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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It must be an age thing but I cannot learn scales. My Teacher has told me to look at the blues G scale and play it as fast as I can - ready for my first lesson on improvisation - I am fine if reading the dam thing but as soon as I close my eyes and try to do it from memory I go to pot I have tried for a weeek now - I mean it is only 13ish notes for goodness sake (or should I say 14???)
any tips before I lose the plot!!!

thanks clare
 

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Clare, do you know any scale? The Major scale?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I know up to three sharpes and three flats - I can write them all down in correct order but cannot play them all fluently. They took forever to learn by the way, lol

all the major scales not minors
 

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I am a late bloomer myself (picking it up again after a 21 year break). I learned the 12 major scales in the usual manner. Now, when I am learning a new scale (I am working on the Lydian augmented and Harmonic minor). I practice them while I do my long tones (15 min or more daily). I try to practice at least 2-3 scales at a time. That way I work on 2 concepts at the same time (like doing "supersets" at the gym). The way it works for me is as follows; while I am blowing the long tone I not only concentrate on the tone but also on the intervals between each note, how it differs from the major scale, etc. I usually sustain each note for about eight seconds (2 whole notes with the metronome at 60 bpm, but at times slower depending on the scale) so I have plently of time to think and not miss the next note (altough of course I sometimes do). I usually go up and down the scale through the range of the sax. Another strategy is writing them down in whole notes, then half, then quarters etc. Until you have them under your fingers. I however prefer doing it during my long tones because that way I engarve them in my brain as opposed to reading them which as you become a better reader requires less concentration. As I get more fluent, I then keep on doing the harder scales at a slow pace while picking up the speed on the easier ones. Now please note that I am no teacher (as a matter of fact I do this as a hobby). But this is what is working for me at this time.
 

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Probably won't help too much, because really you need to just play the crap out of them until you memorize them, but sharps go up by 5 and flats by 4. So one sharp is G Major, 2 sharps is D Major, 3 sharps is A Major etc. And the sharp notes themselves go up by 5's so the first sharp is F, then C, then G etc.

Flats, same idea except it's 4's. So one flat is F Maj, then Bb Maj, then Eb Maj etc. First flat is Bb, 2nd is Eb, 3rd you'd add is Ab etc etc. Again, it makes sense in this way and it's just memorization and repetition to get them under your fingers...
 

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I mean it is only 13ish notes for goodness sake (or should I say 14???)
any tips before I lose the plot!!!
The first tip is not to think of this as 13ish notes, but 6 notes, which are then repeated in another octave.

Learn them in bite sized chunks, so get used to G Bb C Bb G for a start, get that sound really in your brain and be able to sing it it.

Then extend it G Bb C Db C Bb G. Again sing it as well. Then extend again.

Each time playing in both octaves.
 

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I learned my scales by playing them over and over. I used a metronome, quarter note=60, and just played them over and over up and down one octave until it was smooth and I wasn't having to think about the next note. Then two octaves, then the whole range of the sax. It takes a lot time but I don't know of any short cuts. I just had to memorize them and then my ear could take me where I wanted to go. I still have a long way to go but I have all my major scales and diatonic arpegios pretty good. Next for me is the blues scales and I'll most likely do it the same way.
 

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At first, it is tricky I agree. Unlike stringed instruments which is where I came from, where every scale is the same shape(with exceptions but let's not get too techy here), saxophone is different. But - your brain is well able to assimilate the new approach to saxomophone that it demands. I'm still getting used to it.

As has been mentioned, the best approach is to just keep at it, learning by rote, and then just keep at it some more. You will - trust me - overcome, and your motor skills will develop over time and application, until you can do it on auto-pilot.

My advice; start on major scales first. Once you've learnt these you can then reference all the other scales and modes from them. It's only hard at first because your brain is accessing new areas and is constructing neuron pathways. Keep at it and remember there's no rush.
 

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It must be an age thing but I cannot learn scales. My Teacher has told me to look at the blues G scale and play it as fast as I can - ready for my first lesson on improvisation - I am fine if reading the dam thing but as soon as I close my eyes and try to do it from memory I go to pot I have tried for a weeek now - I mean it is only 13ish notes for goodness sake (or should I say 14???)
any tips before I lose the plot!!!

thanks clare
why does your teacher!..want you to learn the blues scale as fast as you can,, dear dear!,by all means learn a scale like the blues scale!..but that to me does not make sense!..as for learning scales they sound the same!..ie major scales sound the same..what i am saying is if you play your Cmajor scale C,D,E,F,G,A,B, listen carefully to the sound, once you have played it enough then start on the D! and listen to the same sound !..of course the notes will be different, but the sound of major scale harmony will be there..try to use your ears!!..to play the other 10 majors will develope your inner ear and thats important!..good luck..
 

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Some scales seem to take forever to learn. when I learn a new scale I just play the first 3 notes over and over, then I add the next 3 notes etc. sooner or later muscle memory takes over.
 

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Okay, Clare. Learn all your Major scales cold.

Then learn to play them leaving out the 4th and 7th -- This is the pentatonic scale.
Then learn them by starting on 2d
Then the 3rd...4th , 5th, 6th , 7th

...this will be a good start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Reading between the lines here then - there is some surprise on the board that I am learning a blues scale when I dont know all of my major scales? I have no idea why my teacher wants speed I assumed if I can play the scale quickly then its because I know it well and that is what he is assuming as well. Not asked anyone the question yet but why do I need to know them in the first place? I thought I needed to know the G blues scale so that I could make up a tune to the backing track that I have been given and I guess that this is true of all of the scales - ? thanks for your help again clare
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
and while I am showing my complete ignorance in this area - I might as well ask - what on earth is the pentatonic scale??

you know sometimes I feel so bloody thick!! lol

Clare
 

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A little trick that works for some of my students having trouble memorizing or getting a good feel with the blues scales is to take the 1st three notes- since you're working on G blues scale, that would be G, Bb, and C. Play them over and over. Then, add C# to the equation. Repeat these notes over and over, mixing up the order and playing the notes in as many combinations as you can come up with. Next add the D and continue the same process. at this point, you have played and hopefully internalized the different notes in the scale. Continue by expanding the range to include notes from the same scale in the higher and lower ranges of your sax.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson: Shaping the Blues Scale
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Podcast Samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/saxtrax
Rhythm Changes Demo:
 

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why does your teacher!..want you to learn the blues scale as fast as you can,, dear dear!,by all means learn a scale like the blues scale!..but that to me does not make sense!..as for learning scales they sound the same!..ie major scales sound the same..what i am saying is if you play your Cmajor scale C,D,E,F,G,A,B, listen carefully to the sound, once you have played it enough then start on the D! and listen to the same sound !..of course the notes will be different, but the sound of major scale harmony will be there..try to use your ears!!..to play the other 10 majors will develope your inner ear and thats important!..good luck..
Well put Brian, drives me nuts when folks spend hard earned cash on scale books and try to read them --and still moan!
 

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I was also going to recommend the three note "lick" method. Playing the full scale up and back is the monotonous noise you hear from the window of the child who would rather be outside. Don't fixate on that. You already know what it's supposed to sound like. That's why you say "dang it" when you get it wrong. Do it in fast three or four note licks, up and down, and then connect them. This gives you a lot more variety and avoids the tedium generally associated with scales.

I'm approaching "learning scales" like learning to drive. The goal isn't to say to mself "now I need to depress the clutch and press on the accelerator." The goal is to do it without thinking. I can, of course, think if and when necessary, my model is my wife who can knit and watch TV at the same time. That's the kind of learning I'm after.

It's possible that your teacher has a good reason for you to learn this scale. I've noticed that sometimes some teacher's do have some good ideas. Maybe he has practice materials in that key that you will find very entertaining and have an epiphany regarding all scales, the playing of the sax, and life in general. Possible.

Mark
 

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Yes Clare, it is an age thing! First, forgive yourself and, second, make sure that your instructor gives you tasks that you enjoy working towards. :)
 

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My advice: Sing the scale. If you can't sing it, you probably can't play it well, and if you can sing it, playing will be a breeze.

1. Play the scale slowly, not too slow, in a steady tempo from G1 To G2 and back down. (Notes: G,Bb,C,C#,D,F,G)
2. Sing the same scale up and down
3. This is hard, but if you can do this, you will have internalized the scale and beginning to improvise with it will be easier:
Do the same as in "1.", but, this time, try to imagine the next note before playing it. The tempo doesn't have to be so steady this time, it is more important that you only play the next note when you already hear it in your head. (e.g.: You ascend the scale, the first note is G, you hold it until you have that Bb clearly sounding in your head, then you can release the G and switch to Bb) If this is easy to you, you are probably not really imagining the next note. It's supposed to be hard, so don't despair.

You can do all these with sheet music in front of you, but I hope that being able to sing the scale and, also, to hear it in your mind while playing will make the sheets unnecessary. You said that your mind goes blank without sheet music, and this means that there is a connection between the sheet and your hands, but what you need is a connection between your inner ear (mind) and your hands. Even your playing from sheet music will sound better when you have a solid inner ear.
 

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and while I am showing my complete ignorance in this area - I might as well ask - what on earth is the pentatonic scale??

you know sometimes I feel so bloody thick!! lol

Clare
A (not "the") pentatonic scale is any scale with 5 different notes. You could write a book about pentatonic scales, for they have been around for a very long time in very different cultures - and in very different variations. I don't know enough to write a whole book, and I think, at this point, you don't need so much information. Thus, I'm gonna keep it short: Any scale with 5 different notes is called pentatonic. The blues scale has 6 different notes, but since the diminished 5th (in the case of the G blues scale: C#) is just an "added" tension note, the scale is also sometimes called blues pentatonic. So, don't get confused.

Pentatonic scales are usually like stripped down versions of other scales. Some notes that may create tension are omitted, thus making pentatonic scales very stable and suited for improvisation.
E.g.:
G Minor scale: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
G Minor pentatonic scale: G, Bb, C, D, F

Here is more about the theory, but after all, it's just a name. What you are after is sound, so don't get too hung up on terminology.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentatonic_scale
 
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