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Daily scale practice - need help thinking
#2831901 03/27/19 10:00 AM
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I have started a video scale course that is very elaborate (which I like) but that doesn't give much direction as to how much to play every day. Now I enjoy playing scales, but lately I haven't been able to practise as much as I want to, and about half my practice time is spent on scales, and that is a bit much. I also have a question about tempo.

So I need to think about a workable daily (or maybe bi-daily) practice routine.

All of the below I do two octaves up and two octaves down, twice.
* C major HS portamento
* C major HS legato
* C major HT contrary motion legato
* C major HT parallel motion legato
* C major HS chromatic scale legato
* C major HT chromatic scale, parallel motion legato
* C major triads inversions

I do the same with G major and D major. and I am in the process of adding A major.
I take scales very seriously. So when I play C major HS portamento, I listen carefully if every note has the same loudness and the same duration. If I hear that one note is louder, I play again two octaves up and two octaves down, at least twice more, until I am satisfied that all notes are equal.
As I said, I enjoy doing it, but it starts to take too much time. Should I just do one or two keys every day, and then the next day other keys? Or a shorter daily program and every day one key more elaborately?

Now my question about tempo. My teacher says that I should always play at a tempo at which I can play relaxed. Now for instance, when playing C major HS legato at 225 bpm, I can clearly feel tension and some unevenness in my left hand descending. How much should I turn the metronome down, what would you recommend?

Thank you!





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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831906 03/27/19 10:15 AM
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I think half your practice time on scales is too much even if you like them. While important, there are so many other things to learn besides scales. I'm also not convinced that practicing scales portamento is particularly useful. The main technical problem in scales is making the thumb under or finger over parts sound legato which is not being practiced when playing portamento.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 03/27/19 10:18 AM.
Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831914 03/27/19 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
I have started a video scale course that is very elaborate (which I like) but that doesn't give much direction as to how much to play every day. Now I enjoy playing scales, but lately I haven't been able to practise as much as I want to, and about half my practice time is spent on scales, and that is a bit much. I also have a question about tempo.

So I need to think about a workable daily (or maybe bi-daily) practice routine.

All of the below I do two octaves up and two octaves down, twice.
* C major HS portamento
* C major HS legato
* C major HT contrary motion legato
* C major HT parallel motion legato
* C major HS chromatic scale legato
* C major HT chromatic scale, parallel motion legato
* C major triads inversions

I do the same with G major and D major. and I am in the process of adding A major.
I take scales very seriously. So when I play C major HS portamento, I listen carefully if every note has the same loudness and the same duration. If I hear that one note is louder, I play again two octaves up and two octaves down, at least twice more, until I am satisfied that all notes are equal.
As I said, I enjoy doing it, but it starts to take too much time. Should I just do one or two keys every day, and then the next day other keys? Or a shorter daily program and every day one key more elaborately?

Now my question about tempo. My teacher says that I should always play at a tempo at which I can play relaxed. Now for instance, when playing C major HS legato at 225 bpm, I can clearly feel tension and some unevenness in my left hand descending. How much should I turn the metronome down, what would you recommend?

Thank you!




A side note: I think you mean portato (which is a detached playing without being staccato) instead of portamento (which is gliding from one note to another).

I would not use a metronome for scales in general, unless you are using it to force yourself to play slower. If you are experiencing issues at your current tempo (and I assume you mean you're playing the scales as quarter notes @ 225bpm and not 8ths or 16ths?), there's no value in going that fast. Without a metronome, you are more free to choose a tempo that you can actually do the scales well. And do not play any faster than that.

I also would not bother with HS scales or portato. Perhaps pick one or two kinds of scales and stick with that in that key until easy, then after a few days or even a week, add another key and repeat. If you're doing 2 octave scales, then you should also be working on 2 octave arpeggios in that key as well.

Try to spend 10-15 minutes on scales max.


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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831918 03/27/19 10:57 AM
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Limit yourself to 1/8th of your available practice time on technique exercises like scales. If you don’t know all the scales, your first task is to learn them all legato. Then add the extras if you feel the need.

I alternate scales on odd days, arps on even days. I also invest another 1/8th of my time in sightreading.

Just my suggestion, of course!

Sam

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Morodiene #2831954 03/27/19 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
A side note: I think you mean portato (which is a detached playing without being staccato) instead of portamento (which is gliding from one note to another).

My teacher always talks about "the fundamental portamento key attack" but I think you are correct - she means non-legato.

Originally Posted by Morodiene
I assume you mean you're playing the scales as quarter notes @ 225bpm

Yes, but just HS, Way lower for HT.

Originally Posted by Morodiene
If you are experiencing issues at your current tempo (and I assume you mean you're playing the scales as quarter notes @ 225bpm and not 8ths or 16ths?), there's no value in going that fast.

But I think it is not uncommon for pieces to have 8ths at 120 bpm, and won't I get into trouble with those if I cannot even play quarter note scales HS at 225?

Originally Posted by Morodiene
I would not use a metronome for scales in general, unless you are using it to force yourself to play slower. If you are experiencing issues at your current tempo (andand not 8ths or 16ths?), . Without a metronome, you are more free to choose a tempo that you can actually do the scales well. And do not play any faster than that.

I also would not bother with HS scales or portato. Perhaps pick one or two kinds of scales and stick with that in that key until easy, then after a few days or even a week, add another key and repeat. If you're doing 2 octave scales, then you should also be working on 2 octave arpeggios in that key as well.

Try to spend 10-15 minutes on scales max.


Thank you for your advice Morodiene!


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... feeling like the pianist on the Titanic ...
Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831971 03/27/19 12:13 PM
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I'll echo other posters regarding time spent on scales and arpeggios. They are important, yes, but they're not that important, especially not compared to repertoire. They exercise only a small percentage of your total skill requirements.

Speed is not an issue with scales until you're quite advanced, say, ABRSM grade 6. The important thing first is making sure your mechanism is aligned and relaxed on each key. Listen to Bach's Fugue in C from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1, or the Prelude No. 1 from Book 2, for an idea of mood and tempo for C Major. One or two octaves, in quarters/crotchets and two octaves in eighths/quavers all at 60-90 bpm (but not with the metronome running). When you're up to four notes per beat at 90 bpm you'll be going fast enough for ABRSM Grade 8 but 120 to 132 bpm in 16ths/semiquavers is as fast as you're likely to need in your pieces.

Instead of aiming for perfect evenness of tone, which takes years, aim for a distinct number of dynamic levels, P, mp and F is enough for your first year. If you're starting with C, G, F and D leave tempo until you've done B and Db (the faster scales - and the ones I would recommend starting with). I would cycle each key for a week or two and add another key every two or three cycles.

I disagree with Morodiene - there's a first - regarding HS scales. They are the most important in the early and later years. Less so hands together. The requirements for the exams were perfectly clear for me: "each hand separately, and hands together" from the earlier grades up to Grade 8. As a caveat, my advice isn't worth as much as Morodiene's.


Richard
Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831974 03/27/19 12:20 PM
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Animisha, are you preparing for an exam? If not, I wouldn't worry about speed. (And even if you were preparing for an exam, I would suggest speed is not a high priority.)

I would second all the advice given above, and also add one thing:

Practice slowly until you can play the scales accurately, evenly, and musically, and without tension. I can't emphasize that last bit enough: tension is the enemy that we must defeat. I won't make a claim that we absolutely can't defeat it with fast practice, but it is certainly much easier to defeat tension with slow practice.


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Baldwin SD-10 Concert Grand "Kuroneko"
Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831997 03/27/19 01:10 PM
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Portato / Portamento. Are these common terms ?

I read first time as potato !

Can you please explain more clearly what they mean ?

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2831998 03/27/19 01:12 PM
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OP

I feel these questions are best for your teacher ?

x

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Morodiene #2832001 03/27/19 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
A side note: I think you mean portato (which is a detached playing without being staccato) instead of portamento (which is gliding from one note to another).
At least some of the online dictionaries say your definition of portamento applies mostly to stringed instruments or the voice. On the piano, these definitions define portamento as detached but not full staccato.

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832011 03/27/19 01:56 PM
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As both your teacher and Morodiene recommend, set the metronome to a tempo that lets you play evenly, without tension.

You must experiment to find out what that is. And it may be different, for different keys.


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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
zrtf90 #2832019 03/27/19 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
I'll echo other posters regarding time spent on scales and arpeggios. They are important, yes, but they're not that important, especially not compared to repertoire. They exercise only a small percentage of your total skill requirements.

Speed is not an issue with scales until you're quite advanced, say, ABRSM grade 6. The important thing first is making sure your mechanism is aligned and relaxed on each key. Listen to Bach's Fugue in C from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1, or the Prelude No. 1 from Book 2, for an idea of mood and tempo for C Major. One or two octaves, in quarters/crotchets and two octaves in eighths/quavers all at 60-90 bpm (but not with the metronome running). When you're up to four notes per beat at 90 bpm you'll be going fast enough for ABRSM Grade 8 but 120 to 132 bpm in 16ths/semiquavers is as fast as you're likely to need in your pieces.

Instead of aiming for perfect evenness of tone, which takes years, aim for a distinct number of dynamic levels, P, mp and F is enough for your first year. If you're starting with C, G, F and D leave tempo until you've done B and Db (the faster scales - and the ones I would recommend starting with). I would cycle each key for a week or two and add another key every two or three cycles.

I disagree with Morodiene - there's a first - regarding HS scales. They are the most important in the early and later years. Less so hands together. The requirements for the exams were perfectly clear for me: "each hand separately, and hands together" from the earlier grades up to Grade 8. As a caveat, my advice isn't worth as much as Morodiene's.


But she's already playing hands together, so she's gone through the HS. No need to continue practicing HS once you know how to do them together unless there's a particular issue in one hand. I do have student who are first learning scales to do HS, but I assumed she was beyond that since she's doing HT.

Originally Posted by Animisha
But I think it is not uncommon for pieces to have 8ths at 120 bpm, and won't I get into trouble with those if I cannot even play quarter note scales HS at 225?
My point is to never practice faster than you can do so well. If your scales are out of control at a fast tempo, then you need to so slow practice. Continuing to go fast at that point will not improve them. Take it slow at a tempo you can actually play it well, and then allow it to gradually go faster as you are able. This will be natural.


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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
pianoloverus #2832021 03/27/19 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Morodiene
A side note: I think you mean portato (which is a detached playing without being staccato) instead of portamento (which is gliding from one note to another).
At least some of the online dictionaries say your definition of portamento applies mostly to stringed instruments or the voice. On the piano, these definitions define portamento as detached but not full staccato.

It looks like portamento can be used for piano, even though the primary meaning is to slide between pitches. I've always heard portato used in regards to piano (as well as strings) but just in a more general sense when you have staccato and slurs simultaneously.


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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832038 03/27/19 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
* C major HS chromatic scale legato
* C major HT chromatic scale, parallel motion legato

I think you can save a little time by not playing these in all keys. wink


I remember there is Graham Finch's video where he demonstrates all kinds of piano keystrokes.

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832055 03/27/19 03:43 PM
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Thank you all for your advice! No, I am not preparing for exams, and now that everybody advices me to play at a comfortable tempo, I'm afraid I will like playing scales even more. shocked Some days it is really hard to switch to pieces...

I find that I am quite attached to every single part of my scale practice. Yes, I do want to continue to play both HS and HT, I do want to play non-legato as well, aiming for perfect evenness of tone (and add aiming for a different dynamic levels) - because if I don't practise evenness of tone when I do something as easy as playing a scale HS at a comfortable tempo - then when will I practise this aspect of piano playing?

But yes, I do have to restrict the time spent with my lovely scales. I will just do one key per day. I'm already mourning a bit. (I am not ironic.)


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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832072 03/27/19 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
Yes, I do want to continue to play both HS and HT, I do want to play non-legato as well, aiming for perfect evenness of tone (and add aiming for a different dynamic levels) - because if I don't practise evenness of tone when I do something as easy as playing a scale HS at a comfortable tempo - then when will I practise this aspect of piano playing?
You can practice evenness of tone playing hands together and/or legato which is a more useful skill. If you enjoy so much scale practice that's a reasonable reason for doing so much, but is it the best use of your time?

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832461 03/28/19 07:01 PM
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What is HS, HT and what is portamento?

Last edited by meaculpa; 03/28/19 07:04 PM.
Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
meaculpa #2832462 03/28/19 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by meaculpa
What is HS, HT and what is portamento?

HS=Hands Separate
HT=Hands Together
Portamento=piano playing in a manner intermediate between legato and staccato.



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Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
Animisha #2832466 03/28/19 07:15 PM
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Thank you very much, NobleHouse. That explains it nicely. I was going to delete my post for feeling silly asking .

Re: Daily scale practice - need help thinking
NobleHouse #2832468 03/28/19 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by meaculpa
What is HS, HT and what is portamento?

HS=Hands Separate
HT=Hands Together
Portamento=piano playing in a manner intermediate between legato and staccato.


That’s portato. Portamento is a slide, usually on a stringed instrument.


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