Learning Scale Degrees

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by footprints89, Sep 5, 2012.


  1. footprints89

    footprints89

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    Hey Everyone. I have been going at scale degrees for a while now. At first it seemed impossible to memorize, but it seems it's become more internalized. I've tried many methods: memorizing arpeggios, memorizing the fourths, splitting the scale in two parts, etc.
    I was curious if anyone had an approach they felt strongly about, or just the way you learned. I'd like to try more paths to strengthen my knowledge! Do tell!
  2. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Supporting Member

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    All of those things and more. Practice, practice, practice. It becomes less about memorization and more about knowing your way around. You don't memorize how many steps to the corner before you turn to go down the block and then around the thing to get to the store. You do enough that you can do it in your sleep. It's not that different in music.

    The exercises you listed are great ways to get into it. Keep at it and it will become intuitive to you.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    I'm kind of at a loss here, what are you talking about? Knowing what pitch corresponds to what scale degree in any scale just didn't seem like a big deal to internalize. One of the things Joe works on is having you name the notes as you play them, when doing two octave scales; when you're playing a Db melodic minor scale in triplets at qnote=120bpm you really need to know what notes you're playing.
    But maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying?
  4. longfinger

    longfinger

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    For hearing?

    For hearing, IMHO, singing is the way to go. Get a starting pitch, sing up and down and all around, and check yourself once in a while to make sure you are not drifting.
    I find that using numbers (as opposed to note names), help me hear and learn it better. And scale degree numbers, not chord degree numbers. focus on the tendency notes, 7-1, 4-3, 2 to either 1 or 3, 5 up or down to 1, 6 to 5, or 6 to 1 via 7. etc.
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  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    If it's ear training you're talking about, I'll try to find that post on Joe's approach to it...
  7. footprints89

    footprints89

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    I just mean if someone asks you the to name off all the notes in an e- pentatonic scale you can do it without thinking. I just mean literally memorizing what notes are what part of what scale. My mentor will always just quiz me and say what the 4th degree of this scale?! I'm getting to the point where I don't really have to think as much anymore. I used to have to think of the third remember the fourth. He always recommended quizzing myself. I don't mean orally knowing the notes all. Sorry about that, guys!
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Well, we all have stuff that's hard for each of us. It's just that's not one of them for me....
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Do you have access to a piano or keyboard?
  10. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

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    One is better served learning the sound of intervals. Scales are a set of intervals, a set of intervals create a sound. An arpeggio is a set of chordal intervals, a set of chord intervals create a sound.

    Learn the sound.

    Personally, I can't imagine, at this point, rattling off note-names while I am playing - I certainly don't do that while I am listening. I'm hearing intervals, anticipating where I am going. A vocabulary of intervallic relationships, will take you a lot further. This ability easily transfers to different Key Centers.

    One can get deep into theory and learn many, many labels - if that's what you want to do. And, one should learn as many labels as possible.

    I'd be far more impressed if your answer to: "What's the fifth note of Db Locrian?", you could sing an interval of a Diminished Fifth, because you "know the sound of the Locrian Mode", rather than blurting out "Abb". This ability is far more valuable. And, will demonstrate your level of musicianship, rather than a spelling bee candidate. I can teach a deaf person the note-names of a Db Locrian scale. :D

    It is quite helpful to know the names of an E Minor Pentatonic scale, so that you 'tell' someone, who can't hear the intervallic relationships, what to play - kind of a short cut.: Put your index finger here, put your pinky there, etc... :D A lot of "teachers" use this method.

    That sounds more like training to become an auctioneer.
  11. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

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    To supplement what stick player wrote - I don't so much think of "what are the notes of an Emin pentatonic scale," I think of each scale degree relative to the root. So you need to play the root, a b3rd, a 4th, a 5th and a b7th, which happen to be E G A B D. Of course, to think of things this way, you'd need to know what the notes of an E Major scale are so you can figure out the flatted notes and the naturals, etc.

    I suppose at one time I must have tried to memorize these sorts of things, but at some point it becomes significantly more useful to be able to play these things in a tasteful manner rather than to recite the composition of a scale. If you think too much about scales, you run the risk of associating the linearity of scales to your playing rather than creating interesting music with them.

    So, my advice would be to learn your fingerboard in the context of intervals, because these are the basis of chords, of scale construction, and of all harmony.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Well, again Stick, it would be great to hear where your considered approach has gotten you. Or are you all stick and no player?
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

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    Scales and arpeggios are both sets of intervals and sets of pitches. By focusing on intervals, your statement (which appears to be foundational to you; you announced that pretty strongly in the first few bars of your post) focuses on just one side of the conceptual coin.
  14. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

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    You either see value in what I've offered, or you don't. Where it's "gotten" me is another subject.

    What's the other side? And why limit the number of sides to a coin? Why not a sphere?
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

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    There is very little time for me to go anything but sketchy right now, but for the sake of keeping things going, this is the sort of thing I meant:

    In art, or in drawing, at least, you've got the line and you've got the space that's not the line (sometimes called "negative space".) In an analytical, discriminatory, naming sense, they are two separate things. They are aspects discriminated from the whole. In the real world, though, they are all together one whole thing: the image, the picture, the drawing. The viewer probably doesn't give a damn about these things. The artist, the teacher, the reviewer: they just might care. It might be useful for some purpose.

    In measurement (and in number theory in general for all I know; I'm not a mathematician at all, but I do have a great deal of familiarity with measurement theory from a practical science perspective) you've got points in quantitative space (the numbers on the ruler) and you've got the spaces in between the numbers. Depending on the context, you might be more concerned with one or the other. Either way though, it's the same thing as with drawing: the space is the space and the quantities are the quantities.

    I say the same type of theory-based naming is going on here with music theory. Notes and intervals are discriminated aspects of the whole we call musical sounds. In one context you might want to be concerned with note names, in another you might want to be concerned with intervals.

    Let it be spherical if you want. I really don't care. I go back to my basic stance on music theory: it's a language for talking about and describing musical concepts. At the end of the day, its only practical use is for how it helps musicians make music and communicate to each other about music.

    In talking to you about this stuff, my only intent was to suggest that you, Stick_Player, are coming at this from your individual point of view and, moreover, what seems to be a strongly held personal point of view. I sincerely hope you're not suggesting you've got the only right way of looking at things.

    It's just a language issue. You say potato, she says potato. That sort of thing. Let's not let language issues inflame the thread.
  16. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

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    I, in no way, think I have the only right way to look at anything.

    These few things, I suggested, have worked for me. Some people LOVE labels (you can find some of my past posts to see that I do). But, there are some who just want to play music.

    Learning and knowing the sound intervals - in scales, arpeggios, chords - while very difficult, will serve one better than memorizing labels.

    The world has many musicians who can play amazingly well and have no interest or knowledge in the labels. Then there are some, on the other hand, that can label anything "correctly", but cannot play at an amazing level. I'm sure I fall into the latter group.
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo

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    In my opinion/experience it's less important to memorize all the 4ths (for example) than it is to know the musical alphabet: C-D-E-F... I know; the 4th must be F!

    Coincidentally this method also works great for reading; if the first note is C and it goes up the scale, then you don't have to read the D, read the E, read the F individually; you can group those 4 notes together in your mind as a musical unit or "word."
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Not to drag out the automotive mechanic analogy again, but it's a good one. If you're going to find fault with my approach to fixing Volkswagons, you need to show me, if not Volkswagons, at least other cars you've worked on.

    Or not, the choice is yours. But then you're just another clown purveying crap on the internet.
  19. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

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    Such a nasty little man.

    I never found fault with YOUR approach. Not sure I even can tell what that is - other than you come of as lofty.

    "Knowing what pitch corresponds to what scale degree in any scale just didn't seem like a big deal to internalize."

    "It's just that's not one of them for me...."


    Ed, I've NEVER been interested in listening to you. Mostly because of the way you present yourself on this forum.

    And if you believe what I have offered on this forum is "crap", you are certainly entitled to that.

    Have a blessed day.
  20. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon

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    I've been playing one instrument or another for 62 years, and nobody has asked me that. Should I brush up?
  21. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player

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    Apparently, you subscribe to "quantity trumps quality", I'd then advise you not to do any brushing, up or down.

    :D

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