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Scales Practice Regime - Help! - Old BR Thread


Well-Known Member
Vientiane, Laos
Dear All,
I am in need of help! After taking up the saxophone again after a long break I am very interested in doing it properly this time with a very good practice regime and a real understanding and use of scales.

I appreciate how important this is since I would very much like to improve my ear, fingering speed and essential my feel and ability to improvise in a band environment.

My key interest is in playing jazz and funk in a band and being able to improvise a solo over a given chord progression that the band throws at me.

It’s a long process and I wont get there overnight, however, I want to be sure that my practice regime is taking me to where I want to be and will enable me to start having fun as soon as possible in the band.

Now, I have found some very good regimes on the web, but are they suitable for me, or anyone like me?

Kelly Bucherger
has a regime she calls the daily grind.

1.Long notes (choosing your scale practice key (e.g. C Major) moving up in fourths through the range of your instrument.
2.Scales Study – In C Major practice (breaking down scales into 5 note groups) first 5 note group in semi-quavers to a Quarter note=80 tempo.
a.Practice same with slurred then Jazz articulation.
b.Move on to the next 5 note group and do the same.
c.When all 5 note groups through the range of instrument are fluid, combine all together through the range of instrument.
d.Play entire scale up and down, through entire range with ascending triads in triplets in three articulations – slurred , tongue-slur, slur-tongue.
e.Play descending triads as above.
f.Play alternating ascending-descending triads as above.
g.Play alternate descending-ascending triads as above.
3.Next day – do the same increasing tempo a couple of notches, say quarter note= 82
4.Continue for a few days until you reach qn=120, then you have C Major.
5.Next set move up a half step to Db/C# and do all again.
6.Continue cycle until all twelve major keys are complete moving up in half steps.
7.That’s the Majors done, now move on and do all the same for
• Major
• Dominant 7th (Mixolydian)
• Dorian
• Lydian Dominant
• Lydian
• Whole Town
• Diminished
• Harmonic Minor
• Diminished Whole tone
8. You’ve mastered your scales!

Now my question is –“ is this going to take me to where I want to be as quickly as possible?” Should I really be learning all these modes before I learn blues and pentatonic scales as early as possible if I want to play in Blues, funk and rock improvise situations

Is this the best order to learn types of scale and what about Melodic minors, and shouldn’t minor scales be learnt earlier than shown on the list?

What about the order of keys. If I want to be improvising should I be learning little used keys and progressing through a half step regime? Shouldn’t I be learning key signatures that will be most useful in a band situation?
E.g. Concert C ( therefore Key of A for me)
Concert E ( therefore Key of C# for me)
Concert G ( therefore Key of E for me)
Concert A ( therefore Key of F# for me)
And so on for the most commonly used guitar keys in a band situation. Or alternatively there is a 12 week programme for learning the grade 8 Scales on http://www.saxophone-tuition.co.uk/page28.html which has a weirder order of key learning, or should I follow the circle of Fifths around?

Can anyone help with providing the best scale learning strategy for my needs? I guess the main question is “If I want to progess quickly and be able to improvise, Should I practice all keys in a given scale type before I move on to the next scale type, or should I be learning the most useful scales for my present ability and needs?

I just really want to get it right so I can start having fun!!!
Thank you all,
I have a view but I'm sure I'm not qualified to give you the answer you need.

My teacher is a great jazz musician (Karen Sharp) and she has me working towards the same goals - being able to play jazz as well as possible and improvise well.

My issues also are that I've been playing only 17 months (4 on tenor) and couldn't read music before (let alone understand Jazz)! However, she has me practicing scales using II-V7-Is, apreggios, chord tones etc. Long notes (get a copy of Top Tones for Saxophone if you don't have one), jazz articulation and transcribing solos.

What I do is very focussed and every exercise majors on one or two things only. At all times I am to focus on the quality of sound and the articulation and of course keep in time. It's early days for me in every way but the past few weeks have seen my playing improve dramatically - of course I am still pretty rubbish! I am making clear progress though.

You list a lot of things - for example modes - and I am not sure that you need to learn them all as stated in order to play well. These are all building blocks and my impression is that you acquire this knowledge overtime. Of course, to improvise really well you need to 'free' the mind when you solo and not play what you have been practicing - huh fat chance! :(

As for learning all the scales, well there will be many ways and even more opinions on how best to do this. I personally play them as above and also around the cycle of 5ths and chromatically. I used to try to read the music but now I do this mostly 'by ear' and I am getting much better and also faster. Ironically I can play Db major almost as fast as C or D major.
Thanks Half Diminished,
I wrote this post a while ago on the Old BR and got some good advice.

Like you suggest, I am now practising scales to little progressions like II-V-I. Also having previously practised and learnt the scales around the circle, I found I was getting too used to just adding or removing one sharp or flat. I have started a period of practising chromatically now, and that really helps with not being to reliant on the maths, but really listening to the quality and intervals within the scale and playing a given scale a bit more spontaneously.

Thanks for the advice.

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