In teaching any students, but especially beginners or when teaching music by ear, it is very useful to be familiar with scales and arpeggios. These patterns help us group notes so that we don’t have to think about each note individually.
For beginners, scales help confirm what it means to play “up” and “down” from one note to another. It’s amazing sometimes how long it takes for some beginners to feel comfortable with “up” and “down”, especially adults who sometimes second-guess themselves.
But there are more scales out there than we usually think about, and they can be useful for students of all levels. For example, beginners can easily work with pentatonic scales, which limit the number of notes they have to work with while still yielding beautiful melodies. Advanced players can certainly benefit from a familiarity with pentatonic scales as they create moods from major pentatonic with a country sound, to the minor pentatonic with its bluesy feel.
The major pentatonic is generally notes 1,2,3,5,6 of the major scale, while the minor pentatonic uses the same notes starting on relative minor, resulting in notes 1,3,4,5,7 of the minor scale.
But that’s only a beginning. Classical major scales, and the melodic and harmonic minor scales are essential learning because they are so commonly used.
Then there are the modes, which may seem to arbitrarily start on different notes of the scale, but also happen to represent common scales from different cultures. They can sometimes be best understood in this cultural context rather than as musicological theory. For example, [···]