practicing scales, strategies for practicing scales

Piano Technique: Applying Various strategies to unravel a scale in 10ths (VIDEO)

Most of my adult students get unnerved when starting a scale three notes into it. And to make matters worse, they become panic-stricken when one hand is not a carbon copy of the other. (i.e. both hands are not playing the same notes at the same time)

In the case of E minor, using the PURE or NATURAL FORM, (in legato), I doled out step-by-step anxiety relief for one of my adult students who needed assistance ORGANIZING the sequence of TENTHS.

That is, he required both a COGNITIVE and KINESTHETIC (TOUCHY-FEELY) understanding of his 4-octave keyboard romp.

As a start, I introduced him to a built-in SYMMETRY between the hands as the scale progressed: When the Right hands plays E, F# and G, using fingers 1, 2, 3, the Left plays C,D,E, using 3, 2, 1. (These are termed RECIPROCAL or MIRROR fingers)

But it was not enough to isolate all the keyboard neighborhoods that had PLEASING MIRRORS in each octave.

KNOWING and FEELING the arrival of finger number FOUR in each hand, as it occurred over a four-octave spread, was MOST PIVOTAL to the PRACTICING regimen.

(Naturally, SLOW, DELIBERATE repetition framed the early practicing phase, along with imbuing the LONG-Short-Long, dotted 8th/16th rhythm)

Since the student began with a smooth and connected (LEGATO) rendering, I urged him as well to FEEL a certain TRACTION or connectivity to the keys, along with a sense of HORIZONTAL weight transfer –He would imagine a PUSH-UP effect ACROSS FOUR OCTAVES.

When he transitioned to CRISP STACCATO PLAYING, I suggested he use “CUPPED” hands, and a slightly lower wrist.

OTHER support strategies included FLESHING OUT THE LEFT hand over the right, followed by the reverse, before BALANCING voices. (In STACCATO)

LIGHTER ARMS produced a let-up of intensity, while heavier arms channeled more dead weight into the keys for a FORTE (BIG sound).

Finally, my student had a chance to practice a less anxiety-provoking CONTRARY MOTION E Minor Scale. To his delight, the same fingers of each hand play at the same time, though routines like blocking out TUNNELS (through which the thumb passes), and what I term a THUMB swing to swing motion between the hands were enlisted to smooth out his journey.

As a RECAP, parallel 10ths and Contrary Motion practicing strategies are showcased in the attached video.

(The Scale page below does not include 10ths, though once the fingering is given for Parallel motion, the player starts the Right HAND on the third note, G, and proceeds by steps according to the traditional fingering) The Left hand remains in ROOT position.

e minor staccato

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