The dreaded S word..... Scales!

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Oboe By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Oboe
Last updated: 21/10/2015
Tags: book, improvisation, practice, scales, where to start

“So your pieces are coming on really well.... how are your scales?”

This fear inducing question, has come up too many times in my life, and I am so thankful to say that now I can firmly acquit it of its fear.

Scales have always been a tricky one for me, purely for the boredom associated with it. For me getting into pieces was easy, one melody after the other, tricky bits to work on, but lots of characters and images to play with. Scales on the other hand, were either right or most of the time wrong. Accompanied by a metronome who always was so unforgiving when your fingers were being that bit too slow at the top and fumbling over the tricky fingerings. Frankly it was so depressing, it was much easier to skip the last line in the notebook which stated “For next week E major, E minor harmonic and melodic”.

Time went on, the number of scales seemed to multiply dramatically. Tactics were brought into play such as the scale chart (that fabulous moment where you reach for a sticker as you’ve finally played it right twice in a row) or the scale generator- this took the form of a Simon Cowell type parent, sitting there randomly selecting a scale... and then another ... and then another... “no try again”... “nearly but not quite”....”no you still aren’t playing it right.”  So yes I managed to get them learnt, but really there was no joy, pleasure or meaning behind me playing them.

I wish I ‘d had a book which has recently been released by Jeffery Wilson and Malcom Miles titled ‘The Scales Wizard’. I hate to admit that it took me up until my final year in music college to finally get the point of scales. It has been a complete game changer.  It became my new scale bible... I could at a push previously tell you if a scale was a mode- but that was if it was written on paper. I can now finally hear what an Ionian, Doric, Aeolian, Phrygian sounds like, and play them. The book offers a new and practical approach.- One where you are learning a scale to be able to use it, recognise, play it in many ways and to make it part of your own musical vocabulary.  For someone who grew up reliant on printed music, it’s come as such a relief and liberation to discovering my own musical voice on an instrument that I’ve played for nearly 15 years.  If you invest in a scale book, I would recommend this one to everyone, it a treasure.

 The Scales Wizard Conjuring Music with Scales by Jeffery Wilson and Malcolm Miles. Camden Music London. 

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