Scales-What do I do with these things!!

One question I get a lot is, “I’ve learned my scales, now what do I do with this knowledge?”  Comments like, everything I play sounds like I’m running up and down scales, I know the fingerings but I can’t make up any good melodies.

A few problems I’ve noticed with students are as follows:

1)They are playing too many notes. 

2)They are only moving in one direction

3)Rests are missing

4)No Rhythmic Variety

Firstly, one way to combat playing too many notes is to choose only three or four to work with.  If I take a G major scale, let’s say the notes G-A-B are going to be my toys to play with here.  You can come up with all sorts of ways to use only those three notes when you bring in rests/rhythms and more.

Only moving in one direction-If your lines/melodies only go up it will very quickly sound like a scale.  You need to HIDE the fact you are playing a scale by changing directions in the middle of your lines.  Let’s say, go up only 3-4 notes and then reverse directions and go backwards

NO RESTS-Take a breath DUUUUUDE.  An easy way to make it sound less like a scale is to pause in the middle of your melodies.  Think of a singer, they have to breathe.

No Rhythmic Variety-Use a VARIETY of notes.  If you only use 8th notes it becomes monotonous.  Make little games for yourself, limit yourself to three 8th notes per measure and the rest have to be quarter notes or rests.  Triplets are another tool that can break it up from sounding like a scale.

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