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Scales

Pooh. Scales. Pretty much everyone I’ve ever taught has a strong dislike of scales before they meet me. Do you?

I’m sorry to say, though, that the nerdy bit of me tends to come to the fore for myself. I honestly can’t see the problem. So a bit of history is probably in order.


I started to play at school ages about 5. My older sister Pam was already in the band so Mr Northwood, a very kind faced, Father Christmas looky likey, thrust a corner in my hand and told me to sit at the back and don’t make a nuisance of myself. I don’t ever remember having a lesson as such.


Fast forward to secondary school. By now I had graduated to Bass Trombone. I was having weekly lessons with Les Storey Which were mainly playing through study books or pieces. By the time I arrived at Chethams it seemed I had already cracked the scales without trying. So how did it happen? After a little think I reckon I may have it. Now this probably won’t work for everyone. And please remember my needy confession. Here’s how it went: in order to get a good sound (and mine was a bit like sawing wood) you have to do long notes. A lot. A huge amount. Hours and hours of very very long notes. Each loooooooooooooooong note is like a bit of polishing your sound. Did I mention that you have to do a lot of long notes? Bit of course it’s not just random notes. You can play one note and then (after you’ve played it for about ten minutes) you can play the one next to it. Then the next one. Can you see where I’m going with this? As you are playing the very looooooooong note (and of course having a good old listen to the saw mill hoping it might produce a bit of mahogany at some point!) you have plenty of time to think. Think about all the money you are going to earn as a professional (ha!), thinking about all the spots you have, all the fine clothes you don’t have, and of course thinking about the next note. And the one after that. And so on. In fact (as opposed to in fiction) you can do the scales in your head very slowly. And actually play them - very slowly. There’s only 12 majors. So after about 18 months or so I was nearly halfway through them!


Go for it. If you start now. By the time you’re onto diminished 7ths in 4ths we might be near the end of the Brexit tunnel.

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