Saxophone Mastery Series: Building Hand-Eye Coordination, and Improving Absolute and Relative Pitch with Colored Scales

How I Use Colored Scales

What is a colored scales? A colored scale is a musical scale represented in a spreadsheet, where each note of the scale is assigned a different color. The spreadsheet is programmed to automatically assign a fixed color to each note. Here is an example of a harmonic minor colored scale starting on the note B:

Note that in the image above, each note of the musical scale is assigned a different color. Now, let's look at a different harmonic minor colored scale starting on the note F:

Can you imagine that it would be good for any brain, even an adult brain, to practice with colored scales on a daily basis? I believe that this is a very efficient routine to add to a saxophonist's daily repertoire because practicing colored scales involves two senses at once: both the senses of hearing AND sight are engaged when you practice colored scales. By always practicing with a metronome, we also incorporate rhythm along with our senses of hearing and sight.

Associating each note in a scale with a color is one of the fundamental principals of perfect/absolute pitch. Perfect pitch is when a person has the ability to immediately identify any musical note that they hear without any form of external assistance or reference. Perfect pitch is normally only developed in people who start their musical training very early, i.e. in their infancy. Master musical training instructor Rick Beato has a series of very good YouTube videos on the topic of perfect pitch, and he concludes that it is virtually impossible for an adult to develop perfect pitch due to the fundamental way that the brain develops from childhood to adulthood:

Though it is very difficult, if not impossible, for an adult to develop perfect pitch, I believe that practicing with colored scales can help one's relative pitch and absolute pitch, even if the improvements might only occur in very small increments.

Since I use a spreadsheet to create the colored scales for me automatically, I can write a set of colored scales much faster than I could write a set of traditional scales on sheet music paper. It is also much faster for me to practice a set of colored scales in all 12 keys due to the compact design of a spreadsheet. I created the Saxtalk Colored Scales in a spreadhseet known as LibreOffice Calc, but you could create colored scales in any spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, Gnome's Gnumeric, or KDE's Kpsread.

Practicing with Colored Scales

Please bookmark this article. It will be the starting point for all of the Saxtalk Colored Scale Etudes. I believe that the human brain learns better (greater absorption and longer retention) if you scramble the lessons and material in a random order. So I am going to randomly pick the first set of colored scales: Bebop-Dominant Colored Scales. Let's get started:


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