Ways to Scale

Last week I had an amazing time as harp tutor for the Australian Youth Orchestra's 'Young Symphonists' programme in Toowoomba. Those kids are seriously good. It was a week filled with hard work, great music and, well, just plain old fashioned fun.

On one of the mornings it was my turn to take the ‘warm up’ for the woodwind, brass, percussion and harp. Yep- a great combination if ever there was one.

By this stage of the week everyone was running the risk of injury from so much music making so the brief was to try to find something non-playing related to get everyone going for the day.

So to begin with I put on Yakety Saks (a.k.a the Benny Hill music) and got the kids to throw cotton wool balls at each other for 2 minutes.

They loved it.

Then my erstwhile colleague, the percussion tutor, had everyone clapping and stamping in ever increasing complexities of rhythm.

And finally we all got together and came up with a list of ways to play a scale. Some of those ways were instrument specific, others were more general. By the end of the session we had nearly 30 ways to play a scale.

Scales boring? Only if you let them be.

So here is just some of the ways you can play a scale. Feel free to add your own!

·         Major

·         Harmonic minor

·         Melodic minor

·         Modal

·         Pentatonic

·         Blues

·         Dotted rhythm eg Long Short Long Short (dotted quaver/semiquaver)

·         Dotted rhythm S L S L

·         Triplets

·         Contrary motion

·         Similar motion

·         Different fingerings

·         Different accents on different fingers

·         Offset rhythm in 3rds, 6ths, octaves

·         Ascending

·         Descending

·         Forte

·         Piano

·         Crescendo then decrescendo

·         Decrescendo the crescendo

·         Parallel 3rds, 6ths, octaves

·         Different keys

·         Modulating

·         Dividing between the hands

·         Hands separate

·         Hands together

·         Scale snippets

·         Scale snippets adding on one note at a time

·         Multiple octaves

·         Individual octaves throughout the range of the instrument

·         With your eyes shut!