Hello, I will be a senior in high school this coming fall, and viola is my main instrument. Are there any important exercises I should be doing every day besides scales that can help me increase shifting speed while maintaining tone? Also what techniques should you master before trying new ones? In other words, what are the "steps" of becoming a better string player? Thanks for reading
Scales are delicious! In music school, we had a class that met three days a week for an hour. We'd play one scale for the entire hour; up and down, up and down... It was tough, but so good for my intonation, stamina, everything!
I'm not suggestion that. That's a bit extreme. But scales are really awesome. Once you master the 2 octaves, work on the 3 octaves. Have your teacher, or another good violist, give you good fingerings. You really can't go wrong with spending good time on scales.
You might start working on some orchestral excerpts. You can get books of orchestral excerpts - common ones that show up often on auditions - or ask your teacher for some audition excerpts. These will be the most "important" parts of the orchestral viola repertoire, and each challenges you in a different way. I find that a good way to practice, as well as being useful to me when I go to audition.
I also think sight reading is really important to any musician. There are some good books that teach that, but you can totally teach yourself. Again, find some music, and sightread a bit every day.
I practice probably 75% of the time with a metronome, and 20% of the time with a tuner.
Good luck to you! The viola's a great, if sometimes challenging, instrument. Let us know how things go for you!