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Author Topic: What's the point of scales?  (Read 7682 times)
aaron_ginn
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« on: September 19, 2006, 02:04:35 PM »

Really, I don't get it.  What does playing scales over and over gain you that simply playing real works doesn't?

I'm a beginner and I'm currently working on the third movement of the Moonlight Sonata.  Obviously, I can see the benefit of playing C# arpeggios over and over, but I don't understand how playing the entire C# scale up and down will help me.

I'm not trying to stir anything up.  I'm just genuinely curious about the benefits of scales over actually learning scales by playing real works in a given key.
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piano sheet music of Melodic Minor Scales

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supertonic
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2006, 02:42:55 PM »

One day you will understand when you play, eg Mozart sonata, and many classical pieces have a lot of scaly passages too. It is the foundation.
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pianistimo
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2006, 03:03:43 PM »

also, the keyboard is invaluable in conceptualizing theory.  many times pianists have a much easier time in theory classes because they can 'see' the keyboard in their head - and understand things like the circle of fifths and counting intervals correctly.  major and corresponding minor keys.  so forth.
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maestoso
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2006, 03:27:15 PM »

ask bernhard or pianistimo then ponder the question again! lol
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"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosphy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents." - Ludwig van Beethoven
Motrax
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2006, 04:14:22 PM »

I find that practicing all the scales help a great deal with sightreading. For any tonal music, you can think in terms of keys, chord tones, leading non-chord tones, etc; knowing the contour of a certain key on the keyboard provides an indespensable advantage. If you're not very familiar with music theory, it would be very helpful for you to get a book on the subject (I'm afraid I don't know any good ones to recommend). Knowing theory and practicing your scales will make learning pieces a vastly faster and more enjoyable process.

Practicing scales also helps with certain finger figurations. Certainly, most music you play won't ask that you fire off three octaves of the Eb minor scale, but there will be 3-note and 4-note patterns that your fingers will automatically "know" as soon as you encounter them. Since scales are easier to play than pretty much anything else (comparitavely speaking), one acquires and maintains a good tactile feelnig for the piano with them. I've been playing 15 years, and I practice all my scales daily.

I promise that practicing scales SLOWLY and CORRECTLY (don't just fudge through them and move on) will improve your playing and maintain it.

Hope this made a bit of sense.

Smiley

- M
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persona
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2006, 12:54:35 AM »

I'll tell you beginner to beginner: leave Moonlight alone for a while. I'm not saying this to jinx you, I simply want to prevent you from playing such a difficult piece over and over, and growing sick of it before you can master it. Trust me, that sonata is too beautiful, it's just not worth "ruining" it for yourself. This happens to almost every beginner who has faith in him/herself (me included). We catch a piece we love and say "I'll practice every day, how hard could it be?". Well belive me, difficult pieces are best kept for advanced players.
Anyway, if you keep trying, good luck. Who knows, you might make it after all.
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counterpoint
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2006, 11:26:38 AM »

The advantage of playing scales is: you could play loads of notes in high tempo without straining your brain: it repeats every 7 notes. I think, people who are playing lots of scales want to spare their brain  Grin
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jas
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« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2006, 12:34:59 PM »

Torture. Masochism. Boredom. But nice strong fingers too, so every cloud... Smiley
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lukeskywalker
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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2006, 01:49:48 PM »

... but I think that you might not want to simply "play scales over and over again" .. that´s pretty pointless, and quite a waste of time...

You want to study the scales, to really examine them, in order to work out things like how to move the fingers, hands, arms and so on comfortably, easily, fast, slow, loud, soft, legato, non-legato and so on ...

Playing them over and over again I think is pretty stupid .. But studying them, and in the process discovering how you really play the piano is close to the most valuable exersice there is. You should really use your brain while studying a scale, and pay atention to every little detail. How the fingers feel, the arms, the hand .. what is not working, and try to figure out "why" something is not working. Preferably you should do this with an experienced teacher.
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2006, 01:46:00 AM »

Studying scales are useless unless you notice them in pieces/improvisations you play.
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nanabush
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2006, 02:47:31 AM »

[Studying] scales may be useless, but you gotta know them for a foundation for anything.  Not knowing the scale of Bb minor, then playing a piece in that key; might be a tad confusing.  It just helps, leave it at that...


Also, when ppl are just starting out, they'll get used to the chopsticks style... Scales help develop the different fingers w/ a variety of patterns... It's probably the simplest, and also one of the most useful way to start developping all of your fingers.
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Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2
ada
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2006, 05:44:59 AM »

For a start,  it's impossible to work out the key of a piece or even begin to properly analyse it without a thorough knowledge of scales.

Knowing the key makes sight reading easier.

But in the words of da Big B, just the tip of the iceberg

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loops
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2006, 12:07:32 PM »


I used to whizz through them because I could just do them (patterns of notes are not a problem for me) and all the books tell you to do them and I was in no way experienced enough to disagree with every single expert on the planet. Some of them such as C# minor in contrary motion were an exercise in co-ordination, but no more than that.

Now I listen to myself. How does the note sound if my body/arm/hand/fingers feels like this or that? This is partly to do with getting an acoustic piano and moving away from a digital where such questions are moot. But also,
Do my fingers find the notes naturally all the way and down (without looking)?   Learning one tango, my teacher had me doing G minor with left and right hands*one octave plus one third* apart. Gorgeous sound, I do the scale long after I stopped the tango.  I feel I'm on the brink of a much needed breakthrough in understanding harmonic structures and dynamics, and scales will have helped me because I have the sounds of the different keys in my ears.
Maybe it's a bit like the barre work for a ballet dancer. It gets you centered, body organised and aligned in all the basic movements, nice and strong before putting it all together in combinations in the middle.
 
my tip: make it fun for yourself, get out of it what you want. life's short. 
I'm starting to incorporate scale improvisations into my routine so I'm not so dependent on composers
to have fun and feel free
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ted
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« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2006, 10:01:40 PM »

I agree with lostinidlewonder. They're only as good as their musical purpose, which will vary from person to person. Using a musical instrument to develop physical dexterity and nothing else, even for short periods, is just a sad waste of time, instrument and consciousness for me. I prefer to view the whole thing as one entity - a sort of yoga, if you like - everything is related and grows simultaneously.

However, exposure to forums has taught me that I, and others who are impelled to improvise, tend to think in entirely different ways about these matters; not necessarily better or worse, just differently.
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ilikepie
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« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2006, 03:02:52 AM »

The only times I see the words "beginner" and "3rd movement of moonlight sonata" in a sentence, is when the sentence is "A beginner CAN'T play the 3rd movement of the moonlight sonata." If you can't classify yourself any higher, you should just leave this piece for later. You should know by now the importance of scales. And think of it this way, you're not learning the c#- scale for the purpose of that piece only, you're learning it for the rest of the c#- pieces you will be playing for the rest of your life. If you are just going to forget it after the piece is done... well, I have nothing else to say.
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loops
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« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2006, 11:41:51 AM »

Using a musical instrument to develop physical dexterity and nothing else, even for short periods, is just a sad waste of time, instrument and consciousness for me. I prefer to view the whole thing as one entity - a sort of yoga, if you like - everything is related and grows simultaneously.


Playing the piano is a performance art...... I don't think anyone is talking about  physical
dexterity for the sake of it?Huh?
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ted
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« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2006, 09:54:49 PM »

Fair enough. It certainly isn't performance for me and I'm not really certain about art either come to think of it.  My mistake. I am probably too different to comment constructively about these things.
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mdshimazu
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« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2006, 03:30:53 AM »

Actually that mentioning of it helping in music theory is quite true. If you play all the scales you get to know the scales very very well and writing your music becomes much easier. I still think one of the reasons I'm so good at music theory is because I do very well visualizing the keyboard which i do all the time.
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brokenchord
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« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2006, 04:06:54 PM »

I've found practising 'ordinary' scales very helpful and I'd encourage you to stick at it.

However, I'd like to ask the Collective Mind another, related question...

What's the point in practising more complex scale variants. I'm thinking in particular of scales in 6ths i.e. where you play C major with the right hand starting on the C and the left hand starting on the E a 6th below? My teacher has just started me on these, and I'm puzzled as to the purpose.


Cheers
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Motrax
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2006, 02:31:09 PM »

I have been told to practice these scale variants numberous times, but I've never done it myself Wink. I think the purpose is to get your mind thinking of two seperate hands, as opposed to thinking about the RH while the LH drags along (as can be the case while practicing regular scales). However, if while you practice scales, you concentrate on both hands equally and are aware of what each one is doing independant of the other, there is no need for this.

If you find your LH dragging behind your RH, though (or being "led along" by the RH), you may want to consider doing the variants INSTEAD of practicing scales normally. I see it as a waste of time to practice normal, 3rds, 6ths, and 10ths all in a single practice session. Also, if you're simply looking to play something slightly more interesting (I love the sound of parallel 6ths), you can go ahead and play scales any way you'd like.
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brokenchord
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« Reply #20 on: October 03, 2006, 12:01:40 PM »

Thanks Motrax. I'll stick with it for a while. It does seem to be a very good brain stretcher.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #21 on: October 03, 2006, 02:19:48 PM »

I don't think I've ever come across a scale fragment in any piece that used the same fingering I'd practiced in my scales.

I do practice scales, because they are the only dexterity exercise I do, and it is pretty easy to measure with the metronome if I'm making progress.  Whether it will do me any good in the long run I'm not sure, so I don't waste hours on it, just ten minutes a day.  Right now I'm doing five note scale fragments, because I can do them faster than i can do a two octave scale, and because it has forced me to learn some different hand motions.  My plan is to get five note fragments up to sixteenths at quarter = 160, then ramp the speed down and start six note fragments.  Gotta have a goal, you know. 
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Tim
meli
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« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2006, 08:26:40 AM »

Aren't scales the foundation for most classical music?  I guess it only gets boring when it becomes routine, and we forget about the musicality and goal. When I practice scales, I tell myself that this will improve my sight-reading, recognition of key, topography of keyboard. I notice I am more comfortable with improvising now and can identify scale patterns in pieces (for sight-reading) which can be found everywhere in certain classical sonatas, but has different rhythms only. Come to think of it, there are loads of stuff you can do to not make it boring - change the rhythm, tempo, articulation, playing in 3rds, dynamics etc.. I notice after doing it ‘this way’, I actually understand the music better or the composer – does that make sense?  I admit that I wasn’t too fond of scales, maybe cause I didn’t understand what’s their use in playing just like you but I thought it is a worthwhile investment for my technique so I better start liking it Smiley Just my 2 cents.
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clef
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« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2006, 09:34:07 AM »

Really, I don't get it.  What does playing scales over and over gain you that simply playing real works doesn't?

I'm a beginner and I'm currently working on the third movement of the Moonlight Sonata.  Obviously, I can see the benefit of playing C# arpeggios over and over, but I don't understand how playing the entire C# scale up and down will help me.

I'm not trying to stir anything up.  I'm just genuinely curious about the benefits of scales over actually learning scales by playing real works in a given key.

1.  I guess it helps you play in other keys, playing E major scale and learning it well will make runs with E major in them, or songs in E major easier

2.  Good simple way to improve. 

also all pieces are different, so just learning 1 song in each key just to get used to that key wouldn't be particually efficient, and I guess you dont really use the same fingering in scales as you do in pieces of the same key, so scales aren't completely efficiant either...  But its alot quicker and simpler then going out and finding a piece in every key and learning that to help you with each key, of course  that happens, but its not really any more efficient then scales, and thats probably why they are there, just another option
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aaron_ginn
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« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2006, 11:03:51 PM »

I'll tell you beginner to beginner: leave Moonlight alone for a while. I'm not saying this to jinx you, I simply want to prevent you from playing such a difficult piece over and over, and growing sick of it before you can master it. Trust me, that sonata is too beautiful, it's just not worth "ruining" it for yourself. This happens to almost every beginner who has faith in him/herself (me included). We catch a piece we love and say "I'll practice every day, how hard could it be?". Well belive me, difficult pieces are best kept for advanced players.
Anyway, if you keep trying, good luck. Who knows, you might make it after all.

I haven't checked this thread in a while, so I just saw this.

I understand what you're saying, but I am actually making good progress with this piece.  I have been working on the two-handed arpeggic ending and am starting to play it decently.  I can actually play the first eight measures nearly at speed without too many mistakes.  I haven't ventured much farther than about measure 50 yet so there's still plenty of new material to chew on.  I'm sure at some point I'll set it aside for a while, but I'm not a professional musician.  I have my whole life to get it right.
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abaco
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« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2006, 06:36:04 PM »

The arguments in favor of playing scales seem to fall into two categories:

1) To learn and familiarize oneself with the notes in a scale -- the "theory" side
2) To more quickly develop common positions occurring across pieces and periods -- the technical and musical side

I am also a beginner (less than a year), and self-taught (oops, I mean self-learned). However, I have a strong musical background pre-piano, can read music, have a good ear, etc., so for me the benefit to scales would not be the theory aspect but the technical and musical side. I know what notes are in the key of Bb, but if I've been playing C major all day and switch to Bb, it can be difficult to "break out" of C, even though I know the difference intellectually. This can lead to frustration. It sounds like scales can speed up the process, so I will take the advice.

That being said, should I practice scales at my own pace, experimenting with positions, dynamics, speed, and color, or has there been written a repetoire that might prove useful across pieces and periods? Or am I just thinking too much?
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ksnmohan
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« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2006, 03:50:04 PM »

Same reason as Arithmetic Tables of the pre-calculator and pre-sliderule days.

We were taught in school to learn by heart, also to be repeated loud over and over again,  Muliplication tables - upto x 16 or even x 24!

What for?

So that one gets FAMILIAR with the concept of and relationship between numbers in Mathematics.

So also in the case of the scales.

Practiced over and over, you will soon be able to play the piano blindfolded. The key positions and their notes get embedded in the brain.

Just as Chess Boards in the brains of Grandmasters.

Or typing on a Computer keyboard - the particular finger automatically goes to the particular key you think of - it becomes automatic so that you can concentrate on the creativity part while  performing and not worry about the physical location of the keys.

Incidentally, are you able to recognize (blindfolded!) the absolute pitch of each key on your piano? Not just a mere C# or Bb - but also at what  octave range of the instrument it  is located?

Hard work does not give much fun - but is the foundation for anything you want to build.

Best Wishes!

Prof K S (Mohan) Narayanan
Musicologist, Composer, Teacher
Madras, India


 
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tibi
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« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2006, 08:26:24 PM »

there are a lotS of advantages by practicing scales everyday. you teach your fingers to play clean and clear ( i cant find better words to visualize my idea, im not english speaking.. sorry). normally, our 4 and 5 fingers are weak, than by playing scale, we drill those fingers so that none will produce different weigth while touch the key. if you think that playing scale is useless for your tehnic, now i give you a challange, play C major scale four octaves and set your metronome crochet (1/4) = 60 than one octave = one crochet. if you capable to do this without any drill or practice, than you may say that practicin scale is useless.

in aboved posting, one said that it helps us to play pieces easily, this is 100 percent correct. scale is not just a scale. it comes in package. first is normal  scale, than in 3rd, 6th, 10th. arpeggio in 3 inversion, Dom 7th in all inversion, all are playing also in contrary motion, than playin polyrythm right = 2 and left = 3 + right = 3 and left =3.

normal scale, 3rd,6th,10th will help you playing most of mozart,  arpeggio and Dom 7th will help you in Liszt, polyrythm will help you to play chopin and liszt. if we alredy to handle the scales, than we dunt need to worried about the tehnic, all you need is just read and play.

i have an example. i play basketball, in order to play (and win) basketball there are number of aspect to be concern. first you must able to running fast (scale), than passing (arpeggio), lay-up ( Dom 7th), shoot (plyrythm). now, my question is, can we master all aspect just playing game (pieces)? i dunt think so. we need to exercise each in order to reach maximum result.

i had experienced it myself. i ve practicing fantasie-impromptu, paganini etude no 6 (liszt), ballade op23(chopin), and many chopin etude without any scale practice for years and it doest sound as i wish even i "can" play it with full of efforts. but know i just have a lesson from new teacher after 2 years, and she is one of the greatest pianist in my country, and she always say " scale is basic of everything, practice it carefully, use your metronome".

don't waste you're time to such big pieces, there are numbers of easier and still beautifull pieces and when you're not realize, you're be able even to sight read the sonata op27. trust me.. i'm not going to push my opinion but i dunt want anyone to have same experience like me.
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frustrated_pianist
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« Reply #28 on: December 18, 2006, 02:32:02 AM »

wow.

beginnger playing the 3rd movement?
neat. i'm working on that right now.

but like...scales basically help you improvise.
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piannist
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« Reply #29 on: January 12, 2007, 01:28:37 PM »

The point of scales? Used to think they were absolutely useless. But since restarting lessons after 10 years I have found that they are so important for finger strength (especially in my left hand which lags behind my right somewhat) It will improve the smoothness of your legato runs and clarity of staccato passages. So persist! They also become somewhat addictive after a while(quite scary).

PS Don't listen to these guys discouraging you from learning this piece. Of course if you started the piano last week I'd give it a couple of years.... I remember listening to Clair de Lune by Debussy when I was 12 and I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. So I went to piano teacher said I wanted to learn it(He gave me a very doubtful look - I was only abrsm grade 3 at the time). Well anyway I learnt it because I loved it and performed it a year later(reasonably well). I think this is the key to learning anything. If the music inspires you enough you will be able to do it. With ALOT of perseverance mind you! It wont be easy. Wink
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dnephi
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« Reply #30 on: January 12, 2007, 03:12:43 PM »

Speed and fury.
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« Reply #31 on: January 12, 2007, 11:24:53 PM »

I know what notes are in the key of Bb, but if I've been playing C major all day and switch to Bb, it can be difficult to "break out" of C, even though I know the difference intellectually. This can lead to frustration. It sounds like scales can speed up the process, so I will take the advice.

I recently decided to remedy this weakness in my own playing.  I'm going through different figurations in each key, so for example I will work in Gm for a few weeks doing harmonic, melodic scales, chords, and arpeggios.  What I found worse than going from scale to scale was when I would switch from practicing arpeggios to the scale...  My mind wanted to play the scale, but the hands would automatically make motions for arpeggios and it would take a while to adapt.

What's been working for me is to aim my practice for consistancy, the first goal is being able to consistantly pull off a given figuration off the bat (without having to sit down and adapt the hands to it for an hour), when I can do that then I work on being able to consistantly switch between different figurations off the bat.  I've been finding that once I can comfortably do a scale with consistancy, it's not so difficult to add speed.

This has been a little breakthrough for me, what I found I'm developing in working on consistancy and freedom (to switch between scales, arps, chords, whatever) is not so much physical dexterity - it seems I've had that all along...  But I've been developing in how I think when playing, and confidence in my ability to pull it off, which is more important than I previously thought.  Not to mention enforcing good practice habits.

Quote
That being said, should I practice scales at my own pace, experimenting with positions, dynamics, speed, and color, or has there been written a repetoire that might prove useful across pieces and periods? Or am I just thinking too much?

For the repertoire vs exercises debate, my teacher made a good point one day that skillwise it doesn't really matter - you can develop either way.  So I like to be practical, in my case I don't always have a lot of time/opprotunities to perform, and I don't like learning repertoire only to forget it later, so I devote more time to forgettable exercises to develop my skill.

For practicing scales and other arbstracted figurations, I believe it's best to follow the principle of always building upon what you can already do.  The possibilites are infinite.  Just as an example, this is my framework plan of progression with technical exercises:

- learn how to play a scale in a key at a given tempo, then chords (tonic, dominant 7th), then arpeggios (tonic, dominant 7th).
- attain consistancy, being able to play each figurations 2X, 3X, 4X in a row accurately.  This is more of a mental endurance exercise than anything.
- attain freedom in switching between figurations in that key.
- do this for all keys, then attain freedom in switching between keys & figurations.  Cycling chromatically and around the circle of 5ths.  To be able to play any scale/chord/arpeggio on command.

From this kind of foundation I think it would be possible to expand into different figurations (C,E,D,F,E,G...  type of things), sequencing in ascending/descending 3rds & 5ths in any given key...  Whatever the imagination could come up with.  I'm thinking at some point practice on scales would become more and more like free improvisation, and the benefit for repertoire is obvious.

That's an example of the logical extention of the principle of building upon what you can already do, it excites me to think of how these technical exercises can lead to musical freedom.  Maybe I'm being unrealistic, but I'm willing to find out.  What do you think?
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overscore
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« Reply #32 on: January 13, 2007, 04:32:57 AM »

I recently decided to remedy this weakness in my own playing.  I'm going through different figurations in each key, so for example I will work in Gm for a few weeks doing harmonic, melodic scales, chords, and arpeggios.

I'm not sure that's such a good idea. I think you really need to be able to switch instantly between scales because music is always modulating in and out of different keys. When I see accidentals, I don't really think of them as flats or sharps, I just think 'Oh, it's gone into E major for a moment' and my fingers slip automatically into an E major scale. Then it may shift again up into B major before going back to the home key of A major.

The way I learned scales was to practice them in clusters over a period of a week or so. So I started with all the majors that began on a white note, then a week later did the other hand, then all the majors starting on a black note and so on. I think it took me a couple of months to cover them all and about six months before they became second nature.

I guess another way you could do it is to bunch them into closely related keys eg: D major, Bminor, A major etc.
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rc
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« Reply #33 on: January 14, 2007, 12:57:56 AM »

Do you think it would make a difference to learn it sooner than later in the long run?

I know my scheme is tailored to myself specifically, I just happen to have been learning it this way from the start so I'll keep doing it to the end...  But I imagine the end result is the same either way.
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klick
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« Reply #34 on: January 14, 2007, 04:43:10 AM »

To me, all scales help me with thumb under and thumb over, as well as learning the keyboard (when I was a beginner). Thumb under and thumb over helps in pieces, as well as in other technique like arpeggios and scales in thirds or sixths.

Klick
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rc
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« Reply #35 on: January 14, 2007, 07:38:42 AM »

Y'know, I never found the concept of thumb over useful at all in practice, nor the idea of learning two seperate motions.  I think it only caused unnecessary confusion as I was starting out...  For me it was more like learning thumb under at slower tempo, and as it sped up the fingers naturally released quicker until the motion morphed into 'TO'.  The motions are certainly different, but if we're going to be microscopic about it - the motion for any given speed is slightly different from a notch above or below.  The concept of not using the exact same motion for different speeds was useful, maybe that was the intention all along.
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overscore
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« Reply #36 on: January 14, 2007, 09:34:45 AM »

Do you think it would make a difference to learn it sooner than later in the long run?


I don't think it should be the first thing you learn because they really are fantastically boring to the beginner and probably are one of the reasons so many people give up. I learned chords first... which I found more interesting because at least I could bang out something vaguely musical without too much skill. Scales just seemed to follow logically from that.

I find them addictive too. They not only keep your fingers in shape and logically ordered, they have a kind of theraputic psychological effect too... kind of like meditation or a mantra!
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« Reply #37 on: January 14, 2007, 07:52:24 PM »

Well I completely agree that it shouldn't be the very first thing learned, the beginner wants to play music so it's important to be playing actual music ASAP.  What the beginner needs more than anything is motivation, the belief that they can play music.  The nitty gritty work on scales, theory and such sleep-prone exercises can come after the student already believes in themselves and understands that these boring things will lead to better music.

I can relate to the mantra effect, which I think could be classified as a sort of meditation.  For me it's a kind of flow when the conscious mind no longer has to work to play the scale, the hands feel good and natural moving along the keyboard, and the ears are hearing clearly each note.  I think this is the goal to achieve in all playing, when the subconscious takes over, which becomes a case of trust in yourself - so that the conscious mind doesn't begin to interfere, fixing what isn't broken.  I get that a lot, where I will suddenly start tampering with a perfectly good flow.

But what I was referring to in my previous post:

Quote
Do you think it would make a difference to learn it sooner than later in the long run?

wasn't about doing scalework in general sooner than later, but if one is already doing scalework to choose the path of going from key to key doing scales/arps/chords then later working on switching between keys vs doing scales in all keys, then arpeggios and chords. 

Multiple figurations one key at a time, or multiple keys one figuration at a time.

Doing it how I am (multiple figurations), I notice that it gives a little variety for the hand and ear - switching between arpeggios, chords and scales...  and I could only imagine my frustration if I'd tried learning arpeggios all at once!
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overscore
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« Reply #38 on: January 15, 2007, 10:20:32 AM »

>>
Well I completely agree that it shouldn't be the very first thing learned, the beginner wants to play music so it's important to be playing actual music ASAP.  What the beginner needs more than anything is motivation, the belief that they can play music.  The nitty gritty work on scales, theory and such sleep-prone exercises can come after the student already believes in themselves and understands that these boring things will lead to better music>>

Yes, I agree totally there.

>>I can relate to the mantra effect, which I think could be classified as a sort of meditation.  For me it's a kind of flow when the conscious mind no longer has to work to play the scale, the hands feel good and natural moving along the keyboard, and the ears are hearing clearly each note.  I think this is the goal to achieve in all playing, when the subconscious takes over, which becomes a case of trust in yourself - so that the conscious mind doesn't begin to interfere, fixing what isn't broken.  I get that a lot, where I will suddenly start tampering with a perfectly good flow>>

All good points too. I got rather annoyed with the Eleventh Commandment 'relax your fingers and hands!' when I was a complete beginner... I could barely get my fingers to work properly, let alone relax them! The relaxation came later without any conscious design.

>>
Multiple figurations one key at a time, or multiple keys one figuration at a time>>

I guess as long as there is some context to it I guess it doesn't matter too much. If there's a pattern to it all then the brain will absorb it.

>>Doing it how I am (multiple figurations), I notice that it gives a little variety for the hand and ear - switching between arpeggios, chords and scales...  and I could only imagine my frustration if I'd tried learning arpeggios all at once!>>

I learned arpeggios in the same way as scales, and it was murder. I never thought I'd get all those inversions in keys like D flat. It was very hard, but after eight weeks I got them all down... but I would never, ever expect a complete beginner to go through such a regime. You have to be at the point where you love it so much you don't care about the tedium.
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« Reply #39 on: January 16, 2007, 05:35:17 AM »

Quote
I got rather annoyed with the Eleventh Commandment 'relax your fingers and hands!' when I was a complete beginner... I could barely get my fingers to work properly, let alone relax them! The relaxation came later without any conscious design.

yeah, I heard that plenty of times too.  How can anyone relax when they can't even get to the next note, heheh.  What I found useful in getting my fingers to work initially was to keep the objective tiny, instead of working on playing an arpeggio or scale (let alone in any kind of time), the make the goal simply to smoothly connect to the next note - one at a time.  From sound to sound, using a predetermined fingering.  That was the magic piece of advice that got my fingers to work when I was stuck.  Especially those damned arpeggios, those must be quite the tall hurdle for most students.

I think I got a little lost in my own situation and forgot the initial question was for beginners, hahah...  But now that I think of it, any serious student of piano ought to also be a student of teaching.  For all the help I've gotten from various people, it's only right that at some point I do my part in passing it on (once I actually acquire it Tongue).

I think you're very insightful on the topic Overscore, what do you think would be the way to get a beginner started into scalework?

My first thought is that the ideal would be to be able to lead by example - to be able to improvise or play pieces featuring scales, in an inspiring way (not necessarily technically dazzling, but moving) in order to show "this is what you can do with scales".  To be forced to do scalework without being given any reason to could only make a student wonder "what am I doing this for?" - without an answer the student would conclude "...for no reason at all.  I wanna get out of here."
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rc
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« Reply #40 on: January 17, 2007, 07:34:25 AM »

I bumped into an answer to my question today on the radio, the host said that Bill Evans thought the right time to introduce music theory (therefore scales) was when the student expressed an interest in knowing how music works (something along those lines, of course when I begin to hear it is when my headphones get tangled up in the armrest).  That seems simple enough, but it makes sense - rather than to try and force or gently prod it on a student who isn't ready, curiousity is natural when somebody is interested.
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overscore
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« Reply #41 on: January 17, 2007, 09:41:38 AM »

I think you're very insightful on the topic

Ooo, ta!

>>Overscore, what do you think would be the way to get a beginner started into scalework?>>

Tie them to a chair..?
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rc
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« Reply #42 on: January 18, 2007, 02:55:23 AM »

Ok then, I take it back Tongue

My only attempts to teach scales were when people asked me how to improvise on guitar - I told them what scales were, wrote down the series of intervals and told them what it means and how to translate it to the fretboard.  Only one person went so far as to actually put the scale together and figure out the pattern, the rest for all I know were only nodding their heads to be polite.

My only attempt at teaching some piano I walked away from.  Her attitudes were completely useless, designed more ego preservation than actually learn something.  I still see her around from time to time, maybe I'll work on changing her attitudes if it comes up.
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overscore
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« Reply #43 on: January 18, 2007, 08:55:35 AM »

I don't think people are interested at all in something until they can see an immediate use for it. In piano, you can learn to play mechanically without knowing what you're doing, so a lot of people probably think, 'why bother to learn all that rubbish?'

I think encouraging improvisation would be a good way to raise some interest, because at least then the scales would be seen to have a clear use.

I guess a good analogy is grammar. Nobody's interested in grammar until they try to write a book.
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rc
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« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2007, 12:12:01 AM »

That would be a better idea than my last thought of the teacher being able to improvise, since the teachers playing could seem inaccessible to the student...  But a complete beginner could be taught C and G chords and how to string together a melody in the first lesson, that would be the quickest way to get a student playing music and activating their imagination.  It's also easy to find ways to expand from that simple foundation, show them more chords, expand the scales, introduce different rhythmic ideas (& how to notate it).  If a student shows an interest in learning familiar tunes, it wouldn't be hard to notate a basic arrangement for most things.

Something I read from Neuhaus was to help students give meaning to their playing by asking them to play in certain ways:  thoughtful, sorrowfully, peaceful, excited, joyous, goofy.

That would be an excellent way to get someone started in music.  It would be a very natural progression to learning scales.
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mhendred
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« Reply #45 on: December 18, 2008, 01:48:59 AM »

Improvisation
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j.s. bach the 534th
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« Reply #46 on: December 20, 2008, 06:59:32 PM »

well, since everyone already covered everything about why scales are useful, I guess all I can do is confirm the idea I like the most. And that is, it helps get your left hand playing as fast as your right hand, and it does help with a lot of fast pieces, especially Chopin Etudes.
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« Reply #47 on: December 22, 2008, 01:28:32 AM »

Well I can certainly see why you would think this. It is one of those things that is more beneficial to certain people than others. Overall, the point in learning and playing scales up and down would be to embed the key signature in your head, both reading it and playing it, using both sides of your brain. Once you know the scale really well, it is MUCH easier to apply it when reading a piece. It really goes either way for anyone, it helps for some people and not so much for others. Personally, I agree with you, memorizing scales hasn't helped me very much in the past, but I do certainly see the significance in doing it.
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