The good news is: there is no absolute answer to that question. There’s no set “right time for a play.” The good news (from a practical standpoint) is that most practicing is done using the interval scale, or at least its standard “natural form.” But the interval scale doesn’t necessarily cover every possible interval.
Even within an interval family it will vary as to whether you start on the 0, 1, or 2 beat. For example, the C# Major scale (from which most popular intervals are derived) starts on an open A. If you’re practicing at a metronome that starts with a C major chord, you might practice this scale as written with the A beat. The scale, however, is not the most common interval in piano, so you’ll probably end up playing the C major scale at a slower tempo.
Similarly, playing at an octave lower or higher on a measure may be appropriate, depending on the instrument you play. And there’s no end to how you mix up the scale within a given instrument.
Another interesting side effect of using intervals is that as the interval becomes more familiar or well-known in the musical culture, the intervals become easier to hear.
This is the opposite of “harmonization,” in which any given note gets more attention than it has actually been used in the past.
You see this on a jazz guitar. I’m playing jazz chords in the key of C major, but if you play the C chords in the key of C, the B would be an E♭ Major chord. If you play these chords in key of C, the A♭ Major would be an G Major.
As a jazz guitarist, I’ve often felt obliged to harmonize the C♭ major (C♭ minor) into the A♭ major (E♭ major).
And as a composer, I’ve spent a lot of time harmonizing the G♭ major into the G major (A♭ major) — for example, by moving the G♭ third into the A♭ major sixth, the two chords become one chord. But these harmonizations are usually short-lived, because the chords themselves become more well known and familiar in their own right.
So as you start thinking about playing, starting, tuning, learning, etc., don’t worry that you may have to practice a chord you know and love in a “wrong” scale. For most chords,
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