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Practicing Scales and arpeggios

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by dillaKB, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. dillaKB


    Mar 10, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I spend a lot of time practicing scales, but I find it extremely difficult to cover all of the necessities.

    I've come up with a method of practicing, but I still feel like there is some way of making it more efficient. Right now, I practice one key center for a week, and then move up a half step the following week. For example: I only practice "C" scales for a week. The scales include major, melodic & harmonic minor, diminished, and whole-tone. I practice these scales in a variety of positions, patterns, and rhythms. Then I move into arpeggios within each scale type. I practice all arpeggios (and inversions) grouped between the E, A, & D string, and then between the A, D, & G string within a two octave range.

    THIS IS EXTREMELY TIME CONSUMING! I really must know if you have a more practical and efficient way of becoming fluent in the necessary scales for improvisation.

  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Instead of moving up half a step, I prefer to move up a fourth. This way you run the cycle.
  3. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    You are certainly learning a lot practicing all those scales the way you do! The Rabbath method does similar things with numerous variations on fingerings for the scales and arpeggios included in the books. I like to take a lead sheet for tunes and analyze the chord changes for the appropriate scales. Often the melody will contain certain notes that will determine a good scale choice. For example, if a dominant 7 chord occurs with a natural 13 (or 6) in the melody, 1/2 whole diminished would be a better choice than super locrian (also called the altered scale and 7th mode of melodic minor). Then I practice the scales and arpeggios up and down with a metronome (I call this out of context). Then play the scales and arpeggios in 1/8 notes (in context) keeping the harmonic rhythm of the changes. That means you would only get so far on each scale or arpeggio depending on how long the chord lasts in each tune. Work up a routine where you play an intro, the melody, walk, solo, play the scales, the arpeggios, the melody, and end the tune with an ending like you would on the gig. Start with the root up on every chord. Then you can add variety by going up one and down another, or start from a different chord tone. If you try to link the scales and arpeggios with logical fingerings you will eventually play a lot of different fingerings all over the bass. The goal is to eventually get this routine up to the tempo the tune is played, but start SLOWLY so you can make it through the routine. The important thing is to do it accurately. The arpeggios usually dictate how fast one can do this. It is also fun to do this with a play-a-long such as the ones put out by Jamey Aebersold. Doing this on a number of tunes will cover so many of the scales and arpeggios over the course of time. It also applies the skills directly to music rather than practicing them as separate entities.
  4. dillaKB


    Mar 10, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Very helpful, and much appreciated. Thanks

    I do have one more question about your method though. When practicing the scales and arpeggios: How many positions do you practice them in?

    I'm asking because there are so many ways to play the same thing on the bass.
  5. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    I keep it to one position per scale per tune. The important thing is to link them with the most logical fingering possible. That means one may not always start in the lowest position on the lowest string, but maybe poaying across the strings and starting in the middle of the neck makes a smoother connection between chords. Over the course of a lifetime, the same scales and arpeggios will occur in different tunes in different places so there is an opportunity to learn many different positions over time. If a chord goes for 4 bars, play the scale up and down two octaves. If a chord goes for two bars you can play the scale up and down one octave and the arpeggio two octaves (include the 9th whenever possible and other variations where applicable).
  6. CrackerJackLee

    CrackerJackLee Guest

    Oct 30, 2008
    I listened to some of your music at http://www.lynnseaton.com/.

    Hey, you're the real deal!

    Re: Moanin' - I think this is the drive Jimmy Smith was looking for in Japan - YouTube: "JIMMY SMITH - MOANIN'")

    I like your smart practicing tip - repertoire driven. Why spend all week on the whole-tone scale whenever your gig calls for 2m7-57-1M7 pop. Practice what you need to execute your repertoire and expand your technique as you add tunes. I have to read the rest of your comments.
  7. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Thank you for the kind words! I hope the suggestions help you too.
  8. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I find the method Lynn elaborated upon extremely helpful when trying to unlock soloing or walking options while learning a new tune or chord progression. After some work playing through all the scales/arps, it's almost like the most important notes jump out at me and scream "PLAY ME TO SOUND IN!".

    For the verse of a song, I wrote a progression on guitar based on a vampy (slow harmonic rhythm) "G-9/Eb9" which then repeats, only taken down a half-step "F#-9/D9", and then the whole cycle repeats. I had no idea how to solo over it since the chords don't have any obvious theoretical connection to a key, but after I was comfortable thinking/playing "dorian to mixolydian a major 3rd below", it felt like the doors were busted wide open and hearing the characteristic money notes was all too easy.

    If only every progression felt like that!

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