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Blog posts tagged with 'Dexterity'

Scales, scales, scales. The bane of many students lives.

 

Personally I quite like scales - you just whiz up and down and boom - job done. But I know a lot of students find it difficult to remember what each scale has in it, but a lot of the time they don’t remember just because they don’t practice them.

If you don’t try then you won’t succeed!

 

Here’s some top tips for #scale #success:

1. Try our alto sax book with backing CD - you can buy a copy here and hear a sample of one of the tracks here.

2. Play some piano chords under your student’s long held notes as they go up the scale to make a smooth and floaty sounding piece.

3. Practice singing the scales before you play them. If you can sing them you can play them!

Start by singing the first five notes of a scale starting on any note then play it.

4. Get them to improvise a new funky rhythm on each note of the scale - you could turn it into a call and response game

5. Put the scales they’re working on into a hat and let them pick out the scales

6. Add different articulation

6. If remembering the sharps and flats - you could add a rhyme or saying for each scale - So F is - Fat Birds (F major, B flat) or G major - Good Fish (G major, F sharp)

 

Don’t leave your scale practice for exams to the last minute. There’s usually far too many for you to take in last minute, and with all of the exam pressure you’ll be under anyway it’s not worth the stress.

So - with plenty of time between now and the next exam dates for all of the exam boards why not make scales a bit more fun by trying this:

 

Make some flash cards.

They can be as pretty or as plain as you wish.

Just cut up some pieces of paper of card into nice squares (or coloured paper, or rectangles or triangles or whatever you fancy).

Write your scale name on the front - say G Major

Then on the back write what sharps or flats are in that scale - so for this one you’d put F# on the back.

When you’re done put them all in a box or a pot and during your practice pick a few out at random and play them.

We like this method of scale practice as you have to think not only how to play that scale but if you got the ‘Bb and F#’ side of the card you would need to know what that scale is without it’s name. (G minor in case you were wondering). So it really makes you know your scales inside and out. Also it means that if you keep the scales out you’ve already done you can make sure you practice all of them - not just the easy ones. You can also divide the pile up into 'easy’ and 'needs work’ to make sure those you find challenging get the work they need.

Also we prefer to get our students to practice scales by ear and memory rather than using the notation as this is what you need to do in the exams.

For piano students – why not print off and try our free piano #scale exercises! By the time you get through these you’ll definitely know your scales inside and out.

 

Remember - there’s no such thing as a difficult scale (even though I hate Ab melodic minor) = there are just those that you’re not as familiar with.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Learn to Love Your Metronome

 

Five Ways to Learn to Love Your Metronome

 

Ah the metronome! That annoying clicking, pingy or too quiety thingy that all teachers insist you must have yet everyone avoids practising with.

A lot of my students have been learning to love the metronome this year and have really found it a great practise aid (but I’ll be honest they’ve also found it really difficult too!). But why should it make it harder I hear you say? Well – the simple answer is that we’re not robots. When we play there’s always a bit of an ebb and flow to our sense of timing (even though we try desperately for it to stay ‘in time’). Best example of this was when I started a big band rehearsal with the band at one speed, with a sneaky metronome silenced in the back ground, then turning it on and up half way through a song – it really shocked them to see how much they’d dropped collectively!

But it doesn’t have to be all heart-ache and misery! Metronomes are really useful – and practise with them can be great fun too!

 

1. Start with the basics – do some rhythm games with it to help your body internalise the beat. If you ‘feel’ the difference between crotchets and quavers you will naturally play them better. So start the metronome and play crotchets alongside – then suddenly swap to quavers (or have someone shout the rhythm changes out!) or minims etc and see if you can keep up and keep changing.

2. Scales practise – to get used to playing ‘in time’ choose some nice easy scales to run up and down in time with the beat. Again – you could play crotchets or quavers, or swung quavers… or dotted quavers….

3. Use it to help with long tone practise – put a really slow count on and if you have the old fashioned metronomes you can see how close time wise you are to holding a note for an extra beat longer. It also means you cant cheat by speeding up your count!

4. Headphones – now this might seem odd, but bear with me. As a teacher of tenor and baritone saxes and all those loud based instruments – just hearing the metronome can be a pain. So – best advice for the battery operated ones is to put some headphones in. Even if you can hear it – sometimes having the sound that little bit closer helps. (But obviously if you’re like me and always forget to change the batteries and rely on an old fashioned wind up one then this won’t help you!)

5. Dexterity – often students find that there’s always a piece of music that has one or two nigglingly bars that the fingers won’t get around in time. This is where you should learn to love your metronome. Isolate the difficult bars and practise them at a really slow speed. Then a tiny bit quicker. Then a bit quicker still. Then at the speed you need it. Then…. Go for it. Way above the speed you need and see what happens. It’ll probably be a car crash *but* when you go back to the speed you wanted in the first place – you’ll probably find that the brain relaxes over it and suddenly it’s easier.