Scales, Scales, Scales!

There are those scales that fall from one’s eyes when you realize something suddenly. There are lizard scales and skin scales from a nasty disease called psoriasis. There are balance beam scales and the digital bathroom scales for your home that give the truth about size and/or quantity. And finally there are those wonderful musical scales that create aural magic around the world in every time, place, and culture.

In the West, there are seven notes in the scale with half notes, quarter notes, etc. Eastern music has more. My broker says that financial investing is like western scale. There are seven categories and all the rest is packaging in terms of mutual funds, hedge funds, and other special products. Otherwise there are stocks, bonds, bank accounts, real estate, commodities, currencies, and insurance. So I love scales in any way shape or form.

My bathroom scale gets the most practical use but the musical scale is a close second. When I hear a composition and feel in the mood, I can break it down into its components. It’s more fun than breaking down my weight into pounds. Who cares! With the musical scale, the world is at anyone’s oyster. You can devise endless tunes from a piano sonata to a full orchestra symphony. You can make up tonal or atonal works, long or short opuses, and anything in between. It is your gateway to fame, fortune, or just personal pleasure.

I have a friend who plays the guitar but can’t read music. I wonder what that’s like—not being able to see the mathematical relationships of the marks on the page to the sounds you are making. I guess instinct goes a long way, a good ear, and a sense of rhythm. Even if you follow a score, you can interpret it in many ways, so having it in front of you doesn’t guarantee you are doing what the composer intended.

Music is all about feeling and emotion—and to some extend self-expression. It is inherent in a piece and you bring it out with your own skill and sensitivity. The scale is the framework only. It is hard to see this in other cultures sometimes, especially ethnic music, but there are patterns and themes nonetheless. Our ears are accustomed to a limited range, and it is exciting when you can open up the possibilities of aural gratification. Music is an endless exploration into the divine filtered through deft human fingers.

I once visited the music museum in Phoenix and was astounded by the instruments. I had never seen or heard of many. I can’t imagine how music is composed with some. They have the actual instruments, photos, and tapes so you can enter another time and place. I recommend this highly for aficionados or not. It will open your eyes (and make the scales fall for sure). If you think you have a grip on music history, you probably don’t.

So….scales of all kinds exist in the world from the most mundane sorts to the king of them all. Take my word for it that practicing your scales on your instrument of preference is never a chore, but the road to progress in this wonderful realm.