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Author Topic:  Practicing Scales or Licks
Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2019 8:01 am    
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I am wondering how many of you practice scales?
After a few minutes I get really bored with scales.
I am a little more interested in harmonized scales (two notes up and down etc.) But very quickly I switch to licks and practicing melodies for specific songs.

Your ideas wanted...
Dom



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Last edited by Dom Franco on 18 Feb 2019 7:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2019 9:10 am    
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Well, I definitely practice scales, including harmonized scales. However that is just part of my training and approach to playing any instrument, not only the steel.
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Brian McGaughey


From:
Seattle, WA USA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2019 9:24 am    
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I don’t practice scales on their own for their own sake, but I do include them and practice them. I like to build interesting and repeatable solo breaks in the songs I perform. I’ve always felt that for myself, something I write in the practice room will always be more interesting than in an on the spot ad lib.

Anyway, I’ll take something I hear in my head for the break, then figure out how to play it. This inevitably includes scale runs, but to the point of your post, these are runs with an immediate purpose. I get to hear them utilized right away in a context that gives them value right now.

I can manage a few minutes of scale practice for the sake of scale practice but it doesn’t take long and my mind is wondering.
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Pete Bailey


From:
Seattle, WA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2019 9:53 am    
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Single-note and harmonized scales are a big part of my daily warmup, with a metronome to keep me honest.

Progress is observable from week to week, my accuracy and timing continue to improve and the simple nature of the exercises let me concentrate on the smaller details like clear attacks and consistent note duration. They also allow me to work on my blocking, intonation, accuracy, etc. in a repeatable context.

Yes they are boring. But the ongoing improvements in my playing are undeniable. And when it's time to bust out a harmonized scale fragment in a tune, the effort I've put in on practice is absolutely apparent.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2019 11:25 am    
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Dom, you already know this - steel guitars in standard tunings are obviously not ideal scale-running machines like guitars or pianos or violins. Even less so are non-pedal steels. Yeah, you can do some open string tricks and scale away in a couple or three keys, but eventually you run out of accessible notes.

I could blather on for a few paragraphs about how to practice using the instrument’s stronger suit rather than its weaker one, but my limited credibility precedes me. So I’ll just let The Master explain: https://paulfranklinmethod.com/tipping-the-scales/
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 9:20 am    
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Fred Treece wrote:
Dom, you already know this - steel guitars in standard tunings are obviously not ideal scale-running machines like guitars or pianos or violins. Even less so are non-pedal steels. Yeah, you can do some open string tricks and scale away in a couple or three keys, but eventually you run out of accessible notes.

I could blather on for a few paragraphs about how to practice using the instrument’s stronger suit rather than its weaker one, but my limited credibility precedes me. So I’ll just let The Master explain: https://paulfranklinmethod.com/tipping-the-scales/


I'm not sure I agree with that article.

One can play any scale for the entire range of your steel neck, and you can play both across the neck and up and down; granted it's not the same as using 4 fingers on the left hand as on "Spanish" guitar, but all the notes are there. Also, certain patterns show up even in different tunings, so there are ways to learn to get around on the steel neck. You just have to take time and learn the various ways to go from one note to another.

" ideal scale-running machines like guitars or pianos or violins. "

Again I do not agree - all those other instruments have their own issues with playing scales, which means you still have to practice as the instruments do nothing on their own.

On the Billy Hew Len lesson tapes, he mentions how his A6 tuning allows him to play scales rapidly and with not too much movement - which shows BHL paid attention to scale practice.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 11:25 am    
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David is certainly correct, one can play scales on any lap steel tuning, I would agree with Fred that for me, certain tunings lend themselves to scale running more than others.

If your instrument/tuning is primarily a chording instrument (ie tuned to a chord) it just isn't going to be an ideal instrument to run scales. Other tunings, are more scale friendly.

I see this when I go back and forth from an E13th tuning to my eharp tuning. I use the E13, for those big full chords and simple melodies. The eharp, on the other hand, is more like a piano, lots of adjacent chromatic strings. Here scale playing is key to unlocking the power of the eharp tuning.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 7:26 pm    
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Fred Treece wrote:
Dom, you already know this - steel guitars in standard tunings are obviously not ideal scale-running machines like guitars or pianos or violins. Even less so are non-pedal steels. Yeah, you can do some open string tricks and scale away in a couple or three keys, but eventually you run out of accessible notes.


No, man. You've got to learn your scales from top to bottom of your instrument, not just in positions but in random ways all the way up, across and down the neck. Lap steel guitar is just fine for playing scales, I promise you that. Scales can be played in a rapid fire fashion in 2nds, 3rds, etc. It takes a lot of ingenuity and practice. I'm talking about playing in C6 or A6 or E13 or whatever. I'm not talking about Alkire or Leavitt anything like that because I don't know those tunings.

I agree that a lot of playing is done using triadic and intervallic approaches--it's just common sense really and a whole other set of skills needed (understanding harmony deeply especially). But for any kind of jazz, fusion, etc. you really need to be able to execute chromatic and diatonic type scalewise movement.

Whether or not individual players think it's necessary to have all that information is strictly subjective. It depends on your goals. A lot of people don't believe it's possible to play complex lines on steel and I'm not one of them.

Scales themselves are not the music but learning sequences and patterns that have been meticulously laid out by so many others are an incredible tool for improvisation and can be really interesting too.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 9:18 pm    
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Again, my “Tex Nobody” status precedes me. The reason I cited the Franklin piece is because I figured I might be misunderstood. I thought it contributed to the discussion at hand, and the way he says it rings true for me. If you read it and disagree with the premise, that is your opinion and good luck to you. Oddly enough, I agree with many of the points that have been made in response to my quotes.
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Brian McGaughey


From:
Seattle, WA USA
Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 7:19 am    
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Interesting discussion.

I keep coming back to the concept that scales are nothing more than a series of half and whole step increments in a particular order to get from one place to another. Any instrument that allows for “ practical” execution of in-tune melodic notes that can do that is capable of playing a scale, right?

The phrase “scale running machine” is somewhat deceptive in that it doesn’t have a clear meaning and is open for interpretation. I assume it’s meant to mean an instrument that allows for fast and efficient deployment of multi octave scales. Who requires more than a couple octaves, and who said it has to be done fast?

I play 6 string GBDGBD dobro, and if I concentrated on what it won’t do instead of what it will, I would have given it up long ago.

Fred, thank you for linking to the Franklin piece. It’s an interesting and stimulating read.
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 7:48 am    
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Soon after I started this thread, I sat down and started practicing scales beginning with the lowest note on my steel guitar and on up. I can certainly see the value over the long run of time.

However I see a more immediate need to "rehearse" difficult licks and important parts in my song arrangements, since I perform these several times a week.

So for me a more balanced approach to practice is the answer.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 7:55 am    
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I think we are all talking at cross purposes. There are many ways to practice scales. You don't need to mindlessly run up the scale and back down. Practicing diatonic chords in any key is practicing scales. Practicing 3rds is practicing scales. Practicing licks is practicing scales: all those licks can be transposed to different keys, different scales.

Seems like everyone here is practicing scales to me, they are just not calling it that.
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 9:09 am    
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Mike Neer wrote:
Fred Treece wrote:
Dom, you already know this - steel guitars in standard tunings are obviously not ideal scale-running machines like guitars or pianos or violins. Even less so are non-pedal steels. Yeah, you can do some open string tricks and scale away in a couple or three keys, but eventually you run out of accessible notes.


No, man. You've got to learn your scales from top to bottom of your instrument, not just in positions but in random ways all the way up, across and down the neck. Lap steel guitar is just fine for playing scales, I promise you that.


Thanks!
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 10:36 am    
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You’re welcome, Brian. You and Bill M. make some good points, as does everyone else. Thanks to Dom for the subject matter.

I’ll attempt to clarify the term “Scale-running machine”, since that seems to be the point of contention of which I am guilty and sorry for... I know guitar, so I will use that as the example.

On a guitar, you can play as many as 4 notes per string without shifting position. This is is just an echo of what Paul said in his blog piece. You have 4 fingers on your fretting hand. If you did 4 notes per string, you can cover a full diatonic scale on two strings with only one position shift. It is much more common to do 3-notes per string, which covers 2 1/2 octaves with no position shifting. That is a scale running machine, and it is not possible with a bar and a steel guitar, not even with pedals. Maybe on a 14-string.

If you practice your scales (which scales? There are dozens) daily for 50 years, you will get pretty good at playing scales, and playing them fast. It may improve your ability to visualize where the notes are in ascending and descending order. It will NOT, in and of itself, make you a great player, because a guitar is much more than a scale-running machine. Mastery of it, or a steel guitar, involves a much deeper understanding of music and the instrument you are playing, far beyond being a great scale-runner. I think that is what everyone here has said, and something we all agree on.

I hope that explains it, and I hope I haven’t dug into deeper doo-doo than I’m already in.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 18 Feb 2019 4:39 pm    
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I am reading a book on scales for jazz musicians that recommends mastering major, mixolydian, Dorian and pentatonic scales in the keys of C F Bb and D (and bebop passing notes) before moving on to other keys
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2019 4:23 am    
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Scales are important on any musical instrument. If you solely practice scales, that's what will come out in your improvisations so you have to look for ways to learn them and move beyond them.

Barney Kessel said ..

Quote:
Playing scales is like a boxer skipping rope or punching a bag. It's not the thing in itself; it's preparatory to the activity.

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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2019 5:47 am    
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Fred Treece wrote:


On a guitar, you can play as many as 4 notes per string without shifting position. .... 2 1/2 octaves with no position shifting. That is a scale running machine, and it is not possible with a bar and a steel guitar

.....
If you practice your scales (which scales? There are dozens) daily for 50 years, you will get pretty good at playing scales,

I hope that explains it, and I hope I haven’t dug into deeper doo-doo than I’m already in.


Thanks for the reply.

The essential thing is that on a steel guitar, unless you play what is under the bar at ANY one position, you are obliged to change position., even by a fret or two - that's the nature of the beast.

But that doesn't make it harder or easier to play ANY scale or arpeggio than on a regular guitar (or any other instrument ) - both take practice!

Let me use an example from India, the sitar. Most playing is done on a single string, not across the neck, and usually with only fingers 1 and 2 with limited use of other fingers. It seems not as logical or efficient as a guitar in terms of fingering.

In theory that makes it "difficult" to play but the master players are all over the instrument! It's all about practice.

More on scales as not being music themselves:

Bill McCloskey wrote:
I am reading a book on scales for jazz musicians that recommends mastering major, mixolydian, Dorian and pentatonic scales in the keys of C F Bb and D (and bebop passing notes) before moving on to other keys


That's somewhat misleading.

Does the book teach the chord-scale method or the older and better chord arpeggio /chord tone method of playing a jazz tune?

Either way, if you know a major scale, you know all the other diatonic modes as they merely start on a different note, with various scale degrees used as tonic. Leave out certain pitches and you get various pentatonic scales.

Andy Volk wrote:
Scales are important on any musical instrument. If you solely practice scales, that's what will come out in your improvisations so you have to look for ways to learn them and move beyond them.

Barney Kessel said ..

Quote:
Playing scales is like a boxer skipping rope or punching a bag. It's not the thing in itself; it's preparatory to the activity.


EXACTLY!

but if you do not have that tool in your toolbox, it's harder to learn tunes and to improvise fluently when the "thing itself" comes along.
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Bill McCloskey


Post  Posted 19 Feb 2019 6:18 am    
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"Does the book teach the chord-scale method or the older and better chord arpeggio /chord tone method of playing a jazz tune? "

Actually it teaches both. It is actually a pretty good book. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXZ6CBZ/ref=oh_aui_d_asin_title_o00_?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2019 6:46 am    
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Here is one simple example of a scale exercise that is useful and musical. This is tabbed for C6 tuning but could easily be adapted to any pair of strings an interval of a major 6th apart.

Key of G, play in all keys from highest to lowest available.

Ascending
Tab:

E-2-------3--5------- 7--8--------10--12--------14--15----
C---------------------------------------------------------
A-----------------------------------------------------------
G----2--4-------5--7--------9--11--------12--14---------16--17
E---------------------------------------------------------


Descending
Tab:

E-19---------17--15--------14--12--------10--8-------7--5--
C----------------------------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------------------------
G----19--17---------16--14--------12--11-------9--7--------5--4
E----------------------------------------------------------

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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Feb 2019 8:00 am    
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Thanks for doing the tab, Mike.

One of the first things I did on my steel was figure out where the 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and 6ths were on various pairs of strings and do vertical harmonized scales with them. Breaking them up into single notes is fun too. I still do those kind of things, but more as a refresher course and not really part of the daily practice routine.

I consider your tab an example of intervalic study as much as scale study, maybe even more so. This gets into what Bill M. said about “cross purposing” the little drills we discover. And, it is worth saying that this type of “vertical” playing on two strings is one of the steel guitar’s stronger suits. I mean, we hear it all the time, right?
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David DeLoach


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 20 Feb 2019 5:14 pm    
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I've written a 220 page book on scale/arpeggio/chord theory for guitar. I also made more than 2 hours of tutorial videos for the book which are available to view for free here --> https://www.masterguitarists.com/the-fretboard/

This is the 2nd edition of the book. The 1st edition was 386 pages and was used for a time at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

While the book is written for mapping this theory to the guitar fingerboard, the first half of the book is just theory which could be applied to any instrument.

Again, you can view the videos for free on the link above and probably get a lot of helpful info without purchasing the book.
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 21 Feb 2019 8:14 am    
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I've been practicing scales a bit more... But I have a question.
On a standard guitar the lowest 4 strings are 5 frets apart (E A D G) and then you have that pesky "B" string that is only 4 frets up, and that tripped me up every time I was running scales and licks.

NOW on the steel guitar I find a similar problem. In a standard 6th tuning (C6th A6th etc.) there is a pesky 2 fret (Whole step)interval that keeps messing me up when playing scales.

Anyone else have that problem?
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 21 Feb 2019 8:51 am    
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Dom Franco wrote:
I've been practicing scales a bit more... But I have a question.
On a standard guitar the lowest 4 strings are 5 frets apart (E A D G) and then you have that pesky "B" string that is only 4 frets up, and that tripped me up every time I was running scales and licks.

NOW on the steel guitar I find a similar problem. In a standard 6th tuning (C6th A6th etc.) there is a pesky 2 fret (Whole step)interval that keeps messing me up when playing scales.

Anyone else have that problem?


That is definitely NOT a problem, but an asset. You have to master the 6th—that major 2nd interval between strings is the key to C6 and all other 6th tunings.

I wrote two books to deal specifically with this and I am working on a third called Sixth Sense.
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David Knutson


From:
Cowichan Valley, Canada
Post  Posted 21 Feb 2019 3:29 pm    
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I am going to give a shout out here to Mike Neer's "Steelin' Scales And Modes" book. All the examples and patterns shown are for C6, but are completely translatable to any tuning that shares those intervals (A6/G6...). My general playing, and especially my confidence in improvising, took a leap forward as soon as I began working with Mike's concept of tetrachords. And that 2nd interval is definitely your friend.

Nice to hear you're working on another one, Mike. I know you'll keep us posted.
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Bill Brunt


From:
Texas, USA
Post  Posted 9 Mar 2019 11:07 am    
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As a complete non-talent on my steel, I find it interesting that Dom poses this question, as though he is not as intimately familiar with the neck of his steel as anybody on this site.
The post has stirred up some interesting and entertaining reading, but not as entertaining as your playing, Dom!

Play on!! Big fan here!

As for my practice, I find that any form af practice that requires self discipline, is impossibly difficult.
Very Happy

...so I guess I will have to settle for my noodling, and learning the easy parts of my favorite tunes!

I love my steels, and I love listening to the members here play.
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