Hearing Scales

My new gavotte, by Lully, is coming along – I’m only about five lines in.  The piece has a very minor feel/sound, overall, which I’m finding lovely and really enjoying producing.  Other pieces have included sections of minor sound, but this is the first full-on minor piece I’m playing, and it sounds great and it’s fun.  Teacher had to cancel yesterday’s lesson, so I’m getting plenty of time with these first few lines – by next Wednesday I’ll have been playing them for three weeks.

I admit to having a bit of a block where understanding key signatures and scales and relative minors and all of that are concerned.  Lully’s Gavotte is in C major; I’m to understand the relative minor is A minor.  I have some fundamental questions that make my appreciation of the whole concept quite problematic.  There’s a C major scale, and an A minor scale.  Are they the same?  Is there a key signature for A minor?

Teacher has shown me the A minor scale a number of times, and I consistently forget it and fail to reproduce it.  Yet I can play this piece, which is interesting.  I’m coming to an understanding that I’m really just “hearing” it.  It’s only in writing this post that I’m realizing that without my ear I would not know where to plop my fingers on the strings for this song at all.  With my G major and D major and A major pieces I know the scale and which finger positions match the notes on the page.  But the reason I can play this song is because I’ve listened to it a million times.  The notes tell me the base note, but are they sharp or flat?  I’d have to think quite hard to figure it out, and certainly couldn’t do it in real time as I’m playing.

In other words, this gavotte is, for me, revealing both the wonders and the frustrations of Suzuki’s method.  Without the method I couldn’t play this piece at all.  With some other method I would know the scale already but wouldn’t be able to play a piece this complicated.  Fascinating.

Thanks for reading.


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