Best Way to learn scales

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by anthony, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. anthony

    anthony Mezzo Piano User

    Mar 3, 2009
    Hi MY trumpet teacher tells me the best way to learn all your scales is to use the whole ,whole ,half ,whole .....etc.etc .formula and I am not sure that is a good way to learn them ,I told him why not memorise from the Arbans book he says this is easier ... I dont see how ,anyone ???:-? Anthony
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010
  2. CHAMP

    CHAMP Piano User

    Nov 16, 2005
    don't second guess your teacher on a public forum...for all you know he's reading this
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    In my experience, the best way to learn scales was to play them, over and over and over and over and over and over and over get the idea.

    There is always going to be the theory behind the scale, and you do need to know that, but I don't know them so much by steps anymore (I used to when I was actually studying it a long time ago) but by the notes they contain. For instance, I know that an Eb scale has 3 flats - Eb, Ab and Bb - all the rest are naturals. I know that an E scale has 4 sharps - F#, G#, C# and D#. Past that I don't really think about it too much.

    For me and how I approach it, scales are more of a fingering pattern kind of thing - if a song is in a specific key, the fingers will natural fall in the correct scale pattern. Isn't that the point?

    I learned my scales by working them over and over, moving through them in the circle of 5ths.
  4. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    What your teacher has given you is the fundamental progression of the major scale, knowing this you only need the starting note to play the scale.

    Raphael Mendez said " Practice scales, scales and more scales until you become as one with the trumpet".

    When I can play all 96 or thereabout scales without thinking about them, I feel I can concentrate solely on making music, I am not there yet.

    Regards, Stuart.
  5. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

    Mar 25, 2005
    Indianapolis, In
    I agree with Patrick, however, I have always used key signatures. If you know your key signatures and relative major to minor then you can be in business.
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Yep - the key signature gives you the scale - it's just another way to read it.

    I agree with your teacher in that it's important that you know the proper structure of your scales from a theory point of view, but ultimately that's probably not what's going to be going through your mind as you play through a piece of music.

    Scales and scale type exercises (Clarke Technical studies and pages from the Arban's comes to mind) are, to me anyway, a means to an end. Knowing those scales and hammering through those exercises over and over again are what help to build your finger technique up so that once you see a key signature, your fingers automatically fall into the correct pattern for the key the music is in.
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    It doesn't matter how, it matters THAT you do it. Our brains work by remembering patterns. Patterns are ingrained by repetition. Patterns that are repeated without mistakes are preserved that way.

    That means playing the scales slowly at first helps us avoid mistakes that would cause the pattern to be faulty.

    Of course understanding the system of half and whole steps works too, but for some, they can only start today if it is notated on a piece of paper.

    I have my students write (yes, with a pencil or pen - on music paper) all of the scales out BEFORE they play them. Once the basic formulas are understood, there is no problem repeating it. Being able to write them goes a long way in being able to play them. A scale memorized per week is a good formula.
  8. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I think you are talking about two different, though related, concepts. Yes, specific scale types - such as Major - can be learned from Arbans or any other technique book and memorized. But, the "W W H..." method is a good way to learn many other scale types that are not found in Arbans or other standard technique books. Some may be found in Jazz or Blues or Bebop music but are not commonly documents.

    For example, if we take only the scales that consist of 8 notes - and 7 whole or half-step intervals - to complete an octave, every one of these will have exactly 5 whole-step intervals and 2 half-step intervals. With just this one structure, there are 42 possible scale types.

    Here are 7 of the 42 possibilities:
    Major.............................. W, W, H, W, W, W, H
    Minor (Dorian).................. W, H, W, W, W, H, W
    Dominant 7th(Mixolydian)... W, W, H, W, W, H, W
    Half-Diminished(Locrian)..... H, W, W, H, W, W, W
    Major,4th step up(Lydian)... W, W, W, H, W, W, H
    Lydian, Augmented............ W, W, W, W, H, W, H
    Lydian, Dominant............... W, W, W, H, W, H, W

    As you can see, the 'W W H..." method is probably the easiest way to learn these scales and remember that the pattern is the same regardless of the key signature. The first note of the scale corresponds to the key and the rest simply fall into place with this method.

    If we introduce additional intervals, such as a minor third ("-3rd") or 3 semitones, then there are many more possible patterns. Here are two of them (note that each has an additional half-step interval to make up for the larger -3rd interval). Here are two of this type.
    Harmonic Major................ W, W, H, W, H, -3rd, H
    Harmonic minor.............. -3rd, H, W, H, W, W, H

    Then, there are scales with 5, 6, 8 or more intervals (when we reach 12, then all are the same as this is a chromatic scale). So, this is a handy notation system for expanding the repertoire of scales that are available for you to play.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  9. anthony

    anthony Mezzo Piano User

    Mar 3, 2009
  10. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    play them over and over and over.

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