piano, piano blog, piano instruction, piano scales

Two-timing scale practice

I appreciate two-timing piano students who practice their scales with acutely sensitive ears. They are made keenly aware of what it takes to repeat a faulty step-wise sequence that’s been thrown out of rhythmic alignment along a 4-octave route. (Auditory memory is a vital ingredient through repetitions that require retrieval of a consistent underlying pulse.)

In a journey from 8ths to 16ths to 32nds, many pupils will underestimate the end game tempo, losing technical control in the final spill. To avoid a pile-up in the speed zone, they will put on the breaks, losing their initial framing beat. Ironically, a good proportion of two-timers who find themselves in such a jam will “think” they’ve doubled-up in the 32nds range, only to discover by a teacher’s real-time demonstration, that 16ths to 32nds were out of synch. (A metronome can be just as helpful in clarifying rhythmic disparities.)

Ways to deal with rhythmic disorientation

I prompt students to back up by “half” from what they can realistically manage in 32nds. After a few retrograde repetitions in this practicing mode, they can revisit 8ths and then move forward in doubled sequence to peak destination. In most cases, a pupil comes to grips with what he can safely control at the 32nds level, knowing that the underlying pulse will increase through incremental learning stages.

A recent lesson sample illustrated rhythmic disproportion and remedy. (It’s excerpted at the juncture where a student zoned in on 16ths to 32nds in a D-sharp minor Harmonic form scale) A brief second segment focused on a “rolling into” effort in a more fast-paced staccato-rendered scale in Melodic form. It was a confidence-building effort that represented a “rite of passage” for this pupil who realized that she could, in fact, play brisker 32nd notes without faltering. Breathing, pacing, mindfulness, and lack of PANIC all kick into controlled, peak tempo playings.

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

arioso7, scale practice, youtube.com

Piano Instruction: C Major Scale Mapping

Most students think of C Major as the easiest scale around the BLOCK. But in fact, it’s not nearly as patterned or symmetrical as the double and triple black note content scales, B, F# and C# Major (Or their equivalent in FLATS, Db, Gb and Cb) With the ebony laden ones, you can easily place fingers 2,3 and 2,3,4 in each hand as MIRRORS on the double and triple black notes, with thumbs meeting in between on the white ones. Yet with C Major, the symmetries are not as conspicuous, so they require deeper detection and exploration.

To make order out of a sea of whites requires mapping on a cognitive level. Yet ear attentive listening and beautiful tone production with relaxed arms and a supple wrist should accompany players on their wavy white note journey.

C Major Scale

piano addict

Piano Technique: How to organize and practice a Major scale in 6ths

I chose the Ab Major scale as my springboard for this demonstration.

Its KEY SIGNATURE has the mnemonic BEAD (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)

I recommend practicing the scale hands alone at first in its Root position to clarify fingering. Then by playing up the scale in the Right Hand to the sixth note, we land on F. (played by the thumb) The left hand begins on starting note Ab with finger no. 3. (six notes BELOW the RH)

Both hands will be journeying by a sixth interval between them, with a slight alteration of the generic Right Hand fingering at the scale’s end when finger 4 lands on the final F, avoiding an awkward thumb under 3 going up and in reverse, when the turnaround for the descent occurs.

All is explained, visualized, organized and DEMONSTRATED in the attached video which utilized a LOGITECH web cam placed over my left shoulder. (I recorded using MOVIE RECORD–on Facetime)

A panoramic keyboard view seemed to provide the best dimension for this step-by-step journey in 6ths.

LINK: Ab Major/minor HOPPING (parallel THIRDS) in PENTASCALE form (Five-finger position)