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Teaching Scales to Students

Teaching Scales to Students: When You Should Start

In the beginning stages of a student’s exploration of an instrument, teachers are often faced with the question of when to start teaching scales.  Natalie Wickham, the driving force behind the popular music education blog “Music Matters” sought to invoke some answers from other esteemed colleagues in the field of music education.

One parallel that should be drawn between facilitating knowledge of scales and their application in music (remember that one must apply these skills in an actual performance setting) is the time spent in the student’s exploration in the relationship of the notes, tonally.  In other words, facilitating the learning of scales by requiring them to sit down and rehearse scalar patterns to a metronome is only half of the equation.  The other half is the student’s knowledge and recognition of the differences between major and minor keys. If the student can first recognize the tonality of the melody, then they should be able to use their knowledge of the scales to complete the musical idea or harmonization.  The three components must all work together.  Remember, that scalar exercises are supposed to facilitate movement on the instrument especially in a variety of different combinations.  If the student is unable to recognize the tonality between the notes, they will have a difficult time being able to recite passages by rote.  In this case, the student would become dependent on sheet music, and I think we can all agree that producing well-rounded students is the goal of any professional music educator, and we would not rely on any ONE aspect of a child’s skill set to propel them into stardom.

Other people have chimed in on this discussion, and you can read them all by visiting Music Matters Blog!


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