Scales could be referred to as the ‘vegetables’ of the music education world. Parents often battle with getting their kids to eat their vegetables, and music teachers often battle with getting their students to learn their scales.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Chefs and food companies have created loads of fun recipes to encourage children to eat their veggies, saving many parents from the argument of, “Eat them, they’re good for you!”
To save music teachers like you from the argument of, “Just play them, they’re important!” we’ve got a bunch of fun ways you can make teaching and learning scales more interesting. You’re welcome.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
When we’re inevitably faced with the question, “But why do I have to learn scales?” it’s useful to have a go-to answer.
Rarely does the answer, “Because I’m the teacher and I told you so,” go down well. Students want to know the why behind what they’re learning, and it’s our job to tell them.
Reasons include (but aren’t limited to):
Controversially, some teachers believe that scales are no longer relevant. Read about that here.
One reason students don’t like scales is because they don’t sound interesting. Sure, some students like the way the patterns sound (we’ve even known students to say that listening to scales is soothing) but the majority of them will tell you they sound boring.
One way to fix this: improvisation.
By using the scale to create an improvisation, the student will know the scale inside out (plus they’ve had fun with it, rather than simply playing through it)
One challenge teenage students have loved is accompanying themselves playing the scale.
“Accompanying themselves? How does that work? They grow another pair of arms?”
You can find out more about students creating their own backing track accompaniment here.
As we mentioned before, students can drag their heels when it comes to learning scales because of their lack of understanding why. Why are scales are important? Why do they have to learn them?
One way to illustrate their importance is through a composition activity.
Seeing the scale in action and using it to create a short piece helps the student put into context why scales are important and useful (they’ve just used one to create a piece!)
A lot of the time, students love being competitive. If scales are feeling a bit of a drag, introduce a studio-wide Scale Challenge.
There are SO many ways you could do this, so here’s just a few suggestions:
If a student is still lacking enthusiasm for scales and not understanding the why behind learning them, try putting them in a bigger context.
We’ll give you a hypothetical scenario you can use as a basis for your own students.
All of these scale-based activities could take an entire lesson (maybe even more) but it will be worth the time spent.
Rather than just teaching a scale, telling your student to learn it, memorize it, then move onto the next one, you’re showing them the why behind learning scales.
You’re showing them how scales make up music.
You’re showing them that without scales they wouldn’t have the songs they know and love.
And when students understand the why they’re more inclined to say, “Okay, sure!” the next time you introduce them to a new scale.
Psst, we have another secret for making scales even more engaging… TopMusic Cheat Sheet ‘Turning Off Auto-Pilot in Scales’.
Our cheat sheet gives you and your students even more ways to make scales more interesting (and sometimes more challenging!)
You can even print copies for your students to take home and work through the suggestions to jazz up their scale practice. Download your copy today!