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Scales, how to play them on the piano​

There are different schools of thought on the best way to introduce scales for beginners. You can either teach the C major scale first or introduce B or E major.

The advantages of teaching C major first is that it’s easy to remember, as it’s all the white keys from C to C. You don’t have the problem of remembering what black key to add. The disadvantaged to this method is there is no pattern for the student to spot in regards to fingering.

But by teaching B or E major first, it helps to establish a suitable fingering pattern format from the start. This is because of the longer fingers natural fall on the black keys. Chopin preferred ways of teaching scales is using B major first. The disadvantage to the method is that it’s can be difficult for younger students with smaller hands, as they may find the stretches across the black notes too big.

It doesn’t matter which approach you take. The most important thing to address is to raise awareness of the fingering patterns of 3 and 4.

The next thing to consider with playing scales on the piano is what to do the thumb. How do you get a strident to play an octave of the scale with a beautiful even tone, while the hand crosses over the thumb?

Whenever we need to change hand positions while playing, for example, playing a scale. We need to move our thumb into the right place. There are two directions we move in at the piano, the first is moving our arms away from our body, where our thumbs need to pass under our hands. The second direction is when we are bringing our arms back in towards our body, and our fingers need to go over our thumbs. Whatever direction our arms are travelling, it needs to remain smooth without dropping the elbow down. The thumb and fingers need to be working together. As soon as the 2nd finger plays, the thumb needs to start to move to the next note.

One exercise to practice the movement of the thumb is to play a scale, alternating between the thumb and one other finger at a slow to moderate tempo. Play a scale using the thumb and finger 2, when you get back to the bottom, do the scale again using thumb and finger 3. The aim is to be able to play the scale, avoiding any jerkiness and with an even tone for every note.

This is a quick look at some of the things to think about when starting to play scales on the piano, in another post, I will look at different ways to practice scales.

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