Sometimes I am asked by students why they have to learn music scales. They are so repetitious!
Well just playing scales up and down can be tedious, however they are essential to learn.
I try to ensure that the practising of scales is as interesting as possible. I have to admit that at some stage scale learning will not be as interesting as playing music is.
When following music, some notes are not played as the line is named such as the line of D. In some scales a note on the line of D is played as D# and this is determined by the scale that the music is set in.
In the example shown are two small pieces of music.
The top section is a first draft of a piece of music I composed. It has no time signature and no key signature. The second piece of music has both a time and a key signature.
The first one is my rough first draft, I knew the speed and the scale as I was working on it so I didn’t bother to put them in. If I gave the music to someone else to play they would not know how fast or slow to play, or what key the music was set in.
The second section shows the time signature, so now, the speed of the music is known. The sharps on the first section, signify the scale of the music. (D Major)
Now if you look at the sharps on the lines, you will know which notes must be played sharp. Now, if I don’t know my scales I will constantly have to keep looking at the key signature, to see if the next note is as written or to be played sharp (#) My playing will be stunted and certainly at the very least not smooth.
Assuming I know the scale I never need to look at the key signature again. I know which scale I am playing in. I automatically know which notes should be played half a semitone higher or sharp(#)
Many people play a variety of instruments be ear, especially the guitar and harmonica.
Many of them say they don’t know or need scales. Every time they play a tune they are playing in a scale. They may not recognise that they are playing in a scale but they are.
I suppose it could be argued that if they only play a few songs or always play in one key. Then they probably don’t need to learn any scales at all.
You could ask if I can play without knowing them why bother to learn them? You could, but its a lot of remembering you have to do. You will first need to work out the notes including which ones are sharp or flat notes. Then remember the whole piece of music including the sharps and flats.
With playing by ear a lot of this has to be done anyway. If you know your scales the working out of the notes is so much easier and very much quicker to learn. When playing, the remembering is so much easier, as the range of notes that can possibly be played are instantly recalled. They were learned a long time ago.
The short answer to this is all of them. Lets be serious you will probably never use most of the scales that there are. You will find a number of scales that you use regularly so obviously those will need to be learned and practised.
At least you will need to know the scales of A.B.C.D.E.F.G and their sharp and flat counterparts. A# Bb etc. Then there are minor scales such as A minor B minor C minor etc. Even this may seem a lot, with only eight notes in a scale it is not that many.
I have a scales book that is usually provided as part of my scales course, included in site membership.
pop your name and email address in the form below and I will send you a copy of the book Free Of Charge.
Use your book to learn the scales. Practise your scales regularly but don’t spend hours with them. That really would be boring.
I wish you good luck with your musical future. If there is anything you would like me to explain about music you don’t understand. Put a comment below and I will see whatI can do to help.