31-Day Scale Challenge

Updated: Mar 26

With the coronavirus grinding life to halt, I am finding myself with a lot more free time than I have had in ages. All of my gigs and performances have been canceled (R.I.P bank account) and all of my classes have moved to online-only, so I am taking advantage of the extra time to work on projects and find new ways to practice.


Here's what I came up with:


The 31-Day Scale Challenge


Contrary to what Google will tell you, this is not a weight-loss yoga regiment for women, but rather a way for me to engage my unrequited love of pretentious scales. I'm pretty bored of playing the usual major and minor scales, so I compiled a list of 31 scales/modes, put the list into a random choice generator, and created this daily regiment to keep myself entertained for the next month.

Here's the list:


  1. Ionian

  2. Dorian

  3. Phrygian

  4. Lydian

  5. Mixolydian

  6. Aeolian

  7. Locrian

  8. Melodic Minor

  9. Dorian b2

  10. Lydian Augmented

  11. Lydian Dominant

  12. Mixolydian b6

  13. Half-Diminished Scale

  14. Superlocrian (Altered Dominant)

  15. Harmonic Minor

  16. Locrian #6

  17. Ionian Augmented

  18. Dorian #4

  19. Phrygian Dominant

  20. Lydian #2

  21. Superlocrian bb7

  22. Harmonic Major

  23. Dorian b5

  24. Phrygian b4

  25. Lydian b3

  26. Mixolydian b2

  27. Lydian Augmented #2

  28. Locrian bb7

  29. Whole Tone

  30. Chromatic

  31. Dominant Diminished


This list covers the modes of the major scale, the melodic and harmonic minor scales, and the harmonic major scale, along with some extra stuff to round the list out to 31 items. When I made the list, I set up a second random choice generator to return 1 of the 12 possible root notes. You can download the list, the end result, and a blank calendar here. The blank calendar is for a month beginning on Sunday but it doesn't matter when you start.


There are many scales that did not make my list, so if you decide to do this challenge feel free to add or remove scales as you see fit!


Why??


It's easy to get stuck in a rut when practicing. Scales are my biggest rut-area, so this seems like a good way to dig myself out of that rut and open my ears to some unfamiliar intervallic content. The unfamiliarity will also force me to find new ways to develop my intonation, and I will have to put more active thought into my fingering choices, as opposed to just mindlessly slapping down the usual options. I anticipate this being more of an issue in the upper registers than the lower ones.


Also, real music contains fragments of many of these scales, even if the composer didn't explicitly intend to use them (or have a name for them). Spending time with these scales will, I hope, help me with sight-reading by giving me a broader vocabulary of scalar patterns to call upon when reading new music. I also look forward to the increased fingerboard knowledge practicing this challenge will give me.


There is also benefit to this if you play jazz. Many of the listed scales correspond to different altered chords, so learning these scales will help you improvise more effectively.


Fun Ways To Practice


Obviously use a metronome and a drone, but also consider playing each scale with the bowing variations in Hal Robinson's Strokin'. Different rhythms and tempos are good, and I plan on playing each scale with at least two different fingerings. Bonus points if you can sing along, or better yet, sing the next note before you play it. I'm shooting for at least three octaves on all of these, too.


If anyone has other ideas let me know!


Scale Naming Conventions

Most of the scales on my list have multiple names. Some of the names are weird and kind of enigmatic (which is also a scale), so I tried to pick the least enigmatic and ambiguous name possible. For example, Dorian #4 and the Romanian Scale are the same thing, but Dorian #4 tells you far more about the interval content than "Romanian." Likewise with Lydian Augmented and Overtone, and several others.


I'm assuming that if you are reading this article you have knowledge of the modes. If not, you can read up on them here. Many of the listed scales can be formed by taking the given mode and applying the appropriate chromatic alterations. For example, Mixolydian b6 is just a Mixolydian mode with a flatted 6th degree.


Some methods name the altered extension as a compound interval (ie. #11, b9, etc). I chose to name them as simple intervals (#4, b2, etc) for the sake of clarity. Also, scales with "augmented" in the title have a sharped 5th degree/augmented tonic triad and scales with dominant in the title have a flatted 7th degree/dominant 7 tonic chord.


Some free online scale resources:



Conclusion


This should be enough to keep me from getting too bored this month. I'm excited to see how it goes and what it teaches me, and I am open to any suggestions or ideas you may have! Leave a comment below or message me!


Please consider sharing or subscribing to my email list if you want to stay updated on future posts, too!


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