10 ways to keep your scales practice fun!

By Jade Bultitude
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Music Blog, Jade Bultitude, 10 ways to practice your scales
10 ways to keep scale practice interesting

Following on from last week’s post about why we should practise our scales, I thought it might be nice to look at how we can keep this fun! If you haven’t had a chance to read last week’s, take a look now. Playing your instrument should always be enjoyable even if we are practising something that is often deemed as boring! 

Play a short piece based on your scales

There are some great books you can buy that include a selection of pieces based on a scale of your choosing, or you can even rummage through your music library and find a piece you know and love! Doing something like this can instantly create a positive introduction to your scale practice. Not only can this provide you with something new to play each day, thereby benefitting your sight reading as well, but it will also improve your understanding of the scales! This will get your fingers prepared for the patterns required in your pieces… amazing huh?!

Improvise a short piece based on your scales

Using the notes of your chosen scale, play in different patterns, different shapes, different ways! Look out the window and see if you can play some music to match the weather, or play some music to match your mood. The possibilities are endless so let your imagination run wild! 

Compose a short piece based on your scales

Expanding on this, you could write down your improvisations. This will deepen your understanding of the scale as you are linking it to the theoretical knowledge behind them. This understanding will not only help you with your memorisation but give you something to use just in case your memory fails you in a stressful situation, such as an exam! Download some manuscript paper here.

Vary your articulation 

Play your scales tongued, slurred, two slurred two tongued, staccato etc. If you can practise your scales whilst varying them in this way, you will distract yourself so much you end up memorising the scale easily! Here is an example of different articulations you could try!

Play your scales with different rhythms and tempos

After experimenting with using the notes of the scale to play pieces and improvise, it is important to find ways to make playing the usual ascending and descending versions of our scales fun and engaging. It can be beneficial to play these with varying tempos (i.e. fast and slow) but it is also important to use different rhythms. Download the example sheet to see what you could try!

Why not use trills?

You could trill your way up the scale, alternating between the main note and the note above. Trills are an excellent way of improving your finger technique and can aid in developing fast fingers. They are also fun to play! Download this sheet to show how you could begin speeding up your trills. 

Play your scales in Patterns

Using different patterns for your scales can make your fingers even more competent. This is an interesting way to practise, as it not only challenges your theory knowledge of scales, but links to much of the flute music that I am sure you would love to play! These could be five note patterns, thirds, fourths…there are lots to choose from! There are many excellent methods which I mentioned in the last blog post that can help you if you are not sure where to start!

Mix them up!

If you are set with the task of memorising your scales and are struggling with this, why not write them down on cards and pick them out of a box at random? Mixed practice of your scales helps you to memorise and retain the scales more effectively than focusing on one scale for a long period of time. Download my sheets here… I’ve written them all out for you already!

Record yourself

Recording yourself is always a good idea. This can be done simply on your phone or any device. Watch it back to see where you sounded great and where you made mistakes. This will help you to evaluate your playing and spot areas for development more quickly. 

Remember to give yourself a break!

Remember to always give yourself some time to relax between practice sessions. Your brain needs time to process what you have just learnt so the breaks are just as important as the practice sessions. During these breaks listening to great musicians will not only inspire you, but will also keep you motivated towards your goal! 

As you can see, if you are finding your scale practice boring you’re probably approaching it in the wrong way! Try out some of these tips and let me know how you get on!

Read here to find out why practicing your scales is important!

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Jade is a flute player and music educator with a passion for educating the next generation of musicians. She is a Masters Graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Jade has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.