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Friday, September 23, 2016

Hidden Scales

Scales are an important part of a musician's diet. We need to do them every day, and we never quite perfect them. When we are familiar with scales and their finger patterns, we read music easier, we perform musical passages more adroitly, and we can memorize structure easier.

I have long puzzled over why students struggle with certain passages in the Bach's book 1 Minuets, or even other pieces in the repertoire, such as Bach's Bourree or Martini's Gavotte in Book 3 or Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor in book 4. Then one day it hit me that students struggled with learning and memorization in these pieces because they tripped over the hidden scales.

Let me take a classic example in Bach's Bourrée from book 3, the last song in the book. In measures 5 and 6, students take a while to figure out the notes here until I dissect them. Here is the passage:

hidden scales Bach's Bourree
Bach's Bourrée (Violin Book 3)

 Here is what I teach them. First, I show them how to play these two notes:

Bourrée 2-note snippet

This is not difficult for the students at this point, because we encountered and worked over this spot in the grace notes of Gossec's Gavotte at the end of book 1. We play this little passage of two-note combinations a few times until the student is "easy" with it.

Then I ask the students to play these two notes (during the rests) while I play these other notes in between:
Bourrée's Hidden Scale
When we do the two parts together, we get the original passage. My next step is to teach the student to play the hidden scale passage that I played, and we then switch parts.

After the student is able to play this last step, then the student seems to have no problems putting both snippets together and playing the passage as written. This same hidden scale passage appears later on the A and D strings as well.

There are many instances of hidden scales throughout the Suzuki repertoire, and if the teacher and student were to spend a few moments studying it, these passages would be easier to remember and memorize. Here are a few more examples.

Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, Movement I (Violin Book 4)

In Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor, first movement, there is a great example of a hidden scale on the second page:

Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor (Violin Book 4)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scale, we find this:

Vivaldi Concerto's Hidden Scale

There are many more hidden scale examples in this concerto, and finding all of them may help a student lock in the notes in the student's memory.

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

In Martini's Gavotte in the beginning of violin book 3, we find this passage right before the last recapitulation of the theme:

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scales, we find all of these scales:

1st scale

2nd scale

3rd scale
4th scale
Here is the entire hidden scale passage:

Martini's Hidden Scales

There are many such scale passages throughout the repertoire, and these hidden scales make a great quest for students to find throughout the music. This assignment could also be the subject of specific review requests ("find the hidden scales in this review song").

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

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