My love affair with music began early. I've said this many times, even in other blog posts. It grew out of a determination to be great. To be the best. I am thankful that I had band directors who, early on, stressed the importance of fundamentals.
It was in junior high that I really came into my own as a musician. I had already been playing for three years when I entered 7th grade. Even with all of my experience, I was still put in the intermediate band. "That's the band that 7th graders belong in", they said. I thought I should be in the advanced band and spent my 7th grade year practicing and proving that I belonged in the advanced band.
How could I prove that I should be in the advanced band? Fundamentals. My band director made sure that we knew every single scale possible. I learned all major scales. I learned all of the minor scales (natural and melodic). I could play every scale at least two octaves as fast or as slow as you needed it played. I knew the chromatic scale for the entire range of my instrument (flute, at that time). I also knew the arpeggio for all of the scales. Mr. Pease always stressed, if you can play all of your scales, you can play anything. I'm sure his background as a percussionist helped. Percussionists are expected to know all of their rudiments as that is the backbone of their playing. Scales act the same way.
Some may think that practicing scales is boring. Well, it is. So what? Plenty of things in life are boring. But, the reward is so much greater than the boredom that you endure. Because I know all of my scales, I can sightread extremely well. Playing music becomes so much easier because most songs are built around scales. Playing fast runs is synonymous with being a woodwind player. Runs are so much easier when you know all of your scales.
Scales are so fundamentally important. If you knew me in junior high, then you probably saw me walking around school fingering scales on my air flute. Yeah, I did that. I never missed an opportunity to practice. I had to make advanced band! Which I finally did. In 8th grade.
Can you play an instrument without knowing your scales? Of course you can. You can type on a keyboard without knowing what ASDF JKL; means, too. But, you'd type a lot faster if you did. And you will get a lot further, faster if you know all of your scales.