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This thread has answered a question that I have had since I started learning to play the piano i.e. What is the point of scales1? Thank you.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
This thread made me go and practice my scales! I’ve been neglecting them...since my exam has been postponed. You folks made me feel so guilty lol! crazy
The idea was to inspire, not to make anybody feel guilty! smile

How about make me feel guilty “in a good way”? grin


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CHECK THIS OUT! ... IT'S NEVER REALIZED ALL THE TRICKS OF THE CIRCLE OF FIFTH'S




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Just a word of caution, I memorised all the basic major and minor scales as a child for I think the grade 6 exam and I am not sure it helped at all for general music. I did not find scale practice at all useful as if you just memorise and do not understand it will not help. I never heard of circle of fifths as a child but thank you for that video I did learn a few things I did not know. It was interesting how you can go from one key to a closely related key with a pivot chord. I only found learning scales as a child that I could idenify keys but if you have no understanding of music theory you cannot even recognise anything on the score. It does not tell what the cadence. It does not tell you if you noticed that the piece goes into another key. If you spend some time to study musical keys and harmony then I think it really helps you understand music and in the end you can look at music and just understand it. I think is very difficult to learn and requires some investment. Things like circle of fifths and this video are very useful so thank you for sharing. I think to go onto to learn about cadences, chromatic chords and even what he mentioned about pivot chords does need a good background knowledge of scales but it is only a basic starting poing. Perhaps musical theory is limited in amateur classical piano players. I even studied music theory as a child and to level 5 you do not learn about harmony so 4 part harmony and how to do it is advanced. I think perhaps there are some limitations with classical piano exam system in that you can like me just end up memorising scales and have no ability to use these. I have noticed from piano videos when I tried to learn about music theory it is often from beginner jazz pianists. It seems that beginners can learn and improvise over 12 bar blue pattern. Even things like seventh chords, ninth chords and chord progressions seem to be learnt very early. You often just get the chords of a piece and people can play it. I have therefore been rethinking my exam based approach and thinking that actually it does not teach practical theory so well.

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I’ve practiced at least 3 major scales every day since I started MOYD this year.

I can start on any note of the 12 major scales and play two or three octaves two handed (some faster than others).

These are all up then straight down again, sometimes playing the top note once then coming straight back down, Other times pausing for a sec after playing top note, then playing it again as I come back down.

And I was thinking I knew them and the fingering quite well.

A few days ago I thought I’d try something different. Start from the top, go down two or three octaves then back up.

While I could do it easily for c major, it was shocking to see how confused my fingering was on the others. In the past, I must be remembering my fingering going up, hence muscle memory takes me back down. But starting at the top has shown me how much more I have to learn.

I enjoy it though

Last edited by Ojustaboo; 06/12/20 07:18 PM.

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Here are two exercises in Joseffy's "Exercises for Advanced Piano Playing" that are very helpful in developing real facility in scale playing.
See p.12 of the PDF (marked as p.10 in the score), Exercise A for the RH, B for the LH.
https://imslp.simssa.ca/files/imglnks/usimg/8/8b/IMSLP08889-Joseffy_Advanced.Piano.Exercises.pdf

Will simply playing scales, chords and arpeggios be enough to give you real facility?

I don't think so. They are necessary but not sufficient.

Learning to analyze the music harmonically really helps. See the chords, see the scales in the piece. It's a lot easier than reading every note.


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Originally Posted by Moo :)
Just a word of caution, I memorised all the basic major and minor scales as a child for I think the grade 6 exam and I am not sure it helped at all for general music. I did not find scale practice at all useful as if you just memorise and do not understand it will not help. I never heard of circle of fifths as a child but thank you for that video I did learn a few things I did not know. It was interesting how you can go from one key to a closely related key with a pivot chord. I only found learning scales as a child that I could idenify keys but if you have no understanding of music theory you cannot even recognise anything on the score. It does not tell what the cadence. It does not tell you if you noticed that the piece goes into another key. If you spend some time to study musical keys and harmony then I think it really helps you understand music and in the end you can look at music and just understand it. I think is very difficult to learn and requires some investment. Things like circle of fifths and this video are very useful so thank you for sharing. I think to go onto to learn about cadences, chromatic chords and even what he mentioned about pivot chords does need a good background knowledge of scales but it is only a basic starting poing. Perhaps musical theory is limited in amateur classical piano players. I even studied music theory as a child and to level 5 you do not learn about harmony so 4 part harmony and how to do it is advanced. I think perhaps there are some limitations with classical piano exam system in that you can like me just end up memorising scales and have no ability to use these. I have noticed from piano videos when I tried to learn about music theory it is often from beginner jazz pianists. It seems that beginners can learn and improvise over 12 bar blue pattern. Even things like seventh chords, ninth chords and chord progressions seem to be learnt very early. You often just get the chords of a piece and people can play it. I have therefore been rethinking my exam based approach and thinking that actually it does not teach practical theory so well.
The main purpose of scale practice is not the notes or for musical theory. Learning scales is one of the most basic technical skills in learning piano. Most music from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras make endless use of scales or passing the thumb under/fingers over passages which is the main technical skill one learns while practicing scales.

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Well if that is only what scales are for I think at a certain point scales practice is less useful and less useful. I have not practiced scales other than for exams and I have not suddenly forgot them. If you play scale passages all the time in music is it really so necessary to practice scales in the same up and down fashion. Would a piece like schubert impromptu 2 or the exercise suggested above also not practice scale or even better doing what seeker suggest of playing the same scale pattern in a specific more complex exercise. Playing scales for many hours every week to me seems less useful. I would say that there is some scales that were pointless to learn when you had no idea what they were for so some theory is useful. I learnt quite a few dominant and diminshed 7th scales having genuinely no idea what they were used for in music. I only discovered how they were used a couple of months ago !

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... dominant and diminished 7th scales...?


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Originally Posted by Ojustaboo
A few days ago I thought I’d try something different. Start from the top, go down two or three octaves then back up.

While I could do it easily for c major, it was shocking to see how confused my fingering was on the others. In the past, I must be remembering my fingering going up, hence muscle memory takes me back down. But starting at the top has shown me how much more I have to learn.

I enjoy it though

I have done that as well, and experienced the same shock! And even worse when I play formula pattern starting with the high notes. And yes, I also find it quite fun. cool


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Originally Posted by Moo :)
Well if that is only what scales are for I think at a certain point scales practice is less useful and less useful. I have not practiced scales other than for exams and I have not suddenly forgot them. If you play scale passages all the time in music is it really so necessary to practice scales in the same up and down fashion. Would a piece like schubert impromptu 2 or the exercise suggested above also not practice scale or even better doing what seeker suggest of playing the same scale pattern in a specific more complex exercise. Playing scales for many hours every week to me seems less useful. I would say that there is some scales that were pointless to learn when you had no idea what they were for so some theory is useful. I learnt quite a few dominant and diminshed 7th scales having genuinely no idea what they were used for in music. I only discovered how they were used a couple of months ago !
1. I didn't say scale practice was only to work on the technical aspect. I said that was the main reason.
2. Some pianists do feel scale practice should stop once has reached a certain level. Others, even some very advanced pianists, feel they're so important that they should be worked on almost forever. Some feel after a while you can use pieces to work on scales. Others feel scales are so basic that one should practice scales separately from what appears in actual music.

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Originally Posted by BruceD
... dominant and diminished 7th scales...?

i only learnt them one way so maybe it would be clearer to say arpeggios. i see there are other ways as the RCM says you have to play chords.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
1. I didn't say scale practice was only to work on the technical aspect. I said that was the main reason.
2. Some pianists do feel scale practice should stop once has reached a certain level. Others, even some very advanced pianists, feel they're so important that they should be worked on almost forever. Some feel after a while you can use pieces to work on scales. Others feel scales are so basic that one should practice scales separately from what appears in actual music.

I see thank you. I dont seem to suistain scale practice at all so even if it were useful I probably will stop playing them after 1 week. I am not like most of them here who methodically practice them. Tables and all of that remind me only of piano exams. I think this time I may look to introduce a short scale based exercise and try one a week.

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I play arps and the scale in the key of the piece Im practicing a few times. Just to warm up.
Could anyone suggest a nice scale manual that just isn't a booklet with glossy ugly color on the cover.
More like this then this.

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You lazy bums quit complaining! I had to learn the scales and arpeggios, and get tested and graded, so you have to learn them too! There will be a test next Tuesday...

Seriously though, it took me so long to learn them and get proficient that I still practice them - I do not want to forget them after all that work.

On odd calendar days I play all the major/minor scales, 4 octaves, in various patterns, varying the dynamics and touch. I usually go chromatic up from F.
On even calendar days I play all the arpeggios, 4 octaves, in various patterns, chromatic, starting on C.
I keep changing the patterns to stay fresh.

This is my warmup routine. It really takes less than 15 minutes, usually less than 10. Once you know them (did I mention I am determined not to forget them?), it really doesn't take very long to run through them.

Does it help to do this? I don't know. I guess students have been tortured with this since Czerny? At least that long, maybe longer. It gives the piano teachers something to do during lessons!

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Next piece I have started. Four notes in a row, and I keep playing the third note wrong. I press all four notes and look at Pianoteq to see if it is a chord. Lo and behold, it is A7! I know the 3-note arpeggio of A major very well, and I can see the 7th note that is added. Now when I play these four notes again, I play the third note correctly. Also, I don't memorise my pieces, but if I would, how much easier to memorise A7 than a c# e g. cool


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I have never done scales, but there are a number of great benefits one can get from them if not practiced mechanically. A fifteen minute up and down will give you only so much - it will be just a warm up and might even nourish the unevenness or bad habits that you already have.


However, scales can be practiced so much beneficially.

First is to develop legato touch, in other words, practicing scales, of course without pedal, and trying to play it as legato as possible. In different tempo. Concentrating on not having a single break anywhere.
Second, concentrating on the great timing while playing scales. In other words, every note should have the exact time - none more, none less. This is very difficult.
Third, is the evenness of tone and dynamics. In other words, play everything in the same volume, no notes sticking out as louder or softer. Than play gradual crescendo, then diminuendo. etc. the possibilities are endless.
This is very difficult though, but should be the goal of every aspiring pianist. Even the greats are uneven sometimes, which is so audible in pieces like Bach's prelude N1. Even Pollini here has unevennes in time and also, I believe, unplanned variations in tone.

If you practice scales like that, you will develop a great touch and great musicality. It can not be done under 15 minutes, but should give you the possibly greatest jump in your playing, since it is much easier to listen to inequality, break or unevenness while playing a scale, rather than playing a musical phrase.

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Originally Posted by Walkman
However, scales can be practiced so much beneficially.

First is to develop legato touch, in other words, practicing scales, of course without pedal, and trying to play it as legato as possible. In different tempo. Concentrating on not having a single break anywhere.
Second, concentrating on the great timing while playing scales. In other words, every note should have the exact time - none more, none less. This is very difficult.
Third, is the evenness of tone and dynamics. In other words, play everything in the same volume, no notes sticking out as louder or softer. Than play gradual crescendo, then diminuendo. etc. the possibilities are endless.
This is very difficult though, but should be the goal of every aspiring pianist. Even the greats are uneven sometimes, which is so audible in pieces like Bach's prelude N1. Even Pollini here has unevennes in time and also, I believe, unplanned variations in tone.

If you practice scales like that, you will develop a great touch and great musicality.

Hi Walkman! This is all very true, however, for this there is no need to learn all scales. All things you mention can be practised with just, let us say, four different scales.
The point of my post was that it is actually very good to learn many scales, because you'll get parts "for free" when learning a new piece. The hurdle is not that big. cool


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Thank you Animisha for this thread!! I usually skip scales or start then stop because I get bored or .... lazy. I recently started again since the baseline for the jazzy blues I’m learning is a scale. Yes, I’m inspired!! So many great ideas!

~Silver

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