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  • Mark Dulin

Learning Scales-A different approach

Often young students learn C, F and G major scales (Bb, Eb and F concert scales) first in a beginning band class. This makes sense because those keys are common keys in all music but especially in a class of young students. However, F and G are often difficult for students due to issues with range. The author suggests if possible, students should start to learn scales in the following order (from this point on I will be writing scale names for the Bb trumpet) C, Bb, B and Db. Along with a chromatic scale that covers the range of each aforementioned scales. There are two reasons to start with these scales. The first being that there is a break of partial or “harmonic bridge” between B and C# and C and D (over the forth and fifth partials) as stated by Herbert L. Clarke in the fourth study of his Technical Studies for Cornet. This is why most young students can easily play a simple trill between Bb and C, but struggle between B and C# and C and D. By learning C, Bb, B and Db first this break is not crossed. Yes, the C# (Db) is played but not via whole step. The second reason is that while working on scales which are physically in a comfortable register students are improving their technique. A by-product of this method is that because the C# and B scales use the longer positions on the trumpet (more valve combinations using 23 and 123) it encourages a healthy air flow. After these scales are mastered in a smooth fashion, the student will have more confidence in their technique and a healthy air flow because they are not physically manipulating to get over this “harmonic bridge” area. After these scales, students should learn scales that expand up and down from the original scales mentioned. After learning scales in a range where they have been successful without physically manipulating the air flow, the expectation of evenness is well established and issues regarding technique will be minimized.

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