Helping Musicians to Better Internalize Musical Learning with Colored Scales

Summary

I believe that musicians learn best when multiple senses are involved in the process of learning new music. For example, if you hear a piece of music, AND you also have the sheet music for the piece of music in front of you, then your musical learning experience will be enhanced. I have developed a concept that I call "Colored Scales" where a spreadsheet program is used to automatically assign a color to each note of the 12-note chromatic musical scale. The Colored Scales are a tool that can enhance the student's learning of music concepts by giving an additional visual stimulus associated with each note that a student hears.

Rick Beato's Thoughts on Perfect Pitch

Music education expert Rick Beato has a very popular YouTube channel with over 2 million subscribers. He created a series of YouTube videos where he analyzed how children develop perfect pitch (the ability to immediately identify a note upon hearing it without the assistance of an external reference). Beato concluded that the probability of a child developing perfect pitch is directly proportional to the amount of very complex music that they are exposed to during the very early period of brain development when the child's initial neural network is being formed. Here is one of the videos in Rick Beato's perfect pitch series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXivZlPu0ms

Rick Beato also concluded that it is virtually impossible for an adult to develop perfect pitch because the neuroplasticity of early childhood is almost completely gone by the time one reaches adulthood. I believe that Beato is correct in his assertion. However, an adult CAN get better at playing music through intense practice. This concept is what gave me the idea of Colored Scales. A Colored Scale is created using a spreadsheet program such as LibreOffice Calc or Microsoft Excel. The spreadsheet is programmed such that it ALWAYS assigns the same color to the same note. For example, the note A#/Bb will always be assigned the color black. The note C will always be assigned the color dark lime. Here is what a set of Colored Scales look like:

Figure 1: A Set of Colored Hexatonic Blues Scales

My Results Using Colored Scales

For several months, I have used the Colored Scales as part of my daily saxophone practice routine, and during this time, my saxophone playing has improved dramatically. Colored Scales allow me to practice a given scale in multiple keys very rapidly, hence making my saxophone practice sessions much more efficient. Though it is unlikely that I will develop perfect pitch as an adult, I think that seeing a color associated with each note during my Colored Scale practice sessions helps my development in ways that will become apparent over the next few years of my growth as a saxophonist.

How I Believe That You Should Use Colored Scales

I believe that any musician can benefit from the use of Colored Scales, not just saxophonists. I further believe that Colored Scales should be part of a daily practice regimen, as follows:

a.) Pick a set of scales that you want to memorize during a daily practice session (e.g. hexatonic blues scales)

b.) Turn on your metronome, and set it to a comfortable speed (e.g. 120 beats per minute)

c.) Play a Colored Scale (e.g. Bb hexatonic blues scale) up and down on your musical instrument multiple times (simple repetition = commitment to short-term memory; advanced repetition = commitment to long-term memory)

d.) Repeat the process for the hexatonic blues scale in the other 11 keys until you have successfully practiced the hexatonic blues Colored Scale in all 12 keys

e.) Randomly pick different types of scales so that in each daily practice session, you are exposed to something different than the day before

You can visit the Saxtalk.com Colored Scales here:

https://saxtalk.com/colored_scales.html

Conclusions

I believe that to bring something fresh and new into the world, one has to explore different ways of doing things. If you do things exactly the way that everyone else does them, then you will end up sounding exactly like everyone else. I believe that this dilemma is why so many of the pop musicians on the radio today sound the same: everyone is using the same formula for success. I created Colored Scales as a different practice method that will hopefully give me a set of unique results that will create some separation between me and other saxophone players. I don't want to sound like anyone else: I want anyone to be able to identify my playing by hearing two or three notes of me playing. To achieve this goal, I have to constantly think outside of the box: I have to find ways to expose my mind to unique experiences that will enhance the creativity present within my playing.

Thank you so much for spending some of your very valuable time reading this article. I sincerely hope that reading it brings you a step closer to achieving your goals and your dreams!

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