Scales are…

Scales are a necessary component of learning to play a musical instrument. They can be challenging to maintain in a practice regimen because they remain constant and over time can become boring to play.

I read recently that a way to improve your ability to learn a new skill rapidly is to practice it ever so slightly differently. This it is said, can provoke the brain to internalize the information more readily and make it easier to access.

I wondered how this could be applied to scales. As mentioned they are somewhat static in their execution even though they are fingered differently when played in different keys and/or on different strings. They are still seemingly a straight forward and/or backwards exercise, as is also an option.

Then I realized there are alternatives to playing scales and that by using the above suggestion, to vary ones approach to the exercise slightly, can make it more easily understood and internalized and become an integral and useful part of ones musical vocabulary.

I have inadvertently found myself taking this approach one step further, as I struggle to commit new scales to memory. I alternate the note order again slightly. Moving forward 1 step or key and then back, and then forward again this time to the note 2 steps above the previous one and then back 1 step, being careful to use the fingers my scale chart says to use to play the scale in a straight forward way. Some may know this to be a difficult maneuver because of the need to cross certain fingers over or under as one makes their way through the scale.

Perhaps a more readily understandable description of this alternate scale practice method would be to simply play each of the notes in the scale 2 or more times before advancing to the next note. This can also be applied with the follow the leader approach mentioned earlier. This has proven useful in improving my ability. As has practicing regularly, which cannot be over stated.

Video Examples

Here are some video examples of these exercises as they may not be entirely understood just by way of my explanation, as a video supplants a 1000 words!?

Follow the Leader Left leading right hand 2 octaves above and 1/8th note after C Major
Alternate Way to Play a Scale

I hope anyone reading this will find something of use in my efforts to encourage. Please leave a comment if you wish.

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