I’d wager that just about everybody who ever took a music lesson has memories of playing scales. Can you just imagine…? You’re 10 years old – or 40 for that matter – and your teacher says “You should spend at least 10 minutes a day working on scales.”
How many new music students have answered “OK, no problem, I’ll start this week…” and then proceeded to forget completely about scales until the next week.
The main reason for ignoring (or hating?) playing scales is that it is a boring activity that seems fairly pointless.
But in support of music teachers around the world, let me give you three reasons why you should regularly play scales.
1. First, playing scales over and over again is guaranteed to improve your “mechanics” – to increase your finger strength and dexterity. By that I mean your ability to play notes properly with all your fingers. The more you practice scales the more precise your playing will become, and the faster you’ll be able to make your fingers (or both hands) do what they have to do.
2. Second, playing scales is probably the easiest way to make progress on the instrument. And making progress – improving your playing – is an important way to keep you motivated to work at the instrument.
3. Third, playing scales familiarizes you with the position of the most important notes on the fretboard. In other words, it helps you get to know your instrument better. If you play the D or A scale a hundred times, chances are you’ll know how to find D or A or F# or C#. This is also a great reason for playing scales in different positions on the neck.
The truth is, if you do it with any degree of seriousness, and you add a little bit of creativity, playing scales can be both productive and challenging – and even fun!