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Scale evenness one way but not the other
#2599697 12/31/16 03:26 PM
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Hi,

I notice that ascending left hand and descending right hand scales are very easy and fluid, but when descending in the left hand or ascending in the right hand, it is very awkward. It's as if the right hand naturally "walks" leftwards, and the left hand naturally walks rightwards, but trying to go the opposite direction is like walking backwards. Do any other beginners understand what I mean? I find this especially so when going faster.

Sorry for the metaphors... I don't know how to describe unevenness better! smile

Also my first lessons don't begin until later in January, so I'm just asking here in lieu of a teacher! :P

Last edited by ICW; 12/31/16 03:40 PM.
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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599704 12/31/16 04:03 PM
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I also have found this ICW, and even after playing scales in a serious fashion for several years I still find descending left hand problematic.

Couple of things to do is forget about speed and concentrate on accuracy. This is most important as you are trying to get a secure footing and build on it. Practice hands separately because eventually you need to make the weaker hand lead rather than follow. Visualising how the fingers are going to move just before they do it will also help and allow you to take your eyes of your hands which may be another problem.

However, be aware this is part of an overall technique deficiency the beginner must face. I doubt young kids even notice it but the adult is tormented by it, and it is easy to think there is some quick fix like Hanon (or others). Some will advocate not starting scales in the first year and my own experience was I was better prepared in my second year. Getting a secure technique takes years so be patient is the best advice.


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599719 12/31/16 04:55 PM
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It's the cross-overs. With the RH descending or the LH ascending the cross-overs are with the 3rd or 4th finger, and rotating the hand with the cross-over goes naturally with the direction of the scale. But with scales in the other direction, the cross-overs are with the thumb and the hand rotation that helps is in the opposite direction to the scale.


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599723 12/31/16 05:23 PM
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It sounds like you are more comfortable when your hands are moving towards where you sit, vs. away. When you play scales, how many octaves do you play? Try playing at least 2 octaves in each direction. If you memorize which note the 4th finger lands on, it will help with fluidity. Practice the scales slowly and then increase tempo using the metronome. When you can play them fluidly, try contrary motion, 2,3,4, to a beat, etc.



Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
earlofmar #2599728 12/31/16 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar
I also have found this ICW, and even after playing scales in a serious fashion for several years I still find descending left hand problematic.

Couple of things to do is forget about speed and concentrate on accuracy. This is most important as you are trying to get a secure footing and build on it. Practice hands separately because eventually you need to make the weaker hand lead rather than follow. Visualising how the fingers are going to move just before they do it will also help and allow you to take your eyes of your hands which may be another problem.

However, be aware this is part of an overall technique deficiency the beginner must face. I doubt young kids even notice it but the adult is tormented by it, and it is easy to think there is some quick fix like Hanon (or others). Some will advocate not starting scales in the first year and my own experience was I was better prepared in my second year. Getting a secure technique takes years so be patient is the best advice.


Thanks earlofmar! Glad to know even the experts have the same pains. wink

Yes, separate practice feels very much right at this time. When practicing parallel scales, hands-together, the left hand plays a shade of a second after the right hand, producing an uneven sound. Interestingly enough, when doing scales in contrary motion (RH ascending while LH is descending), I make far fewer mistakes than when doing scales with separated hands.

It's hard for me to speak about years and grades, since my teacher said I can skip preparatory A&B and just start grade 1. Maybe this was a bad idea. I will see her again for our first proper lesson soon enough, so we can discuss this there. thumb

Originally Posted by J Soo
It's the cross-overs. With the RH descending or the LH ascending the cross-overs are with the 3rd or 4th finger, and rotating the hand with the cross-over goes naturally with the direction of the scale. But with scales in the other direction, the cross-overs are with the thumb and the hand rotation that helps is in the opposite direction to the scale.


J Soo, I didn't think about the bio-mechanics of it at all! What a great observation. Thank you! Something to be aware of.

Originally Posted by PianogrlNW
It sounds like you are more comfortable when your hands are moving towards where you sit, vs. away. When you play scales, how many octaves do you play? Try playing at least 2 octaves in each direction. If you memorize which note the 4th finger lands on, it will help with fluidity. Practice the scales slowly and then increase tempo using the metronome. When you can play them fluidly, try contrary motion, 2,3,4, to a beat, etc.


You got it in one. I usually play 2 octaves, sometimes 3 if I want to practice leaning my body in the direction of the scale.

I have the 4th-finger landings pretty well memorised in my mind, but that's not the same thing as muscle memory of course.

I guess I really need to buy a metronome! That's one thing I don't have yet. (and I don't own a smartphone or ipad or anything)

Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599744 12/31/16 07:36 PM
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Drop your wrist every 4th beat and count out loud. Get rid the metronome so you can concentrate and not rely on the machine to keep the beat. Also another big help for me was to not to rotate but fly or move the wrist over when there is a so called "cross over". Relieved stress and discomfort and help with speed big and accuracy time.





Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599748 12/31/16 08:44 PM
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You may also find it helpful to practice your scales in block chords: that is (say for C major right hand 2 octaves):

CDE (together) F (thumb under) GAB (together) C (thumb under) DE (together) F (thumb under) GABC (together)
then repeat coming back down.

Do this VERY slowly and gently 3 or 4 times before practicing the scale, and be sure you have a good shape to your hand and no stress.

This exercise helps reinforce the thumb and cross-over positions: you're kind of programming your brain where the fingers should land and also reinforcing a state or relaxed-ness for the hand.

Let me know if this helps (if you need further explanation shout and I'll post a vid).


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
cathryn999 #2599752 12/31/16 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by cathryn999
You may also find it helpful to practice your scales in block chords:


My teacher had me do this each time I began learning a new scale smile


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599764 12/31/16 09:43 PM
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When the thumb has to pass under this is much more difficult than passing the third or fourth finger over. That's why the OP has the difficulties described. This is true for virtually everyone.

Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599776 12/31/16 11:53 PM
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Wait until you start your lessons in January, and ask your teacher for help.


Piano teacher.
Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
Miguel Rey #2599848 01/01/17 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
Drop your wrist every 4th beat and count out loud. Get rid the metronome so you can concentrate and not rely on the machine to keep the beat. Also another big help for me was to not to rotate but fly or move the wrist over when there is a so called "cross over". Relieved stress and discomfort and help with speed big and accuracy time.



What do you mean by "dropping" my wrist every 4th beat?

Funny how some people advocate the metronome, and others dislike it as a crutch.

The advice about flying over, rather than crossing over, sounds like it's right, given my experiences with speed and (lack of) accuracy. I'm just aware of rotating too fast, so that the next note after the cross-over is too loud compared to the others. Need control as well as speed and accuracy, after all!

Originally Posted by cathryn999
You may also find it helpful to practice your scales in block chords: that is (say for C major right hand 2 octaves):

CDE (together) F (thumb under) GAB (together) C (thumb under) DE (together) F (thumb under) GABC (together)
then repeat coming back down.

Do this VERY slowly and gently 3 or 4 times before practicing the scale, and be sure you have a good shape to your hand and no stress.

This exercise helps reinforce the thumb and cross-over positions: you're kind of programming your brain where the fingers should land and also reinforcing a state or relaxed-ness for the hand.

Let me know if this helps (if you need further explanation shout and I'll post a vid).


I really like this advice. A video is always helpful though! smile

I never understand what people mean when they say no stress, no tension, relaxed hand, etc.! Although the "C"-shape of the hand is somewhat natural, pressing down on notes isn't lacking in muscle stress. It doesn't help, though, that I'm naturally a very tense person, physically, and I can really feel it in the keyboard when I'm less tense.

Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
rocket88 #2599853 01/01/17 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by rocket88
Wait until you start your lessons in January, and ask your teacher for help.
I've added stress here in support of rocket88!

There's no benefit in practising scales without clear instruction and understanding but much that you might forfeit!



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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599873 01/01/17 11:47 AM
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My teacher taught me to do long-short and short-long to work with unevenness. I do this in scales and a lot of Bach. It's less useful in Chopin, etc.

Long-short Long-short

or

short-Long short-Long

The short-long is a little awkward but it's a way to counter the Long-short.

Sometimes I start faltering on the third scale. When that happens, I drop down to 2 and do each hand separately. Something else that my teacher taught me is when working with the sharps/ flats, generally, the fourth finger of the right hand falls on the B-flat, the 3rd on the E-flat. In the left-hand, 3rd on the B-flat, 4 on the E-flat. For some scales, I need to do the 2 where the 4 is, I can't recall now which ones.

Lately I've been also using music to do the harder scales like C# minor. I just fumble too much and I'm thinking about fingering.


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599891 01/01/17 12:30 PM
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Of course a teacher will be more helpful since it's in person, but here is something to try and see if it helps.

Thumb preparations. Take a RH ascending scale in C major and play the first two notes. Staying on the D with finger 2, gently move the thumb under the hand so the tip is prepared on F. Play the E with the thumb tip still on F. Then the thumb is already where you need it to be. When you get to G with finger 2, again move the thumb over so the tip is prepared on C (or very close to C if you can't reach without squeezing/tensing up.)
This feels very strange at first, especially playing notes with 3 and 4 while the thumb is prepared under the hand, but it's very helpful. I usually introduce thumb preparations along with Czerny Op. 100 as an introduction to fast scales. It helps make the thumb crossings less of an interruption in the flow of the scale.

It works the same way with LH descending: prepare the thumb as soon as finger 2 plays.

With RH descending and LH ascending, the thumb preparation is more about getting the whole hand aligned with a block of notes at once. For RH descending, as soon as finger 3 crosses over onto E, the thumb pops out from under the hand and goes over the C. As soon as finger 4 crosses over onto B, the thumb pops out over the F.

Last edited by hreichgott; 01/01/17 12:33 PM.

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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599895 01/01/17 12:36 PM
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There is also a "thumb over" method that I like.


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Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2599976 01/01/17 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by ICW
Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
Drop your wrist every 4th beat and count out loud. Get rid the metronome so you can concentrate and not rely on the machine to keep the beat. Also another big help for me was to not to rotate but fly or move the wrist over when there is a so called "cross over". Relieved stress and discomfort and help with speed big and accuracy time.



What do you mean by "dropping" my wrist every 4th beat?

Funny how some people advocate the metronome, and others dislike it as a crutch.

The advice about flying over, rather than crossing over, sounds like it's right, given my experiences with speed and (lack of) accuracy. I'm just aware of rotating too fast, so that the next note after the cross-over is too loud compared to the others. Need control as well as speed and accuracy, after all!

Originally Posted by cathryn999
You may also find it helpful to practice your scales in block chords: that is (say for C major right hand 2 octaves):

CDE (together) F (thumb under) GAB (together) C (thumb under) DE (together) F (thumb under) GABC (together)
then repeat coming back down.

Do this VERY slowly and gently 3 or 4 times before practicing the scale, and be sure you have a good shape to your hand and no stress.

This exercise helps reinforce the thumb and cross-over positions: you're kind of programming your brain where the fingers should land and also reinforcing a state or relaxed-ness for the hand.

Let me know if this helps (if you need further explanation shout and I'll post a vid).


I really like this advice. A video is always helpful though! smile

I never understand what people mean when they say no stress, no tension, relaxed hand, etc.! Although the "C"-shape of the hand is somewhat natural, pressing down on notes isn't lacking in muscle stress. It doesn't help, though, that I'm naturally a very tense person, physically, and I can really feel it in the keyboard when I'm less tense.


The dropping of the wrist every 4th beat is to just help establish rhythm and relieve stress. More pronounced slower then much less if any when going faster. Not only help for scales but increase flexibility and ease use of the wrist, much needed for playing in general.




Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
metaresolve #2600160 01/02/17 05:11 AM
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zrtf90 and rocket88, thanks to both of you for insisting on asking my teacher. During the introductory meeting/lesson with my teacher, she simply gave me Schmitt Op. 16 to work on. Sometimes that sort of work just naturally flows into scales. It's how I discovered the unevenness. Interestingly I find that "bouncing" the hand slightly on the keys, with the rhythm, as if conducting myself while playing, is helpful.

metaresolve, I absolutely love your advice. I'm sure my teacher will give me such things when I start properly with her, but it's nice to try new things now, then see how she reacts when we start.

What do you mean, you start faltering on the "third scale"? The third octave of your scale? Or the third key in which you practice continuously-moving scales?

In my subconscious, I already "knew" the rule of which fingers fall on Bb & Eb, but seeing it typed out like that is very helpful for really understanding and internalising it!

hreichgott, you're helping me to find an answer to a question I've wanted to ask for a long time; namely, "does the thumb begin its passage under the fingers while 2 is playing, or while 3 is playing?" (in the example of C1 D2 E3 F4). I've so far tended to wait for the last second, while 3 (or 4) is hitting its note, to pass the thumb under the fingers. This may be an ingredient in the unevenness! Making the thumb crossings less of an interruption to the flow -- that's exactly the sort of thing I need. thumb

With regards to the RH descending and LH ascending advice, I think I was already doing what you talk about, and that explains the easier time I've had with those directions.

Miguel Rey, sorry, I was just unfamiliar with your terminology. Now I understand that you literally meant for my wrist to physically fall lower while striking F and C (for example, in C major) than it was when striking the first 3 notes that came before. This sounds a little awkward, but I understand it in my mind. Thank you.

Last edited by ICW; 01/02/17 05:13 AM.
Re: Scale evenness one way but not the other
ICW #2600231 01/02/17 10:29 AM
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Actually you are dropping the wrist on every downbeat or the first note of every four in 4/4 time. So if playing C Major you would start wrist low on C then gradually raise to drop (accent) on the G ,D and A. You obviously need to start slow counting out loud. Also use with arpeggios. Yes awkward at first but with consistency pay off is huge. I learned this from the pianist/teacher in the video I posted. He also has very descriptive technical study books on Amazon . You need the introduction guide plus what ever study you decide to choose.
https://www.amazon.com/RUSSIAN-TECH...keywords=peskanov+technical+introduction


Here is a good example of the raising and dropping of the wrist on broken chords. He is using metronome but once you have established comfort he recommended to switch to vocal to avoid becoming robot and increase concentration.






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