Mastering Scales, Part 5: Fragments
There are infinite ways to develop more speed, accuracy, and fluidity in your scale practice. Using rhythmic manipulation, extensor training, patterns, repeated notes, fragments, and phrasing are favorite devices. They will all explained in the next several posts. Once you are familiar with the various techniques, apply them to scales (or even troublesome spots) in your repertoire to either problem solve or build a stronger foundation.
Throughout the following series of posts use the following fingerings (basic patterns in bold) focus on efficient and relaxed alternation, tone, consistency, and rhythmic pulse. More advanced students could expand them with articulations such as staccato and legato, dynamics, and tempo. Practice the material between repeats more than twice when necessary.
Rest-stroke fingerings: im, mi, ma, am, ia, ai, p, ami, ima, imam, amim, aimi
Free-stroke fingerings: im, mi, ma, am, ia, ai, pi, pm, pa, ami, ima, imam, amim, aimi, pmi, pami
Practicing and developing the ability to play fast or expressive fragments is arguably as important as practicing long scale forms primarily because most repertoire contains small melodic fragments consisting of groups of three to seven notes. Spanish repertoire, in particular the music of Joaquín Rodrigo, is an example of where long scale practice pays off but among the music by every other composer, from Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco to Heitor Villa-Lobos, it is difficult to find many instances of scale runs beyond two octaves.
Using familiar scale forms, work on small extracts of 3-7 notes in various ways to discover which right-hand fingerings feel most comfortable and which present challenges to overcome.
Extract a group of notes from a familiar scale form
Develop all possibilities with incremental addition of notes.
Three notes: 134, 341, 413, 431, 314, 143.
Four notes: 1341, 3413, 4134, 1343, 3431, 4313, 1434, 4341, 3414, 4143, 4314, 3143, 1431
Five Notes* (my favorite): 13431, 34313, 43134, 31343, 14341, 43413, 34143, etc…
* not all possibilities listed
Box off a larger group of notes and play in various combinations.
Fiddle with the order of notes to yield and practice melodic fragments:
To both the shorter and longer fragments, add slurs, articulations, accents, and character to experiment with expressivity.