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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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June 1, 2006 | Scaling Sequences

Embedded in our approach to unraveling fretboard familiarity through our FFcP (Four Finger Closed Position) Exercises, is a mixture of finger combinations and a sneaky dose of music theory. We don't want to just play scales down conjunctly, in pure form, as music really doesn't normally exist this way. We introduce broken 3rds and 4ths, some arpeggio chord patterns, and some contrary motion.

You can do the same with your own scale practice, but why? Aren't scales sterile and unmusical, even if varied a bit? If a musician did nothing but blow scales, wouldn't that be terribly boring for the audience?

Absolutely, but that's a wretched excuse to not learn scales. The first goal, of course is just learning where the notes are on the fretboard. The next, though, is developing the subliminal ingredients to a larger recipe, a kind of creative shorthand. We discuss this in our Improvisation: Pattern vs Theory article; you might take the time to read this. In essence, music is a mixture of math and creativity. Learning sequences is a way to get the "math" part so you can spin off more art.

Look at the following approach to varying a Major Scale:

View image

You can adapt this to your daily practice routine. Run each variation on all the scales. It's certainly more "musical" that just playing through the first measure on every key. Of course, we recommend including EVERY key, all twelve. The best way to do this is to take out the Circle of Fifths Polish Cloth you just purchased from our Merchandise Center, drape it over your stand and go around the "clock." Closed position is a good way to start, you can add octaves, and open strings later if you want.

There are other sequences you can use, like the broken 3rds or 4ths, Minor and Altered Scales, but get out of the rut of just playing "Vanilla" scales step by step. Do this enough and your find these notes just coming to your fingers later while you are improvising.

Posted by Ted at June 1, 2006 9:31 AM

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