One of my students was attempting to come up with an improvisation for a song today and was getting nowhere quickly, mostly due to his lack of knowledge of scales, so I showed him the iPad garageband app. In it you can open up ‘scales’ where they’ve taken out the hard work of figuring out what fret (on the guitar) or black note (on the keyboard) you have to go to next by omitting them completely.
Photo from here
This makes coming up with a theme or improvisation really easy, but I feel a little uneasy about making it too easy. The question arises…
Do I want him to learn how to improvise or learn scales or both? Are they separate skills? If music is so good at activating multiple areas of the brain, is simplifying it hindering his chances of adapting to a variety of musical tasks? Okay, maybe I’m being a little too philsophical on that last point (or not- click here for more on music and the brain). What are your thoughts?