Scale motivation

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    How can I light a fire under my high school student’s butts to not be okay with “okay” on their scales? I have about half a class that just doesn’t seem to care how important scales are. They are AWESOME in every other aspect (in terms of being motivated to work), but for some reason I’m getting no desire to achieve on scales. Help!


    You could try stepping up the scales so that they learn two-octave scales and arpeggios in a variety of bowings, tempos ryhthm patterns. Look for some etudes, pieces or fiddle tunes that utilize longish scale and arpeggio sections, to help them see in context the necessity of good scale-playing. Start some sort of “contest” to test off on all the two-octave scales within a finite time period, with a teen-friendly reward like a pizza party. Sue


    A couple ideas:

    1. Make scales a part of your daily rehearsal. The warm-up phase of your rehearsal can easily include scales. I had a band-director colleague who had a daily regime: when the bell rang, the band launched into a series of all 24 scales-major and minor in circle-of-fifths order. He took roll meanwhile. The whole thing took only about 4 minutes.

    2. Make scales a part of your audition/seating process.

    3. Make their grade depend on assigned scales. This is real, measurable assessment (to use the current jargon). Certainly you don’t mark them purely on showing up.

    4. Athletes do calisthenics; musicians do scales.

    5. Encourage your feeder school directors to introduce and set the stage for your expectations at the high school level.

    There are many scale resources on my webpage. All copyright-free and gratis. These I used regularly in several school systems over several decades.

    Gabe Villasurda


    Excellent responses!
    I always encourage learning scales as recipe ingredients to repertoire. Since your class is ‘AWESOME in every respect’ – introduce your scales slightly differently. I enjoy having a series of scales, arpeggios, thirds, and a special sequence with corresponding rhythms (from the music). They can help finding sequences/areas where the scales are actually utilized in the music. You are so proud of your orchestra. See if they can enjoy making you proud by learning the scales!
    Best of everything!
    Andrea Meyers
    NAƒME Mentor

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