Connections-A Scalar Approach

Someone recently asked me to sketch out my approach to learning scales on the trombone that can be used in improvisatory situations. Now there are as many “scales” as there are stars in the sky…it is up to the individual player which ones he or she is going to choose…but my approach to learning scales is the same whether they are the simplest diatonic scales or incredibly sophisticated scalar constructs out of Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns.

Here it is, as simply stated as possible.

Take a scale…any scale (let us say for simplicity’s sake a major scale with one added chromatic note)…and practice it in all keys, starting from all of its notes, in every meter in which you commonly improvise, from every available subdivision of that meter. Do so in every pattern of which you can conceive and be very careful to use the most effective, efficient positions for every different iteration of the scale. Do so in good internal time as dictated by a tapped foot, and practice every variation of it as fast as you can possibly it play nearly perfectly no matter how slow that may be, in every style of articulation (and combination of styles) that you wish to be able to use through all available registers.


That’s a mouthful, isn’t it!!!???

But there it is.

There are a number of sections in my book Time, Balance And Connections that deal with just this set of ideas…at least 100 pages, total…and I simply cannot concentrate it down into a concise three or four examples. Every scale that you have ever learned can be changed into something else by the simple expedient of adding a chromatic passing note, for example. Take a C Major scale. Add a randomly chosen note to it…say a Bb/A#. Choose a meter. Say 12/8. Choose a subdivision of that meter. Say the 12th eighth note. Choose a starting note. Say G. (I use chance procedures to dictate these choices, myself.)

Here is the resultant scale.

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Now practice that scale through all available octaves in all of the patterns that you can imagine. Transpose some of those patterns through contiguous slide areas as well, using whatever slide positions make sense to you.

Like this.

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Please forgive the error in the third line above. there should be no “(5)” above the B naturals. Photobucket is being very uncooperative today.)

Then move on to another set of relative positional choices.

Get the book, learn the approach and then start using it. The possibilities are nearly endless. If you are a fairly good player physically then in about three months of hard work things will start happening.

Bet on it.

I have been using it for well over 25 years and scales now pop out of my horn…scales of which I could never have conceived, let alone played previous to practicing this approach…almost without my bidding.

And…have fun.

I am.


Sam Burtis

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