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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: zrtf90] #2738849
05/23/18 07:34 AM
05/23/18 07:34 AM
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Posts: 994
Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Online content
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
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.

The music has to be heard first in the imagination and the playing mechanism must then respond appropriately in order to realise it.


zrtf90, I love you again. smile That phrase in bold font is what I've been advocating for quite a long time here on the forums. Indeed we need to imagine a scale at first and only then play it, comparing every note or group of notes to our perfect mental aural image. This training of aural imagination and aural comparison is crucial.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
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.

Yes, exactly, this is imo why it's best to develop the listening skills using the scales.

But this is only true for scales in slow and medium tempo. As the tempo increases it becomes more and more difficult to hear and identify disturbances. And at a very fast tempo it's a task of extreme difficulty. Sometimes at a fast tempo, when I feel that there is a problem, I need to play a scale for up to 5-6 times before I can identify what precisely is wrong with it. I've been playing piano for decades and it's still a problem for me. It's a real challenge for the listening skills and a real training. Besides, consider the fact that a scale deteriorates after just a few days without practice.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
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.

It's hard to argue with your last sentence. wink
Those are different things. When you play scales slowly, especially when raising your fingers very high, you train control and strength. When you play faster you train dexterity. Scales are probably the most traditional way to develop finger dexterity. The real work on scales begins far beyond the basic tempo. And if a student doesn't try to keep it slow intentionally, the tempo of scales will increase with practice month after month. The muscle memory for scales indeed transfer only to scales and scale-like fragments within pieces, but the overall increase in control and dexterity imo affects everything.

Concerning the practice indeed it may be easy to play scales using only your muscle memory, but such practice is absolutely useless. Scales should at all times be played artistically and creatively, with different accents, crescendo or diminuendo, and bearing the scale endpoint in the mind. (I suppose Philip Johnston's book is mostly about that.) And that requires a full involvement of the mind, an aural imagination and a great concentration. It's a great exercise primarily for the mind. It develops both the speed of thinking and the "musical will" that I mentioned earlier.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738878
05/23/18 09:53 AM
05/23/18 09:53 AM
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No insult intended. I was thinking along the lines of "lowly" or "humble" and applying the adj. to "beginner" rather than to you personally. The "cast aside" etymology sort seems to fit too, not to imply that a beginner has been deliberately tossed out on the rubbish heap, but instead that the sincere beginner is casting about looking for direction and is possibly blown about by every wind.

Anyway, exaggeration and cheek all around, but possibly not quite enough since it didn't come across clearly. Cheers.


Learner
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: malkin] #2738888
05/23/18 10:06 AM
05/23/18 10:06 AM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 3,846
Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
Tyrone Slothrop  Online Content OP


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Originally Posted by malkin
No insult intended. I was thinking along the lines of "lowly" or "humble" and applying the adj. to "beginner" rather than to you personally. The "cast aside" etymology sort seems to fit too, not to imply that a beginner has been deliberately tossed out on the rubbish heap, but instead that the sincere beginner is casting about looking for direction and is possibly blown about by every wind.

Aha! "Lowly beginner". Well, I am certainly that. Understood. I withdraw my complaint.

Originally Posted by malkin
Anyway, exaggeration and cheek all around, but possibly not quite enough since it didn't come across clearly. Cheers.

I think I was stewing over 'abject' and the fog clouded my vision but subsequent posters definitely caught and appreciated your cheek and now that my vision has cleared, I think I do too! wink

Last edited by Slothrop, Tyrone; 05/23/18 10:07 AM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738890
05/23/18 10:15 AM
05/23/18 10:15 AM
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Florida
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yeahhh.....I get myself into trouble with cheeky remarks and wit / sarcasm on the internet all the time; sometimes it doesn't come out as intended (eg the username thread accent comment)


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738895
05/23/18 10:24 AM
05/23/18 10:24 AM
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South Florida
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by Slothrop, Tyrone
Thanks for the comments. Philip Johnston just wrote to me and said that the scales always go up and back down again and no scale is completed without returning to the starting position, so my original question is answered.

Actually, your "newbie" question deserves some thought.

Off the top of my head I can't remember anyone playing scales down first, then back up.

So people who play in both directions - which should be everyone - don't think about this.

Both hands play faster and more smoothly starting away from the body and then coming "in". This means that the RH plays better coming "down", and the LH plays better going "up".

The practical result is that it is much easier for righties to play both hands moving to the right, which from the start is a problem.

I always start down first, then go back up. I recommend this to my righties with the caveat that going in the usual direction first is probably best for lefties.

If you think about it, people who play the traditional melodic minor scale need to come back down with natural minor, since that is what melodic minor does, the traditional variety. In actually playing we go down harmonic minor and up melodic about 95% of the time, which means that to get this in the hands you want to at least go down first 50% of the time. And so on.

Other than that, scales go down as often as they go up, so both directions are equally important.


Piano Teacher
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Philip_Johnston] #2738898
05/23/18 10:28 AM
05/23/18 10:28 AM
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by Philip_Johnston
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

Philip, what about the problem of hands separate fingerings vs hands together fingering?

An example: key of D major, left hand thumb goes on A and D in any traditional D scale that starts on the tonic, but we never use that fingering in passage work, where the thumb usually moves to E and B.


Piano Teacher
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Gary D.] #2738908
05/23/18 11:04 AM
05/23/18 11:04 AM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 254
California, USA
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MomOfBeginners Offline
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Originally Posted by Gary D.


I always start down first, then go back up. I recommend this to my righties with the caveat that going in the usual direction first is probably best for lefties.



I like that suggestion. I noticed that my kids have more trouble going down than going up, and I've often asked them to start high, go down, and then come back up again. Often, even when they start at the top and go down, then back up, when they get to the top, they go back down again and end at the bottom.


Mom of Two Girls Who Used to Be Beginners
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2738934
05/23/18 01:45 PM
05/23/18 01:45 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 3,799
Ireland (ex England)
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by outo
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...Repetitive exercises requite very strict mental focus for me. The simpler the task the more difficult it is for me to do without focusing...
Still more clearing up required.

The point of that sentence, in context, was not that scales don't need focus but that they don't need focus for velocity, i.e. we can learn to play them faster without mental involvement using just procedural memory - which doesn't help absolute velocity at all, or scale playing for that matter.

Originally Posted by Gary D.
An example: key of D major, left hand thumb goes on A and D in any traditional D scale that starts on the tonic, but we never use that fingering in passage work, where the thumb usually moves to E and B.
We've covered this before but I use Natural Fingering, favoured by Chopin, Neuhaus, et al, which puts LH 4th on F# in G, D and A Majors and on Bb in F Major.

Though I'd be interested in what the Bootcamp book says about natural fingering - and how or whether scale fingering is taught or introduced.


Richard
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: zrtf90] #2738946
05/23/18 02:29 PM
05/23/18 02:29 PM
Joined: Jan 2016
Posts: 1,182
Россия
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newer player Offline
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Though I'd be interested in what the Bootcamp book says about natural fingering - and how or whether scale fingering is taught or introduced.


Brief intro videos...

https://vimeo.com/47792970
https://vimeo.com/47792971
https://vimeo.com/47792972

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: newer player] #2738957
05/23/18 03:59 PM
05/23/18 03:59 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,701
Canada
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by newer player

"Scales like F# major cause no end of problems...." (?)

There are three "black note scales: F# (Gb) major, B major, Db major. They use all the black piano keys. We have three long fingers, which fit best on the three black keys. Immediately, that topography tells your fingers where to go. There are quite a few teacher who begin with Db, B, or F# major (esp. the first two) because this is also easiest for a natural hand (shape).

When I started out, I did use the (group of 4 + group of 3) formula. Later on I discovered some weaknesses to this approach, especially when you play a scale starting on a note other than the Tonic note.

When I listened to the first video, it seemed to be talking to teachers. If it's geared to teachers, then those teachers would be teaching the physical aspects of playing (my original question to the author), and those teachers would also use their judgment in:
a) which exercises to assign
b) how they want their students to approach those exercises
c) teaching the physical motions involved first.

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: zrtf90] #2739261
05/25/18 03:22 AM
05/25/18 03:22 AM
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
We've covered this before but I use Natural Fingering, favoured by Chopin, Neuhaus, et al, which puts LH 4th on F# in G, D and A Majors and on Bb in F Major.

Though I'd be interested in what the Bootcamp book says about natural fingering - and how or whether scale fingering is taught or introduced.


So called "natural fingering", just like the traditional fingerings taught, have limitations. You need both to play well.


Piano Teacher
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Philip_Johnston] #2739275
05/25/18 04:45 AM
05/25/18 04:45 AM
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Canada
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by Philip_Johnston
happy to field any questions.

I took this seriously, so I asked some questions. Was it meant seriously?

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2739292
05/25/18 06:22 AM
05/25/18 06:22 AM
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Florida
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Valid questions, Keystring, we'll see


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2739336
05/25/18 09:08 AM
05/25/18 09:08 AM
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Orange County, California
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What about chromatic scales? I've been taught the standard (starting on C), 1,3,1,3,1,2,3,1,3,1,3,1,2 ... etc.

While learning Sonatina In F Major (Anh. 5, No. 2, Second Movement - Rondo), I came across a small chromatic scale run there where at first I wanted to use the above. The book had different fingering 1 (C),2,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2 (C)

I've gone back and forth between the two and in the end decided to go with the book's fingering (making use of 4). I feel I can play it cleaner this way. If I were to continue this to the second octave, it would have different fingering compared to the first octave, but the thumb would come back to C at the start of the third octave. So a 2 octave fingering would like this if I were to extrapolate, but would anyone really use this fingering?

1 (C1),2,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2 (C2),3,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,1 (C3)


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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: keystring] #2739338
05/25/18 09:13 AM
05/25/18 09:13 AM
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malkin Offline
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Philip_Johnston
happy to field any questions.

I took this seriously, so I asked some questions. Was it meant seriously?



I think he responds through his website.


Learner
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2739484
05/25/18 05:48 PM
05/25/18 05:48 PM
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by newer player
Brief intro videos...
Thanks for the links. That was what I suspected.

Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
What about chromatic scales? I've been taught the standard (starting on C), 1,3,1,3,1,2
There are a number of alternatives for chromatic scales. This is the French system.

The one using 4 could be the Thalberg version if it's over two octaves. There's a German version using the 4th finger and the English or mixed version. Liszt's fingering uses 5 also.

Using more thumb crossings is better for clarity, fewer is better for speed.


Richard
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: bSharp(C)yclist] #2739488
05/25/18 06:15 PM
05/25/18 06:15 PM
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
What about chromatic scales? I've been taught the standard (starting on C), 1,3,1,3,1,2,3,1,3,1,3,1,2 ... etc.

This is standard. It always works, but it's the slowest fingering.

While learning Sonatina In F Major (Anh. 5, No. 2, Second Movement - Rondo), I came across a small chromatic scale run there where at first I wanted to use the above. The book had different fingering 1 (C),2,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2 (C)
Quote

If you think about it, this puts the thumb on every other white note. It's the fastest possible fingering that does not use 5, and you can finish a scale with 5, like F, F#, G, G#, A. 1 2 3 4 5.
[quote]

I've gone back and forth between the two and in the end decided to go with the book's fingering (making use of 4). I feel I can play it cleaner this way. If I were to continue this to the second octave, it would have different fingering compared to the first octave, but the thumb would come back to C at the start of the third octave. So a 2 octave fingering would like this if I were to extrapolate, but would anyone really use this fingering?

1 (C1),2,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2 (C2),3,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,1 (C3)

I use it all the time for passage work...


Piano Teacher
Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: malkin] #2739490
05/25/18 06:18 PM
05/25/18 06:18 PM
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Canada
keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Philip_Johnston
happy to field any questions.

I took this seriously, so I asked some questions. Was it meant seriously?


I think he responds through his website.

In that case I wasted my time writing here. And those questions remain open here. Let's hope that is not the case. smile

Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2739497
05/25/18 06:47 PM
05/25/18 06:47 PM
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Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
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I have to again say that from a very humble beginning (of asking a naive question on playing scale exercises) this thread has really taken a life of its own and I've learned so much about scales now and fingering. GaryD's comment about fingering changes from the fingering in chromatic scale exercises because of the need for greater speed makes incredible sense, but I might not have come to these ideas without reading about them here. There there is the idea I read here that the three longest fingers are for black keys, discussions about natural fingering, etc. There have been so many interesting ideas in just this one thread. Frankly, many of these are beyond my humble level right now, but some I may be able to use soon!

Last edited by Slothrop, Tyrone; 05/25/18 06:50 PM.

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Re: Complete newb question on scales [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2739498
05/25/18 06:49 PM
05/25/18 06:49 PM
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zrtf90, when you write “using 4” do you mean 1,2,3,4, thumb under, 1,2,3,, etc? Like a beginner (me) learned the F major? I’m just getting into these other fingerings.


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