Some thoughts on musical scales

I’m finding myself thinking about musicality and musicianship and how we usually think about practising scales and arpeggios. It is interesting to me how we musicians are often trained rather robotically, in the effort to develop evenness of fingers and tone. While of course we DO have to develop those technical abilities, it seems to me that there is an entire realm of unexplored possibility in the expressive potential of scales. If we divorce musicianship from scale practice, what are we actually developing? We do not want to play robotically in our solo repertoire, so why would we want to promote this sort of mechanical playing on a day-to-day basis? I am asking my current students to really explore these questions in their practice: what does it mean to play our scales musically? How do we shape a scale as a phrase? Why not approach them with as much commitment as a solo piece, since your solo piece is often necessarily comprised of scales and arpeggios? It seems so obvious… it’s astonishing I never thought about this more deeply before! There is very good company out there on these matters, and so I invite you to take a look at this, which is available on UK violinist and violin teacher Leo Phillip’s website. I have never met him but I was happy to meet his ideas on this. Great stuff, and easily applicable to the flute for the most part, especially the philosophical aspects! Thank you Leo!

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