Why are scales so important?

You show up to your first lesson, wanting to be a Rock Star and play awesome swift Metallica Leads, but the first thing your teacher shows you is a Major Scale? What? Is this teacher crazy? Maybe too many years of listening to LOUD music has made him hard of hearing. I said I wanted to play Metallica.

So IS the teacher crazy?

No. Scales are very important to your technical ability to play an instrument. Scales help you to become familiar with your hand position. Memorizing a scale can help to play faster and recognize patterns that are found in musical melodies. And most importantly scales are the basis of all the notes in a song.

If scales are just a pattern of notes, why are they important to me?

No matter what Major scale you are playing, the pattern is the same even if you are in a different key. For example, the major scale consists of the pattern

Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step – Whole – Whole – Whole – Half.

No matter what key I play in, if I am playing a Major Scale, I will use the pattern above. Many major scales have the same finger pattern to play them. Once you learn that pattern, you can play the same pattern in other keys. So this helps you to play a pattern in position or teaches you how to shift within the scale and do that among many scales. There are many different scales with varying patterns of notes that can be played in each key.

Some examples of different types of scales that your teacher may show you are: Major, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, Pentatonic, and Chromatic.

Your instructor will the ask you to practice these scales and memorize them just to torture you, right?

No! There is actually a really good reason to practice and memorize scales.
You see, much of what you play has to be learned by the muscles in your hand. We call this “muscle memory.” When your muscles memorize a particular movement, it frees up your brain to focus on something else (getting up on the fingertips so you can play faster for one example). Your brain no longer has to tell each finger to move, they've memorized when it is their turn. So your mind can focus on getting new scales that encourage your fingers to move and stretch in a way that helps you to play in patterns and to play faster and faster. What's the quickest way to being able to “shred (that's to play really fast)? Practice playing scales, arpeggios and solo patterns and playing them faster and faster each time.

Did you know that the scales are the alphabet of a melody?

Lets say your melody (Metallica Lead Guitar Solo) is a language. What does our english language consist of? Words. What are words made of? Letters.
So heres how it works with music.
Your scales are the notes within the key that are put into patterns of pitch (melody) or chords. Those are your words essentially. When the melody and chords are played together and varied, they create a song. The song is equivalent to speaking a paragraph or reading a book. The 7 notes of the scale are the pitches that are used to make the melody, harmony and song. So they are like the letters used to make words which become setences, paragraphs and books.

In addition to the above, scales are a perfect way to begin each practice time.

Practicing scales gets your fingers warmed up so they will work better and respond quicker to the directions your brain is giving them. You'll find that if you begin each practice with a few scales, that all the songs you play after will be executed better than if you just sat down to play them.

See how important scales are? So your teacher really isn't crazy! And now you know why it is the scales that ROCK!

Article written by Shawna Morby Shawna is a part owner of Morbyus Music. She has been teaching students of all ages and abilities since 2007 when the company began. She has a Bachelor's Degree is in Vocal Music but she has been playing a string instrument since 3rd grade. Shawna specializes in students under the age of 7 and students with special needs. She currently teaches General Music, Band/Strings and Guitar at a local charter school in Peoria, AZ. In addition to spending time teaching, Shawna enjoys being with her family, attending church and practicing Yoga, Martial arts or exercising. She has her Master's Degree in Elementary Education, is a certified Yoga Instructor and has a Black Belt in Kung Fu.