Way to make scales interesting?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Cambass, Feb 3, 2001.

  1. G'day

    I practise bass everyday, the problem is I find practising scales a bit boring, I'll start practising but it takes me a bit to get through them, not that I don't know them, it's just that I don't find it interesting. Yet these are one of the most important things to learn.

    Is there anyway to make it a bit interesting? Also, I need to have more organised practise session, eg should I be practising one thing for 30mins then move onto another. What do you do?

  2. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Cambass, it sounds like you and I are at about the same stage on this theory thing.:) I agree that scales are boring as you're learning them.

    I've found a way that holds my attention and you even end up with some neat riffs and bass lines. I play through a scale once and shift up two frets and repeat the scale etc. etc. With one passing note between scale shifts you end up with a bass solo. I play mind games by randomly touching a note on the fretboard and starting the scale out on that fret.

    I've just began to hear the scales in the bass lines of all kinds of music. I've noticed that the bass line for almost, if not all music is just scales or parts of scales.

    I'm attempting to learn to read and I've noticed that being able to hear the scales in my head is making it a little easier to understand.

    Anyway, just thought I'd let you know that you're not alone in your misery. :) :)Hang in there.


  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Another interesting and fun scale exercise to try is to figure out melodies that you have heard all your life and play them in different keys. If you practice learning to hear the sound of each scale degree and relate it to a number from 1-7 (8=1 an octave higher),you can translate almost any melody or riff into a series of numbers (which is pretty much how our brains process them anyway, as frequencies in relation to each other), and then by reproducing that series in another scale position, play the melody in other keys. It's good ear training as well.
  4. Corwin Moore

    Corwin Moore

    Dec 16, 1999
    Scales needn't be just single-step exercises. Try jumping by thirds, fourths and fifths. Try: C/E, D/F, E/G, F/A ascending and descending. Then mix the direction (C/E, F/D, E/G, A/F, etc.). These patterns can result in actual playable patterns that you can use in subsequent walking lines, etc.

    The secret is to build patterns that have some actual application to your playing. That keeps practice sessions not only interesting but more relevant.

    - Corwin
  5. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    You could also devise "sequences" to work on, such as groups of 3:


    Make things up, try new ideas, go wild. It will all do some good. But the best thing is figuring out melodies and then transposing them.

    Something else to learn, that will make things even easier, is the circle of 5ths. But that's another topic, mebbe I'll post something about it later if anyone's interested.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I use the sequence method myself. Really, I had first picked that up from Jaco's video. I do the:


    I usually stretch that to two octaves. I usually do it in 4/4 as 16th notes, although it can definitely be changed to other meters. For fun, I usually end it with some chords, usually a II-V-I, playing different inversions, usually ending the I on a 3rd inversion, (I just like the sound), possibly with some double stops. The chords at the end give some flavor to it. Lately I've been trying to throw some harmonics in inbetween the chords, because I'm really weak on the where each harmonic tone is located. The circle of fifths is really important. Basically, I warm up before a gig or my practice by running through this pattern with the circle of fifths. That's how I thought to use the II-V-I, it lets me hear the chords voiced in the circle of fifths context.

    Did that all make sense?
  7. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Cambass:, As I said in my earlier post, after all this scale memorizing I'm getting real antsy about using some of this new knowledge in my playing.

    One of my practice "routines" consists of trying to pick up the key and the basic rhythm of every sound track and commercial that comes on TV. Most of the time the tune only lasts for a short period so there's not much time to get locked in. When I first started doing this skull practice I failed to lock in more often than not. After a couple of weeks I now find that I can lock in on the key and beat more than half of the time before the sound clip is finished. This seems to be a pretty fun way to practice and I can see (hear?) progress very quickly.

    I was noodling around on the bass last night and discovered something that I thought was kind of neat. Don't ask me why but I was playing the melody lines to Xmas carols. When I played Joy To The World I realized that almost(if not all of) the whole song can be played on the CMaj scale.

    Like this: [joy-c/to-B/the-A/world-G etc. After the first few notes it becomes apparent. Descending scale for two bars, then ascending for six notes and a rest etc.

    Now I'm having a ball by starting out in different positions on the finger board. Aha, all of a sudden, I'm transcribing to any key that suits my fancy. I feel like a light has finally started to come on.

    Sorry to you guys that are way ahead of me in theory for a boring post but I thought that Cam might find this interesting. :)


  8. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Gard, I for one would be very interested in what you have to say about the circle of fifths.

    As much as I hated all of this theory stuff before, I am actually beginning to enjoy it. I am experiencing the same plateus on the learning curve that I did in learning by ear. Thank goodness that when one doesn't know very much that each step seems like a big step.

    The beauty of theory is that now when I get stuck on a level, a good musician (theorist) can help me through without having to actually see me play.

    tnx, Pkr2
  9. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    pkr2 -

    I'll have some free time late tonight, so I'll post the basics about the Circle then, check back tomorrow morning. Unless I pass out before I finish :eek: ;)
  10. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Tnx, Gard. I'm looking forward to it.

  11. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    My apologies pkr2, last nite just sucked, never got back online. I will make every attempt to do what I promised tonight. Somehow, I doubt that everything that went wrong last night :eek: can do so again tonight, but I'm not promising ANYTHING this time! ;)
  12. You should be able to sing anything before you play it. A scale is like the alphebet not much by its self. When you add rhythm magic happens. So your scale becomes becomes more than the some of its parts when you use parts of it and apply a rhythm. If you practice two octave scales you will also include all the modes of that scale. So sit down at a keyboard or midi a chord on your computer and sing and play scales and parts of scales agianst the chord. When I learn a new scale I try to add it to my musical vocabulary as soon as possible playing and singing it at every chance. There should be a point at which you no longer have to think of it and the notes will just happen from the brain to the fingers. Just like surfing or skiing it will just happen. Then learn a new (trick) scale.

    [Edited by bassdude on 02-07-2001 at 05:53 PM]
  13. Thats were I want to be at, I want to be able to recognise any note and subconciously know which it is and be able to play it.
  14. furtim


    Dec 12, 1999
    Boston, MA, USA
    Another thing you might try is playing your scales with varied rhythmns. A scale can become practically a whole solo if you try it out like that. I just recently learned about "Blues scales", so I've started running through the F Blues in varied rhythmns just for fun.
  15. Ty McNeely

    Ty McNeely

    Mar 27, 2000
    The only scales I know anything about are the major scales, so I really need to learn more of that type stuff. I have a book that tells what the steps between each note are, so I'll have to check it out.
  16. voodster


    Feb 14, 2001
    I keep seeing posts about people wanting stuff on scales. I think you guys need to find the reason you want to learn all these scales. If it's because it just seems like it'd be cool then that's not very helpful. If it's because you want to know what to play over what chord then you gotta check out Carol Kaye's website - especially the forum. She really changed everything for me. If any of you saw Oteil Burbridge's Bass Day video you would have heard him say he was blown away the most by her. She talks about how notes work within the context of chords and songs, any song. There's no point knowing 100 different scales if you don't know when or over what to use them on. She'll show you.
  17. Hey Cambass you Australian? What with the G'day bit and all. :p

    Long live us aussies. Throw another koala on the barbie.

    Ahh scales well i try to turn them into solos too. Nothing like "wanking off" with scales.

  18. Ah, Merlin! An Aussie. Well, I'm Kiwi, but at least we're from the same part of the world!
    Cambass; running the scales is fine, running them in patterns of three, four and five notes is finer, but doing that and saying the names of the notes as you go, is finest. That way you're developing your fretboard knowledge as well as your dexterity and coordination. Someone said, what is the point? Well my friend, the point is that when ya know this stuff inside out and backwards, then you can forget about it, because it will be ingrained in your motor system. THEN, and only then, will you be truly free and liberated on your instrument, and capable of REALLY playing what you hear in your head. Want an example? Go to one of Jeff Berlin's clinics. He gets four or five people to call out a completely random note each, turns on a drum machine, and starts playing using those four or five random notes. You can do it, and I can do it, but Jeff can do it and it sounds like a freaking masterpiece. AND, he can do it for ten minutes without it sounding like he's running out of ideas. It will be melodic, it will groove, and it will blow you away! Guaranteed! How can he do that? Because he learnt scales and chord tones for the joy of learning, and he learnt them so well he could then forget them, relegate them to the memory banks, and concentrate on producing beautiful music. I used to think learning scales and stuff was boring, until I met Jeff, and realised that it's an attitude thing.