You can get ahead of the music practice game by taking your scales seriously and realizing that they are far from boring. In fact there is a huge range of possibilities when you begin to think about it. Those that think scales are boring are on the track to slow progression. Realize the potential scales have to improve your music practice and you will be in the fast lane.
Here 10 reasons why scales should be an integral part of your practice diet.
- Timing– to play together with other people you need to have good time, good internal time. One of the best ways to develop this is to practice scales. Slowly at first, with a metronome if needed until you are placing each and every note exactly where it needs to be, not too soon or too late – just right.
- Intonation– for most instruments (piano aside) there is a need to make sure we are playing in tune. This does not end when you have tuned a single note or string on your instrument – that only tells you that note is in tune. Scales are a great way to check the tuning of each and every note. The distance between each should be just right. Careful listening is very important here.
- Co-ordination– during music practice we have lots of things to remember and the really difficult thing is to remember to do them all at the same time (breathe, sit up straight, bend those fingers, 4th finger, etc, etc). Scales give you an opportunity to focus on bringing all of those elements together. Once you have learnt the notes of a scale you can make sure that everything else happens just at the right moment to make the scale sound perfect.
- Dexterity– one part of learning an instrument involves training parts of the body to do new things, to repeat them and then do them very quickly. Scales are a great training partner. They will help you refine and improve your speed. Slow careful practice of scales at the outset will have you whizzing up and down in no time.
- Muscle Memory– this is a really big benefit of practicing scales. When you have practiced a scale for a while you will begin to ‘just get it’ and the scale will flow naturally from your instrument. What you have done is to begin to develop muscular memory. This is a very useful thing to have. When you see this scale again or indeed a similar one you will be able to rely partially on this muscle memory to help you play the scale. This also applies to snippets of scales, of which there are a lot in music.
- Ears– if you can’t hear what is wrong you can’t correct it. This is true of all of your music practice. Learn to listen very, very carefully when you practice your scales and you will start to hear areas where you can improve your other playing. Pay attention to tuning, articulation, tone quality, consistency etc. Imagine what a perfect scale would sound like in every way and try to make each of your scales sound like that.