Practice Your Scales.

About a year ago, I ran across this interview with Dwayne Burno. I believe in this interview, Burno over-generalizes younger musicians as being lazy and disrespectful to jazz and older musicians.

As I read and begin to sort through the ‘junk talking’, I begin to find a few important things. About music in his childhood, he says: “I would listen intently as my mother ran her major and minor scales in octaves and diminished exercises and arpeggios in all keys.”

I started to think how amazing it would have been to have a parent who was a dedicated musician, and would be able to pass along those types of excellent practice habits. This, in conjunction with his statement that basically young musicians sit around watching TV when they should be practicing, got me fired up and ready to re-evaluate my practice routine.

I thought carefully about what I had learned about jazz theory and jazz improv, and I found that most chords in jazz can be negotiated using the modes of the major scale, modes of the (ascending) melodic minor scale, the diminished scale, or blues scale. So I made a pile of 48 flash cards with the names of each of those scales in all 12 keys.

Each morning I grab two scale cards off of the top of the pile. For the first 9 months or so, I practiced the scales with both hands for an hour, one hand on each organ manual, and paid close attention to the fingering and articulation. My understanding of jazz started to skyrocket (in a relative sense.) I would recommend everybody do this, if for nothing else, just to prove Dwayne Burno wrong: musicians are actually hard-working and conscientious!

Then I came up with a wicked pattern exercise to use over the scales. I’ll share that one in a week or so.

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