"Just Being At the Piano", "The Inner Game of Tennis", Amsterdam Avenue and 74th Street, arpeggios, athletic coaching, athletic training, authorsden, Bay area, Bronx, California, cd baby, cdbaby, children's music, Children's pieces, Circle of Fifths, Classical era, classical music, Classical period sonata, Classical sonatina, classissima.com, counterpoint, Creative Fresno, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano studio, Exposition in piano sonata, Facebook, Fig Garden Village, five finger positions, five finger warm-ups, Fresno, Fresno California, great pianists, gymnastics, humor, Internet, Irwin Freundlich, keyboard technique, Latour, Latour Sonatina, Lillian Freundlich, Major and minor scales, mind body connection, MTAC, music, music and heart, music appreciation classes, music history, music teachers association of california, Music Teachers Asssociation of California, Music Together, musicology, Musictogether.com, my space, New York, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Northwest Bronx, Northwest Fresno, Oberlin, Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Old Fig Garden in Fresno, ornaments, pentachords, pentatonic song, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano finding, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano pedagogy, piano practicing, piano society, Piano Street, piano student, piano teacher, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, piano tutorial, piano warm-ups, Piano World, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, ping pong, ping pong balls, publishers marketplace, publishersmarketplace.com, satire, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, sonatina, Steinway and Sons, Steinway grand piano, Steinway piano, talkclassical.com, Teach Street, teaching piano to teenagers, technique, Theodore Latour, trills, uk-piano-forums, video performances, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Why Play Scales?

Scale practicing examples:

***
The Backdrop:

As a young piano student living in New York City, I remember my reluctance to prepare a mandatory scale each week for my lesson. In fact my first teacher had so many students, she always seemed to forget the scale she had assigned to me, so I remained happily in the key of C for most of the year. (Played on all white keys) Little did I know that C Major was a lot more challenging to practice than the keys of B, F# and C# Major that had nice, regular patterns of double and triple black notes that fit the longer fingers perfectly, with the thumbs meeting in between.

Frederic Chopin was known to teach these three black-key scales before all others. Think about how much easier it would have been for a sightless person to play these step-wise passages with braille-like elevated black notes in regular patterns, as opposed to a sea of white notes without reference points.

Now that I’ve grown up to be a piano teacher and you tube poster, I realize the importance of scale study in the growth and development of musicianship.

Scales are about the “feel” and geography of the keyboard. They are about shaping, phrasing, sculpting. Sometimes they’re practiced with catchy rhythms, crisp and detached (staccato) or as smooth and connected, freely spun out, rolling triplets. You can even reverse the direction of the fingers when practicing scales, having them lightheartedly dance together and apart, in shades of loud, soft, and in between. And you might bring out one voice over another, by drawing more intensity from the left hand, then reversing the process, giving the right hand its place in the sun.

Most importantly, scales help us understand where we are in a piece of music because they define the TONAL CENTER of a composition or a section of it.

I wish I had known about the famous Circle of Fifths when I was beginning my piano studies. The Circle maps out the progression of scales (Major and minor) in an orderly fashion with sharps acquired going clockwise, and flats in reverse. As a student moves from the Key of C, to G, to D, to A, etc. he/she learns not only the new sharp that is picked up in the clockwise journey but comes face to face with fingering adjustments that make the smooth playing of various scales more attainable.

Scales, in summary, are part and parcel of piano study and they feed in and out of the piano repertoire. What could be a better entree to the pieces we most cherish than to find the key they’re in, and dance through a few preliminaries.

Example of a Classical era Sonata by Mozart (first movement) permeated by a series of scales.

1 thought on “Why Play Scales?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.