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What Is The Point Of Scales?


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#1 Voomy

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 05:02 PM

I learned scales on guitar and piano... up and down and up and down and up and down... they never helped.

 

I learn songs that alan day has presented... and i am starting to automatically improvise with it, for my own enjoyment... not well at all, i admit.

 

Just there has to be a reason people say learn scales.... im not jesting, I just dont get it. So whats the point?



#2 Bill N

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 06:03 PM

If you want to play in more than the home keys, or use alternate fingerings, it's useful to have the muscle memory for where the notes are, especially if you play by ear.  Also, it's useful to play the same scale using alternate fingerings and buttons.  To be honest, I don't bother with scales too much, but do make a point of learning tunes in oddball keys, and practicing different patterns for playing them.  If you don't find scales have worked for you in the past it may not be worth your while now.



#3 Voomy

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 06:26 PM

If you want to play in more than the home keys, or use alternate fingerings, it's useful to have the muscle memory for where the notes are, especially if you play by ear.  Also, it's useful to play the same scale using alternate fingerings and buttons.  To be honest, I don't bother with scales too much, but do make a point of learning tunes in oddball keys, and practicing different patterns for playing them.  If you don't find scales have worked for you in the past it may not be worth your while now.

 

 

This is something my past instructors have told me.

 

thankyou. THIS actually helps explain a lot

 

Edit: he explains a lot. that does not mean, I do not want more help, in understanding information.


Edited by Voomy, 17 December 2016 - 06:59 PM.


#4 David Barnert

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 10:00 PM

Many tunes have sections that are largely made of scales. If you want to learn 100 tunes, you can either learn each one individually from scratch, or you can learn your scales and then realize that now you can play the hardest parts of the 100 tunes, and the next 100 as well.



#5 rob carr

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 02:06 AM

If I want to have a go on any instrument that is new to me, my first task is to find and play the scale in the key that I would like to use. Then  I can usually play a tune, perhaps not as good as I would like it. But another half an hour running up and down the scales and the tune gets better. I do not read music. Scales are very important to me. If somebody asks me how to play the concertina/melodeon I set them off on scales, It works so why mend it.



#6 Ken_Coles

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 06:41 AM

My experience is like Rob's. I have never progressed on any instrument until I know without thinking where the scales lie. When I hear a tune I can place the intervals by ear into the scale(s) in use and this speeds up learning by ear (I was originally a paper-trained musician), since the genres of music I play stick close to the usual western scales. For others, another direction may be better, but it sure worked for me.

Ken

#7 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 06:59 AM

One thing I find with all this  is that  once I stopped thinking of  'finger paterns'  and  started  memorising ' button paterns / positions'  things started to  fall better into place.  With some instruments the fingers never have to shift about  much ( think woodwinds and Brass)  but with keyboards  it is all about  moving fingers  to  actuate keys...  therefore  it is a good idea  to practice scales , as many different ones  as your instrument type will allow, majors and minors.  The fact that  fingers will be called on to move  to different positions and  in differing sequences  all adds to the muscle memory and brain map  of your keyboard, improves  confidence  too.

 

Don't worry  about the learning phase, it takes time and  we all have  to do it  " the first five years are the worst!"  I began  learning my 5th keyboard type at 65 years old....  was  it easier  than  the piano at 7 ?......  err,  No.


Edited by Geoff Wooff, 18 December 2016 - 07:02 AM.


#8 David Barnert

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 08:29 AM

My experience is like Rob's. I have never progressed on any instrument until I know without thinking where the scales lie. When I hear a tune I can place the intervals by ear into the scale(s) in use and this speeds up learning by ear (I was originally a paper-trained musician), since the genres of music I play stick close to the usual western scales. For others, another direction may be better, but it sure worked for me.

Ken

 

This is an excellent point which I neglected to mention above, but will elaborate on:

 
By practicing scales one begins to appreciate the role that each note (degree of the scale) plays in the scale. How they relate to each other, what expectations they set up, how they like to resolve (or whether they need to resolve). The individual scale degrees, as distinct from each other, become your old friends. You know their habits and what you can ask them to do.
 
I believe this is at the basis of what Ken is saying when he writes "When I hear a tune I can place the intervals by ear into the scale(s) in use and this speeds up learning by ear..."


#9 conband

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 09:10 AM

Don't forget improving/creating manual dexterity/

 

Les Branchett



#10 rob carr

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 10:58 AM

Having just started to learn Cajun the first lesson was playing 2 octaves in scales at the same time. Yeh, no problem, skip that bit lets get some tunes going. Nothing happened, back to the first page and playing octaves in scales, over and over, until I could get them every time up and down ten times without a hitch, then the tunes started sounding right.



#11 MJGray

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 11:31 AM

Interesting insights, folks.

 

Perhaps an alternative perspective: I am like the original poster. I have never found scales all that helpful, and get much more value out of practicing tunes. I think this is mostly because scales bore the pants off of me, and I have very little patience for doing things that are boring in my "hobby" time. I'll happily sit and noodle around with tunes for an hour, but 5 minutes of scales makes me want to stab myself in the leg with a fork. And learning to play an instrument really is about putting in the hours, more than anything.

 

All of things everyone says above about the value of playing scales are no doubt true, but if they're not fun, what's the point? I, at least, have no intention of becoming a professional musician. I do this for my own amusement. :-)

 

Mike



#12 Ken_Coles

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 01:53 PM

Indeed. The original question (as I perceived it) was why some of us ever practice(d) scales. I'm sure others learn the same musical instincts from tune practice. Please try whatever works, I never insist someone follow my path (or eat what I eat, or drive what I drive, or worship what I worship, etc.).  But others reading this thread will know of the varied paths we take to similar goals and can try each path for themselves.

 

I guess I'm lucky (or weird) - I love methodical practice, no matter what it is. 

 

Ken



#13 MJGray

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 04:13 PM

And if that's what's fun to you, by all means! I do not mean to make any judgement either way, just to let the OP know he or she is not alone.

 

And now I'm going to go and play for a while. Perhaps I'll even run a few scales up and down, just to see how I feel about it. :-)

 

Mike



#14 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 04:31 PM


I learn songs that alan day has presented... and i am starting to automatically improvise with it, for my own enjoyment... not well at all, i admit.

 

Voomy,

There we may have the answer! If you'd practised your scales a bit more, you might be improvising quite well by now ... :P 

 

One point of learning scales is the following:

In the music that most of us play, there are 12 notes in an octave, but the vast majority of our tunes need only 7 of these notes. So there are 5 "wrong" notes lying around, and we have to avoid them. This is particularly important for those of us who play by ear or like to improvise. (The sight readers can read the "right" notes from the sheet music.) So we learn the scale of C major, G major, D major, A minor etc., etc. so that when we're in that key, our fingers will know what notes to use and which to avoid.

 

In the case of a 20-button Anglo, practising scales is not so important, because, if you play along the row, there are no "wrong" notes to play! But try playing a tune that's in your head on the fiddle or mandolin without having the scales in your fingers! Other concertina systems, like the Duets and the EC, also have their full complement of "wrong" notes, and practising scales gives you the knowledge of what notes are appropriate for the key you're playing in.

 

@MJGray: if scales "bore the pants off you", perhaps you're not playing them very well! B)  Plodding along "doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, doh" and back again is not "practising scales". If you do play one note after the other, at least phrase them, or introduce some rhythmic variety. But most scale exercises go "Doh, re, mi, re, mi, fa, mi, fa, so ..." or "Doh, re, mi, doh, re, mi, fa, re ..." etc. Play them in differnt dance rhythms, play them legato, play them fast and slow, phrase them nicely - in short, do with them what you would do with a tune that's in your head. 

 

Cheers,

John



#15 MJGray

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 04:42 PM

Or I could just play a tune instead. :-)

 

It may be that playing scales would get me "better" faster, but that's not why I play music. Getting good at the instrument is a side effect of playing it, not the goal. (For me, your mileage may vary, etc., etc.)

 

Mike



#16 Voomy

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 08:49 AM

huh, so this is the way to practice them?

 

Q anglo-irishman '

 

"Play them in differnt dance rhythms, play them legato, play them fast and slow, phrase them nicely - in short, do with them what you would do with a tune that's in your head. "

 

 

​So this is the proper way to learn and practice them? my guitar teacher never taught me how to learn scales except up and down and up and down. Is this essentially what guitar players call licks?



#17 adrian brown

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 02:47 PM

Interesting insights, folks.

 

Perhaps an alternative perspective: I am like the original poster. I have never found scales all that helpful, and get much more value out of practicing tunes. I think this is mostly because scales bore the pants off of me, and I have very little patience for doing things that are boring in my "hobby" time. I'll happily sit and noodle around with tunes for an hour, but 5 minutes of scales makes me want to stab myself in the leg with a fork. And learning to play an instrument really is about putting in the hours, more than anything.


Mike

I think if you can learn to practise only the things you can't do, rather than the things you can do, you can seriously reduce the hours you need to put in and make very rapid progress. If you don't find it fun to play exercises, maybe you need to make little games for yourself that you do enjoy. My life changed when I made friends with the metronome! I don't think there's much to be gained by playing the same 16 bars over and over, if you always make the same mistake in bar 4. A much better approach would be to concentrate on bar 4: play it slowly and get faster in increments; play it dotted, play it straight; play into it from bar 3 and out if it to bar 5. Finally when you have it up to speed you can incorporate it into the main tune and you'll have it nailed.

 

Adrian



#18 MJGray

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 08:17 PM

Adrian,

 

Again, if my goal was to become an expert in the shortest possible time, no doubt you are right. That is not my goal. My goal is to have fun playing music. I don't think scales and exercises are fun. Therefore, I don't do them, because they are diametrically opposite to what I'm trying to achieve. I'm not trying to "reduce the hours I put in." I like the hours I put in. That's the whole point.

 

On the other hand, the specifics of what you're proposing are somewhat different, and I certainly will play through unfamiliar passages or new tunes endlessly until I get them "right" (or as right as I feel up to in the moment). That seems to me to be a different thing. Shrug. Perhaps we're talking past each other. All I wanted to do was provide an alternative perspective, and let the OP know that there's no need to practice scales if you don't want to. You can just play music and have a good time, and that's enough for some of us.

 

If I wanted to take myself seriously all the time, I'd play the bassoon. ;-)





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