t get turned up-wind before you have the sail properly positioned with the body weight hanging from it: Lean back into one swell foop!

  5. LOL I couldn’t do this yet on the cello as don’t know all keys, fingerings etc for the scales… could do it on the piano though : ) mind you I definitely prefer harmonic minor scales : )

  6. Ok, Ok, I’ll have to plan for my ‘swell foop’, maybe this weekend; I can see it becoming a transcendental experience!

    I haven’t been doing dotted rhythms, that’s a good suggestion for even more variety on bowing!

  7. I’m with you. Trying to build up slowly after my post-partum hiatus. This is a great way to do it (in fact, it may be all I do in some sessions, but it’s better than nothing).

    Played a 3 hour rehearsal after 4 months off this weekend. Ouch. Time to build that stamina back up!!

  8. What’s the universal fingering for the melodic minor?

    And thank you very much for that comment you left … it brightened my day *a lot*

    I’ve got to go get to a mountain of work now…

  9. Mr. Mike: For the melodic minor, you have to be a little flexible, and certain keys can offer you two options (either shift into extended 4th position, or jump strings into 1/2 position). Here are the lower octaves of D minor, as an example, and I’ll denote the strings:


    IV: 1 3 4 1 x 2 4
    III: 1 2 4
    II: 1 2 4
    I: 1 3 4


    I: 4 2 x 1
    II: 4 2 x 1
    III: 4 2 1
    IV: 4 3 1 4 3 1

    If you start higher, like on F, then you don’t have the option of shifting up the C string after the first 3 notes, but since the intervals are the same, the fingering is nearly identical. Allow yourself to be tantalized by the need to adapt. That’s how we have to play, anyway. 🙂

  10. Ok, I’m behind, but I’m catching up… still getting acquainted with the C#, G#, and D# melodic minors. Yes, I should’a done that long ago.

    So I’ve yet to complete the 24 scale challenge for even just a single day, but I’ll get there.

  11. BTW, isn’t the fourth handful going up (typically on the D string) 1 x 2 4 for melodic minor?

    la-ti-do (shift) re-mi-fi (shift)
    si-la-ti (shift)
    do-re-mi (shift)

  12. 24 3-octave scales on the wall, 24 3-octave scales. You play one up, you play one down, 23 3-octave scales on the wall…

    I made it all the way through today. Whew! Three weeks late, I know, but then, I started 40-some years late so maybe it’s ok.

  13. Terry, you’re the man. Just…so…the man. If you listen really hard, you can hear me cheering. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Pull this exercise out whenever you want to set a finite, attainable goal for yourself that means business. Can’t wait until our next lesson. 🙂

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