Scales=TV Stations

June 23, 2011

Okay, for all of you who were wondering how I equate knowing scales to TV stations, here you go:

First, let me start by saying that I enjoy watching TV.  It’s not a popular stance now.  I see more and more (snooty) people talking about how bad TV is, and how they don’t watch it.  This presents a logic problem:  It would be impossible to know if something not watched is good or bad.  There is certainly a lot of stuff on TV I don’t watch.  Most of the “Reality” genre is unappealing to me.  I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and have come to this conclusion:  I don’t want to see “real people” in their “real lives” on TV.  I watch TV for good stories.  This is why I enjoy sports so much.  At the beginning of any game, I may have a hunch about what might happen, but no one knows exactly what is going to happen.

Back to scales.  Musicians should be able to look at a key signature and immediately know in which key they are playing.  Immediately.  That means if you’re counting flats and figuring out which one is the second to last one, or counting sharps and going up a half-step from the last one, you don’t know your scales well enough.

This is especially valuable when sight-reading.  Imagine the key signature changes from 3 sharps to 4 flats.  What will you do….what will you do?  Think of it like changing channels.  I watch a lot of ESPN.  When I turn on ESPN, I have an expectation of some kind of sports programming.  Similarly, when I see 3 sharps, I switch to the “A Channel”.  I also enjoy The Food Network.  When tuning in, I’m expecting some food related programming.  When I see 4 flats I switch to the “Ab Channel”.  Those are the only notes I’m going to use.

When this scale knowledge and key signature recognition is mastered, you’ll never play “C-natural” on the “A Channel”, and you’ll never play a “D-natural” on the “Ab Channel.”  It’s the same as knowing that you’ll never see “Schindler’s List” on Comedy Central.

Now you might be wondering about the times you turn on Fox News and see Jon Stewart, an athlete on HGTV, or something a woman might enjoy on SpikeTV.  These are accidentals, as sometimes you will play a “B-natural” in the key of “Eb.”

Go practice your scales until you know them.  Really know them.

And if you’re looking for some good TV recommendations, try these current shows:

1)  30 Rock- Tina Fey has made the leap from SNL to a ridiculously good network show.

2)  Fringe- This show has filled the hole that The X-Files left.

3)  Modern Family- The current evolution of the family sit-com.


One comment

  1. I dig this comparison. By the way Fringe is filling the hole the The X-files couldn’t even really fill themselves in the final season.

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