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Scales & Arpeggios – Do We Need Them?

This week we’re looking scales & arpeggios and what uses they have  for us as singers.

The pursuit to master a musical instrument requires hours of rudimental practice, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of scales, modes & arpeggios. However, can the same be said for vocalists who often rely on their aural skills to tackle tasks such as improvising and sight-singing? Having said this, scales and arpeggios often feature heavily in many vocal methods. This week we’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

So the question is: As a singer, do you think is it important to have a comprehensive knowledge of scales and arpeggios as instrumentalists do?

Share your views on FaceBook and our Forum!

Great Comments from last week

Last week Craig asked:  What tips, tricks or exercises have you found to be particularly useful in extending your vocal range?

Rachael Silver commented…

Just practice everyday and challenging yourself with wider range songs. You’ll get there eventually”!

Kari Johannes Raita wrote…

Stretch your lower register first thing in the morning, 5-10min is enough! Go as low as you can go, this will also help the upper register, loads! This is pretty much the same method the Olympic athletes do this beside the normal training! Stretch to the limit! (I have tons of tips)”.

Vaughn Kristone responded…

My voice coach removed my mentality that all notes should be in chest and using falsettos just to add color in a song, she had me sing the scales from my chest voice all the way to my head voice and back, had me “re-set” my head voice to what some call a mix voice, and had me sing my head-voice in a twang so that it’ll easily connect to my chest, I practice her scales 5 days a week so that my ear and vocal muscle memory will know what to do on their own”.

Great response this week guys! Don’t forget to log on & answer next week’s question.

All the best, C x

  • Diane


    I hear a lot of complaints that singers are not taken seriously as “Musicians” because we play a physical instruments and not a manufactured instrument. Yet when faced with the question of learning music theory, scales, modes, etc. many will answer “I’m s singer I don’t need to know that” – Um, yes we do.

    You’re in the studio, or at rehearsal working on a song. You want to really punch the bridge, but everything you try just doesn’t sound right and you can’t figure out why, you’re conveying the emotion that you want with it, your technique is flawless – but something is just “off”. 9 times out of 10 it’s one of two things, the scale you are singing in does not sit well with the scale the instrumentation is playing out of either stylistically or harmonically or 2. The key you are in is not within proper harmonics of the scale of the instrumentation so it sounds off.

    My husband needed someone to throw ideas off of so I read all his theory books so I could understand him when he had an idea. I learned a basic chord is made of 3 harmonies within a scale – the 1,3 and 5 of the scale, the most common modes used by singers are the 1,3,4,5 & 7 – sometimes 9 (which is the 2, just an octave higher) So in a 1-4-5 Blues in B even though the instrumentation would be playing B-E-F#, a singer who likes to sing in 5ths would be signing in the key of F#, 3rds would be singing out of E and so on, any of those three harmonizing keys will do as long as you don’t sing out of C, which is not a key present in Blues in B (B, D, E, F, F#, A, B) – as you can see there are a few keys not present in this scale.

    But now suppose you LIKE singing out of C, and you LIKE singing in the 5th – NOW because you know you can ask the band to play a 1-4-5 Blues in F, changing the B-E-F# to F-A#-C and viola!!, your C is the 5th

    Also there are many other modes and scales you can sing out of that contain the same notes as the “trunk” scale but in different intervals – if you don’t know the “trunk” scale you can’t branch off of it.

    If you truly want to be a musician and not “just a singer” pick up at least a Music Theory for Dummies book and get the basics. It’s invaluable if you write music/lyrics because theory can teach you what note to start with for the chorus or bridge to lead you in and give you the right feel based on the chords in your verse