Bored with practising scales?

My husband and I have been developing the ScaleBlitzer app for almost a whole year now. It has been an incredible experience, getting our heads around all this new stuff! (Well, not so new for my husband, he is a total geek.)

All the app does, essentially, is make kids want to practice their scales.

That’s right. Want to. Not have to, be made to, forced to… actually want to.

The key to getting anyone to practice well is variety. Imagine you’ve been told to practice a G major scale. Most students will play it once and declare it is practised (even if it was terrible). But imagine you had an app (say, the ScaleBlitzer app) that told you to practice G major in the following different ways:

  • Ascending only
  • Descending only
  • In a particular rhythm
  • With certain accents
  • Staccato RH, Legato LH
  • Eyes closed
  • Descending only AND in a certain rhythm
  • Descending then ascending AND in a rhythm AND with eyes closed (this one’s pretty tricky)

ScaleBlitzer - start your practice

Well, after trying all of these it would be an absolute dream going back to playing G major normally. The scale would sound brilliant, you would have had fun doing it, and it’s a win-win-win situation: teacher, student and parent are all deliriously happy.

So that’s the basic concept, which my friend and colleague Abe Cytrynowski has been using with his students for donkeys’ years, and who has co-written all the content with me. The huge variety of tasks combined with a few other fun features like characters, points and awards, make the app a sure winner (says me with fingers, legs and arms tightly crossed).

ScaleBlitzer - Achievements

The app is close to release (UPDATE: is now released) and I have been showing it to many of my students and colleagues. Everyone seems very keen to get it and we’ve had some wonderful suggestions and encouragement along the way.

But the real test, as anyone knows, is to try something out on your own child. I know there will be no polite suggestions of improvement, no subtle turns of phrase suggesting that something could perhaps be changed. No, one’s own offspring is surely the toughest audience.

So I suggested that my daughter use it the next time she did flute practice (yes, it’s not just for piano), because I had noticed that she wasn’t playing much technical work.

I prepared myself for the worst, that the ipod would either be thrown across the room, or if it remained in use it would be because she was playing Tiny Tower on it. But not only did she use the app, she spent an entire hour playing nothing but scales and arpeggios and said at the end ‘that was fun’. And if that wasn’t confirmation enough that the app works, she did it again the next day, and the next… without being asked to!

ScaleBlitzer World Tour 1

With this high praise from our daughter, we are feeling confident that this app will hit the mark with many students. I am starting to imagine a world in which technical work gets practiced without nagging, a society in which scales and arpeggios are not thought of with venom, and a new era for teachers, who can sit back and listen and enjoy.

Update: ScaleBlitzer is available now!

4 Responses to “Bored with practising scales?”

  1. Annika April 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    I am a music major on oboe. My teacher assigned me to find a way to motivate me to practice scales, and I found your app. I love it! I just practiced only scales for half an hour, and wasn’t distressed after finishing! There are a few things I don’t like about it, however. I was wondering if you could just make a generic instrument package that had all major and three kinds of minor for every key, scales and arpeggios. Some of the things you added for flute didn’t really make sense to me, and it would help a lot more people if this were the case. (It was also a bit expensive for a college music major, but that’s kind of beside the point.) Thanks for all of your hard work on this!

    • Samantha Coates April 27, 2015 at 1:10 am #

      Hi Annika, thanks for you great feedback. Unfortunately it’s not possible to do a ‘generic’ instrument pack as there are such specific ways of playing scales that are unique to each instrument. I’m glad the flute pack is able to offer some help. We are hoping to produce an oboe pack some time in the near future!

  2. Zan December 21, 2016 at 8:37 pm #

    Are you looking at doing an android version?

    • cb December 22, 2016 at 3:44 am #

      Hi Zan,
      Thanks for your interest.
      Unfortunately we don’t have any plans to build an Android version at this stage.

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