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Help - dd2 cannot learn her scales

(30 Posts)
schilke Thu 22-May-14 19:49:29

Dd2 (7) is doing her grade 2 trumpet this term. Now, dh is a trumpet player/teacher. He's taught for 20 years, but he's stumped with how to help dd2 learn the scales. He has never printed the scales out for pupils, but has got them to work the scales out and learn them that way. Dd2 cannot remember them, especially the arpeggios. He has endless patience with his pupils, but not so much with dd2 .....never teach your children springs to mind.

She has no problem playing other tunes without the music in front of her - just scales! Any teachers or parents out there who have a magical way to help her to remember them? As a non-musician scales seem really easy. When I played the recorder years ago, I loved playing scales blush

BeingAMummyIsFabulous Thu 22-May-14 20:28:45

I play a range of musical instruments from being young...I remember writing scales and arpeggios out to learn...I'm more practical...if I can see it I can do it if that makes sense. Not all children are alike either, and without sounding disrespectful to your DH, perhaps a couple of lessons with another tutor may be beneficial? I know how differently I responded to a tutor rather than my mum teaching me! (She's a music teacher too). Best of luck to your DD.

FranKatzenjammer Thu 22-May-14 20:35:39

Is it ABRSM? Why not just buy their scale book, which will last her all the way up to Grade 8?

Theas18 Thu 22-May-14 20:40:52

Has he tried giving then silly lyrics and getting her to sing thrm before she plays them?

(Sings to self...over and over and over we with old Charlie and tread on his toe! That is piano broken chords for about grade 2 courtesy of my ancient piano teacher when I was8!)

Hearing them in your head is key I reckon.

They are like musical times tables though. Got to be learned. You can do thrm one by one, which I'm sure most kids do till about 10-11 or spot the patterns and just know them...

mawbroon Thu 22-May-14 20:42:27

Is she able to sing them out loud?

mrsmortis Thu 22-May-14 21:17:01

Is she dyslexic by any chance? My sister is a brilliant flautist but she only managed to pass her grade 8 after she was diagnosed as dyslexic (just before she started studying for A levels). Part of her diagnosis meant that she was allowed her scale book in exams. It had been the only thing blocking her, she never had a problem with her pieces. I doubt it effects all children this way but it may be a thought.

I would highly recommend another teacher for your DD though. My sister has an arrangement where a colleague where she teaches the colleagues DCs and he teaches hers. It makes for a much more peaceful household.

schilke Thu 22-May-14 21:25:36

Thanks for the advice. She does have silly rhymes and can tell you how the scale goes, but as soon as it comes to playing them it goes wrong. We are going to try printing them out and see if that helps.

She isn't dyslexic - no problems with reading or writing. I had come across that idea when I was googling.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 22-May-14 21:41:59

Hello Schilk

I'm going to go against the grain here and say your dh is right and I've seen the results.
My dh teaches dd like this and once they get it there is no problem with scales ever again and they don't have to learn them.
Please don't buy the book, don't change teachers and believe me when I say he's got it covered.
I know sometimes its hard when it seems as their teacher they are getting it wrong, but he will want your dd to be his best pupil.
I'm always questioning dh as his approach is so different to every other teacher I've known, but the results are there, and I bet your dh is the same.
Let him know your fears without sounding critical and get him to explain it to you. As much as I understand it when dh explains it I couldn't explain it to others iyswim.
Your dd is also very young, don't forget a lot of dc haven't started at this age, let alone doing grade 2.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 22-May-14 21:47:11

Sorry, forgot to say.
More practice the way he has shown her already. I know this method takes longer to cotton on to, but its quicker than "learning" scales.

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 22-May-14 21:48:51

Does she know that the arpeggio pattern is keynote, 2 notes higher, 2 notes higher, keynote?

schilke Thu 22-May-14 21:50:05

Morethan - thanks. He had agreed to try printing them out for her as she is starting to get stressed with the darn things. We would not get a different teacher as I don't think we'd find one good enough wink Dh is a brilliant teacher and has taken over pupils from other teachers and been horrified by how they've been taught.

She loves playing. I just don't want scales to put her off.

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 22-May-14 21:50:42

I mean does she know it's not some random pattern?

Does she know that a major scale has a predictable pattern of tones and semitones? Can she 'walk' the pattern doing a big step for a tone and feet touching for a semitone?

schilke Thu 22-May-14 22:05:15

Yes she does knows the arpeggio pattern. Dh likes the sound of your walking idea. He might try that out with some pupils.

She can sing them no problem, talk through the notes. Oddly she can "play" the scales on her knuckles, but as soon as she picks the instrument up it goes wrong.

He wanted me to ask on here as he was just puzzled by the fact she is not getting any better after a lot of practice. Sometimes they go smoothly and sometimes it's a car crash!

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 22-May-14 22:06:12

Can she tell DH how to play them?

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 22-May-14 22:08:54

I have 5 sons and we had a LOT of teachers (because they played a lot of stuff not because we were flaky) and it too a wise one to tell me that little kids were inconsistent because they were little kids. They grow out of it. Chill!

Noteventhebestdrummer Thu 22-May-14 22:09:26


Wafflenose Thu 22-May-14 22:10:21

The thing that has helped my pupils most is realising that every scale has to have one of EVERY SINGLE LETTER (then repeat if 2 octaves) so they all go ABCDEFGA. Or BCDEFGAB. Or CDEFGABC. etc! They then need different sharps and flats to make them sound right, and these have to be memorised, just like learning spellings or times tables. This knowledge means you only really have to think about the sharps and flats.

Arpeggios: There are only seven possible combinations of notes:
ACE, BDF, CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD. Then add in the sharps and flats that you already learned with the scale. I teach the seven combos as silly sentences, e.g. Great Big Dog, Cows Eat Grass, etc. And anything beginning with A (or Ab) is a word - Ace! I do spend a LOT of time making sure they all know the names of the notes they are learning to play on their instruments.

Primrose123 Thu 22-May-14 22:20:47

I am a piano teacher, and I'm learning the flute. Obviously as a teacher I know all the scales and key signatures, but when I try a new scale on the flute all my knowledge flies out of of the window! I need something visual to help me - either the scale itself on the stave, or just the notes written as letters. I then find that after a lot of practice, my fingers seem to remember what to do without thinking.

Could you write out the letters for your DD and tell her to play them over and over again until they are second nature?

JimBobplusasprog Thu 22-May-14 22:49:54

I think ds does it by repetition. I tell him to go do, do-re-do, do-re-mi-re-do etc and see what his high score is. If he makes a mistake he starts again but by the time he's got to the top note it's generally gone in.

DeWee Fri 23-May-14 09:55:25

Our music teacher at secondary used to make us chant "tone tone semitone, tone tone tone semitone" (and the spelling of "rhythm") regularly. I found that very helpful in scales; even when I'd learn that I used to chant that in my head.

HercShipwright Fri 23-May-14 15:05:18

My DD1 has always found scales a struggle. I don't think it's a dyspraxia thing, because I and DD2 both find scales a doddle, as does DS (who isn't dyspraxic, but is dyslexic). I find it very frustrating that I can't help DD1 with scales. She did the alternative study for grades 6-8 - distinction every time (and full marks for the study every time too - which she played from memory! go figure) on her first study, because she was doing trinity board exams, but she does ABRSM for flute and piano. Her grade 8 scales for the flute are pretty spot on now, but that's because she has spent practically a WHOLE TERM working just on them (so they are finally memorised). I just don't understand how she can memorise an entire concerto without any trouble, but not a set of scales. Mind you, I never memorised scales, I just...feel them. DD1 found it outrageous (in a bad way) that I could just pick up the flute and play any scale she wanted more than 30 years after my grade 8.

The tack her teacher did with her this time round - because she wants to get 100% for the scales, and she has had some medical problems over the last few months which have meant that the amount of time she can spend playing before needing a break has been much reduced - was to set her one scale each week to perfect. Rather than say 3 or more each week. With just one scale each week (including obviously all the ones she never really did that well at all the lower grades) she has had the space to perfect each one.

Sadly, her medical issues led to us deciding she shouldn't be entered for the exam this term, because there seemed to be a real risk she wouldn't be able to play (the issues are now almost resolved, but too late) so I am slightly concerned that she may not retain all the scales till next term - on the other hand, she is still note perfect on exam pieces she memorised two years ago so it does seem that once it's in, it's in.

So, I guess I'm saying - one technique that definitely has worked for someone who is ludicrously scale resistant is to take it excruciatingly slowley. So that they go in long term rather than short term memory.

1805 Fri 23-May-14 16:58:15

Bribery. Seriously, I would probably resort to that as a parent.

On a more professional level, I'm sure dh has tried all the usual techniques. I use the alphabet method sometimes, and also the look at the music going up, eyes closed coming down (adjust to suit) way. Another way is to explain how many (easy/bonus) marks they are worth in the exam. Sometimes I have been known to ask a pupil the first 4 notes of a scale every 5 minutes during the entire lesson!!!! Luckily they had a decent sense of humour to put up with that!!!

Good luck to dd. (and dh!!)

Ishouldbeweaving Fri 23-May-14 18:19:08

I have no advice to give, my son did Trinity and chose the exercise over the scales each and every time. He could not/would not learn them and I got sick of the neverending battle between him and his father. We told him that sooner or later the decision would catch up with him and he would have to learn them and that time is now. When you start auditioning for ensembles then one of the things they ask for is scales. He has now to learn them all (to G8) and to my jaw dropping amazement he's getting on and doing it. I think it helps that he's older now and he's studying theory too but the main motivator is the audition.

We had exactly the same argument over multiplication tables.

HolidayCriminal Fri 23-May-14 18:24:18

7 seems so young, I thought trumpet wasn't advised before teeth were more settled, too.

Maybe work on other aspects of music & don't worry about the scales for now?

JaneParker Fri 23-May-14 18:48:15

This is weird. Everyone normal buys the scale book and the child reads the music from the book. Once they know then they try without the book (two grade 8 trumpeters in our family ( ABRSM) and 3 music scholars). They all started the scales from the scale book. Also I wouldn't worry about the scales too much. You can pass the exam and fail the scales - a scheme my lot seem to manage with great aplomb, unmeritorious though it be.

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