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Learning scales #2871215
07/21/19 03:28 PM
07/21/19 03:28 PM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 2
S
Steve-22 Offline OP
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Steve-22  Offline OP
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Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 2
Hi,

No teachers nearby, hence I'm teaching myself to play the piano. I'd love to be able to pick a random key and play the scales e.g. Emaj, and immediately say "Aha! The 2, 3, 6 & 7 are sharpened!" or better; name the notes without having to refer back to the circle of 5ths...and do this with all keys including enharmonic.

Even if you wake me up from sleep, I could immediately play a randomly given note in a split second (and spell both sharp and flat variations), but when I get to building scales from enharmonic keys, or any keys that contain the black keys, I immediately block....and have to go around the long way (W-W-H....or W-H-W...). They intimidate me because I need to be extremely conscious about my next move vs playing Cmaj or Amin.

Currently I can go up from the Cmaj scale to Bmaj scale purely from muscle memory, but when asked to play it in a random order, then chances are I'd fail. frown Other option is to count up with the major formula, and that takes time and doesn't help with memorization.

Those who are able to play consciously or subconsciously: did you learn by practicing scales with the circle of fifths and after weeks, months (or years?) it became second nature? Is it a mixture of muscle memory or are you fully conscious about key signatures just by looking at a random note and picturing its scale?

Thank you in advance.

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Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871222
07/21/19 03:52 PM
07/21/19 03:52 PM
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,048
Canada
Serge88 Offline

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I don't remember but probably i learned them one after another going with cycle of fifth or fourth. It became second nature, probably muscle memory. Last year I decided to practice the 3 minors mode scales, this is something I never did but it was really boring. This year I will only practice scale and arpeggios related to the pieces I'm learning.



"The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colors in your mind.”
– Maria Cristina

Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871225
07/21/19 04:00 PM
07/21/19 04:00 PM
Joined: Feb 2015
Posts: 918
Niagara Falls NY
ebonykawai Offline
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Niagara Falls NY
It just takes time and playing them daily. I learned harmonic minors going on 2 months ago, and they still aren't as fast as my majors and natural minors. The muscle memory isn't cemented yet, probably because the fingering is so different. Just takes time, really.


Lisa

Currently working on Bach 2 part inventions, Chopin mazurkas, and some Keith Snell Level 5 stuffs, lol. smile
Kawai UST-9, Yamaha CLP565GP, Kawai KDP110

"Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer, and pour out my despair at the piano!" - Frederic Chopin
Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871236
07/21/19 04:32 PM
07/21/19 04:32 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,940
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Have you gone through all the key signatures chromatically(C major, C#/Db major, E major, etc.)? This will help because everything goes up a half step from what you just played.

After I learned scales around the circle of 5ths over years, I started doing the keys chromatically and that helped a lot.

Also, don't forget to learn pieces in different keys. Like don't just learn pieces with 2 sharps or flats or less. Pick something with 6 sharps, or 5 flats.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871272
07/21/19 06:18 PM
07/21/19 06:18 PM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 3,435
Australia
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earlofmar Online content
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Originally Posted by Steve-22
but when I get to building scales from enharmonic keys, or any keys that contain the black keys, I immediately block....and have to go around the long way (W-W-H....or W-H-W...). They intimidate me because I need to be extremely conscious about my next move vs playing Cmaj or Amin.



I had an irrational fear of the black keys when I was learning the scales. This was probably some false preconceptions I had about difficulty, and a sort of inner confusion with flats and sharps. This is why some would recommend laying off scales all together in the first year, and I would tend to agree.

The road to memorisation for me started with being able to recite how many flats or sharps a scale had. My teacher would often trip me up by asking to put these in order, which I struggled with, (even although the flats are so easy b, e, a, d, ....etc), but this really helps. Before even playing the first note I have a visualisation of the scale in my head and this is the big difference. While I do rely on hand/finger patterns, and therefore muscle memory, I also know the scale at a deeper level. All this takes time and practice to become instinctive, so there can be no forcing or rushing otherwise it might be just muscle memory. A method I use is (because I have had to do this): I imagine I am in an exam and the examiner asks for a random scale, I must collect everything I know about that scale in my head, the accidentals, the fingering, the pattern and all this must be secure before I play the first note. I used to let this information unfold after I started the scale, but it would lead to more mistakes and a noticeably sluggish start.

Anyway hope this helps, scales are only easy after you have spent years at them, and even then you will still be trying to perfect them.


Following Trying to follow the Ling Ling 40 hour method

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871284
07/21/19 07:13 PM
07/21/19 07:13 PM
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 4,963
Richmond, BC, Canada
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Charles Cohen Offline
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Charles Cohen  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 4,963
Richmond, BC, Canada
Originally Posted by Steve-22
Hi,
. . .
Those who are able to play consciously or subconsciously: did you learn by practicing scales with the circle of fifths and after weeks, months (or years?) it became second nature? Is it a mixture of muscle memory or are you fully conscious about key signatures just by looking at a random note and picturing its scale?

Thank you in advance.


It's mixed, for me. I occasionally "count around the circle of 5ths" (C F Bb Eb -- so Eb has three flats). For scales I use a lot, I don't have to do that: "A --> F# C# G#" is automatic.

Fingering -- that's a different matter. There are a few rules, but _applying_ those rules takes time and thought. I pretty much rely on memory -- "A major" starts on 1, "C# major starts on 2",

Don't get hung-up on this problem. After you get more experience, it will stop being a problem -- you'll have muscle-memory recall for all the scales you've really learned.


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / Korg Wavedrum / EV ZXA1 speaker
Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871301
07/21/19 08:56 PM
07/21/19 08:56 PM
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 2,806
Florida
cmb13 Offline
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Florida
It takes time. A lot of time. I spent nearly a year learning all the major scales. I learned one, 4 octaves up and back, and practiced it daily for a couple of weeks. Then I added the next, and practiced it for a couple of weeks while I continued to practice the previous one, and so on until I had learned all 12. I also worked on 4 octave arpeggios at the same time.

A year after completing this I began the minor scales. I learned each minor scale for a particular key and incorporated them in the same way I described above. Minor arpeggios also.

Now on weekdays I practice all major and minor scales, arpeggios, dom7 and dim7 In 2 different keys each week day, and all 12 on weekends. I will slowly add broken chords and have begun cadences as well.

On the weekends I go around the circle on on day, and chromatically on the other day.

That’s my method. I’m not a teacher, just learning myself. Hope it helps.


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Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871376
07/22/19 05:23 AM
07/22/19 05:23 AM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 1,897
Auckland, New Zealand
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Ted Offline
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Auckland, New Zealand
Improvisation within a scale, or any keyboard subset for that matter, is a good way of getting it into your mind. Imitation baroque perhaps, inventing little phrases, answers and sequences using the notes within a scale is one approach but not the only one. Start doing it in single notes and slowly introduce double notes after a while. It is an enjoyable and effective way of acquiring the mental picture and sound of a scale while avoiding monotony and mechanical memory. Once you can do it in any key you can mix them up and then the real fun begins.

Last edited by Ted; 07/22/19 05:25 AM.

"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2871459
07/22/19 11:26 AM
07/22/19 11:26 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,267
Midwest USA
Stubbie Offline
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Stubbie  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,267
Midwest USA
What helped me was learning (memorizing) which sharps and flats each key has. If you don't have Alfred's book of scales and arpeggios you should get it. On the inside front cover is a table showing the keys. The sharp and flat progression is very orderly. The order for the flats is easy to remember (FBEAD etc, for the sharps GDAEB etc i.e. 'bead' backwards). Another help is to get some (or draw) a staff and write in the sharps or flats the way you'd find them in a piece.

Like you, I had trouble with having learned to go through the scales in a certain order--I'd have to go through them in that order until I came to the one I was after. What helped there was using the pebble or popsicle technique: write the name of a key on the pebble or stick and randomly draw one and play it. After a while you will be able to pull the key up in your head without resorting to going through them in order.

I learned my scales by doing the major and minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) scales together for whichever key I was working on; I also did the arpeggios and cadences, as all of these, together, helped reinforce the scale. I don't spend more than about ten minutes of a two hour practice session on scales and arpeggios. I spend about a week on one scale and then pick another and eventually make my way through them all and then start over.

It does take time to become comfortable with them all, but don't try to hurry the process. They actually become enjoyable at some point. smile


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In summer, the song sings itself. --William Carlos Williams
Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2872089
07/24/19 12:17 AM
07/24/19 12:17 AM
Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 2
S
Steve-22 Offline OP
Junior Member
Steve-22  Offline OP
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Joined: Jul 2019
Posts: 2
Thank you so much for all the suggestions! To be frank, I think I just need to step back from the piano for a while and memorize the scales first so that I could recall them, then practice playing to develop muscle memory. I understand that this can take years, but that's no problem.

There is a music professor who mentioned learning all triads in high school. He desperately wanted to learn them so each and every day he wrote down all the major-minor triads on a paper (not sure if letters or staff) for a year and successfully memorized them. That might be an option for scales. I can practice and jam in the key of C major not because "it's all white keys", but because I'm familiar with its scale degrees, triads and sevenths. For example, Amin is "all white keys", yet I get a mental block because it feels weird.

All in all, I think the solution here is to step back from the piano and engrave the scales into my brain, THEN apply them at the piano. Or a mixture of both?

I'm going to get the book recommended by Stubbie. smile

Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2872101
07/24/19 01:16 AM
07/24/19 01:16 AM
Joined: Feb 2016
Posts: 1,898
Orange County, California
bSharp(C)yclist Offline
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Posts: 1,898
Orange County, California
I have the same book, it's pretty good. I find it easier to work out the scales at the piano though. Example, F# minor is new for me. I know it's a relative minor of A major. I know A major has 3 sharps in it. I know I'll need to raise the 7th, so E#. For melodic minor, there will be a D# (6th) as well ascending, and then the natural minor on the way down.


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Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2872104
07/24/19 01:27 AM
07/24/19 01:27 AM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 247
San Francisco, CA
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mimi9 Offline
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Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 247
San Francisco, CA
I agree that scales are best learned while on the piano.

I'm also a little confused about why anyone would want to memorize triads instead of just working them out on the piano and listening to them. Until you actually hear them, you don't really understand them no matter how well they have been memorized.

People take theory class and write everything down on paper when they should be exploring the instrument and training their ears. Some of the best music schools teach people with keyboards and headphones because they want people to have auditory training instead of just pencil and paper work.

Re: Learning scales [Re: Steve-22] #2872215
07/24/19 11:02 AM
07/24/19 11:02 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 2,267
Midwest USA
Stubbie Offline
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Midwest USA
I think you need to work on head and hands at the same time--learning and memorizing key signature sharps and flats (scales, in effect) and working them out on the piano as well. One reinforces the other.

The fingering in the Alfred scales book is pretty standard and works well for me. There are a few other "acceptable" fingerings, but the standard fingering follows a certain pattern and that helps with muscle memory.


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In summer, the song sings itself. --William Carlos Williams

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