I’ll never forget how every one of my Hebrew classes at Covenant Theological Seminary would begin. Before we would start class Dr. Brian Aucker would lead us in reciting the Hebrew alphabet. Why? We recited the alphabet for the same reason a musician is to learn and repetitively practice scales, to embed them in our subconscious minds. When stored in our brains, we can easily recall them, recognize them, form words (licks), phrases and ultimately freely communicate.
Scales are simply tools that we use to help us understand the harmonic relationships of notes and chords. However, our end goal should never be to simply regurgitate every scale backward and forward. This would be the same as the aspiring poet having an end goal of building his vocabulary and knowing every grammar rule inside and out. Although it’s certainly good for any writer to have a strong vocabulary and knowledge of grammar rules, those things alone will not make a him or her a good communicator.
Scales Start the Journey
Learning the scales is only the beginning. With our new knowledge of scales we then learn from other great musicians. How do they communicate? How do they use scales and chord tones to “speak” with their instrument? How do they play with passion? How do they apply the scales they memorized to inspire the hearts of the listener?
Learning and practicing scales is necessary and good, but it’s only the beginning of our musical journey.