Scale Evenness

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Practise scales the right way

Over the years I’ve found the students expect to start each lesson with a series of exercises – more often than not, scales. This is especially true of people who have previously been taught by someone else. My view is this: that not every lesson / practise has to start in the same way, and if you do use scales and arpeggios as a means of warming up then it’s important to play them in a meaningful way – they need to have purpose.

For me there are a number of good reasons to learn scales:

  1. To develop even playing.
  2. To become more aware of (and ultimately improve) tone.
  3. To limber up the physical mechanisms required for performing on your instrument.
  4. To develop a greater understanding of tonality, i.e. how the notes of scales relate to the pieces that you perform.
  5. As a direct means of developing techniques for a particular piece / extract / phrase you’re working on.
  6. To ‘tune in’ to the flow of music, relaxing and finding the calm space that’s free of other distractions.

This last item on the list can’t be underestimated because it underpins the reason why most people come to music in the first place: as a leisure pursuit that frees them from all the other preoccupations in their lives. Fully focusing on your scales, relaxed but with a heightened sense of awareness, helps to let every other thought and worry disappear for that moment, and the concentration you give the exercises then allows you to use them for the other 5 purposes cited above.

The takeaway from this is that scales (and other exercises) are only useful if you approach them in the right way, giving them your full attention.

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