This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the What, Why, and How of Practicing Scales effectively and efficiently.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play the What, Why, and How of PRacticing Scales effectively and efficiently. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
How to practice scales, correctly!
The What, Why, and How for practicing scales efficiently and effectively
Scales to develop technique agility, aural skills (ear training), melodic motifs (improvisation prep), time development
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence, it's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today you are going to discover how to practice scales correctly. And you are going to learn the what, why, and how for practicing scales efficiently and effectively. And you are going to play scales to develop technique, ear training, time development, and melodic motifs. So as I always like to say regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner an intermediate player, an advanced player, or even if you consider yourself a seasoned and professional jazzer you will find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring the what why and how for practicing scales to be very beneficial. As I always like to do at the beginning of every podcast episode, I want to take just a couple of minutes to welcome all new listeners to jazz panel skills. And I want to personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. Visit jazz piano skills.com To learn more about all of the jazz educational resources that there's an abundance of materials and services that are available for you to use. For example, all jazz piano skills members have access to all of the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, and the play alongs that I developed and produce for every weekly podcast episode. You will also as a jazz panel skills member have access to the sequential online jazz piano curriculum. This curriculum is loaded with comprehensive courses using a self-paced format, educational talks, interactive media, video demonstrations play along, and much more. Also, as a jazz panel skills member you have a reserved seat each and every week to my online weekly masterclass which is in essence a one-hour lesson with me every week. And also as a jazz piano skills member, you have access to the private online jazz piano skills community which hosts a variety of engaging forums, podcast-specific forums, course-specific forums, and of course general jazz piano forums as well. And last but certainly not least, as a jazz piano skills member, you have unlimited, private, personal, and professional educational support whenever and as often as you need it. Again, just simply visit jazz piano skills.com. To learn more about all of the educational opportunities that await you, and how you can easily in a matter of seconds, activate your membership. If you have any questions, any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to contact me. I'm always happy to spend time with you answer any questions that you may have and help you in any way that I can. I also want to remind everyone to check out the jazz panel skills blog. Whether you are a jazz panel skills member or not makes no difference. You can enjoy reading some additional insights regarding the jazz piano skill of the week. And you will find the blog, the blog link in the menu bar running across the top of the page at jazz piano skills podcast.com. Or once you land on that page at the site, you can just simply scroll to the bottom of the homepage and you'll see an entire blog section. I want to encourage you to take some time read through the blogs. Each week I jot down my final thoughts about the Jas panel skill explored in the weekly podcast episode, hopefully, to provide you with some additional insight and with some additional words of encouragement and inspiration as well. So be sure to check out my blog and let me know what you think your feedback as always, is very much welcomed and very much appreciated. Okay, let's discover learn and play jazz piano let's discover learn and play the what, why, and how to practicing scales. Well last week, I celebrated the 100th jazz piano skills episode. And of course, this week is episode 101. Right? So I thought I would take the time this week to revisit my very first episode in order to expand upon it. And to be quite frank with you to do it right. You know, two years ago, it's hard to believe two years ago,
when I took the plunge and officially launched jazz piano skills, I literally had no idea zero, no idea as to what I was doing with regards to recording, editing, producing, and publishing a podcast. In fact, I'm still, I still don't know what I'm doing. But, but I'm learning, right? This is a learning process. But, but what I did two years ago, I came into my office one day. And I turned on a microphone. And I started talking about how to correctly practice scales. That's what I did, I just turn the microphone on, I started talking, I talked for about 20 minutes. And I had seen on my desk a little, I still have it here in my office, I have this little Yamaha mini rephase keyboard that I used at that time to play demonstrations. It's funny, right, I just had that little keyboard sitting on my desk had the microphone right in front of me. And, you know, for what it was, it didn't turn out too bad. In fact, the very first episode is still available for listening. I leave it out there because it's part of my jazz piano skills journey. And even though the episode itself may be a little rough around the production edges, the educational content is still very much valid. So much so that I thought that it would be a good idea to launch the next 100 episodes by taking that theme from the very first episode and expanding upon it, and hopefully do so with a little better production quality. So so why is the study of scales, so important? Why does every music teacher stress the importance of playing scales? Literally, I have yet to meet a music teacher that does not stress the importance of playing and practicing scales. Well, I can tell you that many teachers stress the importance of playing scales because that is what they were told to do. So they are just simply passing that information on to you. And I get it. However, that is not a good reason for passing information along. And in fact, if your teacher tells you to practice scales, and the only justification that they can give you as to why is that they're good for you. And that the scales will help you learn your keys. How many sharps and flats are in the keys and help you improve your ability to quickly go up and down the piano with good fingerings then I would say to you begin looking for a new teacher because the scales offer so much more than that. And in fact, when you practice scales correctly, which of course is determined by your conceptual understanding of the scales. If you practice the scales correctly, you will be improving many facets of your jazz piano playing your technique, your oral skills, ear training, melodic development, improvisation, time articulation, sound voicings, I can go on and on. The key to reaping the benefits from practicing scales correctly depends upon your ability to clearly define the what the why and the how of scale practice and that is exactly what we are going to do today. So the educational agenda for today is as follows number one I am going to present to you nine efficient and effective scale exercises for developing your jazz musicianship. Number two,
each of the nine exercises will focus on developing one, at least one of the following jazz piano skills, your technique, agility, your oral skills, your training, your motif patterns, and time development. Number three, all exercises today will focus on the primary sounds of music, the primary sounds of music only major dominant, minor, half diminished, and diminished. And number four, I will be playing all demonstrations today all exercises using a pretty snappy tempo of 140. And of course, you all know, I do that only for the sake of time, right? slower tempos are always encouraged, and I strongly recommend them. So if you are a jazz piano skills member, I want you to take a few minutes right now, hit the pause button. I want you to take a few minutes right now to download and print the jazz panel skills, podcast packets for this episode, the illustrations, and the lead sheets, you have access to all the podcast packets. And you should as I remind you each and every week, you should absolutely be using them when listening to this podcast. And of course, you should be using them when you are studying and practicing as well. So if you're listening to this podcast on any of the pod, popular podcast directories out there like Apple or Google, Amazon, Spotify, I Heart Radio Pandora on and on and on, then be sure to go to jazz panels skills podcast.com to download the podcast packets and you will find the download links the active links within the show notes. Okay, and one final but extremely important message that I offer up each and every week that if you're thinking that the what, why, and how of practicing scales that we are about to discover learn in play. In this episode right now, if you are thinking that this jazz panel skills in some way, or even if you think it is all the way over your head, then I would say to you relax. It's okay. Continue to listen and continue to grow your jazz piano skills intellectually. By listening to this podcast episode. The fact is all skills are over our heads when first introduced. And that is precisely why the first step in gaining the command of any jazz piano skill. The very first step is to lessen our musical growth begins upstairs mentally, conceptually before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So we'll listen to this podcast lesson now to discover and learn the play, I promise will come in time. Okay, so the very first thing I want to say about scale practice before we dig into the nine exercises is that scales should never ever, in my opinion, should never ever be played from the root to the root. Right. So, the C major scale is always taught right from C to C. And the reason I stress why you should not be doing this, even though this is how everyone teaches it is because when you practice any jazz piano skill, especially scales, you want three things actively engaged you want intellect engaged, right? You need to know what it is that you're doing. Number two, you want your ears engaged, your ears have to be actively engaged and listening for something. And number three, right physically Yeah, actively have to be playing the jazz piano skill, right. So when you play a scale from C to C, the C scale from C to C Your ears are anything but actively engaged. Right? The ears may be listening for I want to make sure I'm playing the right notes. I belong to the scale.
But they're not really actively engaged because what your ears are hearing with the entry, point B and C, and the destination point B and C, your ears are just hearing See, this is what they are hearing. So if your ears could speak, your ears would say to you, what is it exactly are you wanting us to listen for? Because where we begin is where we end? What exactly are we listening for. So that is why when I teach scales, I always have an entry point and I have a destination point that are never the same. So I would recommend learning your C major scale from the note C to the note B. Because now I'm hearing major seven, I'm actually hearing the major seven sound then when I shift and I play the dominant sound listen to how the ears actively pick up on this very different minor have diminished and diminished my entry point my destination point differ so that my ears can zone in on a very specific sound major seven, dominant seven minor seven half diminished seven diminished seven. So the very first exercise the very first demonstration I want to do today is practicing our five primary sounds of music using scale motion that zones in on major dominant minor half diminished and diminished. So this scale practice is very much an ear training exercise as much as anything else. Right, Of course, there's always going to be bleed over with all of these. With these scale demonstrations today, they touch upon many different skills. But I would say first and foremost, the primary focus of this exercise is to develop the ears to begin to hear the difference between major dominant minor, half diminished, and diminished. So what I want to do is I want to bring the ensemble in, I'm simply going to practice those five scales side by side, so that my ears are really firing on all cylinders, and listening for the difference between major dominant minor, half diminished, and diminished. Simply going to play a voicing in my left hand, play the scale in my right hand. That's it. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. Let's see what we think. And then we can talk about it here we go.
Very cool, right. This is where I would encourage you to start if you haven't done so already. Right? Have your scales illuminate the primary sounds of music major dominant minor, half diminished and diminished your scales I'm going to say that again. Your scale practice should illuminate the primary sounds of music. They should make them orally obvious. Okay, now for the second demonstration exercise that I'm going to recommend today is another way you should be practicing skills that never ever gets talked about rarely if ever gets talked about. And that is the importance of the development of time, your time, the internal clock, your internal sense of time. It's funny, it's probably the most important thing as a jazz musician that you should be focusing on and developing in your day-to-day practice consciously developing in your day-to-day practicing. And yet, we rarely, if ever talk about it. But we are today, we're talking about it today. So, when you practice scales, it's always a good idea to practice scales, using different note values. So practice the scale using quarter notes, practice the scale, playing eighth notes, and practice the scale, playing 16th notes, and place those rhythmic values side by side. So that you can accurately assess how well you are transitioning from quarter notes to eighth notes to 16th notes in time and maintaining time. So what I'm going to do, I'm going to just isolate the minor sound right now. And of course, anything that I'm doing with a minor sound you should be doing with the major and the dominant, and the half diminished and the diminished as well. But again, for the sake of time, I'm just going to demonstrate this on one sound, you are going to practice this applied to every sound. So I'm going to play my C minor sound, my C minor scale using quarter notes. Then I'm going to play that scale using eighth notes. And then I'm going to play that scales 16th notes. Right. So I'm going to bring the ensemble in. We're going to play again, tempo of 140 That's pretty snappy. Again, I would encourage you to use slower tempos when practicing. But the idea here is I'm focusing now my scale practices I'm focusing on my time development moving in and out of quarter notes to eighth notes to 16th notes. So here we go. Let's check it out, then we can talk about it.
Right, What can I say, you know this, this is kind of practice like I'm saying we should talk about it all the time. We should be talking about time all the time. And we should be practicing time all the time. A lot of time going on here. But we rarely do you know what? It's rare when I find students that actually make the time to practice time. It's rare. And then students will always ask the question and wonder why they have difficulty playing melodies and improvising in time and is because they never practice time. If you're not practicing going in and out of quarter notes to eighth notes to 16th notes and using scales, scale motion to do that. You're missing a golden opportunity. So take the time to practice time. Okay, now, demonstration number three, Exercise number three ascending and descending motion from the same entry point Point, ascending and descending motion from the same entry point, which ultimately will determine our destination point, especially when we define the range that we're going to ascend and descend into validly. So today, I'm going to use the interval of a seventh, ascending, and descending. And I'm going to practice my scales. Again, I'm just going to use the minor scale as the demonstration. And of course, you can apply this technique to all your scales, I'm going to ascend from the root of the C minor scale to the seven. And now we're going to descend from the route the same route not the route an octave higher, the same route, I'm going to descend which I end up on the second or the night, I'm traveling the distance of a seventh. So I'm going up a seventh for my entry point C, and I'm going down a seventh from my entry point C. And now I want to do the exact same thing, but change my entry point, when a start on the third of the sound travels this distance of a seventh, which takes me to the ninth. Now I'm going to descend from the third the sound which takes me down to the fourth or the 11th. Then I'm going to change my entry point to the fifth ascending, which takes me up to the 11th, and descending takes me down to the 13th. This is great ear training to write this what I'm saying there's a lot of overlap here with the skills that you're developing when you're practicing this way. Then also launch change the entry point to the seventh goes up to the 13th and then descend from the seventh. Which takes me down to the root. So ascending and descending motion from various entry points, the root, the third, the fifth, and the seventh, ascending and descending. Okay, let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check this out and see what we think here we go.
Pretty cool once again, why is this so important? Practicing ascending and descending from the same entry point. Right, You're seeing the scale basically coming and going. In other words, right from the same point, not going up the scale and then coming down from there. Not that, that that that doesn't have value because it does. But in this case, I'm developing technique for improvisational purposes. So I want to get comfortable moving either direction from a very specific entry point of a sound. So that's why launching ascending from that see and then descending from that same see. Very important. Okay, and I again modeled that demonstrated that for C minor. Your job is going to practice that technique for all the primary sounds for each note. Okay? A lot of work to do. No doubt about it. Okay, so now on to demonstration number four, Exercise number four. In fact, the next three exercises are going to be pretty heavily leaning toward improvisation development. So the very first thing I want to do is we're going to practice our scale moving in thirds, right, this is what I call motif pattern, or improvisation work, right? Moving thirds, again on the C minor, starting on my root in everything's going to be an interval of a third. up to the summit, again, I've, I've selected the seventh as my destination point. So I'm moving my scale in thirds up to the seventh. And just as we did with the previous exercise, I'm going to descend from that very same entry point using thirds. Very cool. And I'm going to do the exact same thing from various entry points within the sound. So I'm going to move in thirds from my starting on the third of the sound up to the ninth, and then the second, using thirds with the entry point being the third. Which takes me down to the 11th or the fourth. So again, going to do that exact same concept of ascending and descending from a very specific entry point moving the distance of a seventh in both directions. But this time, I'm going to actually use intervals of a third moving in third ascending and moving in thirds descending. So let's bring the ensemble in this should be a lot of fun, let's check it out and see what we think here we go.
Pretty darn cool, right? Not only great preparation for improvisation, the development of your improvisational skills, but it's just good technique work as well. Right? Good ear training that can be lumped in there as well. Again, all of these skills, even though I tried to zone in on a very specific objective of each skill exercise that the reality of it is there's great overlap, all these areas are being gained great benefit from practicing in this way. So hey, if we move the scale in thirds, right, move through the scale using thirds. Why can't we move through the scale using force? And the answer is well, we can of course we can't right. So now I want to do the exact same thing. But instead of using the interval of a third, we're going to move using the interval of a fourth. So with my entry point being the root, I'm going to move up to the seventh in force. Nice right listen to that again. I have a very specific entry point, I have a very specific destination point. And what goes up must come down. So I'm going to descend using force from my route. down to my knife, or my second, right, so again, moving in both directions. And I'm going to do the exact same thing that we did in the previous two exercises. I'm going to move in force launching from the third ascending and descending, moving in fourth, launching from the fifth of the sound of the scale, ascending and descending, and moving in force, launching from the seventh of the sound of the seventh of the scale, ascending and descending. It's very thorough, very methodical, very systematic, right. So let's bring the ensemble in less. Let's listen to these ascending and descending force. launching from various entry points within the sound within the scale. So here we go, let's check it out see what we think?
Absolutely love it, I absolutely love it right, you're gonna, start practicing like this moving in thirds moving in four different entry points, ascending descending, you're gonna see some remarkable changes in your jazz piano plane, and your jazz panel sound for sure. So the next exercise demonstration six, or exercise six, couldn't do, we're going to, we're going to stay with this theme one more time, moving from the route through the sound ascending descending, the third ascending descending the fifth and the seventh ascending and descending. But instead of just using the interval of a third or using the interval of a fourth, we are now going to use triad shapes within the scale. So my C minor, I'm going to move up to my seventh using a triad an X triad, my next triad. So, in essence, it's kind of like a little C minor triad, followed by a minor triad, followed by a flat minor triad. So I get this right, ascending, now, I can descend using triad shapes. Right. So going up again, coming down. Very nice. And again, we want to launch we want to use these triad shapes, launching from the root origin from the third launching from the fifth launching from the seventh, ascending and descending. And in time, of course, so that's why we're going to bring the ensemble back in. Have a little fun with this. Let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go.
Pretty cool stuff, right? Hopefully your mind is racing and you're going wow, there are a lot of different ways. And believe me, we're just touching the tip of the iceberg right now. There are a lot of different ways to practice scales other than going straight up from the root to the root and back down. Like tip that that is typically taught from music teacher music teacher right. So now We're going to change our focus a little bit. And we're going to start focusing on practicing our scales based on a range geographical range. And in doing so, of course, we're going to be developing our time and are feeling in technique simultaneously. But what I mean by range is that I'm going to practice taking my C minor sound. And I'm going to practice my that scale from the root to the seventh. Very specific range, right, this is the range we've actually been using all throughout this podcast. But I'm also going to expand that now I'm going to also practice from my route to the ninth of the sound. And then from the root to the 11th. And then from the route of 13. So now I'm practicing my scale going moving beyond the single octave and getting into the upper extensions into the ninth into the 11th, and the 13th. So the sound right. So this is a great way to practice scales, great for the ears. Great for time, great for technique, great for improvisation, as well. So I want to bring the ensemble in. And I'm going to use eighth notes, I'm going to practice my various ranges within the sound, from the seventh to the ninth, to the 11th to the 13th. I'm going to practice those various ranges using an eighth note articulation playing in eighth notes, okay, eighth note feel I should say. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. Let's listen to this and see what we think here we
go. I love it. In fact, that's, that is one of the exercises I practice consistently all the time plane planed through various regions of the sound, you know, focusing on traveling to the seventh or to the ninth to the 11th to the 13th. Anyway, students would tell you that you will study with me here at the Dallas School of Music This is I preach this all the time practicing scales in this manner. So you know if we use eighth notes to practice these, this range, these, you know, these range ranges that include the seventh ninth, the 11th, and 13th. If we use the eighth notes, right, can we not do the same thing and use 16th notes? Wow, this will challenge our technical skills will not. Now we're shifting from eighth notes, the 16th notes. And now you know what let's flashback to demonstration number two, Exercise number two where we put quarter notes next to eighth notes next to 16th notes you see why practicing in that manner is so helpful. So beneficial, because now we're going to actually utilize 16th notes to practice arranged from the root to the seventh from the root to the ninth, from the root to the 11th, and from the root to the 13th. So let's bring the ensemble back and let's check it out. See what we think this is gonna be a lot of fun. Here we go.
that will test your chops wanted, right. Great fun. Wow, what a great way to practice so now. Okay, so we've covered a lot of ground but there's one more exercise I want to do and I want to for demonstration number nine or exercise nine and with this one, I want to return back to really exercise one we remember what exercise one where we looked at the five sounds major dominant minor half diminished, right we, we played the scale from the root the seventh major then we played the scale from the root to the seventh for the dominant sound and for the minor for the half diminished and then for the diminished Okay, well now we're gonna do the same thing except guess what, we're gonna actually play the scale in both hands major, dominant, minor, half diminished, and diminished. Yeah, you got it, everything we do in our right hand, we should do in our left hand. So all the previous exercises number one through eight, everything that I was modeling in my right hand, guess what, we need to be doing that in our left hand as well. factor should be various combinations that we use, right? I like to practice with the voicing in the left-hand scale in the right hand. And then I like to put the scale on the left hand and the voice and in the right hand. And then I like to play the scale in both hands like I'm going to model right now. So let's bring the ensemble back in. And let's listen to our five primary sounds played from the root of the seventh of each sound. In both hands, scale motion played in both hands. Okay, here we go. Let's check it out. See what we think?
That is good stuff. Wow, I cannot encourage you enough, right the nine exercises that I've laid out today, nine ways this is a great way to get introduced to playing scales, utilizing different formats other than just the traditional straight up and straight down from the root to the root, which I encourage you to abolish as quickly as possible. And start playing scales with a very specific entry point a very specific destination point in mind, right. So these nine exercises will serve as a great introduction, a great foundation for you to get you comfortable with and acclimated to playing scales in various ways that develop various aspects of your jazz piano playing. So you know, we've unpacked a ton of information today, as we always do each and every week and certainly today was no exception as we explored the what, why, and how scale practicing. So I want to encourage you before you begin running to the keyboard, I want to encourage you to map out scales the five primary sounds a scales using the five primary sounds of music right the major dominant half diminished and diminished. Use those podcast packets, I have worksheets, illustrations, and worksheets in there for you to utilize. One should encourage you to take the time to map out the scales first. Get the visual illustrations in your in your mind, in your eyes, right? map them out and use those illustrations to guide you. Right the illustrations, like I said, include a paper practice template that you can use for mapping out all of the scale. So access, access the illustrations, download that packet. And as you've heard me say over and over and over and over and over again, your conceptual understanding determines your physical development. So the time that you invest in studying the time that you invest in mapping out the scales for the primary sounds of music, is time very well spent. In fact, the return on your investment cannot be adequately expressed, I guarantee it. And as always, with every jazz piano skills, always, always always be patient, gaining a conceptual and physical command of the what why, and how of scale practice takes time. So begin structuring your scale practice after the plane demonstrations that I modeled for you today in this podcast episode, and you will begin to see and you will begin to feel and you will begin to hear your jazz progress I guarantee it. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcasts lesson exploring the what why, and how of effective and efficient scale practice to be insightful and of course, to be very beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member, I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz piano skills master class 8 pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson, exploring the what why and how to scale practice in greater detail and to answer any question that you may have about the study of jazz. Again, as a jazz panel skills member, be sure to use the educational podcast packets, the illustrations the lead sheets to play alongs not only for this podcast episode but for all 101 podcast episodes. Also, be sure to use the jazz panel skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills community. Get out there, get involved, contribute to the various forums and make some new jazz panel friends. Always a great thing to do. And as always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email, Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com, or by SpeakPipe found throughout the jazz piano skills website. Well, there is my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy playing scales. Enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano