Reflecting on the recent Rifftides review of the Masters of The Vibes book, and on his teaching of jazz improvisation, Charlie Shoemake wrote,
A couple of things:
In all my teaching (including currently), I have never used the now-prevalent modal titles for scales (Dorian, Lydian, etc.). There are two reasons. One, none of the people from whom I learned ever once used that language. And two, it makes things much more complicated than necessary. There are four big-deal scales that cover 99% of all harmony. They are the major, the harmonic minor, the melodic minor, and the diminished. Yes, there are also the blues, whole tone, and pentatonic scales, but they have little to do with chord changes. To call the C major scale starting on D “the Dorian mode” seems silly to me, just adding an unnecessary title.
Now an anecdote:
Many years ago Tom Stevens, the principal trumpet player with the L.A Philharmonic and a friend of ours, loved jazz and my method of teaching. He asked the other members of the Philharmonic trumpet section to play the A-flat major scale but start it on D-flat. They all screwed it up. The reason was that, except for jazz players, musicians just learn their scales only from the root. I could rant for hours about the current ‘academic’ way of teaching harmony, but I’ll leave it to the success of Ted Nash, Andy Martin and many others to prove my point.
Major soloists, Nash in New York and Martin in Los Angeles are two of the dozens of musicians who have studied with Shoemake.
Thomas Stevens was the L.A. Philharmonic’s principal trumpet from 1972 to 2000.