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#1098237 - 08/05/04 06:31 AM Suggestions for practicing scales?
Bob331 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/11/04
Posts: 135
Loc: NY
I've started to work on practicing 2-octave scales with both hands simultaneously.

After working through a scale a few times to get the fingering down, I find myself looking more at the fingering than at the notes. So after a while I am playing the scale by rote rather than recognizing the individual notes that I am playing.

I saw a suggestion somewhere that you should say the name of each note as you play it. Of course, this is impossible when I am playing the scale in contrary motion.

Any suggestions?


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#1098238 - 08/05/04 09:08 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i have read advises on playing scales, which include:
- play scale HS rather than HT, because rarely such both hand scale runs will occur in most of piano repertoire
- play scale with various rhythm (slow, quick, quick, ..., etc.) to train your fingers playing notes evenly
- play scale with accent on various notes to gain your touch control over each note

there may be more, i don't remember all, but you probably could search through the forum to find out.

#1098239 - 08/05/04 10:14 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
I saw a suggestion somewhere that you should say the name of each note as you play it.
How about singing the name of each note? I think that would be better. Playing the piano is not primarily a left-brain endeavor, it is a right-brain endeavor. How about learning solfege? I think that would be the best. Solfege is when you sing do-re-mi...

A great way to practice is to sing one of the lines you would normally be playing; if you can sing this in solfege, it both sounds great and I imagine it must be quite beneficial. I must admit that I do not sing solfege (yes, I can sing do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do) but I cannot take a melody and sing it in these syllables. That will be a good New Years resolution for next year! I'll learn to sing in solfege.

After you've learned the notes and the fingering, try looking up, beyond the piano. Breathe and be aware of the sounds you are making. There is no reason to be looking at notes or fingerings or the keyboard at this point. You could also try doing the scales with your eyes closed to see how that is different. When you look up, away from the keyboard and page, you will probably become more kinesthetically aware. This is a great thing because you can start to get in touch with how you are sitting and how you feel, physically and emotionally. Kinesthetic sense is very important when practicing and playing.
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

#1098240 - 08/06/04 08:45 AM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
Cindysphinx Offline

Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
My teacher has me do scales according a certain rhythm, which will likely be impossible for me to describe here with words. ;\)

The idea is that runs tend to occur in certain familiar rhythms -- eighth notes, triplets, doted-eighth-followed-by-sixteenth, etc. To mimic these rhythms, you say a word in your head that corresponds with the rhythm. She calls it "The States," and it goes:

Ver-mont, Ver-mont, Ver-mont (2 octaves, dotted quarter note followed by eighth note)

Mon-ta-na, Mon-ta-na, Mon-ta-na (3 octaves, dotted eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes)

Flor-i-da, Flor-i-da, Flor-i-da (3 octaves triplets)

Flor-i-da Maine, Flor-i-da Maine, Flor-i-da Maine (2 octaves, triplet followed by quarter note)

Mon-ta-na Miss-is-sip-pi, Mon-ta-na Miss-is-sip-pi, Mon-tana Miss-is-sip-pi (4 octaves, dotted eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes)

With metronome. Yeah. I know. Kind of weird. But it really does help get a handle on multiple-octave scales with varied rhythms.

Cindy -- who isn't sure she got the order right
Vote For Cindy!!


#1098241 - 08/06/04 09:12 AM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
nan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/04
Posts: 140
Loc: San Francisco

Your suggestion about using the States to practice rhythym schemes is great. Questions -- the very last line you give is Mon-ta-na Miss-is-sip-pi as the same as just Mon-ta-na alone. Is it dotted eighth note followed by two sixteenh notes followed by dotted eighth note by three sixteenth notes? Thanks!

#1098242 - 08/06/04 09:19 AM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
Cindysphinx Offline

Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Aw, crap.

I knew I would screw this up.

Let me go look at my lesson sheets from way back and see if I can sort it out. I might have to even go down to the piano.

Cindy -- who does them in the wrong order all the time but figuring that doesn't matter
Vote For Cindy!!


#1098243 - 08/06/04 02:09 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
Cindysphinx Offline

Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Ah, OK. Here's my lesson sheet from June 18, 2001 where I am first asked to do this "States" exercise.

And the lesson sheet is not much help at all, unfortunately.

It says I am to start with "Kansas," but it doesn't say whether that's eighth notes or what. I guess that's just eighth notes.

Then it's "Montana," which is probably an eighth followed by two sixteenths, maybe.

Then it's "Vermont," which feels like it would be . . . er, a dotted eighth note followed by sixteenth.

Then it's "Florida." That's definitely triplets.

Then it's "Montana, Mississippi," which must be eighth followed by two sixteenths, then four sixteenth notes.

Then there's something for sixteenth notes for four octaves, but I'm missing a lesson sheet so I don't know what it is. And I just know "Florida Maine" makes an appearance somewhere in there, too.

My teacher is away for all of August. I'll try to clear this up when I go back. I know, it sounds really convoluted, but it really helped me to have a simple and organized method for playing scales.

Get this, though. I found my very first lesson sheet -- Oct. 22, 1999. I was asked to do Hanon 1, a C Major scale one octave (with the fingering written out so I would get it) and a thumb exercise consisting of just playing the thumbs because I must have been doing it wrong or something. Man, I've come a long way!

Cindy -- who found the lesson sheet with that one gold star she earned, way back on April 3, 2001,
Vote For Cindy!!


#1098244 - 08/06/04 02:15 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
nan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/04
Posts: 140
Loc: San Francisco
Cindy, Thanks for going to the trouble of clearing it up because this will be a big help for me -- I have written this down. Rhythm is hard for me and this States strategy is great!

#1098245 - 08/06/04 03:33 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
MusicMagellan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 1161
Loc: NY
I agree that using phrases such as Cindy described are great for learning rhythms. If anyone has any more of these to contribute, I know I'd very much welcome them.

By the way, another important reason for playing scales HS, as given by Gieseking and Leimer in their book "Piano Technique" (inexpensive Dover book), is that it allows you to hear the desired eveness (of loudness and time spacing) of the respective scale notes -- that is, a "pearly scale".

Try an experiment for yourself those of you that have Hanon's exercises. I'm sure you do a real good job on the very first exercise in book I, right? I know it's not a "real" scale, but it serves to prove a point here.

OK, play it as fast as you can hands together (HT) while maintaning a smooth even playing of the up and down "scales." Sounds good? Fine.

Now lift the RH off and listen to the LH alone. Do you hear a little glitch between the fourth and fifth fingers in The LH? No? Great!

Yes? Then practice it, as well as other Hanon exercises (in Book I) with similar problems, mainly HS -- or just the LH alone where most problems lie (for RH people anyway). That's if one should practice Hanon at all. But that's a separate issue.
(watch this space)

#1098246 - 08/18/04 01:30 PM Re: Suggestions for practicing scales?
mound Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/04
Posts: 782
Loc: Rochester, NY
I'm not sure about all the state names and verbal phrases to hear rhythms, I'm sure it's working for you all, it's not something I've ever thought to do, or something my teacher has ever mentioned.. Having played bass for the past 10 years and some latin percussion though, it probably just hasn't been an issue, my time is pretty on.

That said, a pretty simple scale exercise is to pick a metranome setting and hands together starting at the low end of the keys, play the major scale, whole notes up and down one octave. Immediately (on the beat on the last note back down) turn back around, and go up and down two octaves, playing half notes, then up and down three octaves playing triplets, and then up and down four octaves playing sixteenth notes. Repeat for minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor. I'll pick a key and do 15-20 minutes of that every day for a couple weeks, and then move up to the next key in the circle of fifths and do the same thing. I'll also arpeggiate the major and minors up and down four octaves, HT and HS. It's also cool to practice playing tenths. Same fingering and notes, but you start with your left hand on the root, and your right hand on the tenth (or vice-versa) and play the same scale.. Definitely one to keep you thinking \:\)

"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."
-- Ernie Stires, composer


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