Learning scales on ukulele — your missing super power?
A lot of uke players want nothing more than to strum a few songs around the campfire, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when you want to start getting better, you're going to want to take a looking at learning some scales on ukulele — this is the kind of deep knowledge that will move far, far beyond the realm of the Mere Strummer.
There's not a lot of info out there specifically about scales on ukulele. But the good news is scales are universal, and the knowledge you gain on one instrument can be applied directly to another.
This helpful list is give several reasons why ukulele scales are important as your desire to get better increases.
Nine Reasons Scales on Ukulele are Important
Timing – to play together with other people you need to have good time, good internal time. One of the best ways to develop this is to practise scales. Slowly at first, with a metronome if needed until you are placing each and every note exactly where it needs to be, not too soon or too late – just right.
Intonation – for most instruments (piano aside) there is a need to make sure we are playing in tune. This does not end when you have tuned a single note or string on your instrument – that only tells you that note is in tune. Scales are a great way to check the tuning of each and every note. The distance between each should be just right. Careful listening is very important here.
Co-ordination – during music practice we have lots of things to remember and the really difficult thing is to remember to do them all at the same time (breathe, sit up straight, bend those fingers, 4th finger, etc, etc). Scales give you an opportunity to focus on bringing all of those elements together. Once you have learnt the notes of a scale you can make sure that everything else happens just at the right moment to make the scale sound perfect.
Dexterity – one part of learning an instrument involves training parts of the body to do new things, to repeat them and then do them very quickly. Scales are a great training partner. They will help you refine and improve your speed. Slow careful practice of scales at the outset will have you whizzing up and down in no time.
Muscle Memory – this is a really big benefit of practising scales. When you have practised a scale for a while you will begin to ‘just get it’ and the scale will flow naturally from your instrument. What you have done is to begin to develop muscular memory. This is a very useful thing to have. When you see this scale again or indeed a similar one you will be able to rely partially on this muscle memory to help you play the scale. This also applies to snippets of scales, of which there are a lot in music.
Ears – if you can’t hear what is wrong you can’t correct it. This is true of all of your music practice. Learn to listen very, very carefully when you practice your scales and you will start to hear areas where you can improve your other playing. Pay attention to tuning, articulation, tone quality, consistency etc. Imagine what a perfect scale would sound like in every way and try to make each of your scales sound like that.
Sight Reading – if you can translate the notes you see on the page quickly into sounds on your instrument you can develop good sight reading. If those notes form patterns that you are familiar with then you will be able to do this even quicker. Knowing your scales will give your sight reading a boost as you will frequently come across patterns and groups of notes with which your are familiar.
Theory – key signatures, chords, modulations, modes and many other areas of music theory are much easier to understand if you know your scales.
Building Blocks of all music – If you hadn’t realised it, scales are the things from which most music is made. Just look at the pieces you are currently learning and you will see scales or parts of scales all over it. Their importance cannot be underestimated, be good at scales and you are likely to be good at your instrument.
I'm adding in more technical articles soon on how to actually play scales on ukulele, but I hope this overview will give you good, um, overview why you should put in the work.