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Playing scales in different orders and making it more musical

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by smither12, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. smither12


    Aug 16, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    After long months of practicing my my major, dominant and minor scales in two octaves I can now run them up and down confidently at a fast speed. But although this is a good achievement for me, it made me realize that I shouldn't be satisfied at just being able to run scales up and down like robot. Instead I should also be able to play the scales in many different ways and variations. I mean how often do you see someone soloing and only running up and down the scales? I think in order to really known the scales one should practice playing the scales in different orders and most especially playing the scales as musically as possible. So that was my revelation (which is probably a no brainer do you guys :smug:).
    Anyway, I am wondering if anyone has cool ways of practicing scales that is not just up and down - I would love some suggestions. I know you can play it going up in thirds, or fifths and what not. All suggestions appreciated. Thanks.
  2. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    The "This scale goes with this chord" enthusiasts, and college jazz majors.


    Try going up/down in thirds, fourths, fifths, and....

    Vary the rhythm.

    Change direction.

    Octave displacement.

    Patterns of ascending/descending triads/seventh arpeggios. Even Ninth chord arpeggios. Go on to 11ths and 13ths!

    Combinations pf the above.

    Tons more... I'm sure.
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I've been taught to do it in scale fragments - 2 note groups, 3 note groups, 4 note groups, etc. as well.

    Three note groups: CDE, DEF, EFG, FGA, and so on.
    Ascending, descending while maintaining the note ordering. Make sure you go past the tonic by one or two "reps".

    Then reverse the note ordering:
    EDC, FED, GFE, AGF, BAG, CBA, DCB, EDC, FED, GEF - then descend, FED, EDC, etc.

    Then mix up the note orders:
    CDE, FED, EFG, AGF, etc.
    EDC, DEF, GFE, FGA, etc.

    And then before you go the next set of note groupings, do the same exercises with the same permutation of the ordering over swing 8ths, 3/4, and triplet feels. I'd do the same with playing intervals too (3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc). There's way too much work to get through there.

    My own application of the same idea for finding note orderings is to work through transcription fragments. Find a phrase, learn the notes and the note ordering and use them as the pattern to ascend, descend through 12 keys. If the notes are diatonic than you can apply the above. That way it's not just some arbitrary set of notes - you're actually engraining something that came from a transcription. To the point when you went back to the transcription and played it, you would have that part more than dead cold and can just focus on articulation and time.
  5. ABlueJazzBassist

    ABlueJazzBassist "Always play beautifully."

    Dec 26, 2012
    I assume you're practicing with the bow. If so, try using various rhythms and articulations. Start by slurring every upbeat into the downbeat. Try something like doing interesting bowing patterns like down-down-up-up stacatto. Mix this with interesting rhythms like two sixteenths and a eighth note. This is all just right hand stuff. In the left hand keep this in mind: anything played up, can be played down. So try playing a scale like this, play thirds going up, up, (F,A,G,B) then play the thirds going up down (F,A,B,G), then down up (A,F,G,B). Then do other intervals, triads, 7th chords. The possibilities are endless. But remember this, its more important to master one thing then do a little bit of everything. So don't try to do every variation in one day. Instead just pick one or two and do those really well.

    In all the examples of notes I gave, these occur only on the E and A strings. Still not sure how understandable what I posted was. Oh well.
  6. My two cents are this- I made a Garageband loop that is a beat, root and 5th. After I've played my scale, I'll sit there and jam with it for a bit. When I'm ready to change roots, all you have to do is move up the half step bar (thats not the name sorry :) ) I also try and play the scale by itself fairly funky up and down. Give it a nice feel and syncopation, make it sound less formulaic and more melodic. Have fun with it!
  7. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings
    Check out Hal Robinson's book "Boardwalkin' ". I haven't seen a more comprehensive approach to the fingerboard. Like Pacman's version, it covers all the notes of a scale everywhere they can be played on the bass. It groups them into Rabbath positions. You can work on various scale patterns in all of those positions.
  8. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Regular Contributor to Bass Player Magazine
    Hey Smither: It's great that you can play those scales in 2 octaves. But you're right: We rarely play a two-octave scale as part of a bass line or solo line. Being able to play 2-octave scales does confirm your fluency in a certain aspect of bass technique.

    It's also good to practice small scale fragments over different chord/scale sounds to get a feel for where they sound good. HDiddy gives you some very good suggestions about practicing small scale fragments. All the other advice—from Stick, JAllen, Craig & FlowiOwen—is also good stuff.

    I've got two articles online here from Bass Player Magazine about tetrachords. Part 1 and Part 2. A tetrachord is basically a grouping of four notes within an interval of a P4. Combine two tetrachords, and you create any number of basic scales. Check out the basic tetrachords, and make sure you can play them all over the bass. You'll find that a lot of the small melodic fragments that you play can be analyzed as a certain type of tetrachord.
  9. smither12


    Aug 16, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks for the ideas.
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Also bear in mind that scalework (and arpeggio work) is primarily about addressing issues of fingering, position shifts, co ordinating left hand and right hand, etc. and are NOT improvisational exercises.
  11. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Bingo. Achieving a high level of agility on the bass combined with a well developed ear = execution of ideas with ease.
  12. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Regular Contributor to Bass Player Magazine
    I like these scale / arpeggio exercises that Barry Harris uses to teach blues.

    I used to go to his classes in NYC - $2 to get in!!! (In 1980).
  13. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I still can't get over how out of proportion Barry Harris's hands are (not that I'm complaining.. he always sounds amazing).
  14. Zojo


    May 19, 2013
    The Serious Jazz Practice Book has tons of patterns to practice.
  15. lowEndRick


    Apr 8, 2006
    Does it have fingerings along with those exercises?

    I've begun to incorporate practicing scales in thirds, fourths, sixths etc and I am interested in finding a resource that has fingerings for all of these.
  16. Zojo


    May 19, 2013
    No. It's also in treble, I think. But there are plenty of ideas for practice patterns. You would need to figure fingerings out yourself.