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How to Practice Scales


When practicing anything, including scales, it is vital that you include diversity in your practice. Try to include as many ways as possible in your practicing and be creative. I've left the last number blank because this is not a comprehensive list. Don't get stuck in just one way of practicing or just mindlessly repeat your scales (or your mistakes!). Engage your mind as much as possible and enjoy the process of learning.


  1. With a friend

    1. Simply playing for each other

    2. Complete the scales for another another (four notes each, two octaves)

    3. Every other note

    4. Identifying the wrong notes of others

    5. In order in a group: C Major, a natural minor, a melodic minor, a harmonic minor

    6. In unison

    7. In half steps (one person play the C major scales, the other person plays their C-sharp major scale)

    8. In other intervals

    9. Identifying the scale type your friend is playing

    10. Singing together

  2. Penny game

  3. Flash cards

  4. Envelopes

  5. In order (Circle of fifths, etc.)

  6. Out of order (random, hard ones first, etc.)

  7. Five note scales

  8. Fingering and saying note names out loud

  9. Fingering and silently citing note names

  10. Fingering and singing

  11. Say the note names out loud without fingering

  12. Write the notes on staff paper (so you know you know the scales away from the clarinet)

  13. Write the note names on notebook paper

  14. Sheet with helpful tips (e.g., chromatic fingering, A major has a D natural, etc.)

  15. Pyramids

  16. Christmas three scales/backwards

  17. Relative major, then relative minor

  18. Parallel major, then parallel minor

  19. Think before you play

    1. What is it related to?

    2. What note do I start on?

    3. What are the order of the notes?

    4. What type of scales am I playing (major, harmonic, melodic, natural?)

  20. Verbalize the mistake you made, identifying what is incorrect and what is correct (this means talking to yourself)

  21. Playing SO slowly you have to think while you're playing (think whole notes or fermatas)

  22. Vamp (repeat it over and over again without stopping)

  23. Narrow your focus, start with a few a day and go from there... number scales on a sheet, don't try to learn everything all at once

  24. With music, without music

    1. Scale sheets with key signatures

    2. Scale sheets without key signatures

  25. Marking scale sheet (write in fingerings, note common mistakes)

  26. White chords at the piano

  27. Natural minor: play the major scale two notes below

  28. Decided how to what to think about the scales (e.g., thinking about the ascending melodic minor scales as the major scale with lowered third or minor scale with raise 6 & 7)

  29. Record yourself

  30. Forte

  31. Rhythms (eighth, two sixteenths; two sixteenths, eighth; dotted eighth sixteenth, etc.)

  32. With metronome

  33. Writing a scale schedule (make a plan!)

  34. Write a paragraph about why scales are important

  35. In musical context

  36. Like you know them (with confidence)

  37. Like a famous clarinetist

  38. Figuring out where you are in the middle of the scale when you get lost but haven't yet made a mistake

  39. Varied articulations (slur two, tongue two; slur three, tongue one; etc.)

  40. From top to bottom

  41. Whole steps and half steps (thinking about these relationships)

  42. With different method books (Baermann, Hite, Albert, Galper, etc.)

  43. Different formats: returning, interrupted, thirds, etc.

  44. Transpose a song (like Happy Birthday) into all 12 keys


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