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Easiest way to re-learn scales? #2715192
02/17/18 08:36 PM
02/17/18 08:36 PM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 10
California
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Cali Steinway Offline OP
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Cali Steinway  Offline OP
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California
I'm on a kick to learn new classic music (some Mozart sonatas primarily). I used to play when I was a teenager, and haven't played classic music in 20+ years. So, noticing when I'm doing scale-like music - K545 for example - that my playing is not smooth or even.

For learning scales, which I used to be able to do - is there a recommended way?

1. Hands separate slow
2. Hands together slow
3. Hands separate fast
4. Hands together fast

Any recommendations on exercises that would help?

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Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715199
02/17/18 09:04 PM
02/17/18 09:04 PM
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bennevis Online content
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Unevenness in scales is due to thumb under movements causing 'bumps', often aggravated by 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers.

There's no substitute for dedicated practice. If you've been able to play scales & arpeggios well in the past - even if decades ago - you shouldn't have any difficulty regaining your previous fluency (eventually) by daily practicing, but never faster than you can play smoothly and evenly. In other words, don't play fast until you can play slow.

For 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers, there are simple exercises like 1-2-3-2-3-4-3-4-5-4-3-2-1, 1-3-2-4-3-5-4-2-1 and 5-4-3-4-3-2-3-2-1-2-3-4-5 in 5-finger positions. Again, the same applies - don't play any faster than you can play smoothly and evenly.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715200
02/17/18 09:05 PM
02/17/18 09:05 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,530
Warsaw, Poland
Qazsedcft Offline
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There are literally thousands of possible scale exercises. Some variations to think about:

* Vary the articulation: staccato, legato, plain detached, staccatissimo, legatissimo, etc.
* Vary the dynamics: all forte, all piano, from pianissimo all the way to fortissimo, etc.
* Play in different rhythms: long-short, short-long, long-short-short, etc.
* Polyrhythms: 2 vs. 3, 3 vs. 4, etc.
* "Standard" exercises, like the "grand scale" (parallel up 2 octaves, contrary 2 octaves, parallel up 2 octaves, parallel down 2 octaves, contrary 2 octaves, parallel down 2 octaves).

There are many more...

The point of all these exercises, though, is not just to do them but to listen very carefully while doing them.


[Linked Image]
Working on:
Grieg op. 57 no. 6
Bach BWV 1052 mvt. 2
Moszkowski op. 91 no. 7
Debussy Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715258
02/18/18 03:40 AM
02/18/18 03:40 AM
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Posts: 71
Adelaide, South Australia
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CharlesXX Offline
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Playing scales is a good way to consolidate and built your technique, and to grasp the basics of keys.

All the above suggestions are good.

Don't forget, scales are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

Arthur Rubinstein thought "Scales were for fish." Easy for him to say!

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Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715275
02/18/18 05:42 AM
02/18/18 05:42 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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There are many preliminary exercises that should be practiced by a beginner or long time re-starter before playing scales. But if you've played non-classical music for these 20+ years, most likely you only need to do some exercises for your thumbs, because thumbs, as Bennevis stated correctly, cause the most problems in scales. Try searching YouTube for "piano exercises for thumbs".

Then the traditional first step in playing scales is to play them slowly, forte, raising fingers very high. Raise the tempo gradually in small steps.

After that try to play scales faster, starting with just four notes and adding one note at a time: cdef, cdef, cdef, cdefg, cdefg, ..., cdefgabcd, cdefgabcd, ... Hands separately, then hands together. It should sound even, as if a ball was rolling on the keyboard.

If problems occur, it's good to try adding accents on every 3rd or 4th note or to play faster, but pausing at every 3rd or 4th note.

Be patient, this is a long process. Good luck!

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: bennevis] #2715276
02/18/18 05:44 AM
02/18/18 05:44 AM
Joined: May 2016
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Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Unevenness in scales is due to thumb under movements causing 'bumps', often aggravated by 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers.


It is quite unusual that you call 3rd finger weak. It is usually considered the strongest finger. 4th and 5th are weak.

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715281
02/18/18 06:02 AM
02/18/18 06:02 AM
Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 391
South Wales
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Colin Miles Offline
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South Wales
The problem with K545 could be down to the piano you are playing on. When I restarted playing I also had problems playing this smoothly and I assumed it was down to lack of practice or simply old age. But when I went to change my piano last year, a 2002 Roland HP7e I discovered that I was able to play that smoothly on all the newer models - I used it as a test piece.

Having said that I still use that piece as a test of my ability to play smoothly and currently working on the left hand, which doesn't go quite as smoothly as it should. It's a matter of practice as with all sections of pieces that don't come easily first of all.

Sometimes, even when you think you have mastered something you still have to go back and 'relearn' it. Didn't one golfer, forget who, say that every year he relearns his golf swing, or something to that effect.

Last edited by Colin Miles; 02/18/18 06:06 AM. Reason: corrections

Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2715292
02/18/18 07:07 AM
02/18/18 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by bennevis
Unevenness in scales is due to thumb under movements causing 'bumps', often aggravated by 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers.


It is quite unusual that you call 3rd finger weak. It is usually considered the strongest finger. 4th and 5th are weak.

The middle finger by itself is strong. It's also very 'strong' when used with the index finger, as in trilling 2-3.

It's when it's used with fingers 4 & 5 that it becomes 'weak': very few amateurs can trill fast & smoothly with 3-4. (3-5 is much easier, even for professionals). And at the top end of the scale (in RH), 3 often becomes 'sticky' and release fractionally too slowly moving on to 4 which gives an impression of indistinctness at the top end. It's something that teachers pick up on (my teachers kept reminding me of it......), but if self-learning, it's often not noticed by the student.

Try this simple exercise to see what I'm getting at - play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly. If you are advanced (- only if you're advanced), hold down two notes with 1 & 2, and play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly while continuing to hold down 1 & 2 gently (N.B. not pressing down hard).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715300
02/18/18 08:04 AM
02/18/18 08:04 AM
Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 391
South Wales
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Colin Miles Offline
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Colin Miles  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2017
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South Wales
I believe that this is the main problem for most people regarding the 3rd and 4th finger.
'There is a webbing across the back of the hand that limits that action. And the tendons to those fingers are unique tendons, forked, with one tendon to two fingers.'

If I remember correctly, some people don't have this problem but for the rest of us exercises to improve flexibility will help - Google '3rd and 4th finger independence' for lots of tips on this.

However, in this case I don't think it is the problem, or one of scales, but specifically playing K545. Often relatively easy and not technically challenging pieces can be quite difficult to play well.


Roland LX7

South Wales, UK
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Colin Miles] #2715585
02/19/18 05:18 AM
02/19/18 05:18 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
I
Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
500 Post Club Member
Iaroslav Vasiliev  Offline
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Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by bennevis
Unevenness in scales is due to thumb under movements causing 'bumps', often aggravated by 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers.

It is quite unusual that you call 3rd finger weak. It is usually considered the strongest finger. 4th and 5th are weak.

The middle finger by itself is strong. It's also very 'strong' when used with the index finger, as in trilling 2-3.

Using your terms I would say it this way: 3rd finger is strong when trilling 3-5, it's very strong when trillng 3-2, and it's extremely strong when trilling 3-1.

Originally Posted by bennevis
It's when it's used with fingers 4 & 5 that it becomes 'weak': very few amateurs can trill fast & smoothly with 3-4. (3-5 is much easier, even for professionals).

You are right that 3-4 is difficult trill when played mostly with fingers, that's because 3rd and 4th fingers are physically connected, they naturally lack independence, but it doesn't affect 3-5, so I think it would not be correct to talk about 3-4-5 as a group of weak fingers.

Originally Posted by bennevis
And at the top end of the scale (in RH), 3 often becomes 'sticky' and release fractionally too slowly moving on to 4 which gives an impression of indistinctness at the top end. It's something that teachers pick up on (my teachers kept reminding me of it......), but if self-learning, it's often not noticed by the student.

It's a very interesting issue, I'm glad that you've mentioned it here. You are absolutely right that 3rd finger sometimes gets sticky in scales when it plays before 4th, but that's not because 3rd finger is weak! It's because 4th finger is weak and a pianist reflexively holds weight on 3rd finger longer, in order to help 4th finger to bear weight of the arm.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Try this simple exercise to see what I'm getting at - play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly. If you are advanced (- only if you're advanced), hold down two notes with 1 & 2, and play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly while continuing to hold down 1 & 2 gently (N.B. not pressing down hard).

Well, I consider myself sufficiently advanced to do this smile , thank you for caring. But I don't see what this exercise is supposed to prove. When playing 3-4-5, weather holding 1-2 or not, I don't feel weakness in 3rd finger and I crearly feel that 3rd finger is much stronger than 4th and 5th, and I can accentuate notes with it easier.

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2715586
02/19/18 05:21 AM
02/19/18 05:21 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
I
Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
500 Post Club Member
Iaroslav Vasiliev  Offline
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Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
Originally Posted by Colin Miles
I believe that this is the main problem for most people regarding the 3rd and 4th finger.
'There is a webbing across the back of the hand that limits that action. And the tendons to those fingers are unique tendons, forked, with one tendon to two fingers.'

Right, 4th finger is connected by tendons to 3rd and 5th, it depends on the extensors of 3rd and 5th fingers. It's the least independent finger in fact.

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2715596
02/19/18 06:42 AM
02/19/18 06:42 AM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 10,823
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bennevis Online content
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by bennevis
Unevenness in scales is due to thumb under movements causing 'bumps', often aggravated by 'weak' 3-4-5 fingers.

It is quite unusual that you call 3rd finger weak. It is usually considered the strongest finger. 4th and 5th are weak.

The middle finger by itself is strong. It's also very 'strong' when used with the index finger, as in trilling 2-3.

Using your terms I would say it this way: 3rd finger is strong when trilling 3-5, it's very strong when trillng 3-2, and it's extremely strong when trilling 3-1.

Originally Posted by bennevis
It's when it's used with fingers 4 & 5 that it becomes 'weak': very few amateurs can trill fast & smoothly with 3-4. (3-5 is much easier, even for professionals).

You are right that 3-4 is difficult trill when played mostly with fingers, that's because 3rd and 4th fingers are physically connected, they naturally lack independence, but it doesn't affect 3-5, so I think it would not be correct to talk about 3-4-5 as a group of weak fingers.

Originally Posted by bennevis
And at the top end of the scale (in RH), 3 often becomes 'sticky' and release fractionally too slowly moving on to 4 which gives an impression of indistinctness at the top end. It's something that teachers pick up on (my teachers kept reminding me of it......), but if self-learning, it's often not noticed by the student.

It's a very interesting issue, I'm glad that you've mentioned it here. You are absolutely right that 3rd finger sometimes gets sticky in scales when it plays before 4th, but that's not because 3rd finger is weak! It's because 4th finger is weak and a pianist reflexively holds weight on 3rd finger longer, in order to help 4th finger to bear weight of the arm.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Try this simple exercise to see what I'm getting at - play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly. If you are advanced (- only if you're advanced), hold down two notes with 1 & 2, and play 3-4-5-4-3-4-5-4-3 rapidly while continuing to hold down 1 & 2 gently (N.B. not pressing down hard).

Well, I consider myself sufficiently advanced to do this smile , thank you for caring. But I don't see what this exercise is supposed to prove. When playing 3-4-5, weather holding 1-2 or not, I don't feel weakness in 3rd finger and I crearly feel that 3rd finger is much stronger than 4th and 5th, and I can accentuate notes with it easier.

When I say 'weak' (using quotation marks), I don't mean weak in anatomical nor neuromuscular terms..


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2720656
03/12/18 09:24 AM
03/12/18 09:24 AM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 10
California
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Cali Steinway Offline OP
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Cali Steinway  Offline OP
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California
Thanks everyone - getting better with time and practice.

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2720971
03/13/18 09:29 PM
03/13/18 09:29 PM
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Posts: 67
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Joe302 Offline
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Middle Atlantic
Hi,
I am not "re-learning" scales, but learning scales.
My teacher has me playing HT over one octave.

What I decided to do was kill two birds with one stone.
When I practice a scale, I use my metronome.
I start a new scale at say 75 or 80 bpm.
I then increase my playing speed in 5-10 bpm increments.
When I cannot play smoothly that is my maximum speed.
I record this information and the date.
Next day, I begin again.
I have found that as I increase familiarity with a given scale, my speed increases.

Using the metronome has allowed me to better measure my learning progress.
It also helps me to ensure that I keep a steady beat.
So two for the price of one.
Joe


Proud owner of a Kawai KU-5D 52 inch professional upright.
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Joe302] #2721034
03/14/18 03:51 AM
03/14/18 03:51 AM
Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
500 Post Club Member
Iaroslav Vasiliev  Offline
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Joined: May 2016
Posts: 596
Moscow, Russia
Originally Posted by Joe302
Hi,
I am not "re-learning" scales, but learning scales.
My teacher has me playing HT over one octave.

What I decided to do was kill two birds with one stone.
When I practice a scale, I use my metronome.
I start a new scale at say 75 or 80 bpm.
I then increase my playing speed in 5-10 bpm increments.
When I cannot play smoothly that is my maximum speed.
I record this information and the date.
Next day, I begin again.
I have found that as I increase familiarity with a given scale, my speed increases.

Using the metronome has allowed me to better measure my learning progress.
It also helps me to ensure that I keep a steady beat.
So two for the price of one.
Joe

IMO using metronome constantly with scales is not a good idea, because the most important thing in playing scales is listening to yourself and the metronome hinders the listening.

Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721039
03/14/18 04:20 AM
03/14/18 04:20 AM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,530
Warsaw, Poland
Qazsedcft Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Qazsedcft  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,530
Warsaw, Poland
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev

IMO using metronome constantly with scales is not a good idea, because the most important thing in playing scales is listening to yourself and the metronome hinders the listening.

+1

It should be about control and evenness. Go slow and listen very carefully. Speed will come naturally over time.


[Linked Image]
Working on:
Grieg op. 57 no. 6
Bach BWV 1052 mvt. 2
Moszkowski op. 91 no. 7
Debussy Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2721081
03/14/18 10:09 AM
03/14/18 10:09 AM
Joined: Jun 2017
Posts: 148
England
Lillith Offline
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Posts: 148
England
I have a metronome where you can turn the click off and there's a red light running up and down keeping the time. You can see this out of the corner of your eye while playing and listening to yourself smile

I found that with a regular metronome I just concentrated on the music and shut out the clicks from my consciousness all together.


God's own county smile
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2721089
03/14/18 10:47 AM
03/14/18 10:47 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,667
Ireland (ex England)
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zrtf90 Offline
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zrtf90  Offline
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Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,667
Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted by Joe302
Using the metronome...helps me to ensure that I keep a steady beat.
It only ensures you keep a steady beat when you're using the metronome!

You won't develop rhythm by following a metronome - only the ability to follow one. Building internal rhythm requires access to your internal clock. The best way to do that is to count aloud but muscular contractions like tapping a foot or your tongue can help.

A metronome doesn't help building speed either but rather hinders it. You need speed reducing processing power to synchronise with an external beat but can automatically align to an internal one.

You can't actually build speed. It comes with control. Build control and speed will follow.

Scale playing has little to do with speed. If you check out the ABRSM scale speed requirements you'll find the highest minimum speed, for their Grade Eight exams, is easily achieveable in a few days of practise. Scales are about being smooth and even - pieces are for speed. For example, you'll need greater speed for Mozart's K. 545 (16ths at around 120 bpm) than for scales (8ths at 176 bpm or 16ths at 88 bpm).


Richard
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: zrtf90] #2721102
03/14/18 11:30 AM
03/14/18 11:30 AM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,530
Warsaw, Poland
Qazsedcft Offline
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Qazsedcft  Offline
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Warsaw, Poland
Originally Posted by zrtf90
If you check out the ABRSM scale speed requirements you'll find the highest minimum speed, for their Grade Eight exams, is easily achieveable in a few days of practise. Scales are about being smooth and even - pieces are for speed. For example, you'll need greater speed for Mozart's K. 545 (16ths at around 120 bpm) than for scales (8ths at 176 bpm or 16ths at 88 bpm).

I don't think 88 bpm @ 4 notes per click is easily achieveable in a few days of practise. It took me about 2 years to get that kind of speed.

In any case, I never improved speed by practicing speed. On the contrary, it's after practicing slowly for a long time (many months) that I noticed the best improvements in speed.


[Linked Image]
Working on:
Grieg op. 57 no. 6
Bach BWV 1052 mvt. 2
Moszkowski op. 91 no. 7
Debussy Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: Cali Steinway] #2721108
03/14/18 11:48 AM
03/14/18 11:48 AM
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Posts: 3,667
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by qazsedcft
I don't think 88 bpm @ 4 notes per click is easily achieveable in a few days of practise. It took me about 2 years to get that kind of speed.
Accepted.

Out of curiosity, how long had you been playing piano when you achieved that speed or how long had you been playing when you started scales? I started scales late, two years before my Grade Six and four before my Grade Eight. I only did the two exams.


Richard
Re: Easiest way to re-learn scales? [Re: zrtf90] #2721175
03/14/18 04:15 PM
03/14/18 04:15 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
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Warsaw, Poland
Qazsedcft Offline
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Qazsedcft  Offline
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Warsaw, Poland
Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by qazsedcft
I don't think 88 bpm @ 4 notes per click is easily achieveable in a few days of practise. It took me about 2 years to get that kind of speed.

Accepted.

Out of curiosity, how long had you been playing piano when you achieved that speed or how long had you been playing when you started scales? I started scales late, two years before my Grade Six and four before my Grade Eight. I only did the two exams.

That was 2 years starting from scratch. I started playing scales almost immediately after I started piano (under teacher supervision).


[Linked Image]
Working on:
Grieg op. 57 no. 6
Bach BWV 1052 mvt. 2
Moszkowski op. 91 no. 7
Debussy Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

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