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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I have a question about how you practice scales to promote your understanding of relationships between each note you play and the scale, and which notes are #s and bs.

Recently I've been playing through major and dorian scales in all keys, in a simple quarter note root, eight notes up, quarter note octave, eight notes down pattern, going up in key by half step (e.g. C, C#, D etc.).

While I've played the scales enough times to get them right more often than not at a slower speed (~112) I have difficulty understanding what I'm playing as I'm playing it. For example, if I started to play E major and then suddenly wanted to play the 4th, 2nd, 6th and then 3rd note of the scale I would have to do that slowly, thinking about each note.

I suppose the best way to say it is that I feel like my practice is not helping me to feel fluent in the scales.

Recently as I was studying Spanish, I spent a lot of time visualising information I had just read over to help me memorise it. This seems to work well for me.

When it comes to visualising musical notes I'm not sure how to do it. There are too many lines and spaces in the staff for me to keep that image in mind as I play. If I play too quickly I feel like my understanding of the relationship of the notes melts away and I lose track of where I am in the scale and what note I'm playing -- of course this is worse in keys with lots of flats and sharps, especially in dorian modes where there are some double flats to work with.

With this said, I ask for any advice you have to give concerning a better practice regimen that includes the scales but promotes a more fluent understanding of each scale and the relation between the #s, bs, notes in the scale and the key/root note. Also any tricks for visualisation or other tricks you use to keep the key and where you are on it in mind.

I hope this is clear -- I'll try to think about it more and edit the post if I can come up with a better self-understanding of what's going on!
 

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Lutemann recently posted a link to YouTube videos he did regarding visualizing scales. It was in a thread about the Jazzdeck cards, I think. If you search lutemann on YouTube I think you'll find it. I have the same issues you do, that's why I (still) remember. I am a bit forgetful :)
 

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If you want to improve the connection between your ears and your fingers, play all kinds of melodies, in different keys. Simple melodies will do just fine, like songs for children. There are simply more musical elements in melodies, than there are in scales.
Scales are fine, but they don't really connect musical ideas to your fingers.
 

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If you want to improve the connection between your ears and your fingers, play all kinds of melodies, in different keys. Simple melodies will do just fine, like songs for children. There are simply more musical elements in melodies, than there are in scales.
Scales are fine, but they don't really connect musical ideas to your fingers.
Wow that's all there is to it? I'll definitely start working on that kind of exercise. Sounds fun too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes that could work.
Just a question: how long have you been playing music?
Let's see..
for about eight years in secondary school, stopped for five years,
for a year practicing on my own with disney tunes and a 'daily warmup' book that had scale and arpeggio exercises in every key,
and then for a year in an academy in Brussels while playing in a brass band on the side,
then stopped for the last two years as I was pursuing another project that took up almost every moment of my waking time :sleepy2:.

As for how long I've been seriously practicing, I would say the year on my own followed by the year at the academy. Back then I would play for one to three hours a day, five out of seven days, which was the most I could manage between work and family.

You'll be playing your scales fluently if you slow everything down to 60bpm. All slurred. 15-20 mins a day like that will have you improving greatly.
Hmm. I'll give this a try. And of course, it adds to longtone practice :)
 

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I agree with the point about children's/popular songs. Ultimately, any song you can sing should work. I would recommend working on Three Blind Mice, Here Comes the Bride, and Star-Spangled Banner (this anthem is a goldmine for interval study). And it's important to be aware of the type of interval that's sounding. For instance, remind yourself that the first two notes of Here Comes the Bride is a perfect fourth. Once you've acknowledged that, then play that song's opening 3 note phrase in all 12 keys, preferably using the cycle of 4ths to determine your starting note, or even randomly selecting your starting note (but perhaps avoid chromatic root movement - i.e., don't play the phrase starting on B, and then starting on C, etc).

You should also practice your scales in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc. Any good method book will provide some helpful sequences along those lines.
 

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One portion of the op kind of struck me, and that was the part where he was talking about playing various notes of the E maj scale (for example). I can read and I've got a pretty good ear. But if I wanted to play the 6th of any scale, I would have to really think about it. Also, I'm not sure WHY I would want to do that......nonetheless, it would take me a while.

Is this an important skill?

Edit: BTW.......totally self taught; been playing about 50 years.
 

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But if I wanted to play the 6th of any scale, I would have to really think about it. Also, I'm not sure WHY I would want to do that......nonetheless, it would take me a while.

Is this an important skill?
I think this ability is an important skill for both classical and jazz players for the simple reason that the player should be able to 'hear' the note before playing it, due to the nature of the saxophone embouchure, and how it needs a little tweaking for any given note. For example, if I'm reading a score and come to an interval of a 6th, I should have that sound in my head before playing it.

Playing scales in sequences (3rds, 4ths, etc) is a good way to instill those intervallic locations (fingerings) and sounds.
 

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Thanks, JP. I "hear" pretty well and can improvise in my head.........I just have a little trouble getting it out of my fingers!

Your suggestion on playing scales is something that I need to work on.

Thanks, again!
 
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