Major Scales and Their Kin

A series of lessons in which I explain the major scale, all its modes, relative minor, Major and minor pentatonics, and the related blues scale. I posted it to help trumpet players learn the fingering of their scales, but the concepts can help anyone and getting the sound of each scale into your memory is essential.

Scale It Up (part Deux)

More in the practical realm this week, continuing the scale-related theme started last week. Here are some patterns to consider for your scale practice. Because it’s so pervasive and is used to explain many aspects of music theory, I’m going to use the Major scale as a reference, and particularly, its numbers, like so:

Major Scale = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Scale it Up

If Music is genetic material, scales are its DNA. This is true for most music, anyway. Scales won’t help you much if you’re going to perform John Cage’s 4′ 33,” or if you’re interested in Inupiat shamanistic drumming, but scales will get you through just about any other music, from any culture (as long as you choose the right scale to practice) and they’re invaluable material for use in improvising.

As I started putting my thoughts together on this topic, I realized that a complex set of information is bewildering without tools to make sense of it all. There are so many scales, and so many ways to practice them that it can be difficult to keep them all straight. So I’ve created some tools to help you keep track: checklists, scales, and a few other things. Checklists are making headlines lately (New Yorker article here) because they’ve been shown to improve performance significantly (it’s why pilots use them).

Why you SHOULD demonstrate inability

Attempting the impossible in order to improve is very different than attempting the impossible because you don’t know any better. A few posts ago when I wrote of the useful technique of chaining and backchaining, as an example I told the story of my disastrous high school attempt to play the Hummel Concerto in Eb 25 years ago. This was an example of not knowing any better, and the experience did a fair amount of damage to my teenage psyche and had a temporarily adverse affect on my pursuit of music.

Many years later, as I entered Northwestern University for a graduate degree in music education, I attempted another seemingly impossible music endeavor, but this time I was doing it consciously in order to improve, and was scared spitless.

Grow an Inner Carrot, Forget the Stick

One thing the research record tells us is that incentives and other forms of extrinsic motivation don’t work very well to motivate us, nor do punishments. Carrots and sticks only work if you’re an ass. Much better is motivation that comes from within, or intrinsic motivation. And sometimes training can be a hindrance, too, as you’ll see in the vid below. Because I’m buried in research, I don’t have much time this week to post a lengthy article, but this thought-provoking TED talk is a great way to see the real-world example of how incentives often mean horrible performance, and training isn’t always a good thing. Learn the simple reason why kindergarten kids beat out MBAs in a design challenge…

Jamming with Butterflies (in a pool of water)

just heard about Hermeto Pascoal, a guy Miles Davis said was “the most impressive musician in the world”. I’m amazed by how many flavors of musician are in the world and am equally stunned when I find yet another important one I’ve never heard of and wish I’d discovered much earlier. Hermeto Pascoal is from Brasil, and this is how he does it (PS: the riot of yellow butterflies that come to dance around their heads are worth waiting for @ 2:30…. (big thanks to Meara O’Reilly on BoingBoing for this one):