Thursday 30 September 2010

Playing With Your Scales

Robert Maddocks wants to change the way you do your scale practice:

All too often I hear students practicing their scales ... Up and down, up and down. In the music we hear, scales are rarely used that way. It's the equivalent of learning to paint using the same color combinations over and over. Aside from trying to getting familiar with the scale and trying finger exercises, scales shouldn't be practiced this way. Once you learn a scale and and committed it to memory, you should be practicing it in other ways.


One thing that happens a lot in music is patterns. Music is filled with musical patterns repeated at different intervals and different rhythms. Once you learn the fingering for a scale, it's time to try a couple of patterns and play those through the entire scale. There are innumerable combinations but I'll give you a couple of starters.

click through to Robert Maddocks's for some easy exercises to get your scales working for you!

A tip I like to use is to take the scale to the 9th degree, one past the octave; this gives you an odd number of notes so you can keep a bouncy cut-time or swing rhythm up and down, and then come down skipping every second note: Do-Re Me-Fa So-La Ti-Do Re-Ti So-Me Do and then go back up the arpeggio and down the scale: (C-D E-F G-A B-C D'-B G-E C-E G-B D'-C B-A G-F E-D C), then repeat the same scale again, but starting on the second degree of the scape, so again in C, you play D-E F-G A-B C-D E-C A-F D... (a Dorian mode) and then again on the third scale degree (E-F G-A B-C etc) and on up to the 7th scale degree (B-C D-E F-G A-B C-A F-D B) and repeat the pattern in each key, each time staying with the same scale but starting on a different degree ('mode')

You may notice that this method will introduce you to the pop-music Dominant 7th (the fifth mode, a major with a flatted 7th) and the Dorian (2nd) and Harmonic (Aeolian) minor scales (sixth degree/mode) and presents those scales in the correct context of their key! Do these scales in with the Robert Maddocks rhythm mixups above (or play them to the beat of any drummer's beat you can really imagine clearly in your mind!) and you'll never look at scale practice the same way again!

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