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#3126832 06/11/21 08:49 AM
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Greetings,

As a (beginner) intermediate player who has played on the acoustic on/off for about year, I have finally acquired a digital piano. With the digital piano, I will now be able to practice or play without distracting the family. My question is, what scales are good to do daily to increase my speed to play some of these fast songs that we all envy at one time or another. Upon doing these scales, what is the minimum time limit that should be required to build up on those skills? Any links/videos would be great.
I've searched the internet and a billion answers come up but not sure which are creditable. I don't have the time or funds for a piano teacher (yet).

Thanks in advance

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Mac2010 #3126887 06/11/21 11:23 AM
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Hi Mac, In my case, I go over the scales at the begining of every practice. (Major, melodic and harmonic and arperggio and chords per Hanon) for all the keys. It now takes about 20 minutes. I find it very useful for warm up. Hope this is helpful. (I am on my third year as a beginner)


Started piano studies at age 55.The journey is more important than the result.
Mac2010 #3126896 06/11/21 12:02 PM
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I’ve been working on scales for not quite a year now. My goal is to know all 24 scales, their I - IV - V cadences and root arpeggios per the Alfred’s book I am using. It’s quite a task. I’m on d-minor.

I play them at 120 bpm, 2 notes per beat. At this point I don’t even think about playing them faster, I just want to get the mechanics down to where I play them intuitively. I’ve heard on the board that 4 notes per beat at 120 bpm is expected at some higher proficiency, but it takes years.

I consider it more important to get grounded in each key that you learn the scale of. I use a series of books called Wunderkeys (intermediate) for that.

Just my 2cents.

Mac2010 #3126922 06/11/21 01:17 PM
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Yes, scales are very good to build keyboard proficiency and speed but it does take a couple of years.

I started from scratch about 6.5 years ago. The first 2 years I played scales very slowly making sure I can play them accurately and fluently.

My max tempo after 2 years of practicing scales daily was about 80 BPM at 4 notes per beat.
After 3 years it was about 90 BPM at 4 notes per beat.
After 4 years it was about 100.
After 5 years it was about 110.
After 6 years it was about 120.
And now I can play hands together about 126-132. Hands alone I can go up to 138 in the right hand but that's about my limit for now.

However, I don't advise you to practice for speed specifically. I almost never practice for speed. In my first years my scale practice was all about perfect evenness and control of the touch. Even if I could play them faster I always practiced at a comfortable speed much below my max speed. The speed developed naturally anyway as you can see. The problem with trying to speed up your scales beyond your current limit is that you tense up and that causes jerkiness and holds you back. You inevitably hit a wall. But if you practice for smoothness instead then over time the movements become natural and you naturally speed up without forcing it.

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Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
I’ve been working on scales for not quite a year now. My goal is to know all 24 scales, their I - IV - V cadences and root arpeggios per the Alfred’s book I am using. It’s quite a task. I’m on d-minor.

I play them at 120 bpm, 2 notes per beat. At this point I don’t even think about playing them faster, I just want to get the mechanics down to where I play them intuitively. I’ve heard on the board that 4 notes per beat at 120 bpm is expected at some higher proficiency, but it takes years.

I consider it more important to get grounded in each key that you learn the scale of. I use a series of books called Wunderkeys (intermediate) for that.

Just my 2cents.

2 notes per beat at 120 bpm sounds far too fast for someone who has just been practising scale for under a year. Remember that speed is in the movement of the arm rather than the fingers

I'd highly recommend checking out my teacher's new book 'The Complete Pianist' by Penelope Roskell

fatar760 #3126931 06/11/21 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by fatar760
I'd highly recommend checking out my teacher's new book 'The Complete Pianist' by Penelope Roskell

Thanks for that, I may have to pick up a copy ;0



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Mac2010 #3126933 06/11/21 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Mac2010
. . . My question is, what scales are good to do daily to increase my speed to play some of these fast songs that we all envy at one time or another. Upon doing these scales, what is the minimum time limit that should be required to build up on those skills?

(a) You should -- eventually -- be doing scales in every major key, and every natural minor key (same notes as major key, but a different starting point). Start in C (not an easy key), and go around the Circle of Fifths -- G, D, A, etc. Master one key at a time. You don't need to do every scale, every day.

(b) Forget "fast" -- concentrate on "steady volume, steady tempo". Both legato and staccato are worth doing.


(c) "Minimum time limit" is as long as it takes you. There is no other rule.


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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by fatar760
I'd highly recommend checking out my teacher's new book 'The Complete Pianist' by Penelope Roskell

Thanks for that, I may have to pick up a copy ;0


Thank you for sharing that, I hadn't seen this video. There's also some content on her Facebook page.

My lessons were on the piano she's speaking from, and she was working on this book throughout our sessions (it's about 500 pages!)

Well worth the investment.

Mac2010 #3126997 06/11/21 05:01 PM
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I have been playing for about 5 years, and can play at 180 bpm with my right hand, and 150-160 with my left (slower for some scales, faster for others). I can push it even more on occasion. Although I still haven't fixed some evenness issues, I am fixing that with a teacher right now. I was self taught before now.

Here's my personal experience. I did not individually practice scales as such. What I tried was to make as efficient as possible the underlying movements. Play CDE with 123 of your right hand. First play it as a block chord, and then gradually separate the notes. You will be able to play extremely fast. The same can be done with the notes FGAB.

So what prevents you from rolling across the keyboard at a breakneck pace? Thumb crossings. I don't think you need several years to play fast, and I was able to get results within 2-3 years on my own. Yes, my scale technique right now isn't at the level of a professional, who can play 180-200 bpm, both hands, even scales. But I can approach the speed, and it usually never limits me when I'm playing easier pieces. I've personally don't it easier to first get the dexterity to play something fast, and then refine the individual movements. There is a certain ease of motion which you need to acquire to play anything fast.

Now, how do you make efficient every single finger movement? How should the wrist move? Should the elbows be out or in? What do you mean by curved fingers? How do you achieve a balanced position while on the thumb? How do you use arm weight? How do you support the fingers?

People talk about learning about the piano as if it were magic. At the end of the day, it has been quite well studied. You just need to know where to look, and unfortunately, most teachers will not provide that.

Check out all the videos on scales on YouTube, from these channels -- Josh Wright, Graham Fitch, Danae Dorken, Denis Zhdanov, and Piano Lab. You may be surprised.

Mac2010 #3127024 06/11/21 07:18 PM
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A wise teacher once told me to devote no more than 1/8th of my practice time to scales/technique, and 1/8th to sight reading every day. So if you practice 2 hours a day, that's 15 minutes of scales or technique, and 15 minutes to sight read. Take the long view. Get one of the scale books, like Alfreds or "The Brown Scale Book", which is what I used. I learned them by going around the circle of fifths - C, G, D, A, E and so forth. You must memorize them. Don't worry about speed at first. It takes time, but that 15 minutes a day adds up. Don't rush and enjoy the journey.

Now, after 10 years, I do scales on the odd days. Start on F and go up by half steps. Russian method and 3rds and 6ths. I do the minor scales legato in one hand, staccato in the other. I do various arpeggio exercises on the even days. Takes less than 15 minutes to go through them all. I never thought I would be able to do all this, but that 15 minutes a day for 10 years really adds up.

Sam

Mac2010 #3127026 06/11/21 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Mac2010
My question is, what scales are good to do daily to increase my speed to play some of these fast songs that we all envy at one time or another. Upon doing these scales, what is the minimum time limit that should be required to build up on those skills?

My take on it is that the way to learn is to just tackle the basic major and harmonic minor scales up to two or at max 3 sharps and flats. Anything much more than that is a bit of a waste of time for a beginner. Look at any of the major piano institution syllabuses- they only introduce new scales slowly and gradually. None of this “learn all 24 in two years” stuff.

It’s far more important to learn how to do them properly. You don’t want to be like me who relentlessly practiced with lazy, lagging thumbs, static arms and uncontrolled rotation, because I had no instruction in how to do it properly. Now I have to unlearn all that, and it’s hard.

I found that the Taubman basic training videos (the first 5 DVDs) were the only ones that did the whole “how to do physical playing technique” from start to finish. There’s lots of other resources out there but they all seem to miss stuff out, just focusing on one or two specific aspects at a time. You really need the whole picture before starting.


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Mac2010 #3127054 06/12/21 01:04 AM
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I also practice a scale per day. I’ve been around the circle lots of times so I now randomise the scale I practice on a particular day, but still covering all over 24 days of practice.

I do the chords, cadences, inversions, octaves etc. I’m not sure of the value of 6ths & 10ths so I skip those to date.

I find the scales helpful for understanding music theory. I don’t concentrate on speed but just get naturally faster as the fingerings become ingrained.

No doubt you could become a good pianist without specific scale practice but I suspect it would take longer for most of us.

Sam S #3127056 06/12/21 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Sam S
A wise teacher once told me to devote no more than 1/8th of my practice time to scales/technique, and 1/8th to sight reading every day. So if you practice 2 hours a day, that's 15 minutes of scales or technique,
This keeps getting repeated here but I don't agree with it. I feel that I cannot progress unless I do at least 30 minutes of technique per day.

I think this idea of 1/8th practice time is calibrated to young students who learn motor skills much more quickly and need more time to master abstract musical ideas. Adult students, IMHO, need more practice to develop physical skills at the same pace as the rest of their musical development.

Mac2010 #3127066 06/12/21 02:14 AM
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Does practice time even matter? I don't really think learning works that way, at least for me. Whenever I play a scale, I have a goal in mind, and keep practicing either until that goal is achieved, or until I reach a point of saturation. I think this is how most experienced pianists would actually practice. When you're in pursuit of that objective, time ceases to mean anything.

ranjit #3127069 06/12/21 02:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ranjit
I have been playing for about 5 years, and can play at 180 bpm with my right hand, and 150-160 with my left (slower for some scales, faster for others). I can push it even more on occasion. Although I still haven't fixed some evenness issues, I am fixing that with a teacher right now. I was self taught before now.

Here's my personal experience. I did not individually practice scales as such. What I tried was to make as efficient as possible the underlying movements. Play CDE with 123 of your right hand. First play it as a block chord, and then gradually separate the notes. You will be able to play extremely fast. The same can be done with the notes FGAB.
If they are uneven then you're not really "playing" them at this speed. Sorry but uneven doesn't count.

I suspect I know where you got this idea of starting at "infinite" speed and then slowing down but I cannot disagree more with this approach (and other misguided ideas in the same book). This technique of rolling is only useful in very specific cases where you want to achieve a kind of glissando effect, like for example in Grieg's March of the Trolls, but it does not translate to fast passage playing in general. To play fast you have to control each finger and release each finger cleanly.

Mac2010 #3127070 06/12/21 03:07 AM
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I think that playing fast and playing with proper articulation are to an extent two different things, and can be learned separately. Once I got the dexterity and finger control at speed, I could go back and relearn technique. However, I see so many people who just can't play fast, and I think they hit artificial bottlenecks because they don't realize that there is a different sensation to playing fast, and you need to learn that sensation. I'm quite happy knowing that I can comfortable play scalar passages at 160-190 bpm, even if they aren't "perfect". I would rather be able to play a scale at 180 with a slightly accented thumb than be stuck at 100 BPM "perfect" scales for eternity.

I think you miss the point that physically making the digits move, one after another, at that speed, is one bottleneck to playing fast, and this can be either physical or psychological.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
So what prevents you from rolling across the keyboard at a breakneck pace? Thumb crossings. .

This is an erroneous explanation because it is partial : the crossing of the thumb is anatomically inevitably accompanied by a change in the inclination of the wrist - the result of a light rotation of the forearm. Enough of what appears tension in the palm and fingers.

- L.H. from 6:25

ranjit #3127090 06/12/21 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ranjit
I think you miss the point that physically making the digits move, one after another, at that speed, is one bottleneck to playing fast, and this can be either physical or psychological.
No. I think you are missing the point that it is precicely moving the digits one after another at that speed which is required for clear fast playing. Hand movements help but it is the fingers that are playing. What if the musuc requires staccato? Can you play staccato at your supposed speed?

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by ranjit
I think you miss the point that physically making the digits move, one after another, at that speed, is one bottleneck to playing fast, and this can be either physical or psychological.
No. I think you are missing the point that it is precicely moving the digits one after another at that speed which is required for clear fast playing. Hand movements help but it is the fingers that are playing. What if the musuc requires staccato? Can you play staccato at your supposed speed?

It is perhaps a question of effort and, ergo, tension. The fingers can move incredibly quickly with very little effort being made in the fingers. Larger muscles support the actions of smaller muscles. If the effort is placed on the small muscles then there's a higher risk of tension and problems developing.

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Originally Posted by ranjit
I think that playing fast and playing with proper articulation are to an extent two different things, and can be learned separately. Once I got the dexterity and finger control at speed, I could go back and relearn technique. However, I see so many people who just can't play fast, and I think they hit artificial bottlenecks because they don't realize that there is a different sensation to playing fast, and you need to learn that sensation. I'm quite happy knowing that I can comfortable play scalar passages at 160-190 bpm, even if they aren't "perfect". I would rather be able to play a scale at 180 with a slightly accented thumb than be stuck at 100 BPM "perfect" scales for eternity.

I think you miss the point that physically making the digits move, one after another, at that speed, is one bottleneck to playing fast, and this can be either physical or psychological.


The problem with learning to play fast as a separate activity from technique is that bad habits, such as uneven/ghost notes, thumb ‘bumping’, become engrained, and difficult to eliminate.


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