Scales, Caring, and Cursing

If you’ve been in band or orchestra for any length of time, then the constant badgering from directors, sectional coaches, and private teachers to “practice your scales” is probably very familiar.

If you’ve taught band, orchestra, sectionals, or private lessons, then the almost-automatic eye roll from students when you tell them to learn their scales is probably also familiar.

Scales are fundamental to learning instrument, of course, and they are one of the basic skills students should have if they are auditioning for honor bands, competitions, colleges, or scholarships, but that’s only part of the story.

Major scales


Andrew Hitz, former tubist with Boston Brass, has a straightforward way of referring to scales.

They are a “do you give a ****” test

I had never thought about this before, but after reading his rationale on his blog, it makes perfect sense.

If you don’t know your scales, it’s simply because you haven’t put it in the requisite work. The work to learn the note names, key signatures, fingers, and the interval patterns.

If you haven’t bothered to put in the work to learn these basics, you almost certainly won’t put in the time to do all the other things that go into being a competent musician. Things like score study, ear training, self-recording/listening, and more.

And if you’re not going to do these things, why are you wasting your (and everyone else’s) time?

(If you’re looking for scale sheets, I have all major and minor scales over on my horn exercises page).