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What Are Scales?

A scale is a specific set of notes. Though the musical alphabet has only 12 notes, those 12 notes can be grouped in many unique ways. Some scales use a group of 5 of the 12 notes, others use 6 notes, many use 7, and others use 8 or more. As a result, there are many, many scales available and used in music.

Scales Are a Tool

As a student of music you are learning to manipulate sound much like a sculptor learns to manipulate stone or clay. A sculptor learns to use tools like chisels and hammers used by sculptors of the past. Even though new tools can still be created and used, the old, well-known tools work and continue to be used, too.

In music, scales are among the tools used to sculpt sound.

Why Do We Need Scales?

For centuries, musicians have grouped notes into scales. Every scale has its own unique sound and musical purpose in the musical universe. Essentially, each scale produces a distinct musical effect.

Depending on how a scale is used, it might produce musical tension, or it might resolve musical tension. A scale can create harsh, discordant sounds, or create soft, soothing sounds. A scale can sound exotic, or it can sound plain and simple.

Scales are simply a way of categorizing and identifying particular sounds found in music. They help organize what you and others hear in music. Practicing scales on bass will help you learn where to find particular sounds on the fretboard and mentally organize your understanding of music.

Why Musicians Practice Scales

Many people before you have spent time studying music and the sound of various note combinations. As music progresses this knowledge is passed along in the form of music theory. Rather than working out all the sounds on your own, you can use scales and other music theory to study the most common sounds found in music and give yourself a head start. You don’t have to learn this stuff, but it sure makes learning music faster. And, that’s why you learn scales and practice them.