Teaching Scales The Fun Way... With Improvisation

No matter what instrument you teach, it’s a fact: scale practice makes a huge difference, for… well, just about everything.

Technique, tone, melody, harmony, pattern recognition, ear training, the list goes on…

So why is it that the first time many students encounter scales, they often think “wow, this is boring!”

It’s simple: they may not have realized that scales were meant to be played in a musical context. It’s more than just going up and down in an octave.

Clara Schumann famously improvised her way through scale and arpeggio practice daily, spontaneously composing amazing melodies and harmonies like a Jazz musician. Unfortunately, there were no iPhones back then, so it’s not recorded.

Jazz musicians, improvisers, composers, songwriters, and teachers who play pop and rock music in addition to their more traditional studies, all have a wide range of inspiration to pull from here, and these different approaches can inform the more traditional teachers through technology.

It’s simple to get started right away, in 3 easy steps:

  1. Pick a rhythmic backing track of some kind.

  2. Record easy to play fragments of the scale, with space in between them. Map this out to whatever the final objective is for the student, so they can build it up in pieces.

  3. Have the student listen and play along with the recording, and also invite them to play along with spontaneous responses to the scale fragments. Pro Tip: base the fragments on bite sized ideas around fingerings or hand positions.

Metronomes are great, but it’s even better when you have a groove, like the A Minor lesson plan below that explores the notes A, B, and C with a cool beat.

Lesson plan links (opens in Messenger, click/tap “Get Started” to get the lessons):

A Minor

B major over E (Lydian Vibe)

Check out how the simple beat provides a structure that holds space while also inviting the student to come up with phrasing ideas in response.

Ready to dive deeper? Musico is free for teachers, create an account today and fill out the quick request form HERE if you’d like us to create custom lesson plans based on your exact specifications.