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Practicing Scales & Arpeggios

Discussion in 'Ask Patrick Neher [Archive]' started by Pete G, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    You've mentioned elsewhere in this section the need to practice scales and arpeggios.

    I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I consider playing scales generally less fun than undergoing a root canal.

    Still, I know you're right.

    Could you provide some detail on how you recommend to your students that they do their scale work? Is there any book or method that makes this any easier?

    Many thanks.
  2. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Yeah scales may seem a pain, unless you realize, duh!, that music comprises scales and arpeggios. I like to practice scales in a number of different ways: improvised (where I pick a key and make as many melodies out of the scales as possible), rhythmical (where I pick different rhythms and articulations, volumes and colors to focus on as well as pitch), positional (all the notes possible in the scale in one position - using pivots), SLOWly (as slow as I can), FAST (as possible), supplimented with "altered" notes (good for jazz), etc.
    I try to be a creative in my scale practic as I would in my "piece" practice. In other words, scales and arpeggios are MUSIC and if you approach them with the same interest and creativity as you do your sheet music, you will find you are never bored and progress incredibly quickly. Oh, did I mention INTONATION? Without scales and arp. practice, good luck playing anything in tune, especially during sight-reading.
    I use no particular book, though Rabbath's 3rd book is a good reference, like an encyclopedia. Simandle, Bille, Streicher, recently Levinson, etc. all are good material. But knowing your instrument is the goal and you CAN do it without reading someone's scale patterns. I also have "Scale Studies for Virtuosity" and "Rhythmic Fingering Scale Studies" - based on David Walter's ideas, available through ISG Publications, should you be interested. These approach the bass in ways I suspect you'd find new.
    Best to you!
  3. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    It may just be a tic of mine, but I don't think anyone ever won a convert to any position by answering a person's question with, "Duh!".

    Beyond that, I wonder if your comment proves too much. If "(M)usic comprises scales and arpeggios" {nice use of "comprises," by the way -- almost no one ever gets that right}, then isn't it the case that if you practice a lot of music (as I do), you are perforce practicing a lot of scales and arpeggios? And if so, and you're paying attention to intonation during that practice, what does separately practicing scales and arpeggios get you?

    That is, by the way, a devil's advocate position and not one that I truly hold. But it may frame my question a bit better than the way I asked it the first time.

  4. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    You are correct, Sir! (Ed McMahon)
    It is all about attitude, in my book. I love performing etudes (like Storch-Hrabe, Nanny, Bille, Findeisen) on concerts because it takes the "etude" attitude away... they become concert caprices. But I also believe that one must build "tools" to use for performance. I separate rhythm from pitch, left and right hands each doing, often, a different rhythm.... in this way the Tools get used together but are acknowledged separately. Scales and arpeggios FOR THEMSELVES actually can be beautiful and help me get focused... but hey, that's me. Yes, I think you can use pieces to practice your scales and focus on the tools helps one learn the music fast... always with the expression in mind, supporting the development of the tools.
    Hmmm... sounds heady/heavy. Anyway, hopefully you get my intent here. Each of us practice in different ways. One must find the best methodology for one's self. It is easy to ignore new ways tho' when you feel all is working the way it is. Pushing the limits is part of my practice.
  5. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Good points, and perspectives really differ on those issues. My current teacher studied with Henry Portnoi in Boston, and I'm told that Portnoi did not believe in spending time on etudes, thinking instead that anything you could get from an etude you could get from a solo piece or an orchestral excerpt.

    My prior teacher was a huge fan of the Storch-Hrabe etudes. At lessons, I'd play one the first time through for technique (after beginning the lesson playing a scale!), and then my teacher would say, "Now let's find the music in that etude." And damned if he always didn't.

    BTW, I ordered your "Scale Studies" from ISG, but they didn't appear to have a catalog listing for the other work you mentioned (Rhythmic Fingering Scale Studies). Can you point me somewhere for that?
  6. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Hey, Pete, thanks for the interest and comments.
    Yes, the Rhythmic Fingering studies are in "Etudes" published by ISG. THis set also includes "The Grey Area Exercise", "Thumbonics" (a positional fingering etude), "The Cat on the Railing", a one-string, each-string etude with lots of pivoting.
  7. This is a great question. I am very interested in practicing areggios, scales and modes. I know how this improves one's ear and muscle memory and helps the subconscious produce bass lines on the fly.

    But which do you practice first? Arpeggios are chords and there are around 18 different forms of chords (I'm sure more are possible). Should you memorize arpeggios, for example, all the arpeggios in G? G major, G minor, G Sus 4, G maj/minor 7th, G Dim, etc?

    It seems to me that one should memorize by rote all of the modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc) and practice them regularly and also learn at least two different forms for each arpeggio (three if you're really ambitious). Would our guru agree with this?

    What's my question? Simple. Will someone suggest a structured approach to arpeggios and chords, a menu to follow for us intermediate types who want to learn but aren't sure where to start?
  8. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    I don't do this, but I am thinking about it...

    Learn some jazz standards and go through them playing arppeggios off the chords in the songs. Most jazzers feel you should learn a lot of standards, and that way you have practical application.

    Obviously, going over the stuff in 1st position using inversions and whatnot would be even better. I think Ron Carters book falls into that general area..
  9. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    I've been doing a lot of looking at Ivan Galamina's Contemporary violin technique vol. 1 book 2. A lot of bowing variations, violinists don't mess around. Another good one is Hal Robinsons strokin, which is a transcription of Sevcik. You'll need a scale book like Levinson's for fingerings though.
  10. We are thinking along the same lines. Just this morning I ordered several play along manuals (with audio CDs) by James Aebersold. His manuals give you the sheet music (with the chords indicated, of course) and one of them is all about great old standards. My plan is to give the arpeggios practical application by using them to play the chords in the sheet music (along with the CD) and then experiement with different forms of the arpeggio (like starting on a note other than the root) until I find the smoothest transitions between the chords.

    Once I've learned the chord progressions to several songs this way, I think it will start to make sense and become easier.
  11. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    Think about the bebop scales.. They're very useful.

    I have about $2000 worth of Aebersold books. They're useful, but I would suggest learning basic piano as well. You won't really get into the theory unless you can "see" it. The piano is the best way. I'm not saying be "good" at piano, just good enough to see the relationships. You won't regret it, I promise..
    Bigbassguy likes this.
  12. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Lotsa great ideas here. It is clear that we all feel the importance of practicing our scales and arpeggios. THe double bass player can benefit greatly by also being aware of other approaches, for example electric bass techniques and even acoustic-electric techniques. THe double bass pedagogy is vast and there are countless books/etudes available to strengthen our scale and arp. playing. I tend to apply some sort of scale study every day, then etudes, then concert music, then improvisation. Multi-genre playing is a demand of all of us these days, so being able to be fluent in modes and diminished/octatonic scales is super helpful too. Wow, so much to do! But, hey if you are in it for life (I've been playing 38 years!!!) then you'll need all the material you can get. REsearch your various sheet music sources for any and all etude books you don't have and BUY them!
    Best wishes and good luck to you all!
    PN :)
  13. I was studying piano with a great teacher, but he had to retire due to age and health. I really do want to get back to studying piano and I agree with you, it is excellent musical background for everything else.
  14. Thanks my friend. I am studying on my own as I haven't found a teacher yet. Basically I am immersing myself in all things bass, from music theory, fingerboard memorization (I want to know the position of every note instantly), scales, modes, arpeggios, experimentation and improvisation and of course, listening to a lot of great music and bass players. Slowly a direction, a plan is taking shape to get me to my goal: to be a serious, literate, accomplished bass player.

    My next step will be to sit in on jam sessions with jazz groups in Santa Cruz, a hotbed of jazz music!
  15. Felipe Gianei

    Felipe Gianei

    Apr 9, 2014
    Hey Patrick, how are you?

    I'm a bass player, and I'm in my first year on Double Bass..

    I'm working on scales on eletric bass, and I want to know if you have any advice to pass this information to the double bass.. I know they are different, but the only aspect is physical(3 fingers instead of 4)

    I know well major scales, so I'm thinking of study this way on double bass..
    Single strings(play the notes of the scale in every single string)
    Play different patterns(Play around the instrument finding different pattern situations)
    Play melodies all around the instrument.

    I'll to do this job in all keys, it will take some time haha

    How do you organize studying all the modes, dimished..?

    Thank you

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