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).