The Dorothy DeLay Five-Hour Violin Diet

Anne Akiko Meyers starts the day with scales and arpeggios

By: Anne Akiko Meyers

What do you feel you need to do on a daily basis to maintain your skill level?

Every day, I start my practice sessions with scales. I must do this before starting anything else. Like warming up an engine or stretching before working out, the circle of fifths is my warm-up lap.


While some people concentrate on playing thirds, sixths, tenths, or other double stops, I make up all sorts of bow patterns with my scales and have my bow arm really do the bulk of the warm up . . . spiccato, staccato, ricochet, up-bow staccato, down-bow staccato, slurs—you name it. I am feeling all the shifting, trying to move my left hand as smoothly as possible.

Do you still use études and/or study guides? If so, which ones?

I used to warm up with études, particularly those by Kreutzer and Schradieck. I love the first two pages of Schradieck—it builds up strength with each finger on every string. Sometimes, I like to play Kreutzer No. 13, because I have so many memories of practicing it when I was growing up. It feels like grandmother’s chicken soup for the soul. Later, I worked on the Paganini 24 Caprices with Dorothy DeLay—I don’t have really fond memories of them.

Was there a particular teacher who was instrumental in developing your practice regimen?

Ms. DeLay had a practice schedule in which she recommended starting out with scales and arpeggios by [Leopold] Auer, working on concerto repertoire, solo Bach, and Paganini Caprices, plus recital repertoire. It was the Dorothy DeLay five-hour violin diet.

How do you know when you need to brush up on fundamentals?

Today, when I feel the need for a “tune up,” I usually reach for Bach. Try to practice a movement of one of the Sonatas or Partitas—it’s pure therapy for your brain and fingers. I also like to sight read—I find this wakes up one’s senses, like a good espresso. I tell students that when they practice their scales, be present and aware of the intervals between the notes. This is key and pretty much the foundation to all else. I always say my day has not begun till I make the bed, brush my teeth, kiss my babies, and play my scales!