Friday, September 21, 2012

Kids & Practicing Scales

From the time I can remember, back as a kid (which is in the early 90's),  a question always popped up in my mind during my vocal practice routine -- Do I 'have' to practice scales? Over the years, I could see the immense importance it can have on a musician's ability to understand and deliver. Over the last few years, during my vocal lessons with the prominent violinist A.Kanyakumari, I was amazed at how much importance she gave to scale practice.  But the question still bothers me -- do "kids" need to practice scales? 

As a kid, music classes were always fun for me. It was the highlight of my day/week. At the same time, I saw a lot of my peers dropping out of music lessons to be able to do something more "fun". I couldn't understand why it was considered "boring" for others? 

The question -- do "kids" need to practice scales? While it can be tremendously enriching, it is also the reason many kids fail to continue learning music as they relate to music as 'being monotonous'. In "How Music Works", the author John Powell elaborates on this; which I finally think makes sense as an answer to my original question - "Do Kids really need to practice scales"?

Here is the excerpt from his book --
"One thing we haven't covered so far is why generations of unhappy children have been forced at knife-point to practice playing scales on their instruments when they could be having much more fun playing real pieces of music. There are two reason for this, but I think they are rather feeble when you take into account the degree of boredom which scale practice induces, and the number of kids who have abandoned music because of it. The first reason to practice scales is that it makes you get used to using all the notes on your instrument. The second reason is that lots of tunes involve fragments of scales. In "Baa Baa Black Sheep", for example, the words "sheep have you .." are four notes of a major scale. Because scale fragments turn up so often in tunes it's helpful to have the whole scale locked into your "muscular memory" in the same way that it's useful to memorize multiplication tables -- it saves alot of effort later. On the whole, though, I think far too much emphasis is placed on scale practice in the early years of musical education. If the student is going to take up music as more than a hobby she can move on to scale practice later if she wants or needs to. While I'm feeling all hot-headed and revolutionary, why don't all you music students abandon scale practice in favor of improvisation practice?"

I strongly believe that while kids should have discipline during practice, they should also have the freedom to sing/play and listen/learn as they wish. It makes learning more fun and implants happy memories associated with music as opposed to a strict monotonous practice routine; and most importantly not dislike music.

1 comment:

geetha said...

well said kanna!!!