1st Position G Minor Arpeggio exercises featuring different note patterns, rhythms, bowings and articulations.
Let's practice clapping some rhythms together!
What is music? It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer! … hard to come up with a satisfactory definition. Here’s our best effort, taken from the ViolinSchool Glossary:
The vast vast majority of music will contain varieties of these three elements: Pitch, Rhythm, and Sound (timbre). And so, when you are practising the violin, you need to be super-duper-hyper aware of all three, developing and honing, developing and honing, then honing some more!
In Beats Me!, we’re going to look at the fundamental units of rhythm, the units that you’ll find in pretty much every piece you will ever play.
So, what is rhythm?! Again, let’s consult the ViolinSchool Glossary:
Sounds good. But, what is pulse? How is it different from rhythm?
Once we’ve established the pulse, felt the beat, then rhythm can take place within and around it. It’s such a natural, human thing (and a parrot thing, too, it would seem … keen “headbangers” that they are!). When we ‘sense’ the pulse, or ‘feel’ the beat, it makes us react kinaesthetically: we tap our feet, we clap our hands, we nod our heads, we dance! The pulse of music can be super super fast, or super super slow, and everything in between … we call this the ‘tempo’:
The basic units of rhythm are as follows:
American Terms --- Whole Note (4 beats); Half Note (2 beats); Quarter Note (1 beat); Eighth Note (½ a beat); & Sixteenth Note (¼ of a beat)
British Terms --- Semibreve (4 beats); Minim (2 beats); Crotchet (1 beat); Quaver (½ a beat); & Semiquaver (¼ of a beat)
Now we’re clear on the definitions, let’s try clapping or tapping the rhythms in Beats Me!
Make sure the pulse is really solid and consistent. Start with a slow tempo, and then try it at a faster tempo, and then at an even faster tempo, etc., etc. You can also ‘speak’ the rhythms while you clap/tap, saying out loud “1-2-3-4” … “1-2” … “1” … “half” … “quarter”.
A great way to strengthen your sense of pulse (and to check you are getting all the rhythms right!) is to use a metronome … Glossary-time! …
Arpeggio-based note patterns, rhythms, bowings, techniques, and articulation exercises in 1st position G major.
These exercises are brilliant for practising double-stopped sixths! Great for intonation work and for developing a really solid left hand. Who doesn’t want a solid left hand?! 🙂
If you're just getting started on the violin, then learning the G, D, and A major scales (and arpeggios!) is a great place to begin, helping you to develop a really solid hand 'frame'. There's a huge amount of violin music in G, D, and A, with most of the major violin concertos being in one of these keys. This is because - along with our friend the E-string - G, D, and A are the notes of the open strings. Happily, in these one-octave versions that start on an open string, the finger pattern is always the same - 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 2 1 0 3 2 1 0 - (beware of the semitone between fingers 2 and 3!). Once this pattern is well and truly in your bones, then try using a fourth finger instead of the second open string - 0 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 0.
Our awesome Two-Finger Scales provide a serious workout for your left hand! Each of these super-shifting-scales will help you get your left hand moving smoothly between different positions - in the key of your choice. The 3rd and 4th fingers of the left hand benefit particularly strongly ... once you get the muscles moving, you'll feel like you've taken your left hand to the gym!
Don't forget to practise slooooooowly and carefully! What goes up slowly is far more likely to make it down again safely! ...
The Two Finger Scales are available in every key for ViolinSchool Members, so you can download the scale pattern that fits your current repertoire. A few minutes of Two Finger Scales, and you'll be ready to play almost anything!
Violin finger charts are a quick, visual way for beginner violinists to understand the geography of the violin fingerboard. Simple diagrams to show finger placing can also help in early note reading.
Tutor books such as C. Paul Herfurth’s A Tune A Day traditionally combine finger charts with music theory and note-reading exercises to help build a clear understanding of how the position of each finger on the violin strings relates to the notes on the stave.
Violin finger charts generally show the position of every finger in one position on the violin string. Most are limited to first position, as once first position is mastered, it is easier to understand new positions without such visual help.
Here is an example of a basic violin finger chart showing the notes in first position. The letters marked by the black banner at the top of the chart indicate the open strings, G, D, A and E.
The blue markings at the side of the chart show the positions where, if you have stickers on your violin, the stickers are normally placed. This chart shows every single note in first position, making up a chromatic sequence of semitones.
This very basic violin finger chart simply shows all of the pitches that are available in first position. Each pitch name represents a semitone. The first two notes on the G string, G#/Ab and A can both be played with the first finger.
A#/Bb and B can be played with the second finger, C and C#/Db, the third finger, and D on the G string would be played with the 4th finger. However, this is not set in stone. In certain passages, a C# in first position might be played with a 4th finger, or an A# with a first finger. There are numerous options depending on the context.
Now look at the chart again. This time it has been edited to show the notes of the G major scale. For clarity, the fingers have been added at the side of the chart. Every note highlighted in blue is played as part of the G major scale, and it is easy to see that the scale falls into two distinct finger patterns or shapes.
On the lower two strings, the 1st and 2nd fingers are a tone (whole note) apart and the third finger is spaced only a semitone (half note) from the 2nd. On the top strings this pattern reverses, with a low 2nd finger.
Violin finger charts are a useful way to begin learning scales. They show the patterns of tones and semitones in each key, and prepare the brain for the hand shapes within that key.
Each finger is given a number. This is universal to all teaching methods. The index finger is called 1, the middle finger is called 2, the third finger, 3, and the little finger is called 4. Unlike the piano, the thumb does not have a number, because the left hand thumb does not contact the strings.
Look at the picture below. Each finger is marked with the correct number:
Now imagine the finger chart is actually a diagram of the fingerboard of your violin:
Where would the coloured dots and numbers fall to give the correct notes for G major?
Now let’s look at the original chart again, but this time, placed over the violin fingerboard:
All the fingering chart is, is a diagram of the pitches in first position.
This diagram shows the pitches and hand shapes for G major highlighted in blue. The image below shows only the notes of G major. Using these templates, it is easy to create your own fingering charts for scale practice.
Violin finger charts are a helpful way to build a visual and physical memory of finger placings. Use them to learn scales and to get to grips with the pitches on each string. Then have a look at the way the notes are written on the stave.
The musical stave is just another diagram, a depiction of the different sounds you will make. These notes, when played on the violin in first position, all use the fingers on the D string. As they climb the stave from line to space, progressive finger numbers are used to raise the pitch of the note. These notes are called E, F, G and A:
They are played using these fingers:
Notice how the notes on the stave relate to the finger numbers and to the positioning on the fingerboard of the violin.
As you progress on the violin it will be less practical to devise finger charts, but for beginners they are a great way to understand finger placing and to begin note reading.
For advanced violinists too, a mental image of a finger chart can be useful. If you encounter a left-hand problem, imagining the sequence of tones and semitones can help to solve the issue.
There are many free charts available online, but why not create your own? In drawing your own charts you will develop a clear understanding of finger position, where there are spaces and which notes are close together, and a much better knowledge of your scales and keys!
The circle of fifths is a musical theory tool that has its roots firmly in mathematics. It explores the relationships between those musical intervals that are most pleasing to the ear, based on discoveries made by the mathematician Pythagoras two and a half thousand years ago.
Pythagoras discovered and investigated the most basic facts about frequency and pitch. He found that there were mathematical ratios between notes. The octave, which is the most basic interval, the point at which pitches seem to duplicate, has a natural 2:1 ratio. If a string of a certain length is set in vibration it will produce a particular note. The shorter the string is, the more times it will vibrate per second, once it is set in vibration. When a string vibrates more times per second, the pitch of the note produced is higher. Therefore, if the string is kept at the same tension but its length is halved, it will produce a note one octave higher than the first. The same happens when you blow through a tube of air. A tube twice the length will produce a note an octave lower.
The circle of fifths, sometimes called the Pythagorean circle, is a diagram with twelve points that represent the twelve semitones within an octave. It is a chart rather like a clock face that organises all the keys into a system and can be used to relate them to one another. It is called a circle of fifths because each step of the circle is a perfect fifth from the next. The fifth is the interval that is closest in character to the octave, in that it is more consonant (less dissonant) or stable than any interval except the octave (or the unison).
A perfect interval is one where natural overtones occur. If you play a note on your violin and listen closely, you will hear the pitch you are playing. You will also hear overtones sounding. The most significant of these, or the easiest to hear, is usually the fifth. Where the ratio of frequencies between octaves is 2:1, the ratio of the frequencies of the fundamental to the fifth is 2:3. A perfect fifth is an interval of seven semitones. These seven semitones represent the building blocks from the first note of a scale to the fifth.
Watch this video for a clear description of how the circle of fifths is built.
The circle of fifths is useful because it shows the relationship between the keys, key signatures and chords.
It can be used to:
Now you’ve watched the video on how to make a circle of fifths, have a look at this interactive circle of fifths. You can use it to look at the relationships between chords in any key.
So what is the circle of fifths useful for?
It is possible to learn the order of sharps and flats as they occur in music by using the circle of fifths. You can work out how many sharps or flats are in a key, and also which notes are sharpened or flattened.
If you look clockwise around the circle you will see the order in which the sharps appear in the key signature. When there is one sharp, it is F#. When there are two, they are F# and C#. Three sharps will be F#, C# and G# and so on.
Looking round the circle in an anticlockwise direction shows the order of flats. If there is one flat it is Bb. Two flats are Bb and Eb. Three are always Bb, Eb and Ab, and so on.
In a circle of fifths in the major keys, C major appears at the top of the circle. C major has no sharps or flats. The next key in a clockwise direction is G major. G major has one sharp, which we now know is F#. Then comes D major which has F# and C#. Going in the other direction, F major has one flat, Bb. Bb major has two flats, Eb major has three flats.
Use the interactive circle of fifths above to notice the enharmonic changes this creates in flat keys between, for example F# and Gb. Look at the circle in D major and then in Db major to see how the pitches are renamed. Two notes that have the same pitch but are represented by different letter names and accidentals are described as enharmonic.
The circle of fifths can also be used to work out which keys are related to each other. You can see that the keys on either side of C are F and G. Therefore, the two closest keys to C, which has no sharps or flats, are F, which has one flat, and G, which has one sharp. F and G therefore make up the primary chords in C major. F is chord IV, the subdominant, and G is chord V, the dominant. Using these three chords you can build the standard chord progression IV V I.
The secondary chords are those further away from the note of your key, so in C major, D, A and E would be secondary chords, which means they may appear in the harmony of your piece but are not as strong as the primary chords.
Watch these two clips. They explain how the circle of fifths works in major and minor keys:
The circle of fifths is also useful for understanding chord progressions such as those from dominant seventh chords. Dominant seventh chords have a tendency to want to go towards another chord. They contain a dissonance that melodically and harmonically needs to resolve. The chord that the dominant seventh resolves to is one fifth lower, so A7 resolves to D major, F7 resolves to Bb major, and so on. If you are asked to play a dominant seventh in the key of D, you will start on the note A.
Here is another clip explaining how to use the circle of fifths to understand your scales.
The model of a circle of fifths, with the consequent understanding of chord progressions and harmony and the hierarchy and relationships between keys, has played a hugely important part in Western music.
Start with the core musical elements
The basic building blocks of music are rhythm, pitch, and sound. When a scale is played well, the pitch is even so all of the notes with the same name in different octaves are in tune with each other. The tone quality and rhythm are even, not disturbed by bow changes or shifts. Evenness does not mean that the scale is robotic. Each note has its own musical character.
Once you have practised your scale so pitch, sound and rhythm are all good, the next thing to go for is to make it feel easy. Simon Fischer suggests that a nice way to do this is that each time you do something well, you should then see if you can achieve the same result with half the effort, then half the effort again. He says that until you can play something well with little effort, there is still room for improvement.
Instead of practising your scales as complete figures, work on the elements of each scale. The scale can be broken down into different components or “problems” such as one octave scales, shifting exercises, exercises for the coordination of left and right hands, finger preparation and finger placement. Rather than repeating a scale mindlessly over and over, search for exercises within the scale to address the particular problems you are having.
Here are some ideas for developing your scale practice…
Developing the Right Hand
Apply rhythms, accents and bowing patterns to all of your scales and arpeggios. This will produce the greatest improvement in the shortest time. Ivan Galamian, the famous violin teacher believed that by learning how to play different rhythm patterns you discover and repair all the weak areas where you don’t really know what to do with the bow and fingers, or where your fingers move too slowly.
Practice with different dynamics. This trains the bow for greater control. Combine crescendos and diminuendos within the space of each octave or between the bottom and top of the scale.
Play long smooth notes on an open string, for example, the A-string. Listen for the smoothness of tone. Now place your fingers on another string, such as the G-string, in a scale sequence whilst still playing the A. Try to keep the tone of the A as even and smooth as before. Build up the left hand activity to include a shift to third position and back down.
Ideas for the Left Hand
Start at the top of the scale instead of the bottom.
Practice scales within the limits of one position. This exercise is the first in the Schradieck book of scale studies and will teach you the hand positions in every part of the fingerboard.
The major scale contains five whole steps and two half steps like this: T T S T T T S. If you think of this pattern as two groups of four notes that are joined by a tone, you can see the symmetry of the shape.
A scale should be built so that each note is heard relative to its position in the key. Each note of the scale has a unique hierarchical function and understanding this is important for building good intonation. The great cellist, Pablo Casals, and the famous violin teacher Dorothy DeLay both independently used this idea to devise a system for structuring the scale to hear the tuning within it.
Building the scale using this sequence is musically satisfying. Remember to try it in all the major and minor keys you are learning. It is easy to forget to work on all the different keys. In fact, when Carl Flesch first published his system of scales, it was only written out in C major, the idea being that his students would use the exercises in every key. Flesch realised that in reality many students only practised C major, so he wrote out the system in every key and even added bowing and rhythm patterns, and this is how Das Skalensystem was created.
Take a small section of your scale. Notice which fingers you can leave down and which you need to lift. By leaving fingers down you will give strength to the hand shape, making intonation more reliable, and by avoiding unnecessary finger movements you will gain an economy of movement, which is helpful when you want to play faster.
Use as many different fingering combinations as you can find, don’t always stick to the same one. By learning different fingerings your intonation will develop and you will have more freedom of expression and musical choice in your pieces.
Speed of Left Hand Fingers
Practice a section of your scale using short, repeated fast bow strokes on each note; say four sautillé notes on each pitch. Learning to sound these short notes will improve coordination between left and right hands and the left hand fingers will learn to move faster.
“Trill” the shifts. Take an awkward shift and start working on it slowly, trilling between the two notes. Gradually speed it up to make it sound like a trill.
Practice scales on one string. Take a one-octave scale and learn to play it on one string, keeping a good hand position. Can you play a two-octave scale on one string? This may seem difficult but when you return to your three octave scale it will seem much more approachable.
Practice scales using only first and second fingers, shifting every two notes.
Practice the scale with the note before the shift missed out, instead repeating the previous note.
Identify your problem shift and isolate it. Can you find an exercise in the Sevçik book of Preparatory Scale Studies that will help you improve the shift?
Practice your shifts with “ghost notes.” Work out where the hand is going. Is there an intermediate note you can sound? This is particularly good for downward shifts where the hand is going to a position where it lands on a weaker finger. Practice these ghost notes in dotted rhythms and gradually eliminate the extra note whilst keeping an awareness of how the shift works.
Another benefit of breaking your scales down into their separate elements is to give you a chance to learn to use your body in a comfortable, natural way. Practising long scale sequences in a mechanical way leaves no space for awareness and leaves you vulnerable to strain and injury. Breaking down your scale practice into bite-size exercises leaves the mental space for mindfulness of how the muscles are achieving the end result. This will give you better, more secure, long-term results.
Improving Your Scales
In the introduction to his book of scales, Contemporary Violin Technique, Ivan Galamian explains, “The direct way to … mastery lies through working procedures which present a constant challenge to the … thinking processes. For this reason new problems must always be faced and solved.”
There are various books of scale studies available, the newest of which is Scales by Simon Fischer; a written-out practice full of comprehensive exercises for improving scale practice. There are also the scale studies by Jahnke, Hrimaly, Schradieck and Sevçik which can look a bit intimidating, but many of which contain similar ideas. For less advanced exercises try the Paul Harris series, Improve Your Scales, which are graded by the ABRSM system, so they start right at the beginning.
Practice in as creative a way as you can so your mind is always switched on and always learning. By analysing and exploring the elements of a scale and practising it in different ways, the original scale will seem much easier when you return to it, and your enjoyment of your scale practice will increase. There is nothing worse, after all, than practising something you find boring and not getting anywhere!
On this page you can learn the G major violin scale. Build up your understanding in different ways by using the video to link your aural and visual memories, the fingering guide to link your intellectual and physical memories, and the 'visual grid' to link the physical, visual and intellectual memories.
As you start to get familiar with the patterns and start to rely more and more on your aural senses, your intellectual/physical knowledge of the scale will begin to become 'automatic'. Then, you can start to use the sheet music as a quick visual reference for which notes you need to play.
how to play a G major scale
Here is a video guide explaining how to play the G major scale:
which fingers to use
The symbols below will show you which fingers you need to use, so that you can play the scale without needing to read the sheet music.
e.g. - 'E1' = 1st finger on the E string, 'D3' = 3rd finger on the D string
Here is the one octave scale, which uses just the G and D strings:
G [wide] G1 [wide] G2 [close] G3 [wide*] D [wide] D1 [wide] D2 [close] D3
D3 [close] D2 [wide] D1 [close] D [wide*] G3 [close] G2 [wide] G1 [close] G
*if you prefer, you can use a 4th finger instead of an open D string on both the way up and the way down. The interval still sounds 'wide' (known as a 'tone'), whichever way you choose.
Here is the two octave G major scale, which uses all the strings of the violin:
G [wide] G1 [wide] G2 [close] G3 [wide] D [wide] D1 [wide] D2 [close] D3 [wide] A [wide] A1 [close] A2 [wide] A3 [wide] E [wide] E1 [close] E2
E2 [close] E1 [wide] E [wide] A3 [wide] A2 [close] A1 [wide] A [wide] D3 [close] D2 [wide] D1 [wide] D [wide] G3 [close] G2 [wide] G1 [wide] G
where to put your fingers
Here is a visual 'grid' showing where to place the fingers on the fingerboard:
notation to remind you which notes to play
Here is the sheet music notation for a two octave G major scale:
Scales are basic patterns of notes, ordered by pitch, most often in ascending then descending order. Each major or minor scale covers all of the notes of the key in which it is played; a chromatic scale contains every semitone within an octave span. There are double-stopped scales in thirds, sixths and octaves, arpeggios, pentatonic scales, scales in harmonics, scales of three, even four octaves, lengthy violin scale systems, intimidating Germanic directories of scales displaying every key, every position and every conceivable bowing. Every piece of music composed between the Baroque and Romantic periods; that’s three hundred years’ worth of repertoire; is made up of scale and arpeggio patterns.
But scales are not music. Unless you are taking an exam you will never be expected to perform them. Who wants to go to a scale recital, after all? It is easy to understand why many of us consider scale practice a chore to be avoided, yet we are encouraged every lesson to spend time practising our scales.
The famous violin virtuoso and teacher Yehudi Menuhin, who made his first public appearance aged just 7, explains in his autobiography, Unfinished Journey, that as a child he considered learning an imposed method of scales, arpeggios and theory a waste of time. He learned instead by doing, acquiring the techniques for each piece as he studied it; wishing only to make music. Menuhin describes the journey he then undertook when, as he got older, determined to maintain his high performance level and also become a great teacher, he began to realise that he had skipped the basics. He had no idea how he did what he did.
To fully understand the way his fingers moved, Menuhin decided to go back, even at the risk of losing the skill he had acquired, and learned every scale there is at every speed. He learned the anatomy of the muscles in his back; he studied yoga; he sought advice from violin teachers, dancers and even gymnasts to understand how his body worked when he played the violin. Menuhin writes, “There is an advantage in establishing the top story of one's constructions first: One has seen the heights; one knows what one is building for and what must be sustained,” but “'Undoubtedly I had lost time in balking at scales and arpeggios.”
The truth is, scale practice is crucial to your violin technique, and, as Menuhin’s detailed explorations show, it doesn’t have to be boring.
Scale practice is repetitive by nature. Scale systems like those by Carl Flesch and Ivan Galamian offer a comprehensive study guide, often with three octave scales using the same fingering in each key. Instructions for study are included, but these can seem unrealistic to a modern student with little time to practice. The best way to practice is therefore to tackle scales with full concentration and musical intent, essentially condensing the fundamentals of music into a daily routine.
The reason scale practice works is because the brain needs repetition to learn. Neurologists have discovered that when a new neural pathway is created, which happens every time you do something new, for example when you play D major scale for the first time, insulating fibres grow around that neural pathway. When the pathway is used repeatedly, the insulating layer increases, embedding the action in your long-term memory. It takes between 30 and 50 perfect repetitions of an action to imbed it in your nervous system where it becomes a habit or skill. When we are emotionally engaged in learning, this process is much more effective. Learning the placing of first and second fingers on the A string with a mediocre tone and little enthusiasm will therefore not produce the same results as engaging fully in the idea of a ringing tone and musical outcome.
Played with full concentration and a musical approach, scales build a consistent practice routine in which you become familiar with the proper spacing of intervals on the instrument. Slow scales can be used as a physical warm up, but above and beyond this initial function, scale practice is invaluable in maintaining and developing every aspect of your violin technique.
Scale practice gives you a chance to acquire a really firm left hand technique. It builds strength, independence and dexterity in the left hand fingers. Co-ordination of left hand and bow hand improve. Touch control and sensitivity of the left hand fingers can be developed within a familiar practice pattern to avoid over-pressing, as can secure knowledge of the fingerboard and perfect intonation, a rhythmic left hand, tidy shifting and shifting with the whole hand. Mastering scales allows the fingers to learn the correct spacing in every position on the violin.
Scale practice can also be used to work on ease of playing, with focus on a relaxed bow arm, different bowing styles, full bows and purity of tone.
Ease of playing decreases risk of injury and stress, and a genuine understanding of how your technique works leads to consistent, secure performances. Familiarity with scales in every key gives a new ease to note reading and improves sight-reading, as well as improving knowledge of key signatures and tonality.
Start slowly, with the metronome, focussing on your sound, purity of pitch and beauty of tone. Enjoy the experience of listening to your own violin. Work out a clear goal or intention for this section of your practice, and engage with the process of full concentration for a short period of time. Use your scale practice mindfully and creatively. Challenge yourself to expand your technique and your understanding of how scales work for you.
So... why play scales? Because they are interesting, musical, challenging and really, really useful!