Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
Funkaroma
KVRist
139 posts since 20 Dec, 2018

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:53 pm

Hi everyone,

I am learning scales on a very slow method at this moment. I am now busy with learning the minor C and D scale and I know how to play there quit well, except I’m struggling with chords.

I recently spoke with someone who is very good at playing piano and he said that it is uncommon and more difficult to start off with learning the minor scales. I made this decision at the time, because I thought I needed the minor scales the most, but after I heard this I wonder if I should quit the way how I’m doing it now. I feel like I am not progressing a lot now. I know practising this kind of stuff takes a lot of time, but I think I’m not doing it the right way. I’m now busy for months to feel comfortable playing only 2 scales and I can’t even play the harmonic variation of the scales. Let alone chords. I want to be able to play all western scales + some exotic ones. That is my goal at least.

I only own a 25 key keyboard at the moment, so learning chords isn’t ideal either. I wonder if you get lessons by a proffesional teacher how you start of learning them the right way. Learning the technique is a struggle as well.

A little side note which isn’t neccesary to read, but I want to share is that I’m 19 years old and dealing with some mental problems which makes life at this moment not easy to say the least. I didn’t learn a instrument in my youth. Music had always a special place in my heart and I started of making music when I was 15, but till then it wasn’t very serious and I kept it as a thing to just make some fun. When I was 17 I did hospitality school, but stopped at the end of the year, because it really didn’t fit me. I haven’t a lot of self confidence and I always wonder if I will be good enough in music. But years are passing by and I have to make a tough decision soon. Should I keep it as a hobby or is there a good opportunity to make this my job in the future? Some advice on this part would be appreciated as well:)

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Deep Purple
KVRian
1108 posts since 9 Jan, 2015 from NY, NY

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:47 pm

It's not really more difficult to learn minor over major if you start with the relative minor to the easiest major keys and work towards the harder ones. For example, if you start with Am it's no harder than starting with C Major. Most teachers will get you to start with major keys and C Major is almost always the start point as it has no sharps or flats.

I don't know that D would typically follow C as it has 2 sharps, and G would normally come between C and D as G only has one sharp. Actually it's more likely that the order would be C, G, F, D so that you introduce sharps and flats slowly. Learning scales is not about being able to run up and down them from root to octave, it's about knowing them well enough to use them in a practical way, but that really depends on what you want to do.

Learning chords is not necessarily something that you should do from an entirely theoretical perspective - I found it easier to learn songs and pieces of music so that I could familiarize myself with how individual pieces are played. Over time you can build up more chords and their inversions, and once you have memorized scales and know how to form chords it becomes easier to think on your feet.

The thing that will make you learn is enjoying what you're doing, and even if you don't want to get a teacher in the long run, a few lessons to start or a lesson once in a while can get you on the right track. I would recommend in-person lessons rather than online, and take your time finding a teacher who has similar interests to you - if you want to do one thing in music and their background is different, it's just not going to work.

Something that really helped me on many different instruments was joining a band or just getting together with a group of friend to jam. If that's not an option, look at all the incredibly famous musicians who learned to play by sitting down and playing along to other people's music - using your ears is a skill that really pays off in the long run.
Sweet child in time...

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:32 pm

Funkaroma wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:53 pm
But years are passing by and I have to make a tough decision soon. Should I keep it as a hobby or is there a good opportunity to make this my job in the future? Some advice on this part would be appreciated as well:)
No, think of it as the most competitive field in the world, you can't count on there being work out of just being competent, and you seem to have a difficult path to even that from what you've said.

You need to be learning songs, not abstracting things as you are with no particular structure or guidelines. Sure, 'minor' at this stage is more compelling or seems something something more serious or whatever, but that itself is a naive conception.
The sense of chords will appear if you're getting it in context, same with the sense of scales; scales aren't music, any of this abstracted as you're doing is just material. You have to develop an ear, and that means musical context experiencing these devices at work.

Bippo
KVRist
64 posts since 1 Mar, 2019

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:12 am

I would advise to ignore opinions of "giving up", it's your life and if you want to make a career in music, just put the time and practice and you'll get better and better over time.

As for how to learn the scales: learn them by the order of the circle of fifths.
Start with major scales first (C,G,D,A,etc...), learn each hand separately with the proper fingering. Practice slowly with metronome and increase the bpm as it becomes easier.

I really think you should need at least 49 keys keyboard, so you can play each scale for two octaves at least.

Of course, you should also learn some basic theory,what's the meaning of these scales and chords, maybe some sightreading...it's really just a matter of practice, music is not rocket science.

The most important thing is that you'll really understand the building blocks of music, and not memorize scales and chords. Once you understand the basics, you can find any scale and any chord you want quite easily.

Also, put all that knowledge to use and learn some of your favorite songs...then try to come up with your own!

Music should be fun, don't stress yourself, just slowly dive in and enjoy :)

Funkaroma
KVRist
139 posts since 20 Dec, 2018

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:20 am

“No, think of it as the most competitive field in the world, you can't count on there being work out of just being competent, and you seem to have a difficult path to even that from what you've said.“

I understand. Luckily there are also a lot of other options as well which involves music where you can make a living from. I’ll think about it for a while and I will just keep going with something I like which is learning to make good music and develop skills for live play etc. It may stay as a hobby, but if I am lucky I can maybe get far with this:).

“You need to be learning songs, not abstracting things as you are with no particular structure or guidelines. Sure, 'minor' at this stage is more compelling or seems something something more serious or whatever, but that itself is a naive conception.
The sense of chords will appear if you're getting it in context, same with the sense of scales; scales aren't music, any of this abstracted as you're doing is just material. You have to develop an ear, and that means musical context experiencing these devices at work”

I understand that learning to play existing songs would be very handy in my case. But I imagine learning the western scales is one of the first things you aim for when your getting piano lessons from a proffesional. Most songs are build from them, so you need to be able to know them to be able to practise songs.(Please say if I’m wrong about what I’m saying here).

But what would you recommend to learn this? Starting off with C major natural, harmonic, melodic all the way up to A major? Starting of learning songs in C major, practise them and if I’m comfortable playing them going to the next scale? I actually spoke to some pretty famous electronic music producers and some even said they have zero knowledge about music theory. All fine if that works for you, but I think knowing it will actually helps you to become a confident musical player which knows what he or she is doing.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:55 am

Bippo wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:12 am
I would advise to ignore opinions of "giving up",
What 'opinions of "giving up"? I see quote marks. There is no such statement to quote.

This is a quote: "Should I keep it as a hobby or is there a good opportunity to make this my job in the future? Some advice on this part would be appreciated..."
Here's another instance of quoting: "If you want to make a career in music, just put the time and practice and you'll get better and better over time.".

There is no good opportunity per se even if you are the most dedicated and diligent student one can possibly be.
'Getting better and better over time', even if this turns out to be true, may be relative in the first place, we can't know what the actual level is going to be, so is absolutely no guarantee of there being a job in the future. One is getting ahead of one's self here.
Last edited by jancivil on Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:57 am

Also, put all that knowledge to use and learn some of your favorite songs...then try to come up with your own!
For "all that" to BE knowledge it must be experiential. Learn songs is primary; practicing scales on a keyboard has to have basic application.

SLiC
KVRAF
3537 posts since 2 Dec, 2004 from North Wales

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:01 am

I learnt a lot of scales accidently by learning the chords - from a basic triad, to flatting the 3rd to get the minor, then knowing the basic chords in a key (Major, Minor Minor. Major etc...) and just jamming songs (start with 12 bar Blues for example in major and Minor keys, or whatever you are familiar with) then just follow the chord shapes as arpeggios then notes in any order...


worked for me and didn't feel like learning.
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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:06 am

Funkaroma wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:20 am
I understand that learning to play existing songs would be very handy in my case. But I imagine learning the western scales is one of the first things you aim for when your getting piano lessons from a proffesional. Most songs are build from them, so you need to be able to know them to be able to practise songs.(Please say if I’m wrong about what I’m saying here).
Since you have if all figured out, just do that and see how it all works out.

"Most songs are built from them" - really? You know this from what experience writing songs? I never said don't practice scales. This looks like you find that more convenient and are avoiding learning songs in favor of this mechanical thing you can do by rote.

No, you need to develop your ear and get how scales relate to songs or pieces of music, an abstraction of scales with no context is nowhere. One may learn songs well before one can run scales to any particular mastery. You're rather asking the cart of scales to pull the horse of music here.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:22 am

Funkaroma wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:20 am
I actually spoke to some pretty famous electronic music producers and some even said they have zero knowledge about music theory. All fine if that works for you, but I think knowing it will actually helps you to become a confident musical player which knows what he or she is doing.
Works for who, now? NB: "some pretty famous electronic music producers" is probably exactly the wrong people to consult regarding musicianship. What is this 'music theory' to you? Yeah, it's a real good idea to understand from circle of fifths, from the different usages of minor, to know why there IS harmonic minor, where melodic minor derives from but most crucially what it sounds like - which is where learning actual music to play comes in - to develop technique in harmonizing a melody (again, CONTEXT, experiencing music by people who are masters of that craft).

OTOH there are people with a certain talent that get this by ear. Paul McCartney doesn't know any music theory. But this is clearly not you, gauging by your notion of learning songs as maybe handy but something to put off til later in favor of getting technique in running scales.

Music theory is not a recipe; songs are not necessarily built from scales (a scale would tend to apply, but there are melodies which don't even contain seven discrete notes, and a scale is an abstraction, something which we may extrapolate and, hearing it/seeing it work know something about the tune technically), as one may have internalized how melody is formed through exposure to and experience with melody and worked from that vantage point. You never know. Yes, scales are pretty fundamental as part of one's toolbox but I'm standing with learning songs as at least side by side.
I was playing songs and writing songs before I cared very much about practicing scales. Albeit I had that in fifth grade band class on an instrument. My interest was Jimi Hendrix and a lot of music which was more pentatonic, modal rather than tonal and I learned by ear. I was a pretty good arranger of a prog band with some notoriety before I had any music theory course.
The cart doesn't just through being an excellent cart pull the horse. Eventually I needed to understand more as a classical musician so at 18 I dove in.

I see this mistaken kind of impression all the time here trying to help people, usually more with knowing a_little about chords and chord progression off the internet, but refusing to do 'other people's music'.
What's the goal, though, becoming a musician? Guess what, this means you're going to be playing songs, or something pretty close to songs (pieces of instrumental music) so do that *now*. It seems pretty simple to me.

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Deep Purple
KVRian
1108 posts since 9 Jan, 2015 from NY, NY

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:05 am

jancivil wrote:OTOH there are people with a certain talent that get this by ear. Paul McCartney doesn't know any music theory.
Paul McCartney might not be the best example, as George Martin always said that Paul spent more time with him trying to learn arranging skills and notation than the rest of The Beatles. Paul also scored some (pretty terrible) orchestral works later in his career.

However, the flip side to that is that Paul McCartney wrote some of his best material prior to attaining any of these skills, so there is obviously something else at work there.

Then again, some of his work throws theory out of the window in favor of making something sound good, particularly when he's composing on piano. That might be due to limited ability, but it shows that limited ability is not a hindrance to writing and performing very popular songs.

McCartney had a lot of live playing under his belt before The Beatles started writing songs or recording, and if you listen to what he played you can see he picked up a lot of 'theory' without formally learning any theory.
Sweet child in time...

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:35 am

McCartney absolutely exemplifies learning songs as a way to understand music. It isn't an example for the OP who would prefer not to. It's just a side point, someone that did NOT rely on book larnin' at all.

Arranging techniques, music theory, kind of an overlap but again, I was a pretty apt arranger before I took a course at all.
I noticed a lack in my understanding and had some desire and a long-held feeling that I could compose, so finally I took the leap.

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jancivil
KVRAF
18272 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from No Location

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:46 am

"he picked up a lot of 'theory' without formally learning any theory"
Exactly the point, I say this constantly. He learned from doing songs from an early age, internalizing how they worked. I learned half of Abbey Road off the record, including piano parts, bass parts, the guitar overdubs. Eventually I was kind of stumped at Because, trying to sort the harmonies. This is very sophisticated harmony 'written' by people with no formal training.

But this is a natural tendency if one has the ear for it, so I wouldn't say the OP has an ear for it or they would be doing exactly this; instead they need exactly this advice (and are resisting it).

"throws theory out of the window" - which 'theory'? He can't have cared much. You'd have to draw the theory from the results, theory is no recipe.

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Deep Purple
KVRian
1108 posts since 9 Jan, 2015 from NY, NY

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:10 am

jancivil wrote:"throws theory out of the window" - which 'theory'? He can't have cared much. You'd have to draw the theory from the results, theory is no recipe.
That was meant for the OP based on the concept that 'theory' will drive songwriting, arranging, performance or whatever - I'm sure McCartney cared a lot more about creating the piece regardless of what he had learned from George Martin or others along the way.

'Let It Be' is a good example - all his chords have a 5th except the Dm7 - the 5th makes it harder to play on the right hand or he would have to add the 5th on the left hand, but he just ignores it. No big deal as the song works fine without it, but if he had tried to bring 'theory' to bear, he might have struggled to find a way to include it.
Sweet child in time...

Funkaroma
KVRist
139 posts since 20 Dec, 2018

Re: Scales (and technique) ... Best way to learn them?

Post Wed Apr 17, 2019 8:11 am

Thanks for a lot of information. Of course this is a subject with a lot of different opinions.

I recently found someone which is willing to help me out with learning keyboard. It isn't a proffesional teacher, but I hope he can guide me through this. It's a bit hard to keep the focus, because there is so much information to learn. For me personally it also would be better to speak to someone in my native language so I express my question better.

I make electro music. A genre which isn't very populair anymore, but my first goal is to create music in the genre which I personally like the most.

I don't have to be a 'fantastic' keyboard player, but I want to be a decent one which knows what he is doing.

Back to scales. I want to switch from minor to major now. Starting off with C major and working my way down to all. What deep purple said about the way to route through this is definitely something which I will keep in mind.

Oh and jancivil. I do think I have a good ear for music. I can distinguish how a musical pattern is build up in a song well. I can come up with ideas well. I only don't have the technique to express it yet. I may distract myself too much with side issues.

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