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Beginner Selecting certain keys for scale studies

AlanB

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Quick question - if one is more into playing funk, R&B, rock, rock 'n' roll etc and not a great deal of jazz or classical, is there any wisdom in learning your scales from selected keys round the clock e.g. from C to C# only (CGDAEBF#C#) including Major, Myx, Dor, Minor, Blues and pentatonics. Or is this considered detrimental for your musical development? Any thoughts?
 

kevgermany

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I think the reason the tutos introduce a mix of sharp and flat keys is that the less sharps/flats there are in the key signature, the easier it is to play/learn. and there are many beautiful, yet simple tunes written in keys like F and Bb, which you're excluding from the beginner/lower level learner's repertoire.

After one year of learning, (6 months of lessons) I'm now just through A and getting to grips with Eb (personal goals, not fom the tutor). E will be next (4x#, :w00t: ).

As for the different modes (including minors), I think they tend to come later - partly because there's less conventional music, and also because it's relatively easy to pick up - you just play a known key, starting in a different place. No trickies to add in at the same time like (on sax) the jump from Eb to F, which will already be there if your fingers are fluent in the appropriate major.

Blues/pentatonics - only really relevant for certain styles of music, which featuire heavily in the sax repertoire :welldone - so they'd be introduced relatively early compared to a classical learning path. But I'd have thought that they'd be better introduced after the same named major/minor as they're really a modification of that, which I see as a basic building block.

Over the last year I've moved from total bewilderment, to seeign some structure, and a lot's been from using the majors as foundations for the more esoteric stuff.

But I'd love to hear what others think.
 

saxnik

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I don't think learning particular scales is detrimental at all - however there will come a time where NOT learning particular scales will hold you back.
If you're only doing 'Pop' gigs in Concert E or B (tenor F#/C#) then arguably the different variants in these keys will be enough. You might start to find though that you want to do something more harmonically interesting, in which case you'll need some related keys too (e.g. B, G#=Ab), and then if you get into the jazz styling you'll need more and more.

Equally if you're playing classical you will eventually need to know all the majors and minors since you will find examples of fragments of them in written music.

So basically it depends on your stage of development and what you're likely to use in public - if you know what's coming up you can practice the scales you need - if there's likely to be some flexibility you'll do best if you know all of them!

Classically the 'easy' scales with no sharps or flats are taught first, since if you're learning to read music at the same time, playing a tune with a familiar sounding scale on easy-to-read staves is easier, but in truth they're just as awkward as the sharp or flat keys in terms of getting to grips with fingerings. If the first thing you learn is F# blues, then that will be more familiar and therefore easier than C major.

Cheers,

Nick
 

thomsax

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Or is this considered detrimental for your musical development? Any thoughts?

I don't know!! But I learned most of my music by ear. Listening to Blues, R&B. Rock 'n' Roll, Soul .... . I kind of started on C# and F# without knowing it. Like most young saxplayers I started on alto. A lots of music I listen to are in the keys of A and E.

As an adult (54 years old and still trying to play like Clemons, Watts, Prysock, Curtis ...) rocksaxplayer my device is: It's not what you play but it's how you play! (Miles Davis said something like that!!) You can do a lot with the pentatonic scale. Listen to Clarence Clemons!

I onced read ( I don't remember where) that when Bruce Springsteen recorded the great song "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" ("Born To Run album) Steve Van Zandt ("Little Steven") come to rescue on the recording session. They had called in a stellar hornsection constellation: Mike Brecker tenorsax, Randy Brecker trumpet and flugelhorn, David Sandborn baritone sax, Wayene Andre trombone and of course Clarens "Big Man" Clemons on tenorsax. They couldn't get the barilines right. So Steve Van Zandt ( I really don't know why he was there because he was just singing the background vocals on "Thunder Roads", according to the LP/CD sleeve?) steped in and sang the barilines to David Sandborn! I don't know if the story is true? But it helps a non-reader like myself!!!

Thomas
 

Andante cantabile

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I can imagine that depending on the music you play, certain scales might not be of great interest to you. I gradually worked my way up the flats and sharps, both major and minor. Now I do all of them. I am only interested in classical music, and I don't expect ever to play something with more than five flats or sharps, but one gets a certain satisfaction out of playing, for example, C flat major and C sharp major fluently. What I have noticed is that sight-reading becomes easier the more one knows one's way across the scales and intervals. Whether there is indeed a strong causal connection between doing scales thoroughly and good sight-reading I do not know. It may simply that over time one gets better any way. Regardless of what the situation is, scales and intervals remain an essential part of my practice.
 
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AlanB

AlanB

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Some good advice - thanks all. It seems that no one thinks it is a complete sin to not fastidiously learn all keys straight away. Some observations about scale study:
1. I decided to learn all my majors first, before moving on to other scales. I still don't have them under my fingers, i am now changing this approach;
2. I found that by moving around the circle on my scales practice was not very helpful in imprinting them into my memory, since i was just changing one sharp or one flat each time, i prefer to move through chromatically now A, Bb, B, C, C# etc.
3. This approach of all majors first is not helping me improvise.
4. I am starting to see the value of learning different scales within one key, this is really helping me hear the difference in the scales, isolate the key (important) degrees that make the chordal sound.

From you advice it seems that there would be no problem learning C#, F#, B,E,A,D,C,F first and getting to grips with the Ma, Myx, Dor, blues and pents for each. This would seem to open up a world of jamming opportunities.

Finally, do folks out there feel that 90% of blues, funk, R&B, Rock 'n' roll, Soul, pop, rock are written in these Concert keys.
concert
Bb, F, C, G, D, A, E
hence considering I, IV, V it would be good to have Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A, E, B
thus on tenor (Bb)
F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#
on Alto (Eb)
C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, Ab
and maybe leave the flat keys until ones improv, harmony, chord tone skills have developed and one shifts in to the world of jazz.

Your experiences and advice would be much appreciated.
KYRW,
Al
 
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kevgermany

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4. I am starting to see the value of learning different scales within one key, this is really helping me hear the difference in the scales, isolate the key (important) degrees that make the chordal sound.
Do you mean modes? Or pentatonics, blues and so on?

From you advice it seems that there would be no problem learning C#, F#, B,E,A,D,C,F first and getting to grips with the Ma, Myx, Dor, blues and pents for each.
Alan

Maybe it'll work for you, sounds like it is. But I think many people would find this approach difficult, if not impossible. I remember trying to learn the piano (failed miserably). Took me ages to move from C to G, and I really couldn't understand why I needed a black note - and there was only one, which I eventually learned by rote and accepted that it was to make things sound right. Starting with C# would have killed me dead the first day. Especially trying to get to grips with E# and B#. Then tell me the key's also called Db and has an Fb and Cb..... Had the same problem with the recorder where many fingering progressions are not instantly logical - why do I have to put fingers back down to go higher (excluding teh octave break)? But got on quite well with the penny whistle where fingering is straightforward.

With the sax I found starting with C really easy - as the note progressions are in key order. And it was simple to get my fingers trained to the right order. Adding a sharp or flat at a time, has made the other scales easier to learn - there's less change, although having to press an extra key down to sharpen a note is tricky (e.g. G#). One thing I struggle with at the moment is the relatively simple Eb -> F fingering. And the G, Ab, Bb sequence in Eb.

In short I'm really poor at learning sequences. (something which killed me when I was learning to ring church bells). And I need the easy progressions...
 
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AlanB

AlanB

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Do you mean modes? Or pentatonics, blues and so on?
Kev - Thanks for your response. In this case I mean a bit of both Ionian (Major Chords), Myxolydian (Dominant Chords), Dorian (Minor 7 Chords), Major Pentatonic, Minor Pentatonic and Blues.

In this case i wasn't necessarily suggesting an order for learning the scale keys. I have generally learn't the major scales to a certain degree but was thinking about what keys to concentrate on for developing improv abilities. Personally at this stage I like to start my scales practice with the scales i know less well e.g. C# or F# rather than C, G, F, cuz i'm much worse on those # keys.

The long and short of what i was trying to ask is, as not a complete beginner with scales, but someone who wants to develop their scale study to some really useful improv and jamming tools. What is the best way forward?

KYRW,
Al
 

Andante cantabile

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Alan

What follows may be irrelevant in your case. There are lots of scale manuals around. I have seen something published by Boosey and Hawkes in a music shop. I myself use the Baermann Foundation Studies, arranged by David Hite and published by Southern Music Company in Texas.
 

saxnik

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Maybe I should have qualified my statements a bit - when I suggested learning the scales you need to start with, I really meant that you could (and I think should) learn them by the way they sound, not the way they are written down.

If you know the way a major scale sounds, and you have to be very sure on this, you can learn all of the scales by comparing the way each note sounds with the next to check your working as you go along. Most of us know a major scale pattern (T,T,S,T,T,T,S) if we think about it - Do, Re, Mi, Sol, Fa, La, Ti, Do - "Doe, a deer" etc.

With this in mind you can start on any note of the sax (without even knowing what it's called) and work out the pattern. Of course in order to do this you really need to know the fingerings for the sax - which is where the teacher comes in to show you the real pattern and correct fingerings, so maybe a chromatic scale is the first one to learn if you're trying to do it all with no written notation.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, and there's more than one way to learn your scales, but learning the sound of each type of scale is the key, especially for improvising.
 

kevgermany

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There's a little bell ringing. It's telling me that I forgot you're an experienced oboeist, learning the sax for fun.... Now things make a lot more sense.
 
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AlanB

AlanB

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Poo...i just lost a detailed reply to you guys into the ether. Will have to start again. Maybe do some work first.:shocked:
KYRW,
Al
 
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