Here are a few suggestions to keep scale practice fresh. I've been doing these ideas with my Suzuki students on their Book 1 Tonalizations (scales) for over a year now with amazing success!
I've been having students do this for years. Often times a student will come into a lesson, and when I ask them to play their Tonalization they fumble through it, eventually playing the correct notes and if I'm lucky they'll get pretty close to the correct fingering too. I often equate this to the student going on "auto-pilot". Students think playing a Tonalization is boring. So instead of trying to play it to their best ability, they play it as fast as possible without paying attention to get through it as quickly as possible. Interestingly enough, it takes longer to work on it because of how sloppy the scale sounds. If they had played it slow to being with and paid attention to playing the scale well, not to get it over with, one play through is all they would have needed.
Having a student say the letter names of the notes and the finger numbers develops this intellectual understanding of the scale. Not only will it develop note recognition and understanding, but they'll understand what order the fingers use. They'll also know where the open strings are played within the finger sequence. If a student is confused over how to play their scale, this clears it up immediately.
2. Play each note using the Twinkle Rhythms
Throughout Books 1-3, Suzuki Guitar Students do very little fast playing. Unlike other instruments in the Suzuki Method, we rarely see fast passages in the earlier repertoire, and in the later repertoire most faster passages are arpeggio based, not scalar based. However, the Twinkle Rhythms provide a great way to get the Right Hand speed developing. For instance the Book 1 CD plays Variation A, C and E at around 80bpm. All of these rhythms include 16th notes, so its a great development for speed. Granted the left hand moves much slower, but it's a start to developing scalar technique.
In addition, playing a Twinkle Rhythm often satisfies the students desire to play "fast", little do they realize that they are usually moving the left hand slower. This gives the student more time to think about what the next note in the scale, as well as what left hand finger will be used. In the moment, students don't realize that this is happening, but they'll be surprised that they automatically play the Tonalization better with the Twinkle Rhythms. Doing one or two different rhythms a day allows you to rotate different rhythms each day, thus also keeping scale practice fresh and interesting.
3. Play For A Good Sound
If you are a Suzuki Teacher, then you've heard of Thud, Buzz, Rattle, and Bell tones before. For those who don't know, here's a quick break down:
- Thud Tone - A note where the finger is just touching the string, not placing any pressure. Thus the sound makes a "Thud" sound.
- Buzz Tone - A note where the students finger is either A) too far away from the fret thus or B) not putting enough pressure down on the string. Thus the note sounds, but with the string vibrating against the fret causing a "Buzz" sound. This can also occur if they student lifts pressure on the note while it is still sounding, thus creating a Buzz after the fundamental note has sounded.
- Rattle Tone - A note where the right hand nail hits the back end of the string causing the nail to "Rattle" against the string.
- Bell Tone - A note played cleanly, with enough pressure to have the fundamental note come out with no other sound.
With a slow beat, I have the student play their Tonalization repeating each note 4 times as they ascend and descend. This gives them to opportunity to create the "best sound possible" from their guitar, striving to play all Bell Tones. Now where a student achieves this or not is the primary goal, but rather it's to get them out of "auto-play" mode and into thinking mode. Actively trying to create the best sound they can on their instruments. Usually this happens and the student will play wrong notes by accident, and that's ok. As they become used to playing the scale this way it becomes easier to bring their attention to the quality of sound and still be able to play the correct notes and fingerings.
These three ways of practice along with playing through the scale the "regular" way, up and down playing each note once, helps keep the practice session interesting and also brings the student's attention to what they are playing. Try it out and see if it helps your students? Or if you are a student, see if you scale playing improves!