What Are Scales

A scale is a series of notes within a single octave that adhere to a set pattern. The pattern can consist of whole, half, and even third steps

A scale is not to be confused with an arpeggio. An arpeggio is the notes of a chord played in a sequence, instead of all together. I’ll cover arpeggios in a separate post

Why Are Scales Important

Although scales aren’t a favorite musical activity to do here is a list of reasons why you should do them

  • They develop your awareness of tonality and knowledge of all the notes
  • They help you develop fast agile fingers
  • Scale and arpeggio runs make up the bulk of what people perceive as difficult music therefore having an intimate knowledge of them is essential
  • If you improvise they help you immensely
  • They teach you how to effectively move your fingers which is the foundation of music playing
  • Scales develop co-ordination of your hands
  • Improve your sight reading
  • Scales help develop finger strength
  • Improves your coordination and dexterity
  • Helps with Intonation: knowing where to place your fingers to produce the best sound possible
  • Scales help to improve your instrument geography
  • Practising your scales will develop your musical ear
  • Help with your timing when played with a metronome
  • Scales help students develop a strong sense of rhythm, articulation and speed, which are all important for playing music
  • Knowing scales will boost your confidence
  • Music is composed “within a specific key or tone center”. If you play a something in A Major, the music will largely consist of notes from the A Major scale. This will help you play the piece and with rearrangements as you’ll have a selection of notes to choose from
  • Practising scales will help you reach music mastery and help develop muscle memory

The good news is that you can still achieve all these great points by playing your favorite pieces and going through your method book exercises, however practising scales does gives you a more targeted approach therefore you should incorporate scales as part of your daily practice

Are Scales Really That Important

There is no doubt scales are good for assisting with learning music theory and practicing technical exercises on your chosen instrument

However if you’re like me, you’d probably much rather take a piece of music with a specific technical difficulty and strengthen your technique that way

Interestingly, some famous musicians claim they’ve never performed a scale exercise as part of their routine

Now I’m not suggesting that you ignore scales altogether as I practice them myself. My recommendation is to incorporate it as part of your daily practice (perhaps %10 of practice time) and to ensure you know why you’re doing them

Some music teachers and many exam syllabi place a heavy emphasis on scales more than I believe is really necessary. You should definitely learn scales and arpeggios but you don’t need to practice them for hours every day to become a good musician