As we have discussed many times on the blog and as we constantly teach and reiterate in the classroom, scales are far more than just a series of notes. Scales are the foundation of music. Practicing them then is something that is not just important, but necessary.
But practicing does not have to be boring or constantly repetitive. Practice can and should be something we come to enjoy. As I have said to my students many times, we don’t believe in perfection at TIA because we believe humans to be flawed and imperfect. So rather than practice makes perfect, I like to suggest we consider this truism: practice makes precious. If we practice in such a way that is designed to become more intimate, aware of, and to become freer with the music, then practice can and should make music more precious (more meaningful) to us.
Here is one suggestion for shaking up your scale routine. This is best if you first know your scales fully in the circle of fifths, and could be done with majors only, but I am going to make a suggestion here that uses multiple scales as an example for those who already have their foundational 48 scales down (all 12 Major, minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales).
Step 1: Begin on any scale of your choice and ascend from the root note going up, the first time you hit the octave, move to a completely different scale and continue going up. You could do this from the half step above the octave or a whole:
- C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C (Major)
- Db Eb Fb (E) Gb Ab Bbb (A) C Db Db Eb Fb (E) Gb Ab Bbb (A) C Db (Harmonic minor)
- D E F G A Bb C D E F G A Bb C D (Natural minor)
- Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb F G Ab Bb C D
- E F# G A B C# D# E F# G A B C# D# E (Melodic ascending)
I might do something like this, alternating scales until I get back to C. If I keep going in half steps of course I will hit all 12. But you certainly don’t need to follow the above pattern of major, harmonic, natural, major, and melodic. You could go in any pattern or none at all, just keep changing it up. Or go descending instead, or even both.
Step 2: This is trickier but a lot of fun. Start on the scale of your choice and descend. This time you will change scales in the midst of your scale, on any note.
- G F# E D C B (G Major descending)
- Bb A G F E D (D minor starting on b6)
- C# B A G F# E D C# B A (D major starting on DC#)
- Ab Gb Fb Eb Db Cb Bb (Ab minor)
- A Bb C D Eb F G A (A Phrygian)
You will note that I intentionally shot for a different starting pitch each time, from the root, from the b6, from the major 7, from the root, from the third. That is part of the challenge and the fun. When you get comfortable with this, go for two octaves, alternate ascending and descending for even more fun.
It is all about challenging yourself to get freer with the scales, make music, and have fun!