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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738614
05/22/18 08:29 AM
05/22/18 08:29 AM
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I think scales are a great tool when done correctly. For those just learning scales, it is best to not play them fast, as others have already stated, but focus on accurate fingering and comfort. A little goes a long way with scales, so just 1 scale focused on per week (i.e., F major scale, one octave up and back down), played once, maybe twice if needed, and then you're done for the day. Repeat this every day.

The focus should be on being able to "see" the notes of the scale before you play them so there's no hesitation, no having to think, "What are the sharps in this key again?" or "What finger goes next?", or have any excess tension. Playing scales quickly will come in time - maybe after a year or two. Slow practice is paramount.

Last edited by Morodiene; 05/22/18 08:31 AM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738615
05/22/18 08:35 AM
05/22/18 08:35 AM
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You don't need to learn all 48, Craig! Listen to a professional recording of the Prelude (and/or the Fugue) on the Monday and use that mood for the scale during the week. Associate that scale with that mood. You can learn a few bars of the Prelude, just one hand if you like, to get a more personal feel of the key or mood. You might take the subject of the fugue and just listen to what Bach does with it. It will increase your acquaintance with one of the two greatest collections (along with Beethoven's 32 sonatas) of piano music we have.

The 48 should be on most of our horizons so extra acquaintance does no harm. You'll soon learn which ones are attainable and which ones aren't even doing just a few bars with one hand alone. But audiating them without playing is enough.

Chopin's Preludes are another great resource - all keys and a wide variety of moods. Few of us will ever learn all of those but, once again, just studying the text one hand at a time will increase your familiarity with very important works in the piano canon. His Etudes are for advanced technical proficiency and that's not the point of this exercise.

You could also compile a list of 24 Symphonies or Concertos that cover all keys. You need to widen your knowledge and familiarity with our musical heritage and you need to associate a scale to a mood (or several moods) to avoid them becoming mechanical or without musical purpose.

If you want something to play you might investigate Hummel's Preludes Op. 67.


Richard
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: PianoStudent88] #2738617
05/22/18 08:45 AM
05/22/18 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Tyrone, what does the RCM (or ABRSM) syllabus have the student do as far as scales, at the very earliest level? Since you’re interested in following one of those programs and taking the exams, I would think you would want to follow their recommendations.


You can find this in the RCM syllabus. I'm sure there is one for ABRSM. You'll start with 5 finger patterns, then scales hands separate, then together. I'm not sure if the "bootcamp" idea is good, no need to learn them all at once. You have plenty of time. One teacher told me to play them slow, with my eyes closed (see the scale in your head) and listen to the sound. Make sure your thumbs don't hammer down on the keys.


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: PianoStudent88] #2738659
05/22/18 01:09 PM
05/22/18 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Tyrone, what does the RCM (or ABRSM) syllabus have the student do as far as scales, at the very earliest level? Since you’re interested in following one of those programs and taking the exams, I would think you would want to follow their recommendations.

Good question. I had no idea so I checked the current RCM syllabus found online and see on page 16 that full octave scales start at the 'Preparatory B' level (one octave), progress to 2-octave for Level 1, major and minor keys by level 2, hands-together by level 3, more keys in level 4, 4-octave in level 8, etc. I don't know about ABRSM or even how to check.

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
You can find this in the RCM syllabus. I'm sure there is one for ABRSM. You'll start with 5 finger patterns, then scales hands separate, then together. I'm not sure if the "bootcamp" idea is good, no need to learn them all at once. You have plenty of time.

Main thing, which I will take to heart, is that scales were never intended to be learned all at once, but add to other musical practices over the course of training. Based on reviewing this RCM syllabus, it now occurs to me that this Johnston book was not even meant for complete newbies like me but probably for people at more the intermediate level of piano since some of the things in it are only in the RCM syllabus at intermediate or higher level (4-octave scales at Level 8, for example).

Last edited by Slothrop, Tyrone; 05/22/18 01:11 PM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: malkin] #2738665
05/22/18 01:33 PM
05/22/18 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by malkin
Johnson constructed Scales Bootcamp for a purpose which he clearly describes in the book.
SPOILER: Playing 25 scales in 3 minutes is NOT his purpose.

Go ahead and express your opinions about scales and anything else (this is the internet, after all), but remember that you'll sound more clever if you hold off on issuing criticism until you have at least a passing familiarity with the object.

As someone who used The Scales Bootcamp successfully. I highly recommend it. Of all the Scale books out there, I feel like the Bootcamp was the one of the only books that gave any sort of practical guidance on how learn and master scales. And it is very thorough, covering more technical and musical exercises than you’ll probably ever need. I also emailed him a few times with different questions and he responded very quickly.

Having also used ”Practiceopedia” and “The Practice Revolution”; I have a high regard for Philip Johnston’s teaching abilities. His books are clear, practical and very thorough. (yes, I’m just a satisfied customer)


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738670
05/22/18 01:43 PM
05/22/18 01:43 PM
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Orange County, California
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I can't really comment on the scales bootcamp book, but the following worked for me. Although my first teacher started me with 5 finger patterns, all keys (major/minor) following circle of 5ths, before starting scales.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Scales-Chords-Arpeggios-Cadences/dp/0739003682


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738674
05/22/18 01:48 PM
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Assesssing if you’re ready for the Scales Bootcamp is something you have to figure out, but he does grade the Scales by difficulty so you have a sense of which Scales are easier/harder for students to learn (according to his teaching experience). It’s another useful strategy he provides for learning the scales.


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738675
05/22/18 01:54 PM
05/22/18 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Slothrop, Tyrone
Main thing, which I will take to heart, is that scales were never intended to be learned all at once, but add to other musical practices over the course of training. Based on reviewing this RCM syllabus, it now occurs to me that this Johnston book was not even meant for complete newbies like me but probably for people at more the intermediate level of piano since some of the things in it are only in the RCM syllabus at intermediate or higher level (4-octave scales at Level 8, for example).

Even that may lead you in the wrong direction. A teacher might have a student start 4-octave scales at an earlier level than level 8, even though RCM doesn't test them until level 8. Don't assume that a test system's levels are the last word on what order to introduce things, or what kind of preparation to lay earlier for harder skills later, etc.

Giving experienced guidance regarding what to study in what order, and with personalized tailoring and corrections, is among the ways a teacher can be useful to a piano student.


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738676
05/22/18 01:55 PM
05/22/18 01:55 PM
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the main thing I think is important , is that play scales slowly, and learn to control the movement, then work with tempo... also, ....

Knowing how to play your scales is one thing, but also knowing by heart all of the notes in the scale and distance between root note, and intervals of the scale

that way when you learn about chords say a major triads, if you know in major key that is 1,3, 5,
4,6 and 1
5 7 and 2 then you kinda how to identify chords

You could even take it step further when learning a song from a music score, study the melody and see all the intervals and develop your ears as well AND analyze the chords for that scale/key...

Last edited by Jitin; 05/22/18 01:57 PM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738679
05/22/18 02:15 PM
05/22/18 02:15 PM
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Imo there are two major things to learn about scales: 1. How to physically play them clear and smooth without tension (especially the thumb under/over and difference in playing slower and fast) and 2. How to construct and finger any major/minor scale from scratch. The rest is optional...The latter one can learn from books but the former might be tricky without a hands on teacher.

Drilling scales without knowing what you are doing just aiming for speed I see as useless activity...

Btw. Since I do not have absolute pitch all major and minor scales sound (almost) the same the me. So for listening purposes there's little need to learn them all...

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738682
05/22/18 02:26 PM
05/22/18 02:26 PM
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I like both the "Scales Bootcamp" by Philip Johnston & "The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences" from Alfred:

- The Alfred book is packed with content.

- The Johnston book is packed with an intuitive learning system, an enjoyable variety of practice routines, and a system to track one's progress.

The books complement each other (along with my teachers' guidance, especially relating to technique and mechanics which are not the focus of those books).

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738689
05/22/18 02:58 PM
05/22/18 02:58 PM
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I did not read Philip Johnston Scales Bootcamp. I have another book of his. However, I did want to mention why scales benefited me.

When I see a piece of music written in say A-flat major, my mind automatically maps out which keys are on the scale and which keys are not. Even with accidentals – say a natural somewhere – I'm still very clear that I am stepping slightly off the path, but I can center myself back onto the notes of the scale.

I feel that scales practice helped me immensely with that mind map. The advantage is not so obvious when working in C major, F major, or G major, but the benefits of scales became much clearer when the key signature showed more sharps or flats.

Last edited by MomOfBeginners; 05/22/18 02:58 PM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738737
05/22/18 07:18 PM
05/22/18 07:18 PM
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I love this discussion!

To sum up:
1. The OP, an abject beginner asks if scales go down as well as up.
2. A scale practice source is criticized because incorrect practice of its contents could lead to injury.
3. Rather than practicing scales, it is suggested that practicing Bach WTC would be useful. Or maybe Chopin Preludes.


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: zrtf90] #2738742
05/22/18 07:39 PM
05/22/18 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by Iarolslav Vasiliev
Before that zrtf90 had written that by playing scales a student learns to listen to his playing very carefully...
I'm flattered that you've learnt something from me and remembered the source but I'm sorry if I wrote that...let me correct it here:

By listening very carefully to his scales a student learns to play. smile

I have said that scales are ear training more than finger training.

zrtf90, you've broken my heart. smile

I thought you had been talking about learning to listen to musical nuances in one's playing, about learning to identify the slightest disturbances in rhythm and dynamics. That's what is most important in my opinion.

Ear training is not that interesting. There are exercises for ear training that are much more efficient than scales.

Originally Posted by zrtf90

scales don't need mental involvement for velocity, just procedural memory (and a good book to read while we're practising).

I totally disagree with this.

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: malkin] #2738743
05/22/18 07:42 PM
05/22/18 07:42 PM
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Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
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Originally Posted by malkin
I love this discussion!

To sum up:
1. The OP, an abject beginner asks if scales go down as well as up.
2. A scale practice source is criticized because incorrect practice of its contents could lead to injury.
3. Rather than practicing scales, it is suggested that practicing Bach WTC would be useful. Or maybe Chopin Preludes.

Sir, in this statement, I only object to your choice of the modifier, abject, as it is insulting.

Other than that, I do think it is an interesting discussion. I could hardly have expected such a rich discussion when I asked what I thought was a simple question of if scales are finished when you reach the highest note or if you have to return to the starting position. It's almost just a true/false question. However, I feel I've gained from the various responses, although I don't know if all of the comments are consistent with the other information I've found via googling, so of course I will be picking what I use. That said, I especially think the warnings to be careful in doing such repetitive exercises to avoid physical injuries will not go unheeded here. I even find your comments on this thread interesting as it gives insight into your thought processes and I always find it interesting to discover how different people reason about things.

Last edited by Slothrop, Tyrone; 05/22/18 07:43 PM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: outo] #2738744
05/22/18 07:50 PM
05/22/18 07:50 PM
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Hi all - this is Philip Johnston; I'm the author of Scales Bootcamp. There's been some strong opinions expressed in this thread by people who are unfamiliar with the book, figured I had a right of reply smile

Scales Bootcamp was designed to be a hard counter to mindless up-and-down-rep-based scales practice.

There is huge variation in the over 4,500, unique bite-sized challenges that Scales Bootcamp sets. The message is always 'you think you know this scale? Really? Ok, let's see you try this..."

In this way, the book is designed to power years of never-the-same-twice scales practice. The easiest challenges can be handled by absolute beginners; the most difficult will seriously test their teachers.

Just some of the different elements being tested:

• Left Hand alone/Right Hand alone/hands together
• Challenges at all tempos, from glacially slow to extremes of fast passagework
• Staccato/legato/accents/varied articulations/chaotically mixed articulations/dead even passagework
• Entirely free rhythmless playthroughs/ challenges locked to a metronome
• Pianissimo/fortissimo/crescendos and diminuendos/balance drills (LH is loud while RH is quiet and vice versa)
• Scales in different rhythms, varied intervals between hands, different ratios of notes between the hands (2 against 1, 3 against 2 etc.), scales commencing on different scale degrees
• Scales as individual notes/scales played in clusters
• Eyes open, eyes closed, tabletop scales (fingering only, no piano),
• Partial scales, single octave scales, right through to scales that cover the entire keyboard
• Sudden death challenges (must be right first time)/time limited challenges/metronome challenges/marathon challenges that distribute many reps across many days/challenges in front of audiences
• Different scales in each hand at the same time/parallel motion/contrary motion/with the score, from memory…
• Challenges that require working with actual repertoire in that key

And yes, somewhere in the mix, the much-maligned-in-this-thread challenge to play the scale 25 times in 3 minutes. (People! Please don't make this the headline for this book! And actually try it before you dismiss it as an RSI trap...a gentle 65bpm, sixteenth notes will get you there with plenty of time)

Read through the reviews at Amazon; happy to field any questions.

Philip Johnston
philipjohnston.studio

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738752
05/22/18 08:16 PM
05/22/18 08:16 PM
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Philip, sounds like an interesting book, written by one who has felt the need to do more that was available on the market. I can appreciate that. I like creating my own exercises and there have been times (both in piano and in other disciplines) when the study guide I was looking for didn't exist, so I created it.

Malkin, this is what a discussion on an Internet forum looks like. A topic was opened and it was explored and discussed beyond the initial question. Just like a real life conversation. People expressed opinions and contributed, and others can take from it what they wish. I learned a few things. Hopefully the OP did also.

Anyway on a different note it's when innocuous topics turn contentious that I find annoying. That hasn't occurred here, just a discussion. I do, though, find the summary light and humorous as probably intended! :cheers:


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738767
05/22/18 09:06 PM
05/22/18 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I thought you had been talking about learning to listen to musical nuances in one's playing, about learning to identify the slightest disturbances in rhythm and dynamics. That's what is most important in my opinion.
Yes, learning to listen like that is ear training. It seems I've been unclear.

Unlike the organ, the piano is touch sensitive. This isn't an add-on feature for advanced pianists - it's an obligation that the rank beginner has to master at the outset. The piano offers no control over tone once a key has been struck. When two notes are sounded in succession the only control the pianist has is the timing of the second note and its dynamic level.
The music has to be heard first in the imagination and the playing mechanism must then respond appropriately in order to realise it.
That response takes training in order to adjust the dynamic level of the second note correctly against the decaying sound of the first.

With a piece of music there are accents, changes of pitch and rhythm; it's difficult to hear uneveness clearly. With a scale the notes are clear and distinct and the slightest disturbances in time or tone are easier to hear. By hearing these disturbances the brain is able to make minute adjustments to the playing mechanism and get ever closer to that string of pearly notes with even time and even tone.

When this control has been achieved it's easier to then use this skill in the careful phrasing of our pieces.

I wasn't advocating practising scales while reading a book, as Charles Rosen suggested. I was saying that using scales for velocity was equally pointless - I didn't word it well. Velocity comes from control, control over the hands, over the fingers, between brain and fingers (via the whole body) and knowing what's coming and preparing mentally for it. It's not about training the muscles. Scales don't train look ahead. It's easy to play them fast with muscle memory but that doesn't transfer to pieces. Scales don't really help velocity - except for playing scales fast.

Originally Posted by malkin
3. Rather than practicing scales, it is suggested that practicing Bach WTC would be useful. Or maybe Chopin Preludes.

I don't know if you're being tongue in cheek or if my post was misleading but I suggested that scales and arpeggios be practised in the style of the music to be studied, and not without a musical context. I suggested that 'The 48' could provide that context as an excellent source of moods and styles in all keys without having to actually play them. smile

In the past I have been very specific that beginners shouldn't practise scales without direct supervision. There are far more important things to cover first but as we were discussing scales...


Richard
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2738794
05/22/18 11:10 PM
05/22/18 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev


Originally Posted by zrtf90

scales don't need mental involvement for velocity, just procedural memory (and a good book to read while we're practising).

I totally disagree with this.


Me too but it was already suggested that people are different. Obviously we are. Repetitive exercises requite very strict mental focus for me. The simpler the task the more difficult it is for me to do without focusing...

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Philip_Johnston] #2738809
05/23/18 12:44 AM
05/23/18 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Philip_Johnston
.....happy to field any questions.

Philip, I'm glad to see you here. There is no way to get a real picture of what is going on through this thread, or through what I could find by googling it. I'm not about to buy the book just for a forum discussion. wink

So here is my concern:
In short order, the physical side of playing scales. When I was on my own without a teacher, even being careful, I came close to injuring myself, and while I escaped that, it has still taken ages to undo the habits that formed. So....

- Do you address the physical side of playing scales in the book?
- Would you recommend that students use the book along with the advice of a teacher? (I seem to remember that some of your earlier books, which I quite liked, were actually aimed at teachers, to give them new ideas and approaches?)

I am concerned about a beginner who has not ever had instructions in the physical side of playing, and who loves to be challenged, tackling the exercise that was mentioned, and how he might tackle them. Do you have some precautions in the book with the self-teaching student kept in mind?

I think that in my perusals of the Internet I've run across videos put out by method books showing some of the technique which sort of supports the playing of the material.

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