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How often (or how long) do you practice scales? (Read 39102 times)

Offline tpoplar

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How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
« on: May 02, 2009, 02:51:38 PM »
How long do you practice technical exercises in a practice session (i.e. 5 minutes, an hour)? I'm just curious as to how long other pianists practice them...

piano sheet music of Major Scales


Offline communist

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #1 on: May 02, 2009, 03:23:25 PM »
it depends, if I know I have all the time in the world to practice I do them all (same with arpeggios). If I have a limited amount of time I do about 8-10 of them.
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Offline omar_roy

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #2 on: May 02, 2009, 10:31:53 PM »
It all depends on what I plan on doing that day.  Some days I'll need a break from repertoire, so I'll spend an entire practice session just working on technique.  Now, my views on technical work may be very different from others, or it may be the same.  I have never discussed it at length.

When I work on scales, I focus on creating an evenness of tone between the fingers.  This means being able to play the scale without any accents that I didn't want.  I'll work on getting them as fast as possible while maintaining clarity and tone quality.  The same goes for arpeggios in all inversions.  I try to do this using all forms of touch.  Legato, Non Legato, Staccato, etc...  I don't set a time limit because achieving that kind of evenness of touch as well as ease of movement is not something that is ultimately achieved, but rather something that is constantly worked at and improved.

However, that is the extent of my personal "technical exercises."  I, for one, don't believe in technical "exercises" like those of Czerny.  If anything, they are to be looked at as things to warm up with, but then again, you can warm up by playing your repertoire slowly, or going through your scales and arpeggios.

I look at technical exercises as theory in opposition to practice.  For example, you can read all you want about the procedure of surgery, but actually performing it is very different.  Technical Exercise Books are merely hypothetically encountered situations in music.  I believe that if you want to truly improve your technique, you should just play more music!  Don't be afraid to try and learn something that is a little bit "too hard" for you because THAT is how your technical abilities expand.

Offline worov

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #3 on: May 03, 2009, 08:16:22 AM »
I don't play scales and arpeggios. Why learn technique on its own ? The technique is already in the pieces. You can learn it from the pieces.

Why do you practice Bb major scale ? Because if you do, you will know that in the Bb major tonality, there are two flats : Bb and Eb. I don't play scale, but I do know that because I have played pieces in B major.

I always thought that practice scales and arpeggios was wasting time. Do you think that Bach practiced scales on his organ ?

Offline omar_roy

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #4 on: May 03, 2009, 08:41:09 AM »
I think the idea of practicing these scales and arpeggios is so that when encountered in music, the fingering and motions are already ingrained into your hands.  As i said before, they also serve the purpose of warming up.

Offline silverchair87

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #5 on: May 03, 2009, 10:07:42 AM »
I never practice sclaes. Hate them, I prefer to practice technique required for the pieces I'm playing, and I spent 12 years playing scales all the time, so...no thanks!

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #6 on: May 04, 2009, 01:08:48 AM »
Scales???

What the hell are scales???    ;D



(Haven't played them since my University days)

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #7 on: May 04, 2009, 11:10:20 AM »
I don't practice scales everyday, but I will go over them all at least once a week or more.

I don't understand how some people have never done them. I was given scales within the first few weeks of piano lessons, and did them for years with teachers and for exams. They have to be learnt, it just can't be avoided. How can you expect to develop any technique without being able to play scales? People claim to have a good 6ths technique, yet they can't play a decent scale in 6ths. People claim to have a good octave technique, yet they can't go through all the keys in octaves without developing tension and stopping. 3rds, people with bad 3rd techniques can't play scales in 3rds. How many people mess up arpeggios in pieces?

You can learn so much faster if you have all the scales at your disposal. You will not have to practice any scales passages in pieces....and I am very happy that I played scales for a long time right now becasue it means I can save myself a lot of time when practicing Chopin concerto!


Why learn technique on it's own.....so you can play a piece properly and learn it faster. If you play a Chopin etude....the 3rds etude for example....the whole point of the etude is to reach a complete mastery of 3rd technique. So you have almost every type of 3rd technique in that piece, chromatic scales up down, minor scales, major scales etc.... You cannot start off developing a 3rds technique with this piece. You must do a lot of work on the technique alone before going near it.


Name one great pianist who can't play a scale? I can guarantee that if you ask any of them to play a Bb major scale in 3rds, 6ths, double 3rds, octaves or any possible way they would do it straight away.

Although they meay not practice them, they have probably spent a long time on them when they were younger. They really are essential if you want to be a pianist

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #8 on: May 04, 2009, 12:59:24 PM »
I think the idea of practicing these scales and arpeggios is so that when encountered in music, the fingering and motions are already ingrained into your hands. 

I think you are correct about what the idea is.

And I think the idea is pretty much obviously wrong for piano (though it works for most other instruments). 

Here's why.  There aren't any four octave scales in the repertoire, I doubt if there are many two octave scales, and even one octave scales are not common. 

But it gets worse.  The fingering you use in scale practice is never going to work in music, even if you only encounter a small fragment of a scale.  That's if you're just playing a melody line, like in a lead sheet.  What if you're playing harmonies, say a SATB hymn or a Bach chorale?  Yes, the top line might be scalewise, but your right hand is playing several notes at once, and scales don't help. 

I think scales are beneficial for beginners in learning keyboard geometry and in absorbing the concept of key center and tonality, and possibly in learning to recognize groups of notes in sightreading, as opposed to reading note by note. 

As a measure of dexterity they are easily quantifyable.  You can either play a scale at 160 or you can't.  But since you will never use that scale with that fingering in music, the relevance is questionable. 
Tim

Offline franzliszt2

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #9 on: May 04, 2009, 05:58:37 PM »
I think you are correct about what the idea is.

And I think the idea is pretty much obviously wrong for piano (though it works for most other instruments). 

Here's why.  There aren't any four octave scales in the repertoire, I doubt if there are many two octave scales, and even one octave scales are not common. 

But it gets worse.  The fingering you use in scale practice is never going to work in music, even if you only encounter a small fragment of a scale.  That's if you're just playing a melody line, like in a lead sheet.  What if you're playing harmonies, say a SATB hymn or a Bach chorale?  Yes, the top line might be scalewise, but your right hand is playing several notes at once, and scales don't help. 

I think scales are beneficial for beginners in learning keyboard geometry and in absorbing the concept of key center and tonality, and possibly in learning to recognize groups of notes in sightreading, as opposed to reading note by note. 

As a measure of dexterity they are easily quantifyable.  You can either play a scale at 160 or you can't.  But since you will never use that scale with that fingering in music, the relevance is questionable. 

What? You see scales all over the place in music, and I probably use the fingering I use in scales. There are very very very few exceptions.

What do you mean you can either play a scale at 160 or you can't? Of course that develops!! Every beginner must start off slowly.

I really think you should take a look at the piano repertoire, you will find millions of scales, You mention lead sheets and Bach chorals....I don't think many people here are thinking about lead sheets, and as for the chorales....they are not piano pieces!!!!!!!!!!

Offline iroveashe

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #10 on: May 04, 2009, 06:28:07 PM »
I have to agree with Timothy here. Just to put a quick example: Bach's invention No. 4 in D minor, starts with a scale going from D up to Bb, then the low C#, then the Bb again and goes down to the E. You can't do that with standard fingerings in either hand (technically you can, but it'd be very awkward).
"By concentrating on precision, one arrives at technique, but by concentrating on technique one does not arrive at precision."
Bruno Walter

Offline aslanov

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #11 on: May 04, 2009, 08:11:04 PM »
I do czerny studies sometimes, no scales at all.
The reason i do czerny studies is to expose myself to as many forms of complex music as possible, also why i try bach now. The thing about, at least for me, not learning about these complex ways of writing music then encountering it in a piece i want to learn....its kind of intimidating, and it can seem chaotic at times, you wont understand most of what you're trying to learn. but if you adapt yourself to these forms of writing by practicing just for kicks some czerny studies, which encompass most of piano writing, then when you try a piece that has a particularly complex or challenging passage, you'll feel at ease and confident and ready to tackle it

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #12 on: May 05, 2009, 01:18:14 AM »
Quote from: franzliszt2
What? You see scales all over the place in music, and I probably use the fingering I use in scales. There are very very very few exceptions.

I have only once encountered a full one octave scale in music.  I played it with the standard fingering.  In my experience that is extremely rare.  More commonly we find four or five note fragments of scales, and in context you can't use the same fingering.  More commonly the scale hand is playing other notes in that measure, and you can't possibly use scale fingers. 

Quote
What do you mean you can either play a scale at 160 or you can't? Of course that develops!! Every beginner must start off slowly.

You certainly drove off on a tangent.  I said scales are quantifiable!  You can play one at 160. or 120.  or 80.43762.  That means you can measure dexterity and improvement.  But it does NOT mean you can play anything else better.  sixteenth notes at 160 are fun, but they offer zero benefit if you want to play an SATB hymn, or a fugue. 

Quote
I really think you should take a look at the piano repertoire, you will find millions of scales, You mention lead sheets and Bach chorals....I don't think many people here are thinking about lead sheets, and as for the chorales....they are not piano pieces!!!!!!!!!!

No, I don't see millions of scales.  Lead sheets - I guess you don't play those.  Some of us do.  Lead sheets are an example where the right hand may be playing a melody, and the left hand chording, so at least in theory scale fingering might work in the right hand.  But for me, it doesn't. 

I used chorales just as an example of music where each hand plays multiple notes simultaneously.  I'm clearly not as familiar with piano literature as you, but if you tell me this is rare I'm going to ask you to show some evidence. 
Tim

Offline go12_3

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #13 on: May 05, 2009, 01:31:18 AM »
I think doing the scales depends upon the the individual pianist;  it is also the   requirements for conservatory studies for those who need to become professional  pianists.  Knowing the scales enhances playing passages in Sonatas and Sonatinas.  Yes, learning the scales can be monotonous and tedious day after day, but the rewards in knowing them will faciliate further studies in more difficult pieces.  Then our ears can become trained to determine  whatever key, major or minor, the piece would in. Even with my violin, it has helped me to know the scales.  Music is based upon the scales and intervals.

best wishes,

go12_3
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Offline omar_roy

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #14 on: May 05, 2009, 06:43:01 AM »
This is true.  I am studying music at a university and we have to be able to play all of our scales (Major, Minor in All Forms, etc) and arpeggios (Root and Inversions) as well as Contrary Motion Patterns.  The tempo we are tested on varies per student.  I have to do mine at a Quarter Note = 144 in 1, 2, 3, and 4 Octaves (Quarter, 8th, Triplet, and 16th, respectively) for Arpeggios and Scales.  However, my professor encourages me to go beyond that to continue to develop quickness in the fingers as well as accuracy (for arpeggios).

While you may not see scales all over music, knowing all your scales does help sort out general fingering, not just in direct scale passages, but in passages that revolved around a scale system.  They are good for warming up, and I find them very useful for building an evenness of tone.

PS: Mozart's music is full of scales, and scale-like passages.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #15 on: May 05, 2009, 10:46:49 AM »
A curious thing happened to me playing scales on trombone.

Trombone, like most instruments, has a different fingering problem than piano.  Fingering (positions) change from key to key, but the fingering you use in any given key is usually the same as for the scale.  Therefore, scale practice directly improves technical ability.

I worked all my major scales on trombone from top to bottom of the range, first in two note fragments, then three, four, etc., up to two octave scales.  That made me relatively key independent (relatively, because it's an assymtric instrument, some keys require larger movements).

Then I had a shoulder injury and switched to left handed.  The scales are gone - not just the physical facility, which I've largely relearned, but the ability to think in all keys.  Apparently they were too connected to the physical sensations. 
Tim

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #16 on: May 05, 2009, 11:34:10 AM »
DP not play them at all, but i still use a little HANON to warm up.

Do not like using repetiore to gain technique. I think it is insulting the composer. Wash your dirty linen on excercises if you must.

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Offline scottmcc

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #17 on: May 05, 2009, 11:50:56 AM »
I have only once encountered a full one octave scale in music.  I played it with the standard fingering.  In my experience that is extremely rare.  More commonly we find four or five note fragments of scales, and in context you can't use the same fingering.  More commonly the scale hand is playing other notes in that measure, and you can't possibly use scale fingers. 
 

Beethoven Op 13, 1st mvt.  a nice long chromatic run ends the Grave section.

Beethoven Op 14 #1, 1st and 3rd mvt.  repeated use of the E maj scale spanning several octaves, as well as a few other scale statements.

Chopin Op 10 #2.  an exploration of the chromatic scale, with added intervals on top of it.

Chopin Op 25 #11. (Winterwind)  ends with a multiple octave A minor scale (hands together even).

Debussy Suite Bergamasque, Prelude.  several instances where the F major scale is used across at least one octave, as well as a few non-standard scales (such as G dorian).  Piece concludes with a unison F major scale.

And that's just off the top of my head, without even thinking about this much.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #18 on: May 05, 2009, 12:48:07 PM »
Impressive list, you certainly know your repertoire.

Umm.  Question.  Out of the total repertoire, what percentage would be similar to the pieces you've named?  Out of the total measures in your pieces, what percentage would be scalewise with the same fingering as your practice scales?

I think it's obvious that if this number is small, spending hours on scales is a waste of time.  Basic familiarity would be enough. 
Tim

Offline practice

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #19 on: May 05, 2009, 01:47:32 PM »
So far I've only been learning the scales of the pieces I've been working on. I just practice them whenever I feel like it. :P

Offline iroveashe

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #20 on: May 05, 2009, 01:59:40 PM »
Exactly how would you play Chopin's Op. 10 No. 2 with standard fingering though?
"By concentrating on precision, one arrives at technique, but by concentrating on technique one does not arrive at precision."
Bruno Walter

Offline tpoplar

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #21 on: May 05, 2009, 03:41:00 PM »

I don't understand how some people have never done them. I was given scales within the first few weeks of piano lessons, and did them for years with teachers and for exams. They have to be learnt, it just can't be avoided. How can you expect to develop any technique without being able to play scales?


I absolutely agree with you liszt. I took lessons from Tamas Ungar at the Cliburn Institute in Texas. He studied at the Liszt Academy and told me when I was very young (around 7 or 8) that Americans didn't spend enough time on scales and technical exercises. I absolutely agree with him. I practice scales every single day. They're essential to developing a good technique. I also recall two pianists at my university who had carpal tunnel and tendinitis. Ironically, both of them had trouble playing scales evenly and without tension. Perhaps if they had learned (early in their training) to play scales without tension, they could've prevented themselves from damaging their hands when playing more difficult music. Perhaps there is no correlation there at all. But I just don't think there are any great pianists out there who would deny the importance of scales in developing and maintaining a good technique.

Offline practice

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #22 on: May 06, 2009, 02:20:42 AM »
When you say "good technique", what exactly do you mean?

Offline iroveashe

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #23 on: May 06, 2009, 02:54:58 AM »
This has been discussed before. Practicing scales will develop great technique... for playing scales.
"By concentrating on precision, one arrives at technique, but by concentrating on technique one does not arrive at precision."
Bruno Walter

Offline rc

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #24 on: May 06, 2009, 05:41:25 AM »
I see it as a debate between general/specific skills.

You may not encounter the specific 4-octaves, from the same starting points or fingering...  But to me the idea behind any exercise is in developing the general skills.  So what can we develop from practicing 4 octave scales?

principles of fingering
smooth lateral motion up and down the keyboard
passing the thumb
rhythmic evenness
dynamic evenness
dynamic shading
different touches/articulation

All very important skills!

I'm coming more and more to believe that being a thorough, well rounded musician can be viewed as being all about the basics.  General skills like these, being able to connect a string of notes cleanly, having a balanced hand, balanced body at different ends of the keyboard, dynamic control (etc).  I believe that exercises are a great way to isolate the different elements for mastery.

Maybe Godowsky could learn only through repertoire (though I wonder if he simply didn't practice so much and was so gifted that these basic skills just weren't an issue), but I think the idea of not mastering the building blocks of music is really a step backwards.

Of course if someone can sit down and play clean, beautiful scales in any key then they have no need to practice them.  For the majority though, I think it will take some practice.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #25 on: May 06, 2009, 03:19:54 PM »
I see it as a debate between general/specific skills.

I'm coming more and more to believe that being a thorough, well rounded musician can be viewed as being all about the basics.  General skills like these, being able to connect a string of notes cleanly, having a balanced hand, balanced body at different ends of the keyboard, dynamic control (etc).  I believe that exercises are a great way to isolate the different elements for mastery.
.

I would like to agree.  There must be some transfer from general to specific.  But I think we've learned the transfer is less than total, and the implication is that if time is limited, the percentage applied to the general skills should be reduced.  Apparently it isn't the same skill in the different applications, or at least it's enough different that you have to practice both. 

You can back off another step and become even more general.  Would better core strength built through weightlifting and gymnastics help you play the Goldberg?  Of course.  But only a tiny amount.  Would scales?  Sure.  Probably even a larger amount.  But maybe still tiny.

Jazz pianists seem to use a lot of scalar patterns, not always major diatonic but often various modes.  I would think scale practice would be more useful to them than, say to a church pianist who will always play at least two notes in the right hand and never use scalar fingering.   
Tim

Offline claude_debussy

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #26 on: May 07, 2009, 01:15:38 AM »
Scales and arpeggios: the royal road of artists, the gateway to virtuosity, the true Gradus ad Parnassum. 

Do not fool yourself about this: practice scales and arpeggios with force and authority every single day, and your mastery of the keyboard will increase. 

Otherwise, probably not.  The lazy route takes a lot longer, and for some will be the end of the road, as far as improving technique goes.

Many of the comments above regarding scales in repertoire are amazingly naive, and make me doubt the quality of musicianship on this forum.  If you don't see scales in piano music, you're asleep.

Piano playing, called an art, is actually a skill, a physical skill.  Two of the three basic gestures of that skill - the other is octave-playing, with a different set of problems - are wonderfully encapsulated and demonstrated in scale-playing. 

Challenge yourself - go for speed, for evenness, for closeness to the keys (this last is a great secret for rapid scale mastery, rarely taught to students although Godowsky makes it clear).   Soon your technique will improve - like magic you'll have the capability of making your musical ideas become real - you will hear what you want to hear.  That's incredibly exciting. 

Godowsky's comment about using repertoire is not relevant to those still building  a professional technique.  Having gained that technique, the daily use of it may be sufficient to sustain it, but that's not the question for most people reading this - getting there is, and it requires scales and arpeggios.  Nothing else is nearly as effective.

This is from experience, from years of different approaches.  Nothing works like scales.  Practice at least 72-144 repetitions of different keys, intervals, etc. every day. 

ps and when you're done, have a look at the Debussy Etudes, the 20th century's most beautiful undiscovered set of masterpieces for the piano ..

Good luck, work hard, and remember - nothing is exciting as attaining your goal - cd


 

Offline ted

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #27 on: May 07, 2009, 06:26:39 AM »
I enjoy using scales of all types in improvisation but very rarely play them straight up and down. For technique I have used my practice clavier for five minutes in the morning for years and I have found that good enough to maintain sufficient general dexterity for my purposes. So to answer the original question, scales for me are more musical patterns, chords with more notes I suppose, than physical exercises. In any case, I find rough scales lead to more interest and generation of ideas than smooth ones during improvisation. I can play smooth scales if required and did so a lot when young, but smoothness is no longer useful to my personal musical purpose and therefore neither is practising smooth scales.
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Offline rc

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #28 on: May 07, 2009, 11:28:12 AM »
I would like to agree.  There must be some transfer from general to specific.  But I think we've learned the transfer is less than total, and the implication is that if time is limited, the percentage applied to the general skills should be reduced.  Apparently it isn't the same skill in the different applications, or at least it's enough different that you have to practice both.

You can back off another step and become even more general.  Would better core strength built through weightlifting and gymnastics help you play the Goldberg?  Of course.  But only a tiny amount.  Would scales?  Sure.  Probably even a larger amount.  But maybe still tiny.

Jazz pianists seem to use a lot of scalar patterns, not always major diatonic but often various modes.  I would think scale practice would be more useful to them than, say to a church pianist who will always play at least two notes in the right hand and never use scalar fingering.   

Maybe not the best analogy, I'm doubtful that lifting weights and gymnastics would have any impact on piano playing (I know that weightlifting can make the arms stiff and unresponsive for a time). Goldbergs maybe not the best example either, there are a lot of scalar passages there.  Check out the 23rd variation, anyone who's practiced their scales has already done most of the work for that one ;D

Anyways, I can also see how the specific skills can over time become general skills.  That's part of the arguement of practicing only rep, to drill any unfamiliar skill until it's second nature.  In which case, the thorough musician will probably wind up practicing all the same skills whether it's abstracted through repertoire or exercises.

Then it seems to be an issue of a persons goals and position.  For some, time may not be such an issue.  For some, scalar passages will be more or less important.  Though I can't imagine not wanting to be able to play them.  In the end, for my part I've always liked Thalbergmad's arguement.

Another point - I think it would be negligent not to at least show a beginner how to play scales.

Offline db05

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #29 on: May 07, 2009, 12:40:27 PM »
ted presents an interesting point, that rough scales lead to more interest. I very rarely find a need for PERFECTLY smooth scales, except in Mozart perhaps?

General to specific... I think it would be best to tackle problems as you go along, while striving for the best each time. btw, it was actually suggested to me before by one of my teachers that I go to the gym. My problem was I lacked the stamina to practice for hours at a time, and it sometimes hurt a bit. So there was an OBVIOUS need for physical exercise. Same thing with scales, when I learned a sonatina with lots of scale runs I had to practice that particular scale again (but even then I don't play evenly  :P ). They are good habits to have though, regular physical and technical exercise, but time does not permit for some reason.

What I mean by striving for the best is... Consider hacks, they can play a lot of pieces, but not too well. There can also be technical hacks, like - hey, I can play such and such at this speed - but given another technical problem, may not do well, or even more tragic is that they don't necessarily play their pieces well. Better to focus and play a few pieces well, than hack everything and play terrible music, don't you think?
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #30 on: May 07, 2009, 01:25:38 PM »
Quote from: rc


Then it seems to be an issue of a persons goals and position.  For some, time may not be such an issue.  For some, scalar passages will be more or less important. 

Another point - I think it would be negligent not to at least show a beginner how to play scales.

I'm not opposed to scale practice.  I'm opposed to overvaluing it, and I have one rational and one irrational reason for it.

Given unlimited time I'd do a lot of scales.  But I don't have that, and try to use my time to get the most efficient payback.  Your point about goals is worthwhile too.

The rational reason:  general skills do not transfer to the specific as much as we used to think.  The use of scales in music is different enough from practice scales.  But there are some skills that they do isolate and teach well.  Keyboard geometry and tonicity are mandatory for the beginner, and scales can be a good way to start HT coordination.  IMO.  I also don't try to get all my technique from the repertoire, because the time problem applies to that as well.  At the end of the day though, I'd rather play Minuet in G smoothly than blaze through Gb Major in sixteenth notes at 160.  Will one help me do the other?  Well, yes, all time at the piano helps;  but specifically it doesn't help much. 

Couple of minor points:  after a couple of breakthroughs, scale progress comes slowly.  That means more and more time has to be devoted to continue to make progress - now efficiency is dropping.  Simultaneously the brain has absorved the concept.  Once the brain has learned it's no longer being challenged.  (part of the reason I play piano at my age is to keep my brain young) 

Now the irrational reason.  This is philosophical and I may not explain it well.  It's a personal foible and may have no reality at all.  However, I don't like magic.  Scales practice tends to become an unexamined consensus, magical approach.  If I work hard I'll get better.  If I put my time in on scales I'll play like Glen Gould.  Seat time at the bench, however unfocused, will be repaid.  And it has to be hard, and has to be boring, and we have to suffer, because that's how the greats did it, and that's how grandfather was raised.  If there's an easier or more efficient way to do anything, better run - because if we cheat, fate may ensure we don't get results.  Belief in magic. 

We all have different goals.  One of mine is to be able to sightread any SATB hymn from the Episcopal 1982 hymnal at tempo without stumbling.  (I'm a long, long way.)  Or learn all 730 of them, which amounts to the same thing.  Scales are probably not going to get me there.  So I do them, but not for hours at a time.  And I do all 12, rotating one a week, which is probably silly since in real life 4 or 5 are all I'll need.   
Tim

Offline rc

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #31 on: May 07, 2009, 02:22:29 PM »
Oh sorry for attributing 'no scales' to you!  My bad

Well it looks like we agree on most things, except the degree of carryover from general to specific - I still think there's quite a bit of carryover.  Basically the better one can control the various elements in an exercise, the better they can control it in a piece.

About the point of diminishing returns: that's where the tiny refinement is, where things can get very polished.  So I believe it's still worth pursuit, but in it's place - it would be pretty absurd for someone to master the fine points of scales to a high degree without ever learning any music!  But along the path, one can always polish the skill.

It's the perfectionism that can lead one to drill over and over, but it doesn't have to be painful monotony.  It can be absorbing work, experimenting with all imaginable factors.  Other than that, I agree that mindless practicing is belief in magic.

Offline Petter

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #32 on: June 01, 2009, 02:24:32 PM »
Jazz pianists seem to use a lot of scalar patterns, not always major diatonic but often various modes.  I would think scale practice would be more useful to them than, say to a church pianist who will always play at least two notes in the right hand and never use scalar fingering.   

Yez, it's important for jazz pianists to practice scales, but the approach it a bit different. In C major I think it helps to start on C ascending to D then descending to E ascending to F and so on, and also to start the scale on D, E, F and so on, using the same fingerings you would use if you start on C. Then you'd be playing 1D 2E 3F 1G 2A 3B 4C 1D just to cover as many possible ways to play the scale as possible. The same goes for the ascending melodic major scale, it should be practiced in the same manner, and not be changed when it descends. You don't need to bother with the harmonic major.
 Its awfully boring though, but a good way to systemize it.
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Offline jgallag

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #33 on: June 01, 2009, 07:21:43 PM »
I have a technical routine that I go through daily. Is it fun? No. Does it work? I believe so. Why do I do it? Because my piano teacher whom I trust wholeheartedly told me to do them.

The routine takes me about an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, but that is because I'm still at low tempos. I start with a stretching exercise from Adele Marcus (who was my teacher's teacher), then I do a Rachmaninov stretch for four keys. Then, I do exercise 2 of the Dohnanyi set, then 3 and 4 on one day, 5 and 6 on the next, and number 8 changing key daily. Then I do five of the first 31 exercises of Hanon, switching every day. Then I do my scales, three keys a day, octave apart, third apart, sixth apart, tenth apart, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, and arpeggios, major and minor, dominant seventh and diminished seventh. The question to me is not whether or not you do your exercises, it's how you do them. During the Dohnanyi and the Hanon, the large focus is relaxing the hand, making sure the knuckles don't collapse, and playing with the tip of the thumb instead of the side. Scales and arpeggios build upon those, adding guiding the hand with the elbow and making sure the elbow doesn't "flip" when the thumb passes. So I mostly concentrate during technical exercises on ensuring a correct coordination of the body for playing. I was a member of the no-exercise camp until my first year of college. I find, personally, that the technical improvements I've made have increased my sight-reading skills and make the motions feel more natural when I apply them to real repertoire. I also should note that I don't do any of these exercises without a metronome. The metronome helps me keep everything even, which means I can reach higher speeds without stumbling.

Finally, please note that this hour on technique is one out of the four I am expected to practice a day. My current rep includes Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor, Book II, Beethoven's Sonata No. 9 in E major, Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimales, and Robert Muczynski's Six Preludes Op. 6, so I spend plenty, plenty of time on music, and technical work is only a portion of my practice. Do I believe all of those exercises are necessary. For me, yes, for all, no. I do believe scales and arpeggios are necessary, though. You may not see the need, but all the work I do on coordination and fingerwork during scales and arpeggios pays off for me in actual pieces. It is not about the fingering, it's about how you use your fingers in general, as well as your arms and your whole body. I find in my sightreading as soon as I find a scale or arpeggio I can play it with ease, and they are all over the place.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #34 on: June 01, 2009, 10:21:16 PM »
I think the main value of scales and arpeggios is in gaining an understanding of a given key, and improving your kinaesthetic sense of each key.

That said, once you know them very well, you can also practice them in varying touches and rhythms - but that is a method often suggested as a way to keep them interesting, not as the prime motive in studying them.

Scales and arpeggios help you to physically understand each key; they should always be coupled with improvisation, never just played mechanically.  Clara Schumann's children wrote that the most magical memories they had from their childhoods, were of their mother practicing scales and arpeggios.  Isn't that unusual?  Because she let her imagination run free, didn't just run her fingers over the keyboard.

After playing a scale, improvise a melody in that key.  Improvise counterpoint in that key; improvise a harmonic progression in that key.  That is the true way to unlock the power of scales, not just running your fingers up and down.

If you want technical exercises to improve your physical approach, start every day looking at bars of a Chopin etude, technique condensed into its purest artistic form.  Scales are good for individual musical development - as long as you use them in that way.

(I say individual because of the element of improvisation).

Walter Ramsey



Offline ted

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #35 on: June 02, 2009, 10:39:06 AM »
There is one other way I use scales for technique, but for the mental technique of coordination, rhythm and independence of hands and fingers rather than that of pure finger dexterity. I set myself all sorts of peculiar puzzles, for example play a scale of one type and key in one hand, with another different combination in the other hand. It is always possible to increase the difficulty until I cannot do it on my first try. The residual hand independence generated from doing this off and on for years seems to have helped my improvisation a great deal, although I do not know why, and neither do I know anybody else who does it. Just a few minutes a day does the trick.

But just going up and down the same way every day - no, I couldn't possibly face the waste of consciousness.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline birba

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #36 on: June 02, 2009, 12:00:28 PM »
There is one other way I use scales for technique, but for the mental technique of coordination, rhythm and independence of hands and fingers rather than that of pure finger dexterity. I set myself all sorts of peculiar puzzles, for example play a scale of one type and key in one hand, with another different combination in the other hand. It is always possible to increase the difficulty until I cannot do it on my first try. The residual hand independence generated from doing this off and on for years seems to have helped my improvisation a great deal, although I do not know why, and neither do I know anybody else who does it. Just a few minutes a day does the trick.

VERY interesting.  Going to try that.  Like one hand e flat minor 3 octaves while f major two octaves.  Seriously, I think you've got something there.  Because scales are only valuable in proportion to the brains and concentration put into them.

Offline neardn

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #37 on: June 03, 2009, 01:32:41 AM »
Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?

never

i'm familiar with scales and such, having read many books on theory and harmony, etc. (I'm capable of "creating" scales, so to say, following basic musical rules)
but i have never "practiced" them. I don't see the point.

and i recently found out that Richter never practiced scales either (he says so himself), which was very encouraging. Although I've never thought they were too important anyway. I've always overcome the scale passages I find difficult while learning the piece.

Offline ted

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #38 on: June 03, 2009, 02:12:22 AM »
Birba:

Yes, it is just something I have always done for a few minutes every day or two. There are infinitely many ways of varying it - never the same twice in a row. For instance, I might play one scale with alternating fingering (1,3,2,4,3,5.....)(C,E,D,F,E,G...) right hand, against another in thirds in the left. If something is too easy I make it more difficult until I cannot do it on the first attempt. I might leave out one or more notes in one hand so the whole pattern cycles through many times before returning to the starting position, rather like bell changes. I might play different groups such as five against three. Just use the imagination.

Of course some of the sounds produced will be very unusual, but as I have a modern ear I find that all to the good. And doing it reasonably slowly seems more difficult and hence more beneficial than playing it rapidly. Also, playing with detached finger strokes is much more difficult than using connected notes or legato. Exactly why this is so is another mystery to me.

Again, what I do in this way has no connection with automated finger dexterity, which is a different thing, and which I develop in other ways, e.g. the practice clavier. The faculty it develops I find particularly helpful in realising simultaneous ideas during improvisation, presumably because it establishes the ability of executing completely new figurations on the fly, rather than just reproducing previously automated groups.

Of course, all this might not be relevant to anybody on the forum but me. Working in total musical isolation all one's life is possibly not a good prerequisite for dishing out advice !
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline thoven_liszt

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #39 on: April 04, 2010, 09:13:40 PM »
The Russian school emphasizes scales (and various other warm-up exercises) for about 20 minutes before practicing pieces. The purpose is to relax the muscles, not cause unnecessary strain, and listen carefully to tone quality.

-A lowly piano student

Offline rmbarbosa

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #40 on: April 04, 2010, 10:40:29 PM »
This is the eternal discussion in this forum about Hanon-Czerny/not Hanon-Czerny, I think... But the initial question wasHow often or how long do you practice scales. I have only 3 H/day to practice. So, I spent <> 1 h with scales, arps, thirds and octaves (one day scales and arps, the next day thirds and octaves), and 2 hours with repertoire. But, when playing scales and other exercises, I try to do this with some musical concern: tone, pp, ff, diferent rithms,etc... If I go to play Mozart, for example, I play scales more carefully; If I go to play Chopin, I play arps, thirds... I also play with diferent kinds of touch and finger positions.If Debussy, I play exercises with flat fingers; if Bach, with curled fingers, my exercises depend of what I want to play. And, with scales, I use also all scales and arps with the fingering of C Major. But I never forget Im a musician, not a technic.

Offline ponken

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #41 on: April 05, 2010, 01:54:28 AM »
I never practise scales.  Maybe I should but I don't know where to find scale exercises at advanced level.

Offline scottmcc

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #42 on: April 05, 2010, 03:01:56 AM »
I never practise scales.  Maybe I should but I don't know where to find scale exercises at advanced level.

brahms 51 exercises?  liszt technical exercises?

http://imslp.org/wiki/51_Exercises,_WoO_6_(Brahms,_Johannes)

http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/Technical-Exercises-Complete/3502970

both are pretty advanced!

Offline point of grace

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #43 on: April 22, 2010, 12:28:38 AM »
never... :-\
Learning:

Chopin Polonaise Op. 53
Brahms Op. 79 No. 2
Rachmaninoff Op. 16 No. 4 and 5

Offline pwla

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #44 on: April 22, 2010, 07:41:49 AM »
Sviatoslav Richter used to play scales for about 4 hours a day

Offline rachfan

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #45 on: April 22, 2010, 10:46:24 PM »
Hi,

I do practice scales about once a week.  My rationale for doing so is that scalar passages often occur in the piano literature, so if one knows the fingerings for the various scales, more often than not they can be directly applied to those scaler passages in pieces.  Usually I play ALL major and relative harmonic minor scales from memory in parallel, four octaves at about M = 100.  I either start with C major, then work downward to Am, and continue descending by intervals of a third--major, relative harmonic minor, major, relative harmonic minor--until I end at Em; or, on the alternate times, I'll begin with Em and workup upward to G, continually ascending by a third (relative harmonic minor, major, relative harmonic minor, major, etc.) until I reach C.  The reasons I don't bother with melodic minor scales are that 1) the harmonic mode is more different and contrasting from the major, 2) harmonic minor mode is more prevalent in actual Western world compositions, and 3) if I want to play a melodic minor, I can do so automatically.  The routine I describe probably takes about 10 minutes.  

Other than that, I hone my technique by solving problems directly in repertoire pieces.  Finger exercises are a total waste of time and effort, unless a particular exercise from Hanon or wherever is specifically targeted to assist with a real-world problem encountered in the repertoire.  For advanced pianists, those situations tend to be infrequent.
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline pianisten1989

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Re: How often (or how long) do you practice scales?
«Reply #46 on: April 23, 2010, 07:59:03 AM »
I do them twice a day. The first thing in the morning si ear-training, sight reading and scales and arpegios c-f (chromatic, major and minor). Then I do The rest of it in the evening before i go to bed.