11. June 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Teaching

I have my students learn scales, or at least I try. (I have one adult who refuses … if you read this you know who you are! One of these days I’m going to be stubborn and insist you learn them. Really.) I have them play major, minor, whole tone, and chromatic. All but the chromatic are played slurred only. The chromatic is done four ways: slurred duplets and triplets and tongued duplets and triplets. (I have reasons for this which I may write about later.)

I learned something interesting a while back.

There are little chromatic exercises in some of the lesson books, and many students who were quite adept at playing their chromatics from low C up to their highest note and back down couldn’t read the printed scale exercises!

I learned two things actually.

First, students are not always able to easily track the notes but try very hard to and manage to make more mistakes because of that attempt. When I say, “Look at the starting and ending notes and don’t worry about the rest and see what you can do,” most can play the scales. But not always. The “not always” is due to the second thing: many students can only play their chromatic starting from low C because that’s how I have them play the scales each week!

Well who knew? Certainly not I.

So now I have them play them from any random note I choose. For many, this is at first a challenge. As I explain to them, it’s like asking a child who has just learned the alphabet to recite it beginning with the letter K (or any other random letter that isn’t A). They have to first either out loud or silently say the start of the alphabet. Our brains are interesting beasts!

I continue to learn as I teach my students. I love that about my job!


  1. I’m an adult and my instructor is making me learn scales too. Slurred. Seems no one made me learn in high school, so now I have to learn now.

  2. Scales are so very important! I’m glad to hear your teacher is having you learn them. I’m even more glad to hear that you are agreeing to work on them!

  3. Since I am paying for lessons it seems prudent to actually follow her advice. 🙂

  4. Indeed! Not all students agree with that, though! 🙂