One of the best ways to map the fingerboard for your mind and fingers is by learning scales. Three-octave scales, in particular, can be used to teach nearly all of the notes on the cello.
When I saw how well the exercises worked, I just knew that I had to find a way to use that same concept to teach cello scales.
I started writing studies for a three-octave G major cello scale and tried them with several students who had never played a three-octave scale before.
I wasn't surprised when they figured out the exercises; it was a pretty easy concept. But I was absolutely shocked when, at the end of playing the 4 pages of G scale exercises, those same students were able to play the scale straight through, without stopping, and in tune!
Before this, I had wheedled and cajoled and talked my students through their initial 3-octave scales. And, after they finally learned the scales, some of them played scales in tune but some just didn't.
This book was a game-changer for me and my students, cutting out months and years of frustration, and helping them master entire three-octave scales in all of the major and minor keys.
If we take time to think about the steps in scales and teach them to our fingers, it is possible to truly learn scales, play more in tune, and play in tune more consistently.
To celebrate the release of Learning Three-Octave Scales on the Cello, this post gives you the major scales written out with all of the whole and half steps so you can think about and remember each space.
And if this whets your appetite for scale mastery, check out the new cello scale book!
Tips for Playing Cello Three-Octave Scale Steps
II = D string
III = G string
IV = C string
I love the fact that scales are such a great vehicle for learning different skills on the cello! Scales can and should be much more than just playing notes in order in a particular key in a particular set of places on the cello; they can also be used for learning rhythm and bowing skills.
Today in the blog, we're going to focus on using a simple C major scale to work on cello bowing. Now, the possibilities here are endless. I could start writing today and never ever reach the end of variations I could make with this scale. But there are other books to write and so I will stop at 15 pages for this little booklet. Of course, I'll probably come back every once in awhile with another blog post on scales; scale variations are a bit of a passion of mine!
Scales are helpful because they are so predictable. You know what's coming and the notes (at least in these scale pages) are fairly easy. But that doesn't mean you should turn off reading and play from memory just yet; I have some breaks in the pattern built into these scale pages to help keep your attention while you play.
Scale variations are a perfect way to multitask. Variations are a great way to train your left and right hands to be more coordinated and also a great way to make your practice even more efficient; you're working on multiple skills at once!
Feel free to make variations on the variations! Boredom lets you turn your brain off and can be the opening for building bad habits! Cello technique should never be taken for granted; every minute of your practice should be spent actively trying to improve. Varying the exercises can help you stay focused. I play different pages of scale exercises every day (that's one reason why I had to write so many books!) These variations can be played on any scale but they're simplest on a 2-octave scale that starts on an open string. Try them in G major if you're into shifting and up for a challenge.
Cassia Harvey can't ever find or play enough exercises. She searches for rare and out-of-print studies and etudes in her free time. If you know of any, please let her know. Seriously; it's an obsession.