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Beginner Scales

Chris

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I do hope its not tin hat time again :)))

Why learn scales:w00t::w00t: Before everyone runs for cover let me explain. I am what is known as a late bloomer. Yes, I have some musical knowledge. But not sax related. Surely it would be better to learn to play music. eg melodies and how to play off the melody than it would trying to learn all Maj, Mel and Har min scales plus blues scales.:mrcool
Given that my main musical interest is jazz and when improvising in jazz all 12 tones are usable over any given chord, surely learning how to resolve dissonance is far more important.:confused: Also from a jazz point of view, you can't really do a jazz blues justice just using one blues scale.:D
So which would do you more good. Maj and min scales and blues scales. Or 30/40 melodies and the ear to play off the melody???
 
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Taz

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Personally, I learnt a few scales when I was at school, but since then, I haven't bothered. I think I know, when I play what would be classed as a scale, if I've hit a bad note, or one that sounds out of place. If you asked me to play a major or a minor scale I don't think I'd know where to start.
 

dubrosa22

Senior Member
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413
I'm only a beginner working my way through my Majors, a few Minors and some Blues scales but I've quickly realised that the more scales I get under my belt the easier and faster it is to theoretically understand and actually HEAR better ways to avoid, resolve and use dissonance in jazz.

But OTOH if they're a hinderance to your playing (or your wanting to play) then just keep doing what you're doing! :)
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
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505
I have mixed feelings about learning scales. I run into video lessons on Youtube and even in many of the educational books I buy that focus on teaching scales and harping about how important they are to practice and learn "by heart".

Recently I've been practicing scales. In fact, for the past two weeks that's been a major part of my focus on both trumpet and sax. Actually I find them more useful on the trumpet simply because I'm having more problems with the trumpet and just the mere act of playing scales is helping me to expand my range.

On the sax I can't help but wonder if my time would be better spent just practicing tunes, etc. But I've been forcing myself to play scales just because these books and teachers seem to think that this is important.

One thing about learning scales and playing at least three different instruments, guitar (key of C), Alto sax (key of Eb) and Trumpet (key of Bb). Playing these scale exercises is helping to me to visually see transpositions. The reason being is that I'll pick a scale. Say concert C. Then play that on all three instruments. On the sax it's A, on the Trumpet it's D.

Them I'll play C on the Also sax. That puts me in Eb on the guitar and F on the Trumpet.

Then play C on the Trumpet, and that puts me in Bb on the guitar, and G on the sax.

It's actually kind of fun trying to figure out which scale I need to play on which instrument in order to be in harmony with each other.

So far I've only been working with the major Ionian mode, and the pentatonic, and the blues (pentatonic with blue notes added).

Some of these lesson plans expect me to go through every mode in every key.

How much time do they think I have to practice? :)))

So I'm limiting myself to only a small set of scales. Say concert C, Eb, Bb, F, G, and E.

And only the Ionian mod, the pentatonic and blues scales.

I might add some other modes to these same keys as I progress. But that's where I'm at, at the moment.

I'm not going to try to learn everything. What I've taken on here already consumes one heck of a lot of practice time. I like to play tunes too, so I'm not going to put all my time into scale practice.

I also practice licks in these same keys. Not in every key possible as they suggest. Just the keys I'm focusing on at the moment.

I have a limited brain for crying out loud.

These people who write these music books act like people have unlimited time on their hands or something.

So just whittle it down to something that's manageable. ;}
 

BigMartin

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I do hope its not tin hat time again :)))
Given that my main musical interest is jazz and when improvising in jazz all 12 tones are usable over any given chord, surely learning how to resolve dissonance is far more important.:confused:

But that's just the sort of thing that knowing your scales (and arpeggios) can help with. I mean REALLY knowing them, not just playing from the root to the ninth and back down again. For exapmle the 4th (or 11th) over a major 7 can sound very unstable and wants to resolve down to the 3rd. Sometimes you might want to go there via the 2nd (or 9th). but you have to know which those notes are without having to think about it and where to find them on your instrument. Or if your outside the harmony altogether and want to resolve onto a chord tone, you need to know where the chord tones are, both aurally and on the sax, without having to think (which you haven't got time for)

So which would do you more good. Maj and min scales and blues scales. Or 30/40 melodies and the ear to play off the melody???

How about 15 mins of each, or whatever division you feel will be more useful?
 

Nick Wyver

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Also from a jazz point of view, you can't really do a jazz blues justice just using one blues scale.

Indeed not. That's why you learn more than one scale.

So which would do you more good. Maj and min scales and blues scales. Or 30/40 melodies and the ear to play off the melody???

30/40 melodies out of the millions that are out there or 30/40 scales that cover most of what you're ever likely to play? Do you even have to think about the answer to that one?
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
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Cromatics >:) (but only partly >:) )

A moderator lowering the tone of the forum by dropping his aitches! >:)

If you have some musical experience, what is wrong with learning every note playable in the normal range and then using your previous knowledge?
 

Chris

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Some interesting answers, seems as if there are two schools of thought on this subject. The one point that seems to be overlooked is I started of by saying " I was a late bloomer ".:thumb: From my point of view, the time and effort it seems to take learning scales could be better used actually playing music.:shocked:.(I am not talking about just being able to play scales but to know them without thinking).. Now I know some people may find that wrong:shocked:, but if I was 30/40 yrs younger then maybe learning scales would be the way to go.:)
I have been through the muscle memory training when I played the guitar. You just end up moving patterns around a fretboard.>:) Not really playing music in my opinion.>:) At least with the sax you can feel what you play. Someone mentioned arpeggios, for me that is a totally new topic. Chord tones and extensions seem to walk hand in hand with jazz..As for the 4th on a Maj7, it's not wrong you just have to go somewhere with it. :mrcoolOr play the #4 instead.:mrcool
Yes I know there are millions of standards out there, as against the 30/40 melodies I mentioned. All I was saying by the time you can play off those melodies well then your ear will also be able to hear what is going on. Before you rush to to post remember I am not some young person wanting to learn, I am a much older person just wanting to play music.
 

BigMartin

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Obviously it's completely up to you how you spend your limited (as it is for all of us) sax-playing time. For me, it's profitable (and more enjoyable than you might think when you really get into it) to practice scales, arpeggios and other pattern exercises a fair bit because it's actually a short cut to playing better music, and I believe it will make me a better player sooner than if I just try to use my extremely limited imagination. Your musical instincts may be better than mine. They probably are, judging from the nice backing tracks you've produced. So maybe the scales etc would be less useful to you. You can't really be sure of these things, I suppose.
 

jazzdoh

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My personal view is that learning scales, arpeggios/chords is important,because it is where music comes from,it provides you with a great foundation for improvising and once they are in your head they usually stay there,i haven't played my scales for ages but i still know them but i can see if you are on a limited amount of time why you would want to drop them as they can be boring.

Brian
 

Young Col

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2,419
Well I only returned to seriously playing music at 58 and my main intetest is jazz as well, but I'll play all sorts. As part of my ethos of "this thing won't beat me" I started to learn scales and arps as well as playing tunes - and now my teacher insists on it! They are just so useful as a basis for everything. You don't need to do them exclusively and I spend about a quarter to a third of a practice session on them - for warming up (first legato, then tongued and then some staccato tongued as well), technique and tone.

Familiarity with scales in playing tunes is useful as well. One recent example was an arrangement of Singin' in the Rain. A final fast upwards sweep to end on a high Bb was much easier when I realised it was just a complete Bb scale. On another new ragtime piece there were some downward overlapping groups at different points which looked hard. Once our leader pointed out that they were just Dim7s in different keys it became slightly more comforting; still not easy for me to play at speed yet, but a least they weren't an alien set of notes.
YC
 

Chris

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I do have to think about that one Nick, 30/40 melodies with the ear to play off them was an example. Most new to jazz guitarists when faced with jazz soloing for the 1st time give up. When asking the question. Tell me one thing I should learn?? The most common answer is arpeggios/chord tones. Why? If you know the melody and you know all the chords it doesn't matter what key a tune is in. If you are going to learn scales then all well and good but you still need to learn tunes. Why not then spend that time getting tunes well and truely internalized. The second question the guitarist asks is how can I stop sounding like I am playing scales. he answer stop practicing them and practice playing music...Like I said this is from a late bloomers point of view and some people get it and some don't. It's just something to think about..
Pianist Hal Galper when asked which tunes he likes to play the best said " the ones i first played 50 yrs ago" because those are the ones I don't have to think about.
 

Sweet Dreamer

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Some interesting answers, seems as if there are two schools of thought on this subject. The one point that seems to be overlooked is I started of by saying " I was a late bloomer ".:thumb: From my point of view, the time and effort it seems to take learning scales could be better used actually playing music.:shocked:.(I am not talking about just being able to play scales but to know them without thinking).. Now I know some people may find that wrong:shocked:, but if I was 30/40 yrs younger then maybe learning scales would be the way to go.:)

Chris, I can certainly identify with your thoughts here. I've had precisely the same thoughts. Talk about being a late bloomer, I didn't really get into music seriously until I was 57 and I'm 62 now. I felt much the same as you. Practicing scales seemed senseless for someone my age. I'd be far better off putting my practicing time in just learning to play music.

And so that's what I've been doing for the past 5 or 6 years. I've only recently become aware of the real power of learning scales. It's far more than just playing scales. In fact, if all you are doing is practicing playing scales without having a really good insight into why that is useful then I agree you are indeed wasting your time doing that. That's precisely what I used to do when I first started to "practice" scales. It was a total waste of time. Mainly because I wasn't truly aware of what the real purpose was for learning scales.

I have since become "enlightened" concerning the POWER of learning scales.

It's not about just playing a sequence of notes. That may be helpful for someone just learning how to play notes on the instrument in the raw beginning, but once you can play all the notes practicing scales for that reason would indeed be a waste of time.

Don't think of it as "practicing scales".

Think of it as "Studying Scales" - or better yet think of it as "Studying Keys" and modes, and the arpeggios that go with them.

What are they? What can they do for you? And why are you studying them. I you are studying them just because other people have said they should be studied then forget it. That's a total waste of time. You need to understand why they worth studying. Otherwise you're not going to get any benefit from studying them.

Why are they worth studying?

Well lets say that you are playing music in the key of Q. (ha ha) I'm using Q generically, it could be any key you like.

Well, wouldn't it be great to know all the 'scales' in the key of Q?

You can play any one those scales in the key of Q really. And you may even used many different scales in a single piece of music.

How many "scales" are there in the key of Q? (any given key)

Well there is obvious the basic Ionian scale (which is also called a mode)
Then there is the pentatonic scale. Very simple scale to learn and play, can be used at any time.
Then there is the blues scales. Just the pentatonic with blues notes added, but should be kept separate from the simple pentatonic, because the simple pentatonic will fit anywhere, whilst the blue notes need special attention to where they will fit in a piece of music.

So far you've got 3 'scales' in the key of Q.

You should also recognize the arpeggios for all of the chords associate with the key of Q. In other words, the triads that are based on the notes of the Ionian scale for Q. Understanding what chords belong to Q and which notes can be played over which chords is paramount if you want to play in Q.

So learning the arpeggios for Q is a part of "scale study".

Now, if you really want to expand your abilities, learn all the modes of Q.

The modes are simple, just play the very SAME notes as the Ionian scale for Q, creating a new scale using each note as the root of the new scales. The fingering doesn't change at all. All that changes is your mental perception of what you are playing.

You can play any mode created in this way over the chords of Q changing your sound dramatically from the sound of the Ionian mode or scale.

Finally, after you've learned all of that for a single key of Q, you can explore the ascending, descending, and harmonic modes of the Aeolian mode. Then you will have a complete grasp of Q. (a single Key)

Once you've recognize the POWER of this and have mastered it for a single key, doing it again for other keys will become rather easy and quite beneficial because now you will understand precisely why it is a useful and powerful thing to do.

~~~

You say that you would rather put your practice time into actually playing music. But there's really no reason why you can't combine your scale studies with your music practice, especially if you're into improvising (which is where the POWER of learning scales really shines).

If you view "scale study" or "scale practice" as just sitting there playing boring scales up and down, then you've got the whole wrong idea.

No, no, no, no, no!

You should only need to do that for a couple minutes to get a feel for the scale you are studying. Then move on to playing that scale over a backing track. Don't just play it up and down. Play it all around. Ad lib all over the scale. Jump back and forth between various scales that you have already learned in that same key.

Before you know it "Scale Study" will amount to nothing more than IMPROVISATION over a key.

The only thing is that now you will be ARMED with all sorts of different melodic patterns that you can play. And you will understand where they come from and why they work over Q.

You will also become keenly away of how the different modes set different moods. And you'll be able to improvise precisely the mood and sound you want by choosing the scale mode that best conveys that feeling.

Learning scales in this way is your absolute best friend if you want to have some real power behind your ability to improvise into music what you are feeling deep within.

Just my thoughts, for whatever they're worth.
 

Andrew Sanders

Northern Commissioner for Caslm
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The thing is Chris that you're obviously well grounded in music having come from a (jazz) guitar background, and if you're already playing quite sophisticated stuff on one instrument then you'll know what you want from your sax. If you can hear it play it.

Having said that I find scale work, interval excercises, chord tone and arpeggios really stretch you technically and physically and makes for greater facility on the instrument.

This in conjunction with learning new tunes and annoying the wife/neighbours is really enjoyable and rewarding.

But it's your time do with it what you wish.

Andrew
 

visionari1

Senior Member
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1,581
Wow this is quite a topic... I also fall into the late bloomer category.
I ignored scales for at least 10 years. Preferring to play tunes ( and not whole tunes) in busking situations.
For the last 5 years getting into scales for me has opened more doors. I think we all agree the object is to play music and have fun with others..... With others is the operative bit, you probably don't need scales if you play solo all the time!
Scales, arpeggios and the relative theory to understand at a level of the brain probably is for most people a necessary step to get to the ability to hear and really understand (without thinking) what your playing, and making it sound good with the tune. Of course there are people whose ears are naturally advanced and seen to not need the scales, and I've heard the comment about scales and arps..."learn them and forget them" I feel many good players have done it this way.
Everyone is unique....us late bloomers can be very impatient (speaking about myself here) the journeys of enjoying sax playing are many and varied.
Sweet Dreamer, your last post is a cracker, I need to print the whole of this post and digest it for a while.... Thanks all


---

Cheers & ciao
Jimu

"Together We Create Beauty"
 
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visionari1

Senior Member
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1,581
Ps,
Forgot to mention, learning scales and arpeggios should be learned/ played at 60 bpm & say the note name in your head, visualise its position on the musical staff & note/ memorise your finger positions on the sax.

This is another topic, but it's been a real game changer for me.... Not only applicable to scales & arps ... Great for getting riffs, phrases, patterns etc into muscle memory.


---

Cheers & ciao
Jimu

"Together We Create Beauty"
 
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Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
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505
Sweet Dreamer, your last post is a cracker, I need to print the whole of this post and digest it for a while.... Thanks all

Cracker?

Not sure what that means, but my post is probably all wrong. I'm just learning scales myself in the way I've described, so it's possible that I have made some errors in the extreme details. ;}

Ps,
Forgot to mention, learning scales and arpeggios should be learned/ played at 60 bpm & say the note name in your head, visualise its position on the musical staff & note/ memorise your finger positions on the sax.

I've tried thinking of the note names as I play. I've discovered that I'm never going to be able to do that. I do have mental problems and that must be one of the symptoms.

In order for me to think of the actual names of the notes in my head, I necessarily have to STOP and think about it. I've tried to do this for several years before I finally gave up. I mean, I could put the instrument down altogether and just sit down with the sheet music in hand and try to name the notes along the page and I can't do it. No matter how hard I try it takes too long for me to associate the name to with the note.

I mean, I can do it quick enough to write them all out. But I can't do it quick enough to actually play fluent music whilst doing that. There is a delay in my mind. It just takes me too long to think of the names of notes. Some I get quickly, others just stop me dead in my tracks for a second. And a second if FOREVER when you're playing music.

So I've given up on that altogether.

Now I just look at the dot and play it. For some reason I can do that. And I have clue why that is, but if I try to actually think of the names of the notes I'm dead in the water.

But luckily I'm learning to sight-read without having to think of the names of the notes, and it goes much quicker.

I do need to take a look at the key signature before I start and take note of who's going to be sharped or flatted, but once I'm armed with that preliminary data, I can just play the dots. No note names required. Somehow I recognize the sharps and flats just by their positions without having to think of their names.

It's crazy but it works, so I don't question it.
 
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