"My one regret is that I took much too long to get my scales under my belt."
These "ARE" the wisest words in the whole thread!! I promise that if you learn your scales really well, you can never go wrong! I was lucky. I had instructors that required me to know all twelve major scales (many a couple of octaves) by the time I was thirteen. Later I discovered minor scales, dominant scales, modes (modes are really cool! Get a couple of scales under your belt and I'll show you some neat stuff!) I can not imagine me without scales. I would not be musically where I am if it were not for scales, scales and more scales. Heck I was working scales about two hours ago.