My Trumpet Scale Story
In my early years as a music major at the University of Texas at El Paso, I had ambitions of becoming both a skilled classical musician and an accomplished jazz player. To that end, I divided my time each day so as to be guaranteed to cover all of the things I needed to practice. One day while I was practicing my classical trumpet scales, I realized the redundancy in my practice schedule. I realized for the first time that the F Major scale is the same scale in classical styles as it is in jazz. There is no such thing as a jazz major scale or a classical major scale. So the time I was spending on scales each day was not as efficient as it could have been because of that redundancy.
That’s when I decided to assess the strengths and weaknesses of all the scales I was practicing and create a set of new trumpet scale exercises that combined all of those strengths. They were to be trumpet scale exercises that were stylistically neutral so that practicing them would not deter from one style or the other. Today I have been practicing these trumpet scales for almost thirty years, and have been using them with my students for over twenty years.
About the Name
When it came time to give the studies a name, because I was publishing them for the first time (in the early 1990’s), I was taking a class in Sociology. In that class we studied the concept of socialization, which is the assimilation of cultural norms over an extended period of time. While I was studying this topic, I realized that this is exactly how the scales that I wrote work. So I decided to call my scale exercises, Tonalization Studies.
One of the main features of my scales is that, instead of doing all of the scales every day, you practice a collection of scale patterns over only one scale per day. In fact, I often recommend that some students should practice one scale per week or even per month. It is this long term aspect of the scales that gives them socialization-like qualities. This extended time on a single scale works the same way in our minds as socialization does.
When I gave the scale exercises this name, I did not know that other people use the same term with other definitions. By the time I learned this, it was too late for me to change them name. But that’s fine. The name still works and makes sense to those who understand the scales and their effectiveness.
Benefits of Practicing Tonalization Studies
What I didn’t know, back when I invented these trumpet scale exercises, was that the long term use of the Tonalization Studies would go so far beyond just benefiting the musicians’ technique in scales. There are some amazing benefits to practicing the Tonalization Studies that I hadn’t intended when I first created them. Here is a list of the benefits of practicing the Tonalization Studies:
Trumpet Finger Technique
The trumpet finger technique you gain from practicing Tonalization Studies is technique that is immediately applicable to playing the instrument. It is not technique for its own sake. Each scale or key offers it’s own set of fingerings and some keys tend to be more difficult than others.
One of the best long term benefits of practicing the Tonalization Studies is the development of your ear. In musician lingo, when we refer to “your ear”, we are talking about your ability to hear pitches and discern if they are in tune or not. The Tonalization Studies have qualities that develop your ear without having to spend time specifically doing so. Just doing the exercises regularly is enough.
Because the Tonalization Studies are played like flow studies, they are wonderful exercises for improving trumpet tone.
These scale exercises are unique to other exercises written specifically for trumpet in that each one covers the trumpeter’s full range. Every Tonalization Study begins with the tonic note, ascends to the top note, in that key, in the trumpeter’s range, then descends to low F sharp or G. It ends by returning back to the original tonic note. They help your range by connecting the top notes to the rest of your usable range in a gradual, unforced manner.
To meet this full range requirement, different players with different ranges should be practicing different versions of the Tonalization Studies. The Daily Routines and the Chops Express books both have Tonalization Studies that are appropriate for different players of different skill levels, but we are in the process of publishing written out versions of the Tonalization Studies as separate books for seven different levels of students.
Because the Tonalization Studies cover your entire working range, and because they are so long and there are so many of them, practicing them always takes students to the next level in their physical development. As long as you are using them correctly, you will increase your strength and efficiency thereby increasing your endurance on the trumpet.
Remember that everything that improves your trumpet sound will also improve your endurance. There are reasons for this that I will have to expound upon in another post.
The Tonalization Studies help your sight reading by making your knowledge and skills in the major keys more automatic. As more of the individual elements of music become more second nature, your sight reading will also become faster and more accurate. Reading keys is only one part of the full sight reading picture, but it plays an important role.
I have always associated the skills of sight reading with the skill of improvisation. On the surface they seem to have very little in common, but when you find yourself actually doing them, they feel very similar. I believe this feeling is due to the fact that both improvisation and sight reading are real time activities. The both require you to be quick on your feet, fast thinking and confident. Thus, in the same way as with sight reading, the Tonalization Studies help your improvisation by making the key more subconscious. When you don’t have to think about the key, your mind is free to think of other more musical aspects of the improvisation.
The Tonalization Studies help your phrasing because they are to be practiced with a long, flowing, steady air stream. The skill required to make the scales consistent and smooth is a basic skill required in musical phrasing.
The Best Trumpet Scales!
As you can see, the Tonalization Studies are so much more than just trumpet scales. The benefits reach far beyond anything you would enjoy by only practicing traditional trumpet scales. As an example of how effective they are, I once had a student who admitted from the start that he had no time to practice. The only time he had to practice was during his lessons. To maximize on this fact, he decided to take two hour lessons weekly, instead of the half hour lessons his peers were taking. Because of his specific strengths and weaknesses, I decided to spend most of that two hours going through the Tonalization Studies. This went on for about two years and at the end of that time he was playing all twenty of them, in all keys, perfectly, and by memory. When we started these two hour lessons, he was in on of the bottom bands at his school. By the time he was a senior he was in the top band and celebrated as one of his school’s most improved trumpet players.
I often tell people that the Tonalization Studies are the best exercises I’ve ever written. They are the most powerful tools I have as a teacher and have enabled so many of my students to reach their musical goals.
The Total Tonalization Book is the only publication we have with only the Tonalization Studies in it. The only problem with the book is that it is written for students who’s range goes to the G above the staff. It is appropriate for some students, but many others need to be using the studies which span a different range. We plan on making those other Tonalization Study books available as e-Books as soon as we upgrade the music store. When we have done that, we will post another blog about the release of the new books, which will not only include Tonalization Studies for the major scales but also for the pentatonic, harmonic minor and some of the symmetric scales.
Stay tuned! There’s lots to come.