Scales to NOT Practice
If you are one of my students, whether you are a trumpet student or a jazz improvisation student, there are certain scales you will not practice for your lessons. Maybe you’ve noticed this in your lessons already?
I will share a brief list of some of the scales we don’t practice and then explain why.
- The Blues Scale
- The Bebop Scale
- Natural Minor
- Dorian Minor
- Phrygian Minor
- Lydian Augmented
- Diminished Wholetone
- Super Locrian
- Altered Scale
- Lydian Dominant
This is a long list of scales that you will hear musicians talk about, especially jazz players. But we don’t practice them. What I’m about to share with you applies mainly to jazz scales, but also applies to trumpet scales in general.
Why We Don’t Practice These Scales
There are two reasons why we don’t practice these scales. The first reason applies to the first two scales on the list. Let’s look at the blues scale first.
The Blues Scale
The blues is not a scale!
Let’s say it again… The blues is not a scale!!!
The language that jazz trumpet players learn to make their improvisation take on a bluesy flavor does not come from the blues scale. Simply put, “you can’t get there from here”. Meaning, you can’t acquire the bluesy part of the jazz language by learning a scale.
In fact, if you play the blues scale in your improvised solos, THAT’S what it’s going to sound like, is a scale. Jazz improvisation is a living art form but when you play scales, you make it sound dead.
The Bebop Scale
Let’s do it again but with this scale now…
Repeat after me… “Bebop is not a scale!”
We don’t practice the bebop scale for precisely the same reason why we don’t practice the blues scale. “You can’t get there from here!” The sound that people are trying to get by practicing the so called “bebop scale” cannot be obtained by practicing a scale. Instead of practicing the bebop scale, you should be learning the jazz language.
Learn the Jazz Language
In the case of both the blues scale and the bebop scale, the reason we don’t practice them is because scales can never replace learning the jazz language. And in fact, adding yet another scale to the already huge list, in my opinion, is a waste of time and effort.
If you want that bebop or bluesy sound in your jazz improvisation, then learn the jazz language. Study jazz transcriptions. Practice jazz motifs. Write your own “jazz solo wish lists” (my better way of saying “jazz etudes“) using the jazz language and practicing it that way.
If you try to get there with scales instead of jazz language, then you will invest a LOT more effort than necessary and probably never end up sounding as good as your effort. If that makes sense.
All of the other scales in the list above are modes of scales that we DO practice.
When you practice your scales the way I teach, then practicing the modes is a complete waste of time. If you do my Tonalization Studies on the major scale, then there is NO practical difference between those exercises and the modes. The first Tonalization study is as follows:
C D E, D E F, E F G, F G A, etc.
The Dorian mode Tonalization study is the exact same exercise beginning on D instead of C:
D E F, E F G, F G A, G A B, etc.
Due to the comprehensive nature of the Tonalization studies, ALL of the modes are included in the parent scale and there is no difference between them.
This is true for all scales that have popular modes. For example, the Altered Scale is a mode of the Melodic Minor. If you practice the Melodic Minor, then you have already practice the Altered Scale, the Diminished Whole-Tone Scale, the Super Locrian scale, the Lydian Augmented scale and all the rest of the modes of the Melodic Minor.
It’s About Efficiency
It’s all about efficiency. We already have so much on our plates as jazz improvisers. There is so much to do and when you practice the Tonalization studies, it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes per scale. That’s a lot of time when you look at how many scales we need to practice.
Why make it needlessly impossible by adding hundreds more scales in the form of redundant modes?