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Posted By: boogiewoogie123 Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 01:06 AM
I am mostly self taught, but I get occasional lessons so I don't have all the knowledge you guys have about technique and how to practice it so:

I was just wondering what you guys think the most efficient way to practice scales and arpeggios is if you have an hour a day to practice.
How do you split your time up between Scales, Arpeggios and pieces?
Do you practice all the scales and arpeggios every day or just a couple every day?
How exactly do you guys learn your scales and arpeggios and practice them (how easy should they be for you?, how do you speed up?)

Thank you guys in advance for your suggestions
Posted By: Orange Soda King Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 01:51 AM
Scales: Don't overload yourself, but over time, learn and solidy the fingerings of every major and minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) scale, and do them with a metronome four octaves up and down the piano. Start slowly, and make sure you're doing them smoothly and evenly before speeding up. Also, don't think of them as bunches of individual notes, or some tedious technical exercise. Think of them as sweeping musical gestures going up and then down. With a bit of imagination and seeing progress, practicing scales can be quite fun. Also, try learning B Major, F# Major, and C# major first... Easiest to physically play.

With arpeggios, you might try this comprehensive exercise. It encompasses every triad and seventh chord that contains your starting note. Let's pick C:

-C major arpeggio up and down for octaves.
-C-Eb-Ab (A-flat major, first inversion) up and down four octaves.
-C-F-A (F major, 2nd inv) up and down 4 octaves.
-Then do C minor, A minor, F minor triads
-C diminished, A diminished, F# diministed traids
-C augmented triad (Ab and E augmented are the exact same)
-Major minor 7th chords: C7, Ab7, F7, D7
-Minor minor 7th chords: Cm7, Am7, Fm7, Dm7
-Major major 7th chords: CM7, AbM7, FM7, DbM7
-Half diminished 7th chords: C, A, F#, D
-Fully diminished 7th chord: C dim (Eb, F#, and A are the exact same)

It's a lot... But that's what I did when I was younger. I might take a whack at that tomorrow and see how I do, haha. It's been a while.
Posted By: boogiewoogie123 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 02:00 AM
Thanks Orange Soda for your response. I will definitely try your suggestions it seems like they will definitely help.
Posted By: ahoffmann Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 06:22 AM
I prefer not to use scales for developing technique since there are better things for that but what scales are great for is learning and understanding the key structure and harmonies as well as common patterns.
For that I focus on KNOWING the scales rather than how well I can play them. A great exercise for that is to play all triads of a scale up and down. In C-major that's trivially easy as it's only white keys but as soon as you get a few sharps or flats, you'll notice how taxing on the mind it is to really know every note that belongs to the scale.
Posted By: boogiewoogie123 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 02:06 PM
Thank you for your suggestions I will try your idea with the triads
Posted By: TwoSnowflakes Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 02:35 PM
For sure! I'm going to try OSK's exercise today.

Don't neglect the contrary motion--my routine is four octaves up and down until smooth, thinking of the whole motion over the course of the octave or four octaves rather than individual notes. It helps to build in dynamics so you feel like you're going somewhere larger (cresc to the top, or dim, etc--say something, do something), then go two octaves up, split the hands (one goes back down two octaves, the other continues up another two octaves), back to center, both hands all the way up, back to center, split and come back, down to octaves to starting point.

If all goes well, speed the whole thing up, but not unless everything else is in place (good whole keyboard motion, dynamics)

I do that major, minor (natural/harm/mel), chromatic. Long arps and chords the same pattern, short arps don't go contrary.

I know you can work on these things WITHIN pieces, but for me it helps to spend some time isolating out these common fundamental motions and not have an even larger musical picture to address at the same time.
Posted By: boogiewoogie123 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 02:42 PM
Thats funny because I saw that way of practicing scales and arpeggios on Josh Wright's youtube channel on his episode on scales I will definitely try that as well. Thank you
Posted By: 1RC Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 03:41 PM
I would second OSK's advice on taking your time. I think of developing technique as a lifetime practice and try to have a daily routine to keep it moving along. Something manageable that I can fit into all but my busiest days, which for me is 15-30 mins. Always aim to for accuracy and consciousness - in the solitude of the practice room it can be easy to get lackadaisical and slip into mindless repetition. I try to counter that by remembering the purpose of practice is to prepare to be heard, and try to always bring it closer towards something worth hearing.

I have a quibble with the piece of OSK's advice on seeing the scale as a sweeping gesture vs individual notes. I think that having a stage of learning the scales as each note with it's name is useful in knowing them distinctly. It's to know in Gb major that the C is flat but the F isn't, which I found useful in the early stages in not getting the shape of the scale confused with Db major, and especially useful in learning the harmonic minor scales. Just spelling them out slowly set that foundation before seeing them as a wave.

I'd also like to mention to keep in mind your motivation for learning scales and arpeggios (and whatever other technical exercise you go on to). For me it was a bit of advice given by an improviser who floored me with his abilities, saying that building technique to the point where your hands can express ideas just like your tongue does, unconsciously, is necessary to expressive improvisations. I'm far from amazing, but knowing my scales, chords and arpeggios has come in very handy in situations where I have to throw something together on the spot.
Posted By: Cheeto717 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 03:45 PM
I read somewhere that the first scale Chopin taught was F# major for reasons that OSK brought up. Interesting stuff.
Posted By: TwelfthRoot2 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 05:50 PM
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I read somewhere that the first scale Chopin taught was F# major for reasons that OSK brought up. Interesting stuff.


Not that it really matters, but I've read that Chopin taught the B major scale first because it fits the hand the best.
Posted By: Polyphonist Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 06:16 PM
Originally Posted by TwelfthRoot2
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I read somewhere that the first scale Chopin taught was F# major for reasons that OSK brought up. Interesting stuff.


Not that it really matters, but I've read that Chopin taught the B major scale first because it fits the hand the best.

It was definitely B and not F#.
Posted By: Groove On Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 06:35 PM
When I was first memorizing scales and arpeggios, I'd play them straight through everyday (chromatically or circle of fifths, and also mixing/matching Major and minor keys).

When I started doing musical exercises from the Scales Bootcamp book, I found it more effective to concentrate on 1 or 2 per day (30-60 min).

Currently, I run through several rhythm, dynamic, articulation & balance exercises in the morning. At the end of each exercise, I use a metronome app which slowly speeds up the tempo (72-150bpm).

This type of practice is not for everyone, but I'm one of those people who enjoys my scales & arpeggio practice.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 06:44 PM
Originally Posted by ahoffmann
I prefer not to use scales for developing technique since there are better things for that but what scales are great for is learning and understanding the key structure and harmonies as well as common patterns.
Scales are a basic technique and one of the most important since they occur(in whole or part)so frequently, i.e. they are one of the most common patterns. So I think it's somewhat of a misconception to say scales are used for developing technique the way one might say playing a series of Czerny Etudes are for developing technique. What could be better for developing scales then playing them? When one becomes reasonably proficient with scales then I think other technical exercises may become appropriate, but I can't think of many that should come before scales.
Posted By: Orange Soda King Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 06:49 PM
Originally Posted by 1RC
I think that having a stage of learning the scales as each note with it's name is useful in knowing them distinctly. It's to know in Gb major that the C is flat but the F isn't, which I found useful in the early stages in not getting the shape of the scale confused with Db major, and especially useful in learning the harmonic minor scales. Just spelling them out slowly set that foundation before seeing them as a wave.


Oh, you're totally right about that. I just meant after that was established, and then working more toward speeding them up and making them smooth and even.
Posted By: Cheeto717 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 07:09 PM
Originally Posted by TwelfthRoot2
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I read somewhere that the first scale Chopin taught was F# major for reasons that OSK brought up. Interesting stuff.


Not that it really matters, but I've read that Chopin taught the B major scale first because it fits the hand the best.


Oops, that's right. My bad!
Posted By: Cheeto717 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 07:13 PM
I also want to reinforce the idea that exercises should be played in the most musical way possible. I always tell my students to play a scale as if it were in a beautiful piece by Chopin. And I can think of several examples of when Chopin puts a very straightforward scale in his music (Ending of the E major scherzo, ending of the B minor scherzo, first section of the Ab polonaise, etc).
Posted By: prout Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 07:23 PM
I would also recommend practicing scales in thirds and sixths, both major and minor, as many works use them - Chopin G minor Ballade, e.g.

Posted By: Incongruous Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 07:24 PM
I think often the mistake people make when practising scales is it's not the length of time you play them for that often counts - it's more the quality. A good teacher will tell you how you need to move your fingers.
Even practising a few scales for 45mins in a well focused, mindful way is far more productive than doing all of them mindlessly in every way possible for 5 hours.

Having a certain facility to play the piano is more often a result of having been taught how to move your fingers well than actual sheer talent.
Posted By: boogiewoogie123 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 09:14 PM
Thank you guys again for all your suggestions. I realized that what I was doing wrong thanks to your suggestions was that I was trying to play them to quickly and I was making mistakes. I also realized you shouldn't be making any mistakes so I have slowed my scales down to the point where I am making no mistakes now.

Thanks
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 11:04 PM
Originally Posted by prout
I would also recommend practicing scales in thirds and sixths, both major and minor, as many works use them - Chopin G minor Ballade, e.g.
IMO after maybe the first 8-10 years of serious study but not for 98% of pianists probably ever.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/28/15 11:20 PM
Originally Posted by Incongruous
I think often the mistake people make when practising scales is it's not the length of time you play them for that often counts - it's more the quality. A good teacher will tell you how you need to move your fingers.
Even practising a few scales for 45mins in a well focused, mindful way is far more productive than doing all of them mindlessly in every way possible for 5 hours.

Having a certain facility to play the piano is more often a result of having been taught how to move your fingers well than actual sheer talent.
I think even 45 minutes every day is far too much scale practice for all but the most serious students. Maybe between 1% and 5% of those studying piano. My guess is that except for that small percent, piano teachers would be very happy if their students practiced one hour per day and most of that should be on repertoire.
Posted By: Bachian Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 03:13 AM
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I also want to reinforce the idea that exercises should be played in the most musical way possible. I always tell my students to play a scale as if it were in a beautiful piece by Chopin. And I can think of several examples of when Chopin puts a very straightforward scale in his music (Ending of the E major scherzo, ending of the B minor scherzo, first section of the Ab polonaise, etc).


^This is probably the best way to improve your playing and technique. Just play as beautifully (round pearly tone) and musically as possible, the technique naturally follows.
Posted By: outo Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 06:32 AM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ahoffmann
I prefer not to use scales for developing technique since there are better things for that but what scales are great for is learning and understanding the key structure and harmonies as well as common patterns.
Scales are a basic technique and one of the most important since they occur(in whole or part)so frequently, i.e. they are one of the most common patterns. So I think it's somewhat of a misconception to say scales are used for developing technique the way one might say playing a series of Czerny Etudes are for developing technique. What could be better for developing scales then playing them? When one becomes reasonably proficient with scales then I think other technical exercises may become appropriate, but I can't think of many that should come before scales.


To me scales are theory first and technique second. Practicing them just was not productive until after about 2-3 years of piano study. Because I could not comprehend the scales, I could not play them either no matter how much my teacher tried to teach me the right way to play them. After I started learning theory the scales started to make sense and very little practice was needed to fluently play them. The required finger and hand technique was already there, learned it from repertoire and other exercises. Maybe I am made backwards, but that's how it was for me. Fortunately for me it was clear that I won't take exams, my only goal is to play repertoire. So why not just accept that different students need different approaches?
Posted By: Molto lombardo Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 08:42 AM
I prefer Hanon over scales.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 09:44 AM
Originally Posted by deerfield
Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I also want to reinforce the idea that exercises should be played in the most musical way possible. I always tell my students to play a scale as if it were in a beautiful piece by Chopin. And I can think of several examples of when Chopin puts a very straightforward scale in his music (Ending of the E major scherzo, ending of the B minor scherzo, first section of the Ab polonaise, etc).


^This is probably the best way to improve your playing and technique. Just play as beautifully (round pearly tone) and musically as possible, the technique naturally follows.
I think it's just the opposite. If one doesn't understand/know/practice the proper technique one will not be able to play beautifully by "just playing beautifully".



Posted By: 1RC Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 11:52 AM
Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
Originally Posted by 1RC
I think that having a stage of learning the scales as each note with it's name is useful in knowing them distinctly. It's to know in Gb major that the C is flat but the F isn't, which I found useful in the early stages in not getting the shape of the scale confused with Db major, and especially useful in learning the harmonic minor scales. Just spelling them out slowly set that foundation before seeing them as a wave.


Oh, you're totally right about that. I just meant after that was established, and then working more toward speeding them up and making them smooth and even.


thumb
Posted By: 1RC Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 12:13 PM
Originally Posted by outo
To me scales are theory first and technique second. Practicing them just was not productive until after about 2-3 years of piano study. Because I could not comprehend the scales, I could not play them either no matter how much my teacher tried to teach me the right way to play them. After I started learning theory the scales started to make sense and very little practice was needed to fluently play them. The required finger and hand technique was already there, learned it from repertoire and other exercises. Maybe I am made backwards, but that's how it was for me. Fortunately for me it was clear that I won't take exams, my only goal is to play repertoire. So why not just accept that different students need different approaches?


I think if a student has such a clearly defined goal then it would be perfectly fine to tailor everything to that outcome. Why fight someone's motivation?

I might try and challenge the idea of doing only repertoire with an outcome I've seen (been) - the not-so-versatile classical musician who can play Mozart beautifully but can't fake his way through a jazz chart or a rock tune. I have a friend who was learning to be a studio engineer, he brought in some classical musicians from the school for a recording project and was a little flummoxed when some of them couldn't jam some quick simple thing out and were even a bit angry at the request.

Not to say this is you Outo, but it is common enough to have become the reputation of classical students.
Posted By: outo Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 12:26 PM
Originally Posted by 1RC
Originally Posted by outo
To me scales are theory first and technique second. Practicing them just was not productive until after about 2-3 years of piano study. Because I could not comprehend the scales, I could not play them either no matter how much my teacher tried to teach me the right way to play them. After I started learning theory the scales started to make sense and very little practice was needed to fluently play them. The required finger and hand technique was already there, learned it from repertoire and other exercises. Maybe I am made backwards, but that's how it was for me. Fortunately for me it was clear that I won't take exams, my only goal is to play repertoire. So why not just accept that different students need different approaches?


I think if a student has such a clearly defined goal then it would be perfectly fine to tailor everything to that outcome. Why fight someone's motivation?

I might try and challenge the idea of doing only repertoire with an outcome I've seen (been) - the not-so-versatile classical musician who can play Mozart beautifully but can't fake his way through a jazz chart or a rock tune. I have a friend who was learning to be a studio engineer, he brought in some classical musicians from the school for a recording project and was a little flummoxed when some of them couldn't jam some quick simple thing out and were even a bit angry at the request.

Not to say this is you Outo, but it is common enough to have become the reputation of classical students.


When it comes to playing the piano that is me, but it is completely intentional! I used to sing jazz and I have no problem improvising with my voice. I have also played rock guitar but it was a very long time ago and what I learned then I have forgotten. But with the piano I just don't care about that stuff at all. I started to learn piano to play classical piano music because I got obsessed with it grin
Posted By: 1RC Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 01:17 PM
Perfect, you know what you want and who can argue with that! I don't think the obsession subsides at all laugh It seems the more I learn the more I appreciate the masterworks.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/29/15 02:04 PM
Originally Posted by 1RC

I might try and challenge the idea of doing only repertoire with an outcome I've seen (been) - the not-so-versatile classical musician who can play Mozart beautifully but can't fake his way through a jazz chart or a rock tune. I have a friend who was learning to be a studio engineer, he brought in some classical musicians from the school for a recording project and was a little flummoxed when some of them couldn't jam some quick simple thing out and were even a bit angry at the request.

Not to say this is you Outo, but it is common enough to have become the reputation of classical students.

Why should faking one's way through a jazz chart or a rock tune be an important part (or even any part) of a classical pianist's abilities?

It's like expecting a jazz piano player to be able to play a Mozart piano sonata properly. BTW, I have two jazz friends, neither of whom can play a two-handed scale or arpeggio rapidly and evenly. But none of the stuff they play requires a two handed scale (in unison or contrary motion, or thirds or sixths) or arpeggio - in fact, they only play what they like, so they simply don't need to play anything they can't manage, unlike classical pianists.

Every Christmas, we get together for an "improv contest", and they always accuse me of not doing "real" improvs, simply because I don't use jazz harmonies. I in turn point out that their improvs were always the same, using the same old added-note chords regardless of the context, whereas I can use different harmonies and also pass tunes and accompaniments between the hands, add various counterpoint, and vary the texture and voicing to bring out inner strands. Which, for me as a classical pianist, is a much more important skill than playing Silent Night using a string of augmented chords, which serve no purpose but detract from the simple tune.
Posted By: Dave B Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 02:36 AM
Rotate through the keys one key at a time improvising on the scale and then improvising on harmonically structured arpeggios. When done 'honestly,' this is an excellent workout for technique.
Posted By: 1RC Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 02:02 PM
Originally Posted by bennevis
Why should faking one's way through a jazz chart or a rock tune be an important part (or even any part) of a classical pianist's abilities?

It's like expecting a jazz piano player to be able to play a Mozart piano sonata properly. BTW, I have two jazz friends, neither of whom can play a two-handed scale or arpeggio rapidly and evenly. But none of the stuff they play requires a two handed scale (in unison or contrary motion, or thirds or sixths) or arpeggio - in fact, they only play what they like, so they simply don't need to play anything they can't manage, unlike classical pianists.

Every Christmas, we get together for an "improv contest", and they always accuse me of not doing "real" improvs, simply because I don't use jazz harmonies. I in turn point out that their improvs were always the same, using the same old added-note chords regardless of the context, whereas I can use different harmonies and also pass tunes and accompaniments between the hands, add various counterpoint, and vary the texture and voicing to bring out inner strands. Which, for me as a classical pianist, is a much more important skill than playing Silent Night using a string of augmented chords, which serve no purpose but detract from the simple tune.


By "faking it" I meant simply being able to improvise and jam something out in key and on time, as opposed to shrugging and saying "sorry I can't do that". My meaning wasn't to magically morph into an experienced jazz musician, lol! I'd expect that a well trained jazz musician should be capable of getting the notes to a Mozart Sonata under the fingers as well, if for some reason he decided to or found himself in a situation where it would be useful. What I was trying to illustrate was the usefulness in knowing scales, chords and arpeggios in our bones, to at be able to function in almost any situation.

While we're on it though, in my brief dabbles into jazz harmonies I did find it pretty chaotic when there were too many extended harmony notes, and very important to have a clear bassline so they were experienced as flavor rather than confusion. I remember a guy who put his own spin on a theory assignment by using tons of wild harmonies, unfortunately I found the result completely incoherent, haha!
Posted By: Stubbie Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 07:16 PM
Many who post here have a broad experience of the piano repertoire. How often is the standard fingering with which we practice scales and arpeggios actually used in pieces?
Posted By: Cheeto717 Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 07:29 PM
In my experience, incredibly often. Many of the techniques in Baroque, Classical, and much Romantic are very straightforward scales, arpeggios, double thirds, etc. Once you get to 20th century composers the technical challenges get really weird, but it's all based on keyboard technique going back to Bach.
Posted By: bennevis Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 07:44 PM
Originally Posted by Stubbie
Many who post here have a broad experience of the piano repertoire. How often is the standard fingering with which we practice scales and arpeggios actually used in pieces?

A quick example from two of my favorite Chopin pieces - the 'Minute' Waltz ends with a rapid descending RH scale of D flat, and the Op.25/1 Etude ends with a two-handed A flat major arpeggio in 6ths. Both use the standard fingering.

And the Fantaisie-Impromptu has a RH chromatic scale (twice) of 2 1/2 octaves using standard fingering.
Posted By: Orange Soda King Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/30/15 10:48 PM
Originally Posted by Stubbie
Many who post here have a broad experience of the piano repertoire. How often is the standard fingering with which we practice scales and arpeggios actually used in pieces?


In many of the pieces I played recently. Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Alkan Chant in E Major 38/1, Schubert Impromptu in E-Flat Major 90/2 off the top of my head...
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Scales and Arpeggios - 10/31/15 12:29 AM
Besides the examples mentioned so far, every time one passes the thumb under one even if not playing a full scale is using the main technical problem in scales. The examples of the above, at least up to music written before 1900 are literally endless.
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