Practise migratory patterns

by Ken Wilkinson


There comes a point after a player has played for a few years that scale and arpeggio practise becomes unthinking and automatic. The usual up and down all the major and harmonic/melodic minors, then a quick blast through the related arpeggios. Although any work on scales has a positive impact on technique, there are ways of reconnecting the thinking process.



One interesting method is to use migratory patterns.
Use a scale or pattern and move (or migrate) it along a set sequence of intervals. This makes the player think, because it's unusual to play scales or figures this way. It also makes the fingers work in less used combinations, also a good thing.


arpeggio 1

This pattern is one of the most basic - up a major arpeggio one octave, then down a major arpeggio raised a semitone. You can do the same thing with scales, up a scale, down the scale raised a semitone.

arpeggio 2

This pattern uses an ascending pattern, rising a semitone each time. You could start at the top of your instrument and work downwards a semitone at a time.

minor 3rd

Things get more interesting with this type of pattern. Think of a small musical fragment, this one is up a minor third, then down the major scale. Move it up and down by semitones.

whole tone

Once you become familiar with this way of practising, try different intervals - this pattern moves by a whole tone - a whole tone scale.

Things to remember when you start to practise migratory patterns:


  • It's good to start at the very top or very bottom of your instrument so you cover your whole range.


  • Try different intervals.


  • Take a major scale pattern that you have mastered around the instrument and make it minor.


  • Practice the pattern around a cycle of fifths.

  • Don't forget to experiment with different articulation and tempo.