Open Scales

I have never enjoyed practising scales. I understand the purpose and their value (even tone, technical dexterity, rhythmic accuracy) but even with all of the positives, I still have a hard time enjoying eating my musical vegetables.

That is, until lately. This is definitely not a new discovery, but I have found a way to make the study of scales work for me. I’ve called it “Open Scales.”

I take a scale and play it out of time. My goal is to create an interesting melody for myself by varying the rhythmic aspect. Essentially, I play each scale freely. The beauty is that I don’t have to think about the notes (they are within the scale – moving step-wise). As I create different rhythms it feels like I’m playing a cadenza.

I have found that there have been many upsides to this kind of exercise. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I play scales for hours now. I’m simply finding scales more interesting. Since I am in total control of the exercises’ flow, I feel more connected to each idea. Instead of just a set of notes, I am creating phrases.

I am also spending more time with the metronome. When a new idea emerges, I can develop it over the horn, and I push my technique differently. I feel like it’s more practical. When I get an idea that doesn’t execute cleanly, I hit the metronome. Now, I have goals!

Tone develops from another perspective as well. In particular, I am focusing on how intervals relate within a scale. For example “F” is the sixth of “Ab” and it sounds and feels very different when traveling to the seventh as opposed to the fifth.

Also related to tone is colour. I feel as if my spectrum has become broader. It’s fulfilling to hear all of the different colours that are within a note and how they change from interval to interval. As I spend more time on this concept, I am gaining more control of the pallette, and realizing the potential of each phrase.

I have tried this with a few students as well. It’s great fun and extremely to see what they come up with. It’s a real study in perspective. I find myself grabbing a lot of ideas from my students – because it’s fresh. I’m also seeing how creative my students can be.

Prior to starting this method of practising scales, I practised scales daily, with a metronome, full range, at various volumes, and with many different articulations. With incorporating this into my practise routine, I was looking for a new perspective that might enhance my enjoyment of an integral part of learning the horn.


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