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Three ways to practice scales

There are a lot of scales, not to mention arpeggios, broken chord patterns to practice, especially as you progress in your musical journey. How do you go about making sure that you practice them all regularly, while also paying extra attention to the scales that you are weaker in? In my posts about practising scales on the flute and piano, there are more specific ways you can practice on these particular instruments. This post contains different ideas to practice scales regardless of the instrument.

Jam Jars

For this idea, you will need two empty jam jars (or another small container), small pieces of paper and a pen.

Write down all the scales that you need to practice on each slip of paper, then put them all in one jar, label the jar “to practice”, mark the empty jar “can play.” Pull out a scale for the “to practice” jar and play it. If you can play it with all the right notes and without hesitating, then put that scale in the other, “can play” jar. If you found it a little bit hard, made a wrong note, or hesitated then play the scale again a little bit slower trying to correct whatever mistake you made. If you made a mistake that time, then play through the scale again slowly and then put it back in the “to practice” jar. If you played it without a mistake, repeated the scale again at the original speed. If you play the scale with all the right notes and without hesitating then put it in the “can play” jar. If you made a mistake, then add it to the “to practice” jar.

Do a couple of scales each practice session. Once you have filled the “can play” jar, swap the jars around, so it then becomes the “to practice” jar.

By practising the scales this way, it makes sure that you concentrate more on the scales that you find difficult while still practising the scales that you find easier regularly.

Variations of Jam Jars

An example of rhythm to use

Add a third jar, and this time, write down different ways to play that scale. For example, using different dynamics, articulations, rhythmic patterns or speed. So when you pick a scale, you also choose a way to play it. For example, it may ask you to do a D major arpeggio at forte, or an F minor scale using the above rhythm.

Write the scale out

Before playing the scale, write out the scale. This helps you to think through what notes are needed. You can write out the scale using letter names, notation or finger numbers,

Using a drum loop

It is good to practice your scales to a particular tempo. But the click of the metronome, while being useful, isn’t very exciting or musical. If you have apps like Garageband, they have drum loops, or you can create them. Find some drum loops that are at the beats per minute that you want and use them instead.

These are a few suggestions on how to practice scales and make them a little more fun. If you have any more let me know.

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