Jasim said: Sep 13, 2012
15 posts

How are scales incorporated in the Suzuki method?
When are they introduced?
Do we match scales with key of current piece?
Pair with Tonalzation exercise?


Jennifer Visick said: Sep 13, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

Teachers usually introduce scales whenever they see fit. There are some scales and arpeggios printed in the books, but teachers have the flexibility to use a scale book or not, depending on what is appropriate for the child’s temperament & age.

For example, I would expect a violist to be able to play a 1 octave D Major scale alongside Twinkle; by the time the student is playing music on the G string, a 1 octave G Major scale is appropriate; I expect them to play a simple 1 octave D Major arpeggio at May Song, even if the child isn’t taught the word “arpeggio” yet; I expect a 2 octave C Major scale by the middle of viola book 1, etc., etc.

Sure, why not pair with tonalization exercises? Why not make the scale the tonalization exercise (you don’t have to use ONLY the tonalization exercises in the book).

Definitely by, say, book 4 level, I expect viola and violin students to be able to play most keys, major and minor scales, 2 octaves easily; 3 octaves with perhaps some help or coaching and perhaps only in 3 or 4 keys, but steadily expanding to new keys on some kind of regular schedule. Other teachers might have other kinds of timetables…

Barb said: Sep 13, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

Hi Jasim,

I teach cello so I will relate what the early Suzuki cello books incorporate, and how I teach.

To teach basic hand position and for ear training, I start with a descending D Major scale—this is in the book prior to Twinkle. Actually, before that is a tetrachord major pattern on the D string. With children I teach this as a little song, first going down (so the hand position is set before starting), then going up, using the Twinkle Variation A rhythm. (I’m a Little Monkey, climbing down a ladder, etc.)
The first several pieces in the cello repertoire are in D Major.

G Major is introduced after the 9th piece, and that piece (Perpetual Motion) and others can be played in the new key of G.

C Major (2 octaves) is introduced with the 14th piece (Etude), but I like to start my students on this scale and on the minor tetrachord pattern much earlier, as otherwise the cellist does not use the 2nd finger or lower two strings for quite a while strictly using the Suzuki method. I like to get all fingers and strings involved early on.

For the most part, scales are introduced as they match the key of the pieces. No new scales are introduced in book 2. D, C, and G Minor are introduced in book 3, as well as A Major and Minor. As the extended finger positions and shifting are taught, the scales are now in two octaves instead of one.

Book 4 adds E, Ab, Eb, Bb and F major and E, B, F#, C#, F minor, all still in two octaves. The scales are now all at the back of the book and not correlated to pieces.

I usually introduce the 2nd octave of the scales a little earlier. The lower D as soon as we begin working on extensions at the end of book 1, and the upper G before the end of book 1 as well. I don’t want them to think their hands will always be glued in first position, and we use these notes in Twinklebell Canon (supplementary to the Suzuki repertoire). Depending on the student, I sometimes add minor scales earlier, as well.

Some of the tonalization exercises happen to be arpeggios, but otherwise, they are not included in the books. I have my students play arpeggios, but have to confess that I don’t check them often enough.

I teach my students to say the note names with each note when they play scales to help them learn the geography of the fingerboard, and I have them play them using long slow bows to start with for development of tone. (Once through with names, once focusing on sound.) Later we speed them up and ad slurs in different patterns. Around book 3 I like to get them up to Royal Conservatory standards. So far I have not had young students at this level, so these have been around age 10 or above.

I will be interested to hear how others answer your questions.

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
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Jasim said: Sep 14, 2012
15 posts


Thank you for the responses. I appreciate it.

Usually how people answer this question is “Do scales, you need scales, you must do scales…”. Which on the most part is very much like saying “Eat your peas”. Seeing it as a chore, I never felt motivation towards scales. I felt some tonalzation and an understanding of intervals while learning pieces would save me in time of need. Reliable intonation will come with time and practice I thought.

I’ve ordered Simon Fischer’s Scales book and received it recently. Reading his first few pages changed my mind completely. He introduces scales as a mean of understanding Perfect 4th/5th. Negotiating the 3rds/6ths with agreement of 2nd/7th. I love that approach… It makes sense. It involves the player to participate instead being monotonous. It’s definitely not boring. I did an hour today just trying things out and didn’t notice the time. This is a new way to play scales for me, and not the run up then down, and then the same with arpeggios which becomes a seriously a detached experience. I noticed improvement, just today.

So in a way Simon Fischer indirectly participated here. :) To answer your interest Barb.

I am doing the last pages of Book 4 (believe it or not with no scales practice). So the past few pieces are in A minor. Thing is, the piece is in Relative A minor (no accidentals), and scale books are written for A Minor with the leading note G#. How do we go about this? Play C major scales since they are the same notes? Stick to A minor like the scale book?

I wonder if you also choose the scales of the week also according to key changes in the piece… It would make perfect sense if so. I just wish I understood enough harmony to decipher the changes to pick the keys appropriate.


Barb said: Sep 14, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
685 posts

I never thought of “scales of the week”… As with our repertoire, once a scale is learned it is repeated every week.

A minor with no accidentals? Natural A minor. Which is how the melodic minor scale descends… ??? By book four the Suzuki cello books only show major and melodic minor, but I think D minor was introduced first with a natural minor scale?

Thanks for sharing about Simon Fischer’s book with us.

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jasim said: Sep 14, 2012
15 posts

You are welcome. I highly recommend it. It’s a new release.

Yes the Vivaldi A minor Concerto. The key is entirely natural until some accidentals are thrown in in some parts. I suppose it’s A Aeolian? All the notes used are A B C D D# E F F# G G# A.

Anyhow, I decided to practice the scale as in the piece (all notes natural). At times I would alternate, consciously adding the leading notes G# to match A minor in the scale book. Considering the note set mentioned, perhaps playing the E minor scale should cover the rest of the notes in the piece.

I’m not entirely sure, but from a hunch it would make sense to play around from the Tonic A minor to the Dominant E minor…

Kerstin Wartberg said: Nov 28, 2012
Kerstin WartbergViolin
16 posts

Dear Jasim,
Here you find several ideas for private and group classes concerning scales:

Enjoying Violin Technique, Vol. 2A
by Kerstin Wartberg

ONE and TWO Octave Scales & Arpeggios for Suzuki Violin Students in Books 3-5
Piano Arrangements by David Andruss

Please read the introduction and you will get many practical suggestions for your teaching:

Dear Violin Teachers, Dear Parents,

This book of technical exercises on one- and two-octave scales and arpeggios is intended for Suzuki students working on Volumes 3 to 5.

Its object is to offer an enjoyable method for familiarizing students with these more or less unpopular exercises. Its playful character as well as the numerous technical applications aim at giving new life to rigid practicing and teaching routines.

You probably will ask yourselves how practicing scales and arpeggios could be “enjoyable”. Quite simple! We shall link practice to interactive, playful elements. To this end we use dice as well as the key and practice cards from this book, see pages 28 – 34. To make these cards more hard-wearing, it would be a good idea to copy the entire page, to laminate it and then cut out the individual cards.

The cards and dice invite you to take part in numerous activities. If, for instance, a certain key is to be learned, all one- and two-octave scales and arpeggios should be practiced with different rhythms. The number of eyes on the die will determine the rhythm, see pages 6 -11.

The die may also indicate how many FAULTLESS repetitions should be practiced. During group classes, the children may throw the die for themselves or for a fellow student. This will liven up the lesson and, subsequently, improve concentration.

As soon as reliable results have been achieved in a certain key, the practice cards on pages 33 and 34 may be used. They indicate special points of emphasis like posture, intonation or tone quality.
Only if FAULTLESS repetition and a beautiful tone are at the centre of practice, good violin skills may be acquired and absorbed for later easy recall.

After several scales and arpeggios have been learned, the key cards shall be used. They will be placed into a box, and the child may take a card. This game will help the child to get used to regular repetition of the scales and arpeggios studied so far.

The key cards are grouped in three levels:

- LEVEL 1: Suzuki Volume 3, One- and Two-Octave Scales & Arpeggios
- LEVEL 2: Suzuki Volume 4, One- and Two-Octave Scales & Arpeggios
- LEVEL 3: Suzuki Volume 5, One- and Two-Octave Scales & Arpeggios

In addition, three-octave scales should be used from Volume 5 onwards. They are, however, not included here.

The key cards allow the child and its parents to gain an overview of the scales and arpeggios for their particular level, whereas the practice cards specify important practice points. The die is used to liven up the lesson and to create excitement. Employing these small aids sparingly and sensibly to develop creative little practice games will contribute towards a lively and focussed learning environment.

Another way to promote a child’s motivation for practicing is to play with piano accompaniment. Downloads are available for piano accompaniments in all keys, contributing towards the pleasure of shared learning during group lessons.

I would like to encourage all teachers to arrange one group lesson on technique per month, preparing its teaching content during individual classes. Wishing you and the children an enjoyable time building a stable violin technique, according to the slogan a joy shared is a double joy!

Kerstin Wartberg

Kerstin Wartberg
Violin Teacher Trainer
Director of the German Suzuki Institute for Teacher Training

Jasim said: Dec 12, 2012
15 posts

Thank you for you answer Kristen. That was very thorough and it helped.

I am finally enjoying scales. I never knew this could happen…

Ariel said: Dec 14, 2012
Ariel SlaterViolin
Hopkinton, NH
12 posts


Everyone has a slightly different take on scales, but for my little ones, if I introduce scales as soon as they can play “Monkey Song” successfully, they become parts of practice, and we rarely run into resistance. Scales are “easy” so it’s fun to play them first to warm up our tone and fingers!!

I love teaching new scales to my kids—mostly because it was a chore for me, but I’ve found that they often approach new hand positions (ie, low 1st fingers, high 3’s, etc) with a sense of wonder and excitement. I’m trying to approach my own scale practice with the same enthusiasm (wow! isn’t it cool that I get to put my 3rd finger in THAT place today?) This also increases flexibility in their fingers, and helps solidify their sense of pitch relations. For my older students, we talk about how scales are a good time to practice tone and intonation, and help us with learning our pieces. Even my older students like finding scale/arpeggio passages in the other things they’re learning—it’s all about making it meaningful and interactive! (After finding a diminished arpeggio in her concerto, I was SO thrilled when my 10-year-old student said: “That’s so cool! I’m so glad you taught me about those!”)

NOT EVERY KID LIKES IT, but I’ve found that the DISlike of scales often comes from me or the parents referring to it as “vegetables” or “what you have to do,” instead of just quietly incorporating scales into lesson and practice. It’s all about attitude!

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