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Arpeggios and Scales ARGH! (Read 12113 times)

Offline tcovenent

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Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
« on: December 10, 2007, 05:35:25 PM »
I've been learning classical piano for about 6 Months now. Even though I'm not interested in becoming a concert pianist (My biggest ambition is to start an amateur Symphonic Metal band and play a few Nightwish covers), I chose classical piano for a reason, I respect the general concentration on technical ability and discipline, not to mention most of my favourite Keyboardists were classically trained and I'm of the mentality that if you can hit high you can hit low.

Therefore I don't want an easy way out, I'm prepared to put as much into this as possible, one thing I don't have is time.

I made the decision to practice all the scales and arpeggios every day early on in my training, from day one when I could barely play the C scale seperate hands. Everyday I played it until I got it right once. Eventually I learned the G scale, D, etc. Again I played them one after the other until I got them right, as long as I got them right once, tone, dynamics and everything, everyday, eventually I'd get them right HT instantly.

Eventually my teacher introduced me to the metronome... so I decided to practice them with a metronome, starting from 40 bpm and adding 20 bpm every month for each scale....which made getting them right each day considerably harder.

He thought me how to play the arpeggio of each scale... so I started doing the arpeggios too.

Then he made a comment that my sightreading wasn't good enough... so I started after a while I started practicing each scale without looking at my hands.

Then my teacher said that getting them right once, everyday wasn't enough.... so I played them until I got them right three times in a row.

All this was manageable at the beginning, but back then I barely knew all the white key major scales... now I know all the major and harmonic minor scales (flats included), not to mention their arpeggios, the chromatic scale, and the time it takes me to get through this excersize is ridiculous. One hour, at least, each day, JUST ON ARPEGGIOS AND SCALES leaving me little time to acctually practice any music.

I'd acctually like to learn the melodic minor scales at some point, not to mention other types of arpeggios besides major and minor triads. I have absolutely no time to do any other technical excersizes, I'd like to practice thrills maybe, and set time specifically for sightreading excersizes.

My teacher is absolutely NO HELP on this, he just gives me a piece I have to learn by such and such time and leaves me to it. When I asked him for advise regarding this he just fobbed me off with the typical Practice, Practice, Practice... that's the PROBLEM!.

Personally I don't think I'm practicing right. Scales and Arpeggios can't possibly be this damn time consuming, I don't think I need to practice them everyday.

I was thinking of playing the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor, major and minor arpeggio, chromatic, and maybe a few other excersizes for one key everyday. So C one day, then G the next, etcetera, etcetera. This would be a lot more manageable in my opinion, not to mention it would cover a wider area.

This would mean though that I wouldn't be practicing each scale, each day. But is that a bad thing, do I REALLY need to practice each scale EACH day?

Also, does playing them right three times in a row help any?


Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Technique: Major Arpeggios
piano sheet music of Major Arpeggios


Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Technique: Major Scales
piano sheet music of Major Scales


Offline term

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #1 on: December 10, 2007, 06:16:44 PM »
Quote
This would mean though that I wouldn't be practicing each scale, each day. But is that a bad thing, do I REALLY need to practice each scale EACH day?
i never did any scales and arpeggios and i can play them if a piece requires it.
Not that i totally own them, but they're ok.
I would not recommend the kind of daily drill you do. Some say it's unmusical and mechanical, others maybe just that you do them too long.
My personal opinion is (and i know many disagree here), that it's best to practise whatever a given piece requires, and to forget about the technical exercises. So if you replace your one hour drill with learning a piece, you have a) learnt more, because a piece does not consist of repeating patterns. You have to think, hand positions change constantly, what you hear changes constantly. That's the musical "reality" if you want. Be concentrated. b) you have more repertoire, more pieces you like which you can play over and over again if you want. So if you have a piece full of scales this is where you can practically apply your scale technique AND you have something nice to listen to. Play music, not technique, that's what it's ultimately about.
Still, of course technical exercises are valuable at times.
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Offline dan101

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #2 on: December 11, 2007, 01:45:19 PM »
My feeling is that you are trying to do too musch too quickly. Truth be told, your finger and forearm muscles take quite a bit of time to develop, and scales and argeggios need time to sink in, as it were.

You've done a lot for a student of six months. I suggest you stay on your course. By the way, practice is always a key element in development. There's no getting away from it (and no short cuts). Best of luck.
Daniel E. Friedman, owner of www.musicmasterstudios.com
You CAN learn to play the piano and compose in a fun and effective way.

Offline rc

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #3 on: December 11, 2007, 07:39:20 PM »
My teacher is absolutely NO HELP on this, he just gives me a piece I have to learn by such and such time and leaves me to it. When I asked him for advise regarding this he just fobbed me off with the typical Practice, Practice, Practice... that's the PROBLEM!.

Not saying your teacher is like this, but it reminds me of a guitar teacher I once had who would sit there and tell me "do it again", and I'd spend the whole lesson repeating this piece of music having no idea why, as he'd eat his lunch.

Quote
I was thinking of playing the major, harmonic minor, melodic minor, major and minor arpeggio, chromatic, and maybe a few other excersizes for one key everyday. So C one day, then G the next, etcetera, etcetera. This would be a lot more manageable in my opinion, not to mention it would cover a wider area.

I agree that practicing all scales/arpeggios EVERY DAY is too much, there comes a point of diminishing returns.  Some people like to work in a certain key/week before switching it up, there's a lot of value in focusing on one thing at a time for a while.  I once would spend up to an hour practicing one scale, but I was REALLY practicing it and making good headway which effected how I played all scales.

Quote
This would mean though that I wouldn't be practicing each scale, each day. But is that a bad thing, do I REALLY need to practice each scale EACH day?

When I imagine the outcome of your teachers method, I picture somebody who can rattle off scales and arpeggios consistently in all keys, which is a good thing to be able to do.  But I would never have the patience to pull it off.  I do it the same way you want to do it - with diversity.

After a basic level of comfort with scales I think you could make things more interesting by practicing with a variety of dynamics (crescendo, diminuendo, pp, ff, one hand crescendo while the other diminuendo), playing them staccato, and of course playing with speed (sit down with one scale and gradually push it as fast as you can).

The best practice sessions are experimental, there are endless ways you can practice scales (3rds, 6ths, changing directions randomly, changing keys...)  Whatever you could imagine, until it might begin to resemble improvising.

After your work with harmonic and major scales, you'll have an easy time grasping melodic scales.

Quote
Also, does playing them right three times in a row help any?

Consistency.  If you run through a scale 10 times before getting it right, those aren't very good odds.  Being able to do it multiple times in a row means you're not just hit-or-miss but actually can do it properly.

How I used to work on consistency was by being able to do it 2X, 3X, then 4X in a row - by the time I could do a scale 4X in a row I felt I could pretty much do it forever...  But there was one more level of consistency, which was being able to do it right in one shot, no warm up runs.  At that point I felt pretty comfortable and confident in the scale.

Offline tcovenent

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #4 on: December 11, 2007, 08:22:16 PM »
A lot of good points. I should clarify that I don't want to lower my practice time, I'm perfectly happy with it. 2 hours a day, maybe an hour more, maybe an hour and a half less if I have overtime at work or any other emergencies. I just want to cover more areas, practicing one key everyday will also allow me to work better on consistency, like RC said, since being able to play the right notes in the right order doesn't constitute good playing.

Offline dmc

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #5 on: December 12, 2007, 01:03:13 AM »
To just play scales/arpeggios is kind of equivalent to catching fly balls in a baseball game that are hit directly to you.   Its only useful up to a point but doesn't occur that often.  I would concentrate on learning the music you're given since THAT is artistic reality.  In the process you will absorb a lot of what you've been drilling on and build a repetoire as well.

You say that you don't have time.  Unfortunately there are no short cuts.  You have to put the hours in so wouldn't it make more sense to have some actual music to show for that rather than just br proficient at scales & arpeggios ?

Offline slobone

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #6 on: December 12, 2007, 08:01:01 PM »
Then he made a comment that my sightreading wasn't good enough... so I started after a while I started practicing each scale without looking at my hands.

Just a minor correction -- either you or your teacher doesn't know what "sightreading" means -- it has nothing to do with playing without looking at the keys! It means being able to play directly from the sheet music the first time you see it.

OK -- well I happen to think that scales and arpeggios are very valuable for any pianist -- but especially for somebody who's going to play pop music. When you get to that point, you'll want to know how to improvise, and having s & a automatically programmed into your fingers will be very helpful.

I'm not a jazz pianist, but I get the impression that most of them spend a lot of time on s & a, and even Slonimsky (which is a collection of every peculiar scale imaginable).

As for your time allocation, I think you need to set up a definite schedule. Decide how much of your practice time you're willing to devote to exercises, and don't go beyond it. If you're practicing, say, 2 hours a day, I wouldn't do more than 40 minutes to 1 hour of s & a.

And if your teacher isn't helping you figure out how to practice a piece, get a new teacher! My favorite teacher would occasionally say "For the next hour, I want you to show me how you practice", and then she'd give me pointers on how to use my time better.

Offline anna_crusis

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #7 on: December 17, 2007, 10:02:07 AM »
I do scales, arpeggios and other technical stuff for about 90 min every day, but I also spend about another two hours doing pieces and sight reading. If I'm pressed for time, I tend to sacrifice some of the technical stuff. I've noticed that if I miss a day of technical practice, it doesn't make too much difference, so maybe if you do alternating days of technical practice and actual pieces?

I play each exercise once (assuming I get it right) and as far as I'm concerned that's enough. Any more is labouring the point and muddying the mental impression.

BTW melodic minor is a cinch - it's just the bottom part of a natural minor scale with the top part of a major scale.

Offline slobone

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #8 on: December 17, 2007, 01:41:11 PM »
If I've taken a few days (or weeks, months, years) off then I tend to do mostly exercises before I'll allow myself to work on "real" pieces. Nothing's more demoralizing than trying to make beautiful music when your fingers won't do what you want them to do.

And if I get bored I invent (feeble) games, like do scales in a different key each day, or vary the metronome setting systematically. One of my teachers showed me how to do scales in alternating parallel and contrary motion. It's fun, but I'll bet it drives the neighbors crazy...

Offline anna_crusis

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #9 on: December 18, 2007, 05:01:20 AM »
If I've taken a few days (or weeks, months, years) off then I tend to do mostly exercises before I'll allow myself to work on "real" pieces. Nothing's more demoralizing than trying to make beautiful music when your fingers won't do what you want them to do.

And if I get bored I invent (feeble) games

I tend to think of excercises that will deliberately confound my co-ordination and complacency - anything to prevent getting in a rut. It's much better to overcome co-ordination problems in exercises rather than murdering real pieces.

Offline jepoy

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #10 on: December 18, 2007, 11:41:24 AM »
I had the same plan a few years ago, i.e., practice all the scales and arpeggios daily in different styles, permutations, etc. I tried it for a few days but it didn't last. Now, I just play the scales and arpeggios of the key/keys of the pieces I'm working on as sort of warm up.

Offline charleyg

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #11 on: December 19, 2007, 05:09:06 AM »
There are 12 keys right?  I work 6 days a week, so I do 2 keys a day.  Monday, B and GbM/F#m, Tuesday DbM/C#m and AbM/G#m, Wednesday Eb and Bb, Thursday is F and C, Friday is G and D, and finally Saturday is A and E.  I do 2 octaves, HT (major, melodic minor, harmonic minor) without pause between the scales.  I listen to the metronome before I play, and I try to DO it in tempo, but I don't actually play them with a metronome going, though I do have to do that for tests.  I really only do it to prepare for the keyboard tests, but I do see a benefit, it doesn't take so very long, and I do get around to each key each week.
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Offline lindseyx

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #12 on: December 04, 2009, 12:33:12 AM »
Hey.

I literaly just started playing piano again a week ago after not having played for a few years. I'm having to learn everything over again, and I'm starting with learning chords and major scales.
So, yeah. I would say go over those scales at least a few times a week if you really know them already.


Nightwish, eh? They're pretty awesome.  Good luck with putting a band together. My friend has been trying to put a metal band together for ages, and it's really hard to find other people willing to commit. So, once again, good luck with learning and putting that band together eventually!

Offline alysosha

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #13 on: December 04, 2009, 12:46:12 AM »
I've been working on my scales for about 3 years now, 2 of which I spent practicing for an hour a day. I was doing 4 hours a day in total practice then so I thougt that seemed proportional. I really liked having an hour to really dig into a scale or two. Some times I'd spend days on a scale. Had some bad teacers during this time though. One forced me to play with my fingers in constant contact with the keys which made some scales impossible. Eventually I confronted her saying that I wasn't possble and demanding that she show me. She couldn't and I left and found a better teacher who couldn't understand why anyone would ever need to do that. Feel I lost alot of time because of that. But i'm at the point now where my scales and arps are pretty much locked in and become very fluid towards he end of my technical session.

Offline guendola

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #14 on: December 04, 2009, 01:57:35 PM »
I have done scales on each practice session when I was young, sort of senslessly and for warmup only, but it helped making my fingers pretty fast (or something else did, my fingers are fast). After a long break I restarted playing piano and spent about 2 months total playing scales in all keys. This is about two years ago. I am still not good at practising scales, but when I have to play one in a piece of music, I have no trouble at all. Well, the e-flat major impromptu by Schubert was a bit different, but learning that piece is a bit like doing scales anyway, just nicer :)

Perhaps doing scales and appreggios is important when you want to be a professional virtuoso pianist. At least there must be something besides talent that these people have done to obtain their incredible accuracy. Perhaps it is just the time they have spent on the piano.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Arpeggios and Scales ARGH!
«Reply #15 on: December 04, 2009, 05:52:19 PM »
Couple of random thoughts, caveat emptor:

I don't see a reason to do every scale every day.  Why not rotate through them?  For a long time I did one scale a week, working through the cycle of fifths.  (add a flat or a sharp each week) 

Secondly, I wouldn't play anything without a specific intent to improve.  To play a scale right three times proves you know the WWHWWWH pattern.  But were all the notes absolutely identical in volume and time?  Better to play three times trying to make it more even each time.  Or, faster.  More legato, more staccato, etc.
Tim