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Scales and metronome cut time

Posted by WayneConrad on Monday, April 15, 2019

My instructor has told me that it's best if a scale pattern fits nicely into 4/4, or at least 2/4.  I think I figured out one reason why

Here's one way to play a scale, from the root to the octave:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

and descending:

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

I've been combining the ascending and descending together, like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

What I will do is to play that scale in C, then in F, then in Bb, etc., playing it in each key.  Here's how that starts:

<------------C scale-------->|<----------F scale------------>|...
C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C|F G A Bb C D E F E D C Bb A G F|...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1|1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4  3 2 1|...

and that works fine if I have the metronome making one tick per note, like this:

<------------C scale-------->|<----------F scale------------>|...
C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C|F G A Bb C D E F E D C Bb A G F|...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1|1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4  3 2 1|...
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^|^ ^ ^ ^  ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^  ^ ^ ^|...

But when I got up to about 220 bpm, the metronome is ticking too quickly to easily keep up with. It's not that I can't play that fast; it's just that all the beats run together in my ear. I needed to cut the metronome speed in half (say, 110), and then play two notes per tick:

<------------C scale-------->|<----------F scale------------>|...
C D E F G A B C B A G F E D C|F G A Bb C D E F E D C Bb A G F|...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1|1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4  3 2 1|...
^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^|  ^   ^    ^   ^   ^   ^    ^  |...

On the C scale, the metronome beats are falling on the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st. On the F scale, the beats are falling on the 2nd, 4th, 6th, octave, 6th, 4th, and 2nd. You can play it this way, and it might even be valuable to practice doing it, but it is weird and a little disorientating when the on-the-beat notes and the off-the-beat notes are not the same in each scale. But if I, for example, play the octave twice, so that the scale pattern has an even number of notes:

<------------C scale-------->|<----------F scale------------>|...
C D E F G A B C C B A G F E D C|F G A Bb C D E F F E D C Bb A G F|...
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1|1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 8 7 6 5 4  3 2 1|...
^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^   ^  |^   ^    ^   ^   ^   ^   ^    ^  |...

Then the metronome beats fall on the same scale degree in each scale, which is less weird to play.

I think that's one explanation for why a scale pattern is better when it fit nicely into 4/4, or at least 2/4.



2 comments on “Scales and metronome cut time”

AndyW Says:
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 @4:30:01 AM

I've found setting a metronome to cut time very awkward to play along to. I initially tried it as my manual dial metronome bailed out at 208 BPM.

Since then I have gone over to the pro metronome app.

I regularly use it well above 220 BPM, so it might be worth giving it a few goes as it might just need practice for your ear to adjust to the 'blur' and then you won't have to find workarounds. (Goes for me too opposite way around as I might just need practice playing to cut time beat.)

WayneConrad Says:
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 @5:44:39 AM

AndyW - I was hoping you'd comment, as I know you play against the metronome far faster than I do. My thinking is that learning to play against a cut-time beat is valuable in itself. But now I'm going to also try the faster scales against a common time beat and see if I can do it.

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