For those who hate playing or reading about scales, maybe you'd better skip to another entry...
I have a very clear sensation while I play scales of literally scaling, climbing something. I envision a ladder. It doesn't have to do with playing a scale up or down, but with how I'm progressing. I can feel when something clicks and I'm making positive changes, ones that will stick. Those are steps up. Even if something doesn't go the way I like, that's not necessarily a step down. When my mind wanders, or when I try really hard to do something, that's a step down. I love the feeling of climbing and finishing scale work in a good place. Of course, some days there doesn't seem to be a way to pull myself out of a rut!
Today was fine though; lots of work on a four-octave scale, a minor. The only four-octaves I do are G, A-flat and A. Above that my arm and wrist complain loudly! Perhaps the worst feeling while playing a scale is the sensation that my left hand has been hung out to dry, way up high. There's a certain amount of room you need to create (by bringing the left arm/hand around) on the way up a big scale or arpeggio, but on the way down the original position must be reclaimed. If you delay that, you end up with a terrible frame (bent wrist, vertical fingers) in the middle positions and shifting down becomes very inconsistent. When I make my goal on the way down the reclaiming of my starting position, everything goes more smoothly. A four-octave scale is a great testing ground for this, and speeds/bowings should of course be varied constantly.
It's a strange experience practicing a piece right after you've heard it played by someone else. That would be Ein Heldenleben, which all last week was played (owned?) by our concertmaster. Hearing a great example opens you up to the possibilities that lie in the music, rather than the usual attempts to improve your playing incrementally. Let's hope that continues for a while.
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