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#1240692 - 07/31/09 12:07 AM I hate scales!
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I'm wondering if some of you teachers can help me over this hurdle?

I am just not seeing any benefit to practicing scales. Because I hate them, I find myself not practicing them everyday, trying to cram one weeks worth or practice into the morning of my lesson. Of course, as expected, its a disaster during the lesson. I think if I understood the "why," it would help with the motivation and practice. My teacher's explanation of the benefits have left unconvinced and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I know everybody (or at least, most people) practices them, but I just dislike doing them. Yes, I know like I sound like seven year old boy, complaining about eating his vegetables.

Any insights you may have to offer is appreciated.

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#1240704 - 07/31/09 12:39 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5483
Loc: Orange County, CA
If you don't practice scales, then your scale passages will sound horrible. Many sonatas have scale passages. Chopin, too, has fast scale passages. So if you don't practice your scales, your fingering will be messed up, and you'll hit wrong notes, and your pieces will sound absolutely terrible.

Convinced???
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#1240710 - 07/31/09 12:56 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: AZNpiano]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1081
Loc: California
It's a lot more fun to practice blues scales and pentatonic scales over chords, than 2 handed scales.

Also, once I got a digital piano, scales got to be a whole lot more fun, because you can use different voices, and put in an accompaniment or drum beat...

You have to make it fun. Even if your piano teacher isn't interested in hearing blues scales, why don't you try putting some different chords in the left hand, and changing up the rhythm of the right hand...like classical improvisation.

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#1240713 - 07/31/09 01:11 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Akira
I'm wondering if some of you teachers can help me over this hurdle?

I am just not seeing any benefit to practicing scales. Because I hate them, I find myself not practicing them everyday, trying to cram one weeks worth or practice into the morning of my lesson. Of course, as expected, its a disaster during the lesson. I think if I understood the "why," it would help with the motivation and practice. My teacher's explanation of the benefits have left unconvinced and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I know everybody (or at least, most people) practices them, but I just dislike doing them. Yes, I know like I sound like seven year old boy, complaining about eating his vegetables.

Any insights you may have to offer is appreciated.

Well, cramming pays off, unfortunately, in other areas. Students are rewarded for cramming for tests, for instance.

But it does not work for playing a musical instrument. You are probably actually damaging yourself by cramming scale practice. This guarantees that you will learn scales wrong. Why would you do that?

Scales are in everything. You have to master them, in some way, to play well. As I teacher I stress scales more in pieces than as separate practice, and many teachers will immediately disagree with that, but if you do not master the basic principles behind scales, a great deal of music, perhaps most of it, will be forever out of bounds for you.

What level are you on? What pieces are you playing now?
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#1240811 - 07/31/09 08:38 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Scales are a way to practice coordination, tone, articulation, and gain a familiarity with keyboard topography and the feel of different keys, which will be of great use in sight-reading and learning new repertoire.
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1240822 - 07/31/09 09:06 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
beccaY Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/09
Posts: 23
Here is a link to a great scale game. It may seem childish but my older kids love it! You never know what scale you will have to play until you roll the dice. Check it out and see what you think.
http://www.practicespot.com/article.phtml?id=26&t=36

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#1240823 - 07/31/09 09:08 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Scales are a way to practice coordination, tone, articulation, and gain a familiarity with keyboard topography and the feel of different keys, which will be of great use in sight-reading and learning new repertoire.


If you approach it from this viewpoint, scales make sense. The OP appears to want things to make sense and be relevant, so perhaps this helps. From a practical standpoint, just use scales as a warmup. If they are the first thing you play, you never skip them. I would suggest a kitchen timer. I wouldn't set it for very long - maybe five minutes. You might want to use a metronome. That adds one more skill to what Mr. Kreisler mentioned - playing with a metronome. And it has the advantage of being easily able to measure and track progress. If you can play sixteenths at 60 BPM one year, and at 120 next year, you know you are making progress at that isolated skill.

The extent to which practicing isolated skills transfers to performing them in context is a philosophical problem that is not solved and hotly debated. On almost any other instrument, practicing scales leads directly and immediately to facility. But on these other instruments, most of the music is scalewise and monophonic, and in any given key the same fingering will be used. Piano is very different and the transfer is not direct at all.

Bottom line though, every teacher makes you do scales so whether they make sense or not, might as well learn them. They do show up on auditions and those points are free for the taking.
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#1240859 - 07/31/09 10:29 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
When it became obvious to my teacher that I am not really practicing scales or doing so very reluctantly, I suddenly started getting etude assignments that are ripe with tricky rythms, keys and.. scales.. mixing up sixteenth, 32nds and eighths fairly haphazardly (to me). The trouble is I am supposed to make these etudes sound pretty musical, which is no small feat. Makes me miss plain old scales..But as Tim said, just about all piano teachers will want them done, one way or another..So just do it..

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#1240916 - 07/31/09 12:06 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Andromaque]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I hear you. I don't like practicing scales, either. But, as I tell my students, it's not always about motivation. It's almost always about self-discipline.
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#1240920 - 07/31/09 12:18 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Minniemay]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
And sometimes it's just about being a slave to tradition.
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#1240922 - 07/31/09 12:22 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Minniemay]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
I'm willing to bet that what you hate about scales is mindless repetition right?

So........

The key is to have some kind of focus whenever you practise scales. What exactly are you working on or what skills/knowledge are you trying to improve and develop?

Is it theoretical understanding and knowledge of keys? You could practise in the order of circle of fifths and/or majors and relative minors.

For co-ordination there are numerous things you can do. Slow practice with the metronome, contrary as well as similar motion, scales in 3rds/6ths, experimentation with various rhythms, accents and articulations.

For fluency you might do some separate hand work and try to increase your tempo. Listen carefully for even tone and flow.

Try variation in dynamics to make your scales sound more musical.

Perhaps link your scale practice with pieces you are learning in the same keys.

I don't know if any of this helps. I seem to have no luck getting the benefits of scales through to my own sudents. They just do them because I say so and start rolling their eyes when I go into why they need to do them. At the end of the day they do work and all my students who are good at their scales play better in general.
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#1240936 - 07/31/09 12:40 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Chris H.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
I'm willing to bet that what you hate about scales is mindless repetition right?



No. All of us will do mindless repetition if we see a point to it.

The explanations for what that point is, in reference to scales, are somewhat lacking. Why is this? Can't anyone really answer it, beyond "trust me, it works?"

Clearly the student needs to absorb the concept of tonicity and key center, and scales help. As does solfege. Once WWHWWWH and key signatures are covered, and that's about once through Sound of Music! how much more do scales help?

Two of the biggest beginner hurdles are keyboard geometry and fingering. Scales do help with keyboard geometry at least at first. Scales don't help a beginner with fingering at all, they serve to confuse an already confusing subject further.

We've had the Hanon battles here many times, right? The one side praises them for developing technique in isolation that can later be applied to music, the other side decries them as a waste of time because technique is better learned in context. Both sides clearly produce students who play very well.

The anti-Hanon crowd tends to be pro-scales, despite the fact that every argument against Hanon applies equally well to scales. But sometimes I get the feeling their heart isn't really into the scale defense. Hee, hee.
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#1240954 - 07/31/09 01:14 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
1) Warmup.

2) Everything Kreisler said. The different keys on a piano are like different landscapes. If you know your way around a landscape, you barely even need to watch where you're going. Turn off the light in a familiar room and you can get around without thinking about it. Turn off the light in an unfamiliar room, and you're denting shins. You don't want to grope for the next key, you want to know where it is without thinking so your brain can be freed up to think about things like interpretation and beauty.

It's like learning a language. You don't want to grope for a verb ending while you're trying to propose to someone. You want that knowledge to be so graven into your head that it becomes invisible, so you can think about the message.


Edited by J Cortese (07/31/09 01:15 PM)
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#1240956 - 07/31/09 01:14 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
Tim, I think you missed my point entirely.

Mindless repetition is what most students do when practising their scales. But that's not good. You should have focus and you should understand the point in scales in order to get the best from them.

I don't think it's fair to say that the explanations are lacking. Plenty have been given in this thread so far.
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#1240964 - 07/31/09 01:28 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Chris H.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
Tim, I think you missed my point entirely.

Mindless repetition is what most students do when practising their scales. But that's not good. You should have focus and you should understand the point in scales in order to get the best from them.

I don't think it's fair to say that the explanations are lacking. Plenty have been given in this thread so far.


I didn't really miss your point, I expanded it without explaining well.

You listed a number of benefits you could obtain if you practiced scales in a different manner, and that would have the side effect of making them less mindless and boring. (and I agree with both points)

All those benefits have to be added to scales - they don't exist as an inherent part of scale practice. So to me they aren't a good argument for doing much scale practice.

Practicing scales helps you get good at scales, there is no doubt. How much that helps you play other music is the question, I think. Most Western repertoire is based on the major scale. Almost none of what beginners will play will contain more than a scale fragment, and that fragment will almost never be fingered with standard scale fingering. So the benefit, once you have do-re-mi in your brain, has to be as a practice method for isolating individual techniques such as hands together coordination, articulation, volume control, touch control, rhythmic accuracy, etc. Certainly all those can be done very well through scale practice. And Hanon. And repertoire.

As you pointed out well, those isolated benefits won't happen automatically simply by playing scales. (It's not even a given that isolated benefits will transfer to performance in context. But that's a separate argument.) Yet beginners are told constantly to play their scales because it's good for them.

Where do you think the diminishing returns principle applies to scales? One hour per day, one minute per day? I'm on record at guessing five minutes. Could be wrong though.
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gotta go practice

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#1240969 - 07/31/09 01:31 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: J Cortese


2) Everything Kreisler said. The different keys on a piano are like different landscapes. If you know your way around a landscape, you barely even need to watch where you're going. Turn off the light in a familiar room and you can get around without thinking about it. Turn off the light in an unfamiliar room, and you're denting shins. You don't want to grope for the next key, you want to know where it is without thinking so your brain can be freed up to think about things like interpretation and beauty.


Yes. That's one of the benefits of scales that is most convincing to me. That's what I refer to as keyboard geometry.

Do you think playing scales will automatically grant this?
Do you think playing scales is the best method? And how many minutes a day would you devote to this?
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gotta go practice

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#1240979 - 07/31/09 01:45 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Wow, quite a discussion. I had a feeling everybody could relate to scales.

I'll take some time to answer a few questions posted to me in this thread to provide a better background and framework for the context of my question.

I've been studying for about a year and a half, currently finishing up the Level 5 Hal Leonard method book (last of the series). I've done Hanon for about a year (ex. 1-20), along with FingerPower exercises (currently on Level 5). For each level of the method books I've done, I also played supplemental material commensurate with that level (about 2 or 3 books per level). Some Pop. Some Jazz. Some Classical.

I want to be a "decent" (whatever that means) non professional player, but have no aspirations of performing. I have yet to memorize anything, but rather focus on further developing my sight reading skills (which I still am not very good at). I play for my own enjoyment.

Q: If you don't practice scales, then your scale passages will sound horrible. Many sonatas have scale passages. Chopin, too, has fast scale passages. So if you don't practice your scales, your fingering will be messed up, and you'll hit wrong notes, and your pieces will sound absolutely terrible. Convinced???
A: I think my "mental block" is that there is a disconnect between scales and the music I am currently playing. I have no desire to play classical music and favor pop music instead. Looking through my current material, I'll see mini-scales (five note) sprinkled sparingly throughout the book. I realize this is just a first baby step, but it seems like I could hit five notes up and down by practicing the music, rather than scales. I'm wondering how many teachers do not teach scales and can produce students who play equally as well as those who do.

Q: You are probably actually damaging yourself by cramming scale practice. This guarantees that you will learn scales wrong. Why would you do that?
A: Yes, I came to the quick realization that cramming does not work. My teacher is pretty good about "not" letting me move on until he is satisfied I've "passed" the lesson (i.e. the particular (scale) key we're working on that week). In trying to convince myself (with this thread) that I must do it everyday and be justified (in my own mind) that I'm not taking a leap of faith (just because teachers say "you must do it").

Q: Scales are a way to practice coordination, tone, articulation, and gain a familiarity with keyboard topography and the feel of different keys, which will be of great use in sight-reading and learning new repertoire.
A: This seems plausible and essentially what my teacher has said. Can these skills (above) be developed without the use of scales or do scales just make the process easier? "Scales are a way.." Are they the only way?

Q: Bottom line though, every teacher makes you do scales so whether they make sense or not, might as well learn them. And sometimes it's just about being a slave to tradition.
A: That's the leap of faith I'm hesitant to take. I need to understand the "why." Its a big investment of my time.

Q: I'm willing to bet that what you hate about scales is mindless repetition right?
A: Actually, I don't mind the repetition (mindless or otherwise). Many refer to Hanon as mindless. However, I could see the logic of the exercises. They were all different in their own way and I could feel myself gaining better control of my fingers. Even though it was not my favorite thing to do, I did it because I could see the "why." Scales seem much more like the same exercise (in a different key) over and over again.

Q: What exactly are you working on or what skills/knowledge are you trying to improve and develop?
A: I'd like to improve my technique, sight reading abilities, better my keyboard geography skills, minimize the time required to learn a piece. As I mentioned before, I have no desire to tackle complicated classical music that will take months or years to master. I imagine, when I become proficient, the hardest thing I'll play is more advanced Pop music. Of course, the goal I have today may change over time.

Q: No. All of us will do mindless repetition if we see a point to it.
A: That's exactly my point.

Thanks for your feedback. Its provided me for some food for thought. Other opinions are appreciated and encouraged.



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#1240984 - 07/31/09 01:47 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: TimR
Do you think playing scales will automatically grant this? Do you think playing scales is the best method? And how many minutes a day would you devote to this?


Beats me. It'll help, I'm sure. Helped me. There's probably other things to be done, but this one thing will definitely bring improvement.

I'm becoming more and more surprised at how automatically my brain seems to recall the "shape" of various keys even after having been away from it for so long. I've been having fun downloading sheet music lately and am stunned at how automatically my hands seem to want to make an AM "shape" or anticipate the landscape of that scale when I see those three little sharps staring back at me, as an example. And my lessons always started with arpeggios and scales as warmup.
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#1240986 - 07/31/09 01:53 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: Akira
"Scales are a way.." Are they the only way?


For want of a better way of putting it ... who cares? grin They'll get you to where you're going. There may be some other minimally more effective way to do it, but so what? As long as you end up where you intend to go, there's no reason for angsting over not finding THE perfect way to get there.

I'm sure the piano won't turn into a pumpkin if you take three months to see improvement versus two months and twenty-one days. Don't get analysis-paralysis. Just move forward in a direction that you know will result in improvement and don't worry about it.

If you were trying to improve within a certain time-frame or pass an admission test or an audition or something, then you start worrying about optimization. For now, don't sweat it so much. As long as scales will get you where you want to be, then strap in and hit the gas. grin
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#1241026 - 07/31/09 02:49 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
I've been trying to teach myself and added scales in April because that's just something that I assumed needed to be done even though it would be "boring". I wasn't sure what the benefit was going to be for sure but figured there must be one if everyone is made to do it and I felt like I wasn't progressing very well. I was playing a few lines each of a few songs I liked but I didn't really feel like I was getting anywhere.

I started my way around the circle of fifths, one scale per month and memorizing the I, IV and V chords for each because that's what one of the books or websites I was on suggested and I didn't know any better way to start so I just started doing it. Aside from the improved coordination I'm beginning to recognize key signatures and remember what the sharps are in a piece without having to circle all of them to remind me. I'm remembering my major chords without having to think about how to build one every time I need a chord.

I actually don't mind them much. The fact that there's nobody telling me to do it probably makes a big difference in me enjoying it a bit instead of hating it. Of course a year from now when I'm practicing more than the 5 I've worked on so far, it might start getting old...
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#1241034 - 07/31/09 02:58 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
EDWARDIAN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
Thank you once again J Cortese for your very cool eloquence. Couldn't have said it better myself than your first post on this topic.

Added to that, I feel in my teaching I must include scales because they are great exercises that lay out the actual meat-and-potatoes of music. You learn all the major and minor keys. They get in your head and your fingers.
And their relation to one another is interesting. They are another way to familiarize yourself with your instrument and music, and I feel are quite essential.

Unfortunately they can be boring in presentation. I'm in the process of writing a series of books on scales - mainly for kids to make them more fun, and more approachable.

Try running through your scales in different ways - all the white key scales, then the flats scales another time. Try practicing them chromatically - C, Db, D, E, etc. Go Major/Minor. Shuffle up the practice routine, and use them as a warm-up. Have fun. You may even learn to love them as much as I do.

Joan
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Private piano teacher, 20+ years
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#1241035 - 07/31/09 02:59 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
You won't automatically get any benefit from playing scales. It depends on how you play them. Let's say you play your scales over and over with a sloppy technique and no thought as to how they sound. Your playing is hardly likely to improve. If on the other hand you are focused on developing something then the repetitions will do you good. They are exercises. It's like doing push-ups, you wouldn't just do one would you? Of course you need to do the same thing over and over, just make sure you are doing it correctly.

I would agree that they are less useful for a complete beginner. That's why I teach tetrachords, a pattern that many teachers don't bother with. They work because they can be found in even the most basic pieces and provide a good starting point for developing scales later on.

How much should you practise them? Well, how long can you keep focused? It will differ from one person to the next. If you feel like you are just repeating for the sake of it then you should stop.

Anyway, I am bowing out of this thread. Arguing about the benefits of scales feels too much like work and I have broken up for the summer. So if you want to practise scales then go for it, if not don't.
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#1241071 - 07/31/09 03:46 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: TimR
No. All of us will do mindless repetition if we see a point to it.


I think repetition becomes mindless when we lose sight of the point.

I've always had a problem with the phrase "practicing scales." I've never practiced scales. But I have practiced hand shape, tonal control, careful listening, navigating keyboard topography, rhythmic intensity, and tempo control while playing scales.

When you practice scales in order to make your scales better, then it's pretty much pointless, because good scales aren't really all that interesting.

But when you use scales to practice all those other things, then it's extremely valuable and very efficient, because the things you can learn while working on scales can make everything you do at the piano better.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1241087 - 07/31/09 04:08 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: TimR

Bottom line though, every teacher makes you do scales so whether they make sense or not, might as well learn them. They do show up on auditions and those points are free for the taking.

I don't *make* anyone play scales. When I suggest that they be practiced, learned, I doubt that anyone who does this would say that doing it doesn't make sense. smile
Originally Posted By: TimR
And sometimes it's just about being a slave to tradition.

Which to me is the WRONG reason for doing anything!
Originally Posted By: TimR

All of us will do mindless repetition if we see a point to it.

If there is a point to it, it's not mindless.


Edited by Gary D. (07/31/09 04:16 PM)
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#1241121 - 07/31/09 04:59 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
My teacher, who had to pass "technique juries" as an undergrad, so has the "chops", used to be one of those teachers who said, "Oh I think you can learn technique from repertoire, so don't worry too much about it."

I kept saying "I didn't really learn scales and arps before and I feel like it's a gap in my skills I'd like to fill." So finally we started seriously working on the harmonic minor scales. As a few lessons went by she said, "Wow I can really see the improvement in your playing". (edited to add: she did not mean, "Wow you are really playing scales better" she meant, "Wow your playing of everything has improved.")

Then we moved onto broken octaves and arps and she said, "Wow. I'm inspired to go practice technical exercises myself. The improvement is really noticeable. I really believe adult students can do as well as kids if they work at it."

*I* personally don't notice the difference in my playing because I guess it happens so gradually day-to-day. But I don't think there's much question that if you want to get your technical chops as good as possible, technique practice will get you there in the shortest amount of time with the biggest improvements.


Edited by ProdigalPianist (07/31/09 05:00 PM)
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#1241221 - 07/31/09 08:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
Karisofia Offline
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Registered: 02/13/08
Posts: 201
Loc: Wisconsin
I have to echo the spirit of ProdigalPianist's post. I do not have the background of that teacher, but I did do a number of technical studies. Frustrated with not being able to get my students to learn their technique, I sometimes let it slip. Then I realized that they were struggling with elements I found completely natural because of those studies.

I have recently taken up more serious scale and chord work for myself in the hope of getting a diploma (through RCM). After a while, I noticed my hard pieces weren't so hard any more. This has continued as I continue my work on scales. I am delighted by the way pieces fall under my fingers.

Originally Posted By: Akira
In trying to convince myself (with this thread) that I must do it everyday and be justified (in my own mind) that I'm not taking a leap of faith (just because teachers say "you must do it").


It is not a "leap of faith" to trust your teacher. I agree that it is not good to do something just because it has always been done that way. It is equally bad, however, to ask someone to teach you and to not trust their judgment at least a little bit. It is hard to explain to a young child why certain school lessons are important. The parent or teacher who has used the skill many times knows that the child really needs it. Your teacher should give some explanation, but you should give it an honest try, too.

Originally Posted By: Akira
Scales seem much more like the same exercise (in a different key) over and over again....

I'd like to improve my technique, sight reading abilities, better my keyboard geography skills, minimize the time required to learn a piece.


You got it! Scales are not about pushing your fingers down in different patterns like Hanon but rather about learning the keyboard patterns used in Western music. The point is to (a) learn the notes that belong in the key and (b) learn to navigate the key efficiently. Sometimes I watch my students try to read a piece and wonder at the difficult time they have remembering which notes are sharp or flat. When the scale is mastered, this becomes second nature. The scale is an element of keyboard geography. You are reducing the key to its simplest and most straight-forward form while learning it. Then when you approach the piece, you can focus on other elements.

Along the same line, you should learn the primary chords and basic chord progressions in all keys. This has the same advantage of reducing your learning time of a piece. You already know the chords. You just have to put them in the right order.

Can I explain every detail of this process? No. But I know it works. It has worked for me. It works for my students. ("Hey! This is just like ______ in my technique!")

I really hope you decide to give scales a real chance to do the same for you.
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#1250104 - 08/15/09 11:48 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
TonyY Offline
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Registered: 08/15/09
Posts: 28
Loc: Toronto, ON, Canada
Practicing your technique is vital! Many pieces contain scale passages, sonatas, nocturnes, fantasias, and most of them require great dexterity and speed. If you don't practice your technique regularly, it is quite likely that you will stumble on scale passages/arpeggio passages in pieces. In RCM grades, there is a technical portion, which is directly related to songs in the repertoire. So its really important to practice your scales/chords/arpeggios.
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#1250153 - 08/16/09 04:35 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
Arabesque Offline
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I'm not going to lecture. How can you hate them? I love them. They are my preferred warm-up. After playing them I feel so fulfilled. I am always scaling between pieces. I didn't always love them. There was a time when they bored the pants off me. But then I learnt to focus carefully on playing them, on my wrists, on the fingering and work with a metronome. I practiced every day and then built up skills. My teacher taught me to really concentrate on the tone and rythym. After one year, the confidence from playing all the scales accurately in both hands and at a decent speed really helped my general playing and technique in so many ways. Of course some students are put off because teachers make scathing remarks on the basis of a misplayed scale and the student is musically frustrated. This is a wrong way of looking at it. It is not always a case of being on test. Practice them alone regularly in your own good time along with your repertoire. Make sure you keep a steady beat and don't go off it. As soon as you've done the scales work on appreggios based on the scales but strictly measured and with alternating dynamics.
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#1250250 - 08/16/09 11:09 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Arabesque]
Susan K. Offline
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Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 192
Loc: Central California
I love this thread. I'm going to bookmark it. I hated scales as a kid because the Circle of Fifths just did NOT make any sense to me. I was worried when I started on scales again and when I balked, my current teacher told me to just do them and they'll start to fall into place. I still struggle with them, but I like the result in my playing. My goal is to be able to play through them all majors + relative minors (harmonic & medlodic) + arpeggios + final cadences. I'm just finishing Eb major. When I finish, I suspect that I will make a huge leap in advancement -- like Prodigal, I think the scales were a huge gap (I just learned 2 octaves of the major sharps) that always left me feeling muddled.

Note on playing pop music: There are often abrupt key signature shifts (Barry Manilow comes to mind) and if the scales have become intuitively ingrained -- it makes sight reading fun stuff a LOT easier.

Susan


Edited by Susan K. (08/16/09 11:10 AM)

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#1250368 - 08/16/09 04:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Susan K.]
Gyro Offline
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Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
There are players who just love scales,
and whose practice session is
essentially scales and nothing else.
(Scales are easy compared to
repertoire.)

Most people, however, don't like scales.
It would be unwise for such folks
to force themselves to practice
scales extensively, because that
could turn piano into unpleasant
drudgery. And when some activity becomes
associated with unpleasantness,
that's going to eventually lead to
the person quitting the activity.

However, I have good news for
people who hate scales. I see
scales as mainly a physical drill
in finger-crossing, which is a
basic skill needed in playing.
And since the finger-crossing motion
is similar in all scales, the
argument can be made that a person could
get by with just one scale. And
since C maj. is the most difficult scale
of all (the most difficult thing
to play on a piano is a fast,
irregular passage on all white keys,
since there are no black keys to give
tactile and visual reference points
for your fingers), you might
play just it. (If you need to
practice some other scale
for some reason, you can play it
with C maj. fingering, and that will
get you through it adequately.)

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#1250403 - 08/16/09 05:58 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gyro]
Barb860 Offline
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Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
How do you know that "most people don't like scales"?
Where did you get that information?
I love 'em and a practice session for me without scales is not complete. Many pianists I know share this love of scales and need to play them.
C major scale fingering is not traditionally correct for all other scales. Example: any beginning on a black key.
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#1250417 - 08/16/09 06:41 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Barb860]
EDWARDIAN Offline
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Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
Thank you, Barb!

Part of the reason to practice scales is to get the right fingering, because the correct fingering makes them easier to play. Playing scales helps develop good fingering. And good fingering, comfortable fingering promotes better playing!

Playing scales helps a student recognize key signatures more easily and know which notes are sharp or flat. As J Cortese says, knowing the landscape, the geography.

But many others have stated the benefits above more eloquently, and I don't want to be redundant.

Eat your spinach! Practice your scales! It's good for you. shocked
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#1250421 - 08/16/09 06:45 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Barb860]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Barb860

C major scale fingering is not traditionally correct for all other scales. Example: any beginning on a black key.


Depends how you think about it.

If you just repeat 1231234 indefinitely, then all scales can be fingered the same. The only difference is which finger you start on (and you choose that to make sure the correct finger hits the black keys). So then yes, all major scales use C major fingering. Though you may never see that fingering in repertoire.

Quote:
When you practice scales in order to make your scales better, then it's pretty much pointless, because good scales aren't really all that interesting.

But when you use scales to practice all those other things, then it's extremely valuable and very efficient, because the things you can learn while working on scales can make everything you do at the piano better.


I like this comment from Kreisler. I think it dispels some of the myths about what scales do. And it points out that scales aren't likely to help much, unless you practice them with the correct intent. We tend to treat scales as magic: play them enough, and you'll learn transferable skills, regardless of how you do them. Probably not true for most people.
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#1250520 - 08/16/09 11:12 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gyro]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I would like to give a little help to anyone perplexed about starting scales on a black notes. There are "rules" about fingering black notes - and no one seems to have mentioned it - so perhaps it's not as well known as I think it should be.

If a piano teacher doesn't know such things, who would?

|_||_| 2 black keys
Place Right Hand Fingers 2 and 3
Place Left Hand Fingers 3 and 4

|_||_||_| 3 black keys
Place Right Hand Fingers 2-3-4
Place Left Hand Fingers 4-3-2

Whenever starting on one of these black keys, use the above assigned fingers and carry through with the 123,1234 fingering that Tim was recommending depending where in the sequence your scale began. Check this out by doing it one hand at a time to verify your understanding of what is being said here by 1)me, and 2) by Tim.

Remember that with the white key starts, the fingering of the scales are the same: C, G, D, A, E
Right Hand: 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5
Left Hand : 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

The fingering exceptions start with:
the Major Scale of B - where the LH finger on B is 4
the Major Scale of F - where the RH finger on Bb is 4.

I hope you have fun discovering this and making it your own. If you are serious about wanting to improve and be comprehensive with your scale work, this information should be exactly what you need to make sense of it.

The other way I would teach Major Scales would be to teach you by tetrachord formation. This formula confirms all there is to know about how to create a Major Scale.

Another comment I would make is a personal opinion that if you have not completed your 5 Finger Positions first, and then your Major Scales second, and been accurate in each of those scales, then you should NOT be working on any other scales, such as relative/harmonic/melodic minors yet. If you can't find the letter names nor the fingering of the major scales you should definitely stick with those first before moving on. There are 12 Major Scales because there are 7 white notes and 5 black notes in every octave, he distance a Major Scale travels. The 8th degree, the octave is a repeat of the first degree of each scale.

Do you know about scale degress? They are another worthwhile part of music theory that helps you to greatly understand the construction of a major scale as are the tetrachords.

I am always ready to be helpful. But one of the parts of instruction given by a professional experienced piano teacher is that you would be expected to follow thru with the instruction as given. This, in my opinion, is one of the most misunderstood parts of piano lessons.

There is much structure and foundation to everything we do in music and the road to incredible knowledge about the music staff, the keyboard, sound reproduction, technique, and sensational abilities at the keyboard is because the student accepted and followed the challenge with a piano teachers guidance to become fully versative with music theory.

Forgive me my opinion if it seems in excess of yours. I stand by mine because I have lived them, learned from them, and met the challenges that were before me. I hope that each of you who consider yourselves to be a serious learner can get to this point of discovery as it's one of the best adventures in music study to be one of the "in" crowd.

I hope you take my posting with the enthusiasm that it is being given. Don't waste your time moping and being stuck, there is a "fix" for it. It is following the process of learning in a structured and disciplined way. I think the eagle eyes of a teacher have helped many a developing pianist from going astray. But let's remember, too, that all piano teachers are not created equally - so find yourself a very good one, the best your budget can afford. I suggest that students should ditch the quasi-teachers as soon as they recognize they have one.


Edited by Betty Patnude (08/16/09 11:18 PM)

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#1250620 - 08/17/09 06:40 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Nice clear explanation of scale fingering! It should probably be at the beginning of each scale book the teacher hands out.

Instead, the books have the fingerings written in, with no explanation of why. To me that makes it hard to remember how to finger them, whereas if you understand why you can always figure it out.

At the risk of adding confusion: if you follow Betty's directions, there are a couple of scales that can be fingered more than one way, and a nonstandard fingering fits the rules slightly better. The difference is small. Some teachers are a stickler for the "book" solution, others not. My teacher said my fingering was wrong - but she was happy enough I was practicing she overlooked it. I would have done it her way if it really bothered her, but we both had a sense of humor about it.
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#1250701 - 08/17/09 10:16 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
Arabesque Offline
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Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 550
Loc: Japan
Susan, you have the right attitude. Because scales do more than exercise fingers. They teach the vocabulary of music theory too. And scales are allied to appreggios and inversions in all keys. Yes, the circle of fifths is a component in all music and is used by most composers from Debussy to Count Basie et al. By practicing inversions and scales through the Circle of Fifths the music student becomes a fluent musician and sight reader with technical confidence to handle most music.

The practice of scales should not of course be unmusical. And you shouldn't grind away at them at the expense of repertoire. Beethoven famously said that in order to play his sonatas all you needed was the ability to play the C Major scale. Of course, the C Major is the most difficult for reasons explained by Gyro. But, I happen to love scales with my ears as much as my fingers. And I like to choose pieces which have nice scales in them. I am currently working on Chopin Polonaise Opus 53 and Liszt's Un Sospiro. We're talking scales here and I can't get enough of them.
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#1250713 - 08/17/09 10:43 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Arabesque]
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
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Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: Arabesque
Of course, the C Major is the most difficult for reasons explained by Gyro.

Even if C major is arguably the most difficult scale, I don't think it has anything to do with the reasons cited (i.e., "black keys to give tactile and visual reference points for your fingers"). Instead, I believe it's the most uncomfortable because the fingers are constrained to the front ends of the keytops; the shape of the hands is unnatural, and the thumb consequently has the most limited space in which to pass under the other fingers.

Steven
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Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
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#1250760 - 08/17/09 11:53 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: sotto voce]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
Instead, I believe it's the most uncomfortable because the fingers are constrained to the front ends of the keytops; the shape of the hands is unnatural, and the thumb consequently has the most limited space in which to pass under the other fingers.

Steven


Hmm. Seems like a pretty good argument for using C major to teach thumb over instead, then.
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#1250808 - 08/17/09 01:39 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
The C Major Scale

|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|
C D E F G A B C (Letter Names)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (Degrees)

When we look at the Key of C, there are 8 adjacent white notes in the octave with a group of 2 black notes and a group of 3 black notes interspersed. Measure it off and really look at it to understand it's composition please.

From the 3rd to the 4th degree and from the 7th to the 8 degree we see adjacent white notes without black notes. These are half steps. The definition of whole step is 2 half steps.

The "tetrachord" formula creates the major scale:
* W W H + W W W W
1 2 3 4 - 5 6 7 9 (Degrees)

To create tetrachords on the piano I recommend using certain fingering:
LH 5 4 3 2 - RH 2 3 4 5
Thumbs are not used for this mental and physical exercise which is finding the notes to be played within the major scale.

* simply represents that this is the "keynote", the note that you are building the major scale on.

Now that we can work with the major scale and SEE the tetrachord formation we learn that the group of 2 black notes have 3 white notes directly in front of them: CDE (See this as a unit)

The 3 black notes have 4 white notes directly in front of them: FGAB (See this as a unit)

White note fingering of the C Major Scale is now determined by the above discovery: RH 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 (continously played through other octaves until stopped by the 5th finger completing the last C.)

To teach the LH it's fingering (because of opposing thumbs on our hands), place both thumbs on Middle C and play in opposite directions using the established RH finger to call out the fingering choices for both hands.

Middle C is the "keynote" with thumbs placed "piggyback" upon it.

Say and Play:
(1)2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5
Both hands are moving away from the middle in contrary motion.

This creates a range of 5 C's (Middle C/Space C's/Leger Line C's
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B (C) D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 (1) 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

Then examine the LH fingering as it appears from the bottom note to the top note in it's range:
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 LH

You have proven the fingering through use of the contrary motion system which accounts for the opposing fingers.

In Parallel Motion:
LH 5 starts on the lowest C while RH 5 ends at the highest C
(1) 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 (1)

(1) expresses Middle C

Put these 2 strings of numbers side by side and you have the:
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

All this to make my point that this is an essential 1st scale to learn because of it's visual transfer of information.

It is also as mentioned more constricting in hand shape and finger motions that other positions where the elevation of a finger to a black note seems to be more comfortable to many people.

But, it simply seems that way - it is not harder to play.

The undiscipline piano hand as well as the undisciplined mind can not accomodate this pianist requirement. It is only through training and drilling of the scales, starting with the C Major which holds all white notes, that we can make ourselves versatile in thinking and doing major scales. The most skillful of pianists get that way because of their uncomplaining adherance to the music theory system which is based on mathematics and science over and over again.

Human preferances have little to do with the scope and domain of how things are organized on the piano. The graphics of the keyboard require certain shapings of our hands and extentions or contractions of our fingers relating closely to physics.

I could go on and on, but I bet the reader cannot. This is all learned over time and through experience. Looking quickly at a book and impatiently playing through the way you think you see it is not good enough. This is drill time such as learned in the military - the "boot camp" process.

These extreme requirements are probably why most people are not able to completely get the process and the sound of it. Physical d exterity, agilily, flexibility, fluency, strength as well as mental comprehension of the task would be the result of a very good accomplishment of major scales. All 12 of them in sound-pitch, but to make things more interesting, then spelled enharmonically to include more than one naming for the same sound.

I offer this in the hopes of others gaining perspective of how the piano learning systems can work for them.

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#1250826 - 08/17/09 02:14 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hm ... I'm curious as to how much of this I'll remember when I buy my clav, now that I think about it!
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#1250834 - 08/17/09 02:23 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
jotur Online   blank
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
. . . The most skillful of pianists get that way because of their uncomplaining adherance to the music theory system which is based on mathematics and science over and over again.
. . .
The graphics of the keyboard require certain shapings of our hands and extentions or contractions of our fingers relating closely to physics.

I could go on and on, . . .


Please do. I'd love to know more about the mathematics, science, and physics of music theory and playing the piano, and how you use them when you're teaching smile

Cathy
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#1250849 - 08/17/09 03:04 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
It's not what you remember from reading, it's what you have learned and acquired by diligent and thorough work and experience with the learning systems of music comprehension.

I would not have known a thing about it from my music lessons from age 9-15. I had a one year theory class in high school taught from a band instrument perspective. It was not until I studied pedagogy as an adult piano teacher that I learned what I now know about teaching piano. It was a many years process. The best way of accumulating knowledge is to start at the most simple place and increasingly, one step at a time, add to your basic knowledge.

I would not expect anyone to digest this chunk of information at one time, as I said, it's growth and understanding over time and effort. Curiosity helps too. Music is a highly evolved structured series of process. It can be reduced to simple levels of learning to play without having much information compared to the dearth of information that is available. I am not an academic scholar but I am an experienced teacher of 38 years with students from beginning to advanced, some studying 8 years or more with me. With this kind of commitment on their part, the technique and the theory come into learning and practice and I teach to the musician and the music combined for musical comprehension and analysis.

Dedication to the art form will get you there, or you may be happy with less of the background, and more of playing your favorites.

The problem comes when people learn at little and make misapplications about music: Stephen Hawking made a comment about knowledge in general, which also applies to music - "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."

Again, I hope the partakers of such that I've focused on becomes more clear, and to those who are having nothing of it, please continue onward without me.

please add me to your buddy list if you find some of my postings helpful to you, or use private messages.

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#1250880 - 08/17/09 04:19 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I'm talking about remembering it from my youth. I took a lot of this stuff in with my mother's milk, but it's been a while since I've sat down at a piano. I'm not sure how much will come back and where the gaps in my memory will be. But I began fairly young-ish (ten years old) and continued for a very long time to become a fairly advanced player. I'm just wondering what my hands will recall after more than fifteen years of inactivity.
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#1250889 - 08/17/09 04:39 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
jotur Online   blank
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
It's not what you remember from reading, it's what you have learned and acquired by diligent and thorough work and experience with the learning systems of music comprehension.

I would not have known a thing about it from my music lessons from age 9-15. I had a one year theory class in high school taught from a band instrument perspective.


Yeah, I only had piano lessons from, I think, 13 to 15 - a couple of years in my early teens, anyway - and I don't remember learning music theory (or math, science, or physics) from them, either (which is not to say my piano teacher didn't try to teach them! But I didn't learn them then). But if you're saying that one can learn the "science, mathematics, and physics", which is what I asked about, only thru "learning systems of music comprehension" (I'm not actually sure what you mean by that phrase) I'm not sure I can agree. Actually, I simply don't know what you've said here that is applicable to my question.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
It was not until I studied pedagogy as an adult piano teacher that I learned what I now know about teaching piano. It was a many years process. The best way of accumulating knowledge is to start at the most simple place and increasingly, one step at a time, add to your basic knowledge.


So, did you learn about the math, science, and physics of music, which is what I asked about, from your piano pedagogy studies, and if yes, what did you learn?

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
I would not expect anyone to digest this chunk of information at one time, as I said, it's growth and understanding over time and effort.


*I'm* not actually attempting to learn it all at one time. I already have an undergraduate degree in math, I've been playing piano pretty steadily for more than 20 years and on and off for more than that, and I do have some freshman level physics and music theory courses under my belt, along with the music theory that I've learned from fellow musicians and other sources as I actually play music, so I think that you don't have to fear overwhelming me or confusing me with the math, science, and physics that you've learned while teaching piano. So, please, feel free to post that knowledge. If I have questions, I'll ask.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Curiosity helps too.


I have a pretty high level of curiosity. I've learned a lot of things outside of formal studies, as well as beyond the formal class work when I'm in formal studies. So again, I think I'll be ok if you post your knowledge. I've got the curiosity part.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Music is a highly evolved structured series of process. It can be reduced to simple levels of learning to play without having much information compared to the dearth of information that is available.


But a dearth information *is* "not much information." So when one compares not having much information with the dearth of information out there, why, one finds they might have all of the information which is available. Hm.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
I am not an academic scholar but I am an experienced teacher of 38 years with students from beginning to advanced, some studying 8 years or more with me. With this kind of commitment on their part, the technique and the theory come into learning and practice and I teach to the musician and the music combined for musical comprehension and analysis.


I haven't questioned how many years of teaching experience you have, or that you have learned, each year you have taught, more about teaching. I haven't asked whether or not most, or even all, of your students stay with you for a long time. What I want to know, since you mention it often, is: what science, math, and physics you know, how you use it in your teaching, and, if you don't directly use it in your teaching, how does the knowledge you have (which you have not been specific about) inform your teaching. At least so far your reply has not addressed that question.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Dedication to the art form will get you there, or you may be happy with less of the background, and more of playing your favorites.


Get me where? Playing *not* my favorites rather than playing my favorites? :insert scratching head icon here:

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
The problem comes when people learn at little and make misapplications about music:


I didn't know we were talking about a problem. Which problem do you think we're talking about?

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Stephen Hawking made a comment about knowledge in general, which also applies to music - "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."


I couldn't agree more.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Again, I hope the partakers of such that I've focused on becomes more clear, and to those who are having nothing of it, please continue onward without me.

please add me to your buddy list if you find some of my postings helpful to you, or use private messages.


I'm not sure what you've focused on, but as far as I can tell it wasn't an answer to the question I asked frown

My apologies if, in fact, you weren't addressing my question. I just thought you intended to do that since my question was the last post in this thread before your last post. Perhaps I was mistaken.

Cathy
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#1250894 - 08/17/09 04:45 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
J Cortese Offline
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Hm, we may have had crossed wires here ... I saw "Re: J Cortese" in the header of her note, and thought she was replying to me.

<lolcat>THREADING WE NEEDZ IT</lolcat>
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#1250895 - 08/17/09 04:45 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
eweiss Offline
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Originally Posted By: Akira
I'm wondering if some of you teachers can help me over this hurdle?

I am just not seeing any benefit to practicing scales. Because I hate them, I find myself not practicing them everyday, trying to cram one weeks worth or practice into the morning of my lesson. Of course, as expected, its a disaster during the lesson. I think if I understood the "why," it would help with the motivation and practice. My teacher's explanation of the benefits have left unconvinced and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I know everybody (or at least, most people) practices them, but I just dislike doing them. Yes, I know like I sound like seven year old boy, complaining about eating his vegetables.

Any insights you may have to offer is appreciated.

Akira,

No need to practice scales. Just familiarize yourself with them and know them. But, if you're going the classical route, it's part of the whole classical enchillda. No way around it really.
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#1250896 - 08/17/09 04:49 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
jotur Online   blank
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Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Hm, we may have had crossed wires here ... I saw "Re: J Cortese" in the header of her note, and thought she was replying to me.

<lolcat>THREADING WE NEEDZ IT</lolcat>


Perhaps that explains it smile

Cathy
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#1250905 - 08/17/09 04:58 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
Kreisler Offline


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Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Just FYI, I think this thread has renewed some interest in a little booklet I put together for some of my adult students a while back.

In case others may find it interesting:

http://www.box.net/shared/i87zfua2oc
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#1250915 - 08/17/09 05:17 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
J Cortese Offline
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Thanks for that -- I apparently do recall more than I thought. Sitting 2-3-4 and 2-3 on top of the two groups of black keys essentially defines the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up.
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#1250939 - 08/17/09 05:44 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nikalette]
AC26XP Offline
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Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 60
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Nikalette
It's a lot more fun to practice blues scales and pentatonic scales over chords, than 2 handed scales.
Not a bad idea.
Any links to sheet music for this kind of LH chord and RH scales play ?
I am too early in my development (page 81 of Alfred's 1) to know that many chords to improvise, so sheet music would help in LH chord to individual RH note association.

Thanks,
AC

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#1251055 - 08/17/09 09:46 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Hm, we may have had crossed wires here ... I saw "Re: J Cortese" in the header of her note, and thought she was replying to me.

<lolcat>THREADING WE NEEDZ IT</lolcat>


Yes, J Cortese, it was to you that I was replying.

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#1251182 - 08/18/09 06:46 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Thanks for that -- I apparently do recall more than I thought. Sitting 2-3-4 and 2-3 on top of the two groups of black keys essentially defines the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up.


Yes, that is the way I do that.

But curiously, since you are replying to Kreisler, you didn't notice that he did not.

(nice job on those graphics, by the way, I'm in awe)

But anyway, if you sit 2-3-4 as you say, which would be 4-3-2 in the left hand, you will use a different fingering than he does on G, D, and A major. Specifically you will start G 3-2-1, D 2-1-4, and A 2-1-3. After that of course the pattern of 4-3-2-1-3-2-1 continues, just as in C major.

That's what I do. I think it's a tiny bit better. Not enough better to really matter, in the large scheme of things, given how little of the repertoire uses the scale fingerings; but it makes it easier for me to remember or recalculate as i work my way through the scales. And it makes a little bit more sense to me, because I start each scale on each degree, and the modes line up better this way.
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#1251198 - 08/18/09 07:40 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Thanks for that -- I apparently do recall more than I thought. Sitting 2-3-4 and 2-3 on top of the two groups of black keys essentially defines the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up.


Yes, that is the way I do that.

But curiously, since you are replying to Kreisler, you didn't notice that he did not.

(nice job on those graphics, by the way, I'm in awe)

But anyway, if you sit 2-3-4 as you say, which would be 4-3-2 in the left hand, you will use a different fingering than he does on G, D, and A major. Specifically you will start G 3-2-1, D 2-1-4, and A 2-1-3. After that of course the pattern of 4-3-2-1-3-2-1 continues, just as in C major.

That's what I do. I think it's a tiny bit better. Not enough better to really matter, in the large scheme of things, given how little of the repertoire uses the scale fingerings; but it makes it easier for me to remember or recalculate as i work my way through the scales. And it makes a little bit more sense to me, because I start each scale on each degree, and the modes line up better this way.


In my experience, the standard fingering for such simple keys as G major and D major is an absolute prerequisite for the classical repetoire. A considerable amount of music was written with it in mind. Composers didn't just write notes randomly. They sculpted them to fit their techniques. Classical sonatas are frequently absolutely dependent upon regular fingerings. That is why I would never recommend learning variant fingering of standard white note scales, unless the standard 343 pattern is learned first. There's a good reason why this is the normal fingering- because, judging how most composers wrote their music, it was the most 'normal' fingering for them. Nobody should ever be limited by a single way of playing a particular scale, but if the regular pattern is not 2nd nature, you will find an awful lot of music where having learned an odd fingering causes a disadvantage.
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#1251220 - 08/18/09 08:55 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: TimR

Yes, that is the way I do that.

But curiously, since you are replying to Kreisler, you didn't notice that he did not.

(nice job on those graphics, by the way, I'm in awe)

But anyway, if you sit 2-3-4 as you say, which would be 4-3-2 in the left hand, you will use a different fingering than he does on G, D, and A major. Specifically you will start G 3-2-1, D 2-1-4, and A 2-1-3. After that of course the pattern of 4-3-2-1-3-2-1 continues, just as in C major.



In my experience, the standard fingering for such simple keys as G major and D major is an absolute prerequisite for the classical repetoire. A considerable amount of music was written with it in mind. Composers didn't just write notes randomly. They sculpted them to fit their techniques. Classical sonatas are frequently absolutely dependent upon regular fingerings.


I think that is probably wrong. I can't be sure, I don't know the repertoire as well as you, but it doesn't make common sense for two reasons.

One is the rarity of scale passages of octave length and greater in the repertoire, particularly in the left hand, particularly with no other notes in that hand so that a scale fingering would be used. Where you do see scalar fragments, the context more often leads to an alternate fingering. In fact, if standard scale fingering worked very often in music, beginners would not be in the constant state of fingering confusion they normally are in. This is unique to piano. On monotonic instruments, the fingering pattern learned for a given key normally works well for the repertoire in that key, outside of trill fingerings, intonation problems, etc.

So my first objection is to your claim of widespread scale use - I perceive far more examples of nonscale fingering patterns than scalar, at least in the beginner-intermediate levels.

But my second objection, or maybe more of a question, is to your assertion that THE standard fingering is the 5-4-3 that Kreisler posted, as opposed to the 3-2-1 or 2-1-4 or 2-1-3 that I posted for those left hand scales. (Clearly the biggest differences are in those 3 left hand major scales. Both fingerings follow the rules for avoiding thumbs on black keys, just in a different way.) I didn't invent them; they have long been known. I am not sure which fingering pattern the great composers had in mind. I know that somewhere down the road, probably based on Hanon's book, those 5-4-3 fingerings got codified as correct, but there has always been room for disagreement.

So I would challenge you as an expert in the repertoire. In the keys of G, D, and A, where the alternate left hand fingerings are the most common, show us repertoire examples where 5-4-3 is superior to the alternate choices cited. You are claiming, I think, that these choices are always or at least usually superior, and the alternates won't work. This just doesn't seem likely to me.
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#1251229 - 08/18/09 09:22 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
There are 12 Major Scales because there are 7 white notes and 5 black notes in every octave, he distance a Major Scale travels.


I'm guessing you didn't really mean to phrase it this way. The fact that there are 12 major scales is NOT because there are "7 white notes and 5 black notes" in every octave. Obviously the whiteness and blackness of the keys (not notes) is (a) completely arbitrary, and (b) limited to keyboard instruments, whereas the octave and the 12 major scales common to Western music is applicable to virtually all instruments.
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#1251238 - 08/18/09 09:41 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: TimR

Yes, that is the way I do that.

But curiously, since you are replying to Kreisler, you didn't notice that he did not.

(nice job on those graphics, by the way, I'm in awe)

But anyway, if you sit 2-3-4 as you say, which would be 4-3-2 in the left hand, you will use a different fingering than he does on G, D, and A major. Specifically you will start G 3-2-1, D 2-1-4, and A 2-1-3. After that of course the pattern of 4-3-2-1-3-2-1 continues, just as in C major.



In my experience, the standard fingering for such simple keys as G major and D major is an absolute prerequisite for the classical repetoire. A considerable amount of music was written with it in mind. Composers didn't just write notes randomly. They sculpted them to fit their techniques. Classical sonatas are frequently absolutely dependent upon regular fingerings.


I think that is probably wrong. I can't be sure, I don't know the repertoire as well as you, but it doesn't make common sense for two reasons.

One is the rarity of scale passages of octave length and greater in the repertoire, particularly in the left hand, particularly with no other notes in that hand so that a scale fingering would be used. Where you do see scalar fragments, the context more often leads to an alternate fingering. In fact, if standard scale fingering worked very often in music, beginners would not be in the constant state of fingering confusion they normally are in. This is unique to piano. On monotonic instruments, the fingering pattern learned for a given key normally works well for the repertoire in that key, outside of trill fingerings, intonation problems, etc.

So my first objection is to your claim of widespread scale use - I perceive far more examples of nonscale fingering patterns than scalar, at least in the beginner-intermediate levels.

But my second objection, or maybe more of a question, is to your assertion that THE standard fingering is the 5-4-3 that Kreisler posted, as opposed to the 3-2-1 or 2-1-4 or 2-1-3 that I posted for those left hand scales. (Clearly the biggest differences are in those 3 left hand major scales. Both fingerings follow the rules for avoiding thumbs on black keys, just in a different way.) I didn't invent them; they have long been known. I am not sure which fingering pattern the great composers had in mind. I know that somewhere down the road, probably based on Hanon's book, those 5-4-3 fingerings got codified as correct, but there has always been room for disagreement.

So I would challenge you as an expert in the repertoire. In the keys of G, D, and A, where the alternate left hand fingerings are the most common, show us repertoire examples where 5-4-3 is superior to the alternate choices cited. You are claiming, I think, that these choices are always or at least usually superior, and the alternates won't work. This just doesn't seem likely to me.


Some fair points, certainly. But what happens in the countless instances where composers run a standard scale from tonic to tonic? Why contort yourself with unusual hand positions? Why not start with the beginning side of the hand and finish with the end of the hand? Similarly, why learn the complex coordination to get both hands working against each other?

If you learn a non-standard pattern, you can guarantee that you will need to use a standard pattern for works by Mozart and Beethoven- some of the time, at least. Sure there will also be variants, but it makes more sense to see these as variants- rather than be confused when you end up needing to play a simple G major scale with a simple 343 fingering.

There's nothing faintly confusing about the simplicity of 343 patterns (in which the tonic is ALWAYS anchored around thumbs- rather than on a different finger each time). However, I should find it very confusing to be told to start and finish on an odd number of fingers- before ending up needing to use something much more simple, when music demands it.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/18/09 09:43 AM)
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#1251304 - 08/18/09 11:34 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
sotto voce Offline
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J Cortese cited the guiding principle here—the consistency of 4-3-2 and 3-2 for the black keys in the left hand and 2-3-4 and 2-3 in the right hand—as "defin[ing] the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up" in the key signature. Perhaps it wasn't meant to apply to G, D and A major, then?

Kreisler, if you're still following the discussion: I noticed in your booklet that the B-flat major scale begins on 4 for the right hand and ends on 2. Was that intentional?

Steven
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#1251320 - 08/18/09 12:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Monica K.]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
There are 12 Major Scales because there are 7 white notes and 5 black notes in every octave, the distance a Major Scale travels.


Monica: I'm guessing you didn't really mean to phrase it this way.

Betty: I did mean to phrase it the way I phrased it. Keys are often called "notes" by students and teachers alike since they represent locations of letter names from the music staff and they also represent the actual "key" that is touched on the piano.

Another way of saying it is: 7 white keys and 5 black keys represent 12 half steps of pitch within an octave. Any major scale you play will have the same combination of 7 white and 5 black. The starting note can be any one of the 12 notes within an octave. Order and exact keys/notes of their appearance depends on exact placement using the major scale formula of 2 tetrachords.

Monica: The fact that there are 12 major scales is NOT because there are "7 white notes and 5 black notes" in every octave.

Betty: You don't seem to understand the point, Monica. There are ONLY 12 choices of location to build a major scale of SOUND upon in music theory. The 7 and the 5 are all that we have in any one octave. What you name them (enharmonics)creates different spellings of the same pattern of notes in that you play the same notes, the sound is the same, but the letter names are different because of the key signature you choose to use. We are not limited to 12 half steps - we have incredible opportunites because of 12 half steps. In Major Scales there are "only" 7 letter names to represent the notes being played out in the octave. The 8th degree is a repeat of the 1st which is the definition of an octave ("octo" = 8)(Let's stay with one octave for this discussion.)

Monica: Obviously the whiteness and blackness of the keys (not notes) is (a) completely arbitrary, and (b) limited to keyboard instruments, whereas the octave and the 12 major scales common to Western music is applicable to virtually all instruments.


Betty: Music is structured consistently according to organized, structured, patterned music theory and music is music regardless of the instrument being used. Different clefs are used for some instruments, for instance. Different instruments had different ranges, also.

Of great importance: The keyboard is the place where music theory was established - everything about the keyboard is an example of the many different things employed in the building of the instrument and in the "rules" (which are really mathematical and scientific in form using acoustics and physics, and spatial relationships. The early theorist were keyboard teachers and composers, most notably Bach and Rameau. The theories they wrote in the Baroque period are tried and true and remain the basic foundation of all that can be explained musically. Other instruments developed later and do use/borrow these theories and information for the teaching and playing of the specific instrument. (Saxophone "speak"; Clarinet "speak", Vioin "speak", Choral "speak", etc.)

Monica: The fact that there are 12 major scales is NOT because there are "7 white notes and 5 black notes" in every octave.

Betty: I didn't say "because" - your interpretaion is not a valid conclusion. I am saying in every octave there are 7 white notes and 5 black notes from which to choose the makings of a major scale. Start on any of the 12 notes to create a major scale. Our "model" is best encompassed in the Key of C as I had previously explained for visualization in making fingering choices that will fit the human hand best. Any of the 12 keys are available to us to work with as a designated "key". (Tonic center.)

Monica: Obviously the whiteness and blackness of the keys (not notes) is (a) completely arbitrary, and (b) limited to keyboard instruments, whereas the octave and the 12 major scales common to Western music is applicable to virtually all instruments. [/quote]

Betty: Obviously? Arbitrary? Limited? I would never use those words! The keyboard, the music staff, music theory are planned, designed, developed, have stood the test of time, are of genius proportions. Every thing there is essential.

Again, the keyboard is the root of everything that has been said about music.

Stephen Hawkin's quote says it all -
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

I would add, that the misunderstanding of music theory by people who continue to misunderstand and to a point reject music theory, also feel that music theory is open to interpretation is a sad thing for me to witness. The opportunities to learn are often very evident in Piano World Forum, likewise the inept explanations of certain posters bog down and misdirect us to extremely inaccurate and misleading information.

To me music theory it is as solid as the law of gravity. I worked to understand it and make use of it in my piano playing. I'm not the academic expert as I've said, but I find myself defending music literacy too frequently here usually from the same posters. If a bottom line of piano study included the learning and using of music theory, we would not be having these "dissecting" Betty contests which have become some people's hobbies. Instead of helping to enlighten readers my postings then take on a new life as "fodder" for those self-employed, even enthusiastic posters who are busy dissecting me and my words. Unfortunate for all of us.

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#1251329 - 08/18/09 12:26 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: sotto voce]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
J Cortese cited the guiding principle here—the consistency of 4-3-2 and 3-2 for the black keys in the left hand and 2-3-4 and 2-3 in the right hand—as "defin[ing] the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up" in the key signature. Perhaps it wasn't meant to apply to G, D and A major, then?


Correct. G, D, and A (and even E) are sort of the garden variety mostly-white-key fingerings to me. It's when you have to move your hand up that the 2-3-4 and 2-3 business starts acting like the home keys on a typewriter.


Edited by J Cortese (08/18/09 12:27 PM)
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#1251338 - 08/18/09 12:45 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: ProdigalPianist]
theJourney Offline
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Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
My teacher, who had to pass "technique juries" as an undergrad, so has the "chops", used to be one of those teachers who said, "Oh I think you can learn technique from repertoire, so don't worry too much about it."

I kept saying "I didn't really learn scales and arps before and I feel like it's a gap in my skills I'd like to fill." So finally we started seriously working on the harmonic minor scales. As a few lessons went by she said, "Wow I can really see the improvement in your playing". (edited to add: she did not mean, "Wow you are really playing scales better" she meant, "Wow your playing of everything has improved.")

Then we moved onto broken octaves and arps and she said, "Wow. I'm inspired to go practice technical exercises myself. The improvement is really noticeable. I really believe adult students can do as well as kids if they work at it."

*I* personally don't notice the difference in my playing because I guess it happens so gradually day-to-day. But I don't think there's much question that if you want to get your technical chops as good as possible, technique practice will get you there in the shortest amount of time with the biggest improvements.


Great post and consistent with my own experience.

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#1251340 - 08/18/09 12:46 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
TimR Offline
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
J Cortese cited the guiding principle here—the consistency of 4-3-2 and 3-2 for the black keys in the left hand and 2-3-4 and 2-3 in the right hand—as "defin[ing] the scale fingering when substantial numbers of black keys start showing up" in the key signature. Perhaps it wasn't meant to apply to G, D and A major, then?


Correct. G, D, and A (and even E) are sort of the garden variety mostly-white-key fingerings to me. It's when you have to move your hand up that the 2-3-4 and 2-3 business starts acting like the home keys on a typewriter.


Certainly a valid option. I choose to apply the guiding principle to those scales as well, resulting in a different fingering pattern than you would use. I would contend that both fingering patterns are rational and should both be called standard. (and since as been pointed out, scales are not in the end interesting music anyway!.....)

But something you might not have noticed. I play one scale a week, but I play it in all modes. (E.g., when I do a C scale, I practice it C to C, then D to D, then E to E, etc.) If you do this, you'll play the modal scales in the guiding principle fingering and not in the so-called standard fingering.
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#1251342 - 08/18/09 12:47 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Of great importance: The keyboard is the place where music theory was established - everything about the keyboard is an example of the many different things employed in the building of the instrument and in the "rules" (which are really mathematical and scientific in form using acoustics and physics, and spatial relationships. The early theorist were keyboard teachers and composers, most notably Bach and Rameau. The theories they wrote in the Baroque period are tried and true and remain the basic foundation of all that can be explained musically. Other instruments developed later and do use/borrow these theories and information for the teaching and playing of the specific instrument. (Saxophone "speak"; Clarinet "speak", Vioin "speak", Choral "speak", etc.)


Are you absolutely sure about that? I agree that a keyboard is far better as a universal reference point- compared to the position of the fingers on a clarinet. However, it's simply a case of there being 12 pitches. The easiest way to understand sharps and flats is in relation to a piano keyboard, sure. But other than the names that are used for notes, it's simply a case of 12 different notes being used.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/18/09 12:48 PM)
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#1251347 - 08/18/09 12:55 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: TimR
Certainly a valid option. I choose to apply the guiding principle to those scales as well, resulting in a different fingering pattern than you would use. I would contend that both fingering patterns are rational and should both be called standard. (and since as been pointed out, scales are not in the end interesting music anyway!.....)

But something you might not have noticed. I play one scale a week, but I play it in all modes. (E.g., when I do a C scale, I practice it C to C, then D to D, then E to E, etc.) If you do this, you'll play the modal scales in the guiding principle fingering and not in the so-called standard fingering.


That's not about which fingers come on which notes though. It's a classic example of the benefits of playing scales from the thumb with a standard 343 pattern, unless one has a very good reason to break from this simple model. Would you do the above exercise with reference points on the keyboard- with a different fingering for every one? Or would it make good sense to run from the lowest finger to the highest finger- encompassing exactly the number of notes required without the wastage of unnecessary shifts? Such an exercise exposes the limitations of drawing positions from regions of the keyboard. It doesn't expose any limitations to the idea that the thumb is a sensible starting point for a scale.

You say that both fingering patterns are rationsl? What is rational about using various fingerings for scales that can all be accomplished with a 343 pattern- without any physical or mental difficulty? Why start a simple scale in the middle of a hand position and why finish it in the middle of a hand position? The simplest way to achieve an octave scale is in two single hand positions. You cannot do this when starting on a black note, but why go to such an unnecessary effort when you're not starting from a black notes? I don't follow the logic of these variant patterns in any sense at all. It is neither more efficient (in fact it is considerably less efficient- as it requires more shifts of position) nor is it mentally easier to start mid-position. This is why scales that start on black notes have the illusion of considerably greater difficulty- C sharp minor and F sharp minor are really very easy, when you practise starting from the thumbs, before leading back in. So why?

You seem to be criticising conventional fingerings. The point is that they are a very simple and consistent means of accomplishing a task (at least for all 343 scales). It's the EASIEST way to play scales that start on a white tonic note, not a mere tradition. That's why the pattern gets dropped for F and B. Your replacement seems to be a case of keeping your hands in the same positions for the sake of nothing but a convention, regardless of whether there are easier ways to navigate between two octaves.

I'm all for alterations, for the sake of context, but the most standard pattern is there for a basis for maximum convenience, not for tradition. When it's not convenient (say if you start on the third degree of the scale, rather than the tonic note), you can change to whatever is.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/18/09 02:52 PM)
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#1251351 - 08/18/09 01:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17777
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

Betty: I didn't say "because" - your interpretaion is not a valid conclusion.


Um, Betty, I quoted your post exactly as you wrote it, typo included. So,yes, you DID say "because." I wrote my post because your statement was not, strictly speaking, correct, and I thought it important to be accurate for archival purposes. It is simply not true that an octave consists of black and white notes. An octave consists of the span of tones encompassed by taking a pitch and doubling it. In Western music, that interval is divided into 12 logarithmically equally spaced tones. These tones are sounds and do not possess color, black or white. They are represented on a piano keyboard as a span of black and white keys, but surely you would concede that an octave would still be an octave even if the keys were painted blue and red. smile That is what I meant by saying that "black and white" keys were arbitrary.

I'm sorry if my comments cause you to become defensive. I believe in clarity of writing and meaning, and because these threads stay in the archives indefinitely, I feel it is important to be as accurate as possible in writing.
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#1251359 - 08/18/09 01:22 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
theJourney Offline
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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
It's not what you remember from reading, it's what you have learned and acquired by diligent and thorough work and experience with the learning systems of music comprehension.

I would not have known a thing about it from my music lessons from age 9-15. I had a one year theory class in high school taught from a band instrument perspective. It was not until I studied pedagogy as an adult piano teacher that I learned what I now know about teaching piano. It was a many years process. The best way of accumulating knowledge is to start at the most simple place and increasingly, one step at a time, add to your basic knowledge.

I would not expect anyone to digest this chunk of information at one time, as I said, it's growth and understanding over time and effort. Curiosity helps too. Music is a highly evolved structured series of process. It can be reduced to simple levels of learning to play without having much information compared to the dearth of information that is available. I am not an academic scholar but I am an experienced teacher of 38 years with students from beginning to advanced, some studying 8 years or more with me. With this kind of commitment on their part, the technique and the theory come into learning and practice and I teach to the musician and the music combined for musical comprehension and analysis.

Dedication to the art form will get you there, or you may be happy with less of the background, and more of playing your favorites.

The problem comes when people learn at little and make misapplications about music: Stephen Hawking made a comment about knowledge in general, which also applies to music - "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."

Again, I hope the partakers of such that I've focused on becomes more clear, and to those who are having nothing of it, please continue onward without me.


Sarah P., is that you in there? grin

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#1251362 - 08/18/09 01:22 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
keystring Offline
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Quote:
On monotonic instruments, the fingering pattern learned for a given key normally works well for the repertoire in that key...

Actually that's not true, either, at least for strings. It is similar to piano in the sense that the place where a particular note is found can be played by any particular finger, depending on what position the hand has taken at that moment ("shifting"). There is a nice cross-over between piano and strings in that sense. The part that is new to me in regards to the piano is the fact that the length of the fingers vis-a-vis raised black keys and lowered white keys is a factor. That does not exist in strings. In piano, for example, I understand that you want to avoid playing a black key with the pinky or thumb, but there is no particular note that you would avoid playing with the pinky in strings.

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#1251371 - 08/18/09 01:41 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
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Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
It's when you have to move your hand up that the 2-3-4 and 2-3 business starts acting like the home keys on a typewriter.


Certainly a valid option. I choose to apply the guiding principle to those scales as well, resulting in a different fingering pattern than you would use. I would contend that both fingering patterns are rational and should both be called standard.


Oh, I'm not really arguing for one over the other. I'm just pleased that I appear to have retained what I learned when I was younger, and hope it means that I'll have a less abysmal time getting it to come back. :-)
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#1251413 - 08/18/09 03:03 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
jotur Online   blank
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Since I don't know if Betty Patnude actually has me on her official PW ignore list or is just ignoring me in the pre-computer style of ignoring, I didn't click on a reply button from one of her posts, so this comment will look as if I'm responding to J. Cortese - hi! - but I always think of comments in threads as being kind of free-for-all anyway, so I've never paid much attention to the reply-to-an-individual line above my post. I generally quote someone or address them by name. I'll be more aware of it in the future.

However that may be, since she is, apparently, ignoring me, I suppose I will never get an answer to my question about mathematics, science, and physics, which she keeps invoking while implying that some of the rest of us are woefully ignorant. I'll admit I haven't gotten an answer when I've asked it before, either, so I didn't really have high hopes.

I suppose I also wouldn't get an answer to a couple of questions I had about this, from her post on the C major scale:

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
The "tetrachord" formula creates the major scale:
* W W H + W W W W
1 2 3 4 - 5 6 7 9 (Degrees)


I've read some of Betty's posts about tetrachords before, and as far as I remember they were correct (although I don't use them in my conceptualization of the keyboard - alas, that's one thing I've just read about in a book). But this looks odd to me. I thought for awhile she had just made a typo on the last W, but then I saw that she used a scale degree of 9 underneath, so thought there might be something I was missing. It wouldn't be the first time I've missed something :\

I'm really curious about the answers to my questions, so I'm sorry I'm probably not going to get answers. Life is full of small disappointments, I suppose.

I have found the discussion about alternate fingerings for scales interesting. There have been times when I've found myself working out fingering that wasn't "standard" and, while I'm not silly enough to believe I'm the first one to do that, I'd never seen it brought up in polite company before laugh I really like seeing the teachers here on this forum being open to discussions like this. Thanks - I learn a lot.

Cathy
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#1251414 - 08/18/09 03:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Monica: Um, Betty, I quoted your post exactly as you wrote it, typo included. So,yes, you DID say "because." I wrote my post because your statement was not, strictly speaking, correct, and I thought it important to be accurate for archival purposes. It is simply not true that an octave consists of black and white notes. An octave consists of the span of tones encompassed by taking a pitch and doubling it. In Western music, that interval is divided into 12 logarithmically equally spaced tones. These tones are sounds and do not possess color, black or white. They are represented on a piano keyboard as a span of black and white keys, but surely you would concede that an octave would still be an octave even if the keys were painted blue and red. That is what I meant by saying that "black and white" keys were arbitrary.

Betty: And, again, I am referring to the visualization of looking at the keyboard and making sense of it. In my teaching, the one octave C Major Scale is the basis of teaching major scale formulas through graphic visualization combined with hands on the keyboard. The process of how I teach this is not being explained here. What is said is that it is possible

In the Key of C Major C to C: there are 7 white keys and 5 black keys. The notes of the C Major Scale include only the white keys used because of the tetrachord spellings. The group of 2 black keys and 3 black keys are clearly seen as to establising fingering concepts (0 flats/0 sharps, a totally 'natural' major scale spelling). Visualize this again. From this octave range (C to C) using tetrachords, all scales have their start by selecting each one of the keys (black and white) to build a major scale upon.

Monica: "It is simply not true that an octave consists of black and white notes."

Betty: I have already previously stated the definition of an octave, put the component parts into my presentation, I am not responsible for defending the comments that you choose to make. As for being defensive, for your information, I am the one merely trying to set things straight. I don't have a learning difficulty problem. And, you say you are correcting for archival referances? What a gem that is! This ends any further communication between us Monica. I have no need to participate in dissection. When I post, I mean what I say. If I make a mistake I am thankful to set it straight. This is not that situation. People can only perceive in the way that they already perceive - perhaps there is something missing in our individual perceptions that would greatly change our perceptions if it were already known to us. Really the message of Steven Hawking that I've referred to before.

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#1251417 - 08/18/09 03:11 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
eweiss Offline
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Mathematics? Physics? Who cares. It's about music ... hopefully. Scales are necessary and should be practiced, but once the scale is known - and the chords from that scale too, I advise students to stop practicing scales and start making music.

Of course, this will not apply to the classical pianist who won't learn automatic fingering but instead must play exactly as told.

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#1251425 - 08/18/09 03:26 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: sotto voce]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: sotto voce

Kreisler, if you're still following the discussion: I noticed in your booklet that the B-flat major scale begins on 4 for the right hand and ends on 2. Was that intentional?

Steven


Nope, just a typo. laugh I'll fix it tonight.
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#1251441 - 08/18/09 03:42 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
jotur Online   blank
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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Stephen Hawkin's quote says it all -
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.


Again, I couldn't agree more.

Cathy
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#1251443 - 08/18/09 03:44 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
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In the interest of full disclosure, I did not learn all the "standard" scale fingerings until my senior year in college. A systematic study of technique wasn't really something my teacher and I were interested in, so we just addressed things as it came up in repertoire.

In 20 years of teaching, however, I've noticed that it seems to be a matter of personal choice - some people like to be very systematic in their approach to technical training, others tend to look for it in repertoire or exercises chosen or invented "as needed."

I haven't noticed anything to suggest one way is better than another.

The same goes for how one learns scales. Some prefer starting with black key scales (B, F#, C#) because of the way they fit the hand. Others prefer starting with C Major, because the keyboard topography is less complicated and it's easier to visualize. Still others work well using the tetrachord approach Betty described above.

I don't think it's particularly helpful to debate which approach(es) are superior. All have been proven effective in certain circumstances. What is helpful is to understand how each of the approaches works so that we can apply it in the studio - with our students or with ourselves.
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#1251464 - 08/18/09 04:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I appreciate your postings, Kreisler!

The circumstances are such that there are many choices of if, when, and how to work music theory into the scheme of piano lessons.

Some people love being random and abstract, a characteristic that I have had my whole life time. It was, for me, the beginning of a good music education when I learned that the concrete and sequential part of music and of teaching music was an extremely important process to learning. And, I wanted to learn to incooperate both ways for myself and in my teaching.

What to do with any one student depends on their attention spans, abilities to learn, analyze, memorize, and the present quality of their playing along with their potential and the information that will help them reach their goals - whatever they may be. Curiosity is a virtue here. Otherwise, it can feel like feeding a toddler pablum one spoon at a time. With a students interest and capacity to absorb, the job of instilling music theory and techniques are much easier and actually fun.

We proceed accordingly.

Now that I've been able to absorb it, I am very interested in preserving the gems of thinking and observing relationships and patterns hidden to us in our music. I didn't learn them until age 27 and Kreisler is saying his last year of college and I know he had certainly become a fine performer by that time. My pursuit of music was interrupted for 12 years! I was one of the adults returning to music lessons when I restarted!

So, we all make the journey at the pace we encountered. One can go leisurely in a random or abstract way, or one can gobble up the information using concrete and sequential. If one uses both simultaneously I think he or she is operating with a fully utilized musical brain of which the content is derived from the many things we are exposed to in learning. The time and effort at the task cement it for us.

The other option is to play music and to be unaware of the underpinning of the "who, where, what, why, when and how of it. It is essentially, each of us choosing to take music to the maximum of our enjoyment and abilities....and sometimes to the maximum of our budgets! I think it can also be done on a dime if one has lots of curiosity, exposure, and sense of direction.

I do not intend to say that any one way is right for every one - piano students come with many different learning styles, aptitudes and goals - and we certainly must take their preferances into account while helping them develop their musicianship.

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#1251473 - 08/18/09 04:12 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
In 20 years of teaching, however, I've noticed that it seems to be a matter of personal choice - some people like to be very systematic in their approach to technical training, others tend to look for it in repertoire or exercises chosen or invented "as needed."

I haven't noticed anything to suggest one way is better than another.
... What is helpful is to understand how each of the approaches works so that we can apply it in the studio - with our students or with ourselves.


I believe it is the hallmark of a successful teacher to understand the learning style and objectives of a given student and design a learning program that plays to their style.

The teacher's approach to technical training should not just follow from the teacher's belief system but from what works for a given type of student.

Recognition that some students will not all be "ripe" for certain approaches at the same pace is part and parcel of designing an effective, personalized curriculum.

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#1251488 - 08/18/09 04:44 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Golly, Jotur, do you think I can have a dispensation for a typo "9" like Kreisler got for the error in his pdf document?

And, my answer to the "math/science" is that the principles exist in music theory. I do not add to the complexity of music by trying to discuss the actual processes of math/science involved. It is in referance to math and science not directly applied. Just as there is accountability and proof in math and science there is accountability in music theories.

Yes, I am ignoring you and a few others. Since you asked a direct question I'll give a direct answer. It might be easier for "you" (collectively) to ignore my posts. There would probably be other posters who would like to avoid the confrontations that don't have to be.

To ignore someone: where their name appears on the left of their post, click. One of the options there is to ignore. Very helpful invention that Frank thought to include. I am taking advantage of it since it works for some of us. But, I do see the content from any watched topic when it is sent to my home email. So, it isn't completely flare proof. My other option, which I have explored before, is to stop posting altogether.

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#1251498 - 08/18/09 04:58 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Kreisler

In 20 years of teaching, however, I've noticed that it seems to be a matter of personal choice - some people like to be very systematic in their approach to technical training, others tend to look for it in repertoire or exercises chosen or invented "as needed."

May I pull rank and mention I've been teaching for 40 years? smile

I absolutely agree with you. This is another example of "All Roads (should) Lead to Rome".

I learned my scales later too, although probably about 9th grade. My teacher gave me a Hanon book, said to learn them, and I did. I do think they are a big help in building a firm foundation, but as I've said elsewhere, knowing the standard fingers for all major and minor scales (the standard forms taught) is the beginning of solving passage work, not the answer to it.
Quote:

The same goes for how one learns scales. Some prefer starting with black key scales (B, F#, C#) because of the way they fit the hand.

Which is an excellent idea.
Quote:

Others prefer starting with C Major, because the keyboard topography is less complicated and it's easier to visualize.

Also an excellent idea, depending on age, level and learning style.
Quote:

I don't think it's particularly helpful to debate which approach(es) are superior. All have been proven effective in certain circumstances. What is helpful is to understand how each of the approaches works so that we can apply it in the studio - with our students or with ourselves.

Wise words. I had given up seeing some sanity in the middle of so much heated debate. smile


Edited by Gary D. (08/18/09 05:51 PM)
Edit Reason: typos
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#1251504 - 08/18/09 05:09 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
jotur Online   blank
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Golly, Jotur, do you think I can have a dispensation for a typo "9" like Kreisler got for the error in his pdf document?


Absolutely you can have dispensations for typos. It's just that the last W in the line above it seemed to indicate something besides the last note of a major scale, and so I thought maybe the two together meant something I wasn't aware of.

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
And, my answer to the "math/science" is that the principles exist in music theory. I do not add to the complexity of music by trying to discuss the actual processes of math/science involved. It is in referance to math and science not directly applied. Just as there is accountability and proof in math and science there is accountability in music theories.


So you don't directly use the information you have, information which you imply that the rest of us are ignorant of. I have no problem with that. But I'd still prefer that you be accountable, here, for what you apparently know. Walk the talk, as we say. What do you know of the math, science, and physics, and how does it inform your teaching, even though you don't directly use it (which is fine)? And if it doesn't even inform your teaching, why do you bring it up here so often, and what difference would it make even if most of the rest of us were ignorant of it?

Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Yes, I am ignoring you and a few others. Since you asked a direct question I'll give a direct answer.It might be easier for "you" (collectively) to ignore my posts. There would probably be other posters who would like to avoid the confrontations that don't have to be.

To ignore someone: where their name appears on the left of their post, click. One of the options there is to ignore. Very helpful invention that Frank thought to include. I am taking advantage of it since it works for some of us. But, I do see the content from any watched topic when it is sent to my home email. So, it isn't completely flare proof. My other option, which I have explored before, is to stop posting altogether.


It would be easier for you, I suppose, if I ignored your posts. But, as for others, clear writing and accuracy of information is important to me. I'll admit I also don't agree that the rest of us are ignorant because we sometimes disagree with you. And your invoking of math, science, and physics "cuts no ice" with me unless you actually post about it.

Don't know how you need to deal with the fact that you get my posts in your home e-mail. Perhaps you'll think of something. Maybe the minute you know it's mine you can quit reading. Just a thought.

Cathy
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#1251524 - 08/18/09 05:50 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
God, I'm getting sick of the back-biting, posturing and basically catty comments here.

Why don't you guys give it a break and contribute instead of engaging in this endless and unproductive sniping.
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#1251528 - 08/18/09 05:55 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
eweiss Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
God, I'm getting sick of the back-biting, posturing and basically catty comments here.

Why don't you guys give it a break and contribute instead of engaging in this endless and unproductive sniping.

Really? I'm enjoying the show.



Nothing like a good old-fashioned cat fight to get the juices flowing!
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#1251532 - 08/18/09 06:11 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: eweiss]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
It it just happened once in a while, it would be different, but nearly every potentially interesting thread gets knocked off topic by people chewing into each other.

Take the case of Betty's "octave that always has five black notes and seven white ones". Or whatever she said.

If you want to tear that apart, just for the pure fun of it, sure, you can.

An octave is two notes. We all know that.

But we also all know that a one octave scale, meaning starting from the tonic and ascending or descending to the "next tonic note" is the basis for the most elementary explanations in most books about scales.

Now, we can then have a new flaming discussion about whether "an octave" really means "an octave span" or "an octave range". Spilt a hair, then split the splits. Ad nauseum.

Is there anyone so stupid as not to get the point? A C scale, starting on C and ending on C, counting the notes played and all notes "skipped" will either equal 12 or 13, depending on whether or not the duplicated C is counted, or not.

But it still amounts to key counting, somehow, whether by tetrachords or some other method (whole and half steps), there is a pattern of whole and half steps that is the same for all major scales (and so on), and is anyone really having problems with this? Is anyone who does not know most of this already going to have trouble understanding how it works?

The problem is the logic behind how fingerings are chosen, when they should be stricty adhered to (the conventional fingers) and when alternate fingerings are going to work better.

The rest of what is going on is simply assinine.
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#1251533 - 08/18/09 06:12 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: eweiss]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
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Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
God, I'm getting sick of the back-biting, posturing and basically catty comments here.

Why don't you guys give it a break and contribute instead of engaging in this endless and unproductive sniping.

I agree, but it is just rude to pointedly ignore a question that is asked. It is even more rude to continue to tell people that they are being ignored. I have had more than a couple questions go unanswered.

Originally Posted By: eweiss
Really? I'm enjoying the show.

Nothing like a good old-fashioned cat fight to get the juices flowing!


But yet, it is entertaining at the same time smile
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#1251535 - 08/18/09 06:16 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gyro]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Yeah, I hate scales too...

But really they are very useful when it comes to knowing music. When you look at a piece of music, you'll automatically know what scale the notes in melody are derived from.

I have a list of scales that I have been learning each in all 12 keys for the last 2 weeks. I practice these every day. They turn out to be real useful and as boring as they are, (you) should learn them too:

Superlocrian
Locrian
Lydian
Lydian Augmented
Lydian Dominant
Mixolydian b6
Harmonic Minor #5
Phrygian Major 3
Phrygian
Locrian natural 2nd )
Melodic Minor
Augmented Scale
Whole Half Diminished
Half Whole Diminished
Ukrainian Minor
Dorian
Dorian b2
Harmonic minor(I had to relearn it)

I already knew the aeolian mode, ionian and mixolydian modes in all 12 keys. I had to relearn melodic minor and harmonic minor because I forgot them. Lydian was familiar to me except that I didn't know it as well as I should have.

Does anybody know whats the difference between Harmonic Major and Harmonic Major #5? Is there any difference between Phrygian Major and Phrygian Major 3?

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#1251540 - 08/18/09 06:20 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Claude56]
Horowitzian Offline
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Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: noSkillz
[...]

Does anybody know whats the difference between Harmonic Major and Harmonic Major #5? [...]


A sharped 5th?
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#1251541 - 08/18/09 06:22 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
theJourney Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
God, I'm getting sick of the back-biting, posturing and basically catty comments here.

Why don't you guys give it a break and contribute instead of engaging in this endless and unproductive sniping.


Guys? Perhaps only two gals should be allowed in the teacher's lounge at the same time?

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#1251542 - 08/18/09 06:23 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I learned my scales later too, although probably about 9th grade. My teacher gave me a Hanon book, said to learn them, and I did. I do think they are a big help in building a firm foundation, but as I've said elsewhere, knowing the standard fingers for all major and minor scales (the standard forms taught) is the beginning of solving passage work, not the answer to it.


Isn't the key the word 'beginning' though? It may not be the end, but it certainly IS the beginning. I do not teach the standard fingering for F sharp minor, because I find it vastly illogical. Aside from that, I teach all of the standard fingerings, because they exist for good reason. That doesn't mean I insist that students stick to those in every musical composition. However, if they do not know them, they are generally relying on insufficiently honed instincts.

I once had a beginner student, who played me a C major scale as three groups of five fingers. Should I have left him to his own devices? Or did it make more sense to say how impressed I was that he could do it, but then demonstrate a conventional fingering? What purpose does a teacher serve- if not to convey the basics of conventional wisdom to a student? If a student can play a standard 343 pattern scale consistently and without any problems, they can do their own thinking and use whatever alternative they wish. If they have never understood the fundamental principle behind how to play a scale, they ought to learn it, before experimenting. The whole point of a teacher is to give students something beyond what can emerge from nothing but unguided experiments.

Teaching fingerings is not about closing doors to a student. It's about ensuring that they don't end up doing random stuff that might hold them back, simply because they don't know any better. At the very least they ought to be able to make up their own mind, whether they want to follow the principles. Something so important should never be witheld from a student.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/18/09 06:27 PM)
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#1251548 - 08/18/09 06:44 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


Isn't the key the word 'beginning' though? It may not be the end, but it certainly IS the beginning. I do not teach the standard fingering for F sharp minor, because I find it vastly illogical. Aside from that, I teach all of the standard fingerings, because they exist for good reason. That doesn't mean I insist that students stick to those in every musical composition. However, if they do not know them, they are generally relying on insufficiently honed instincts.

This is the insane part of what happens in these discussion. You appear to be disagreeing with me, but I do exactly the same thing.
Quote:

I once had a beginner student, who played me a C major scale as three groups of five fingers. Should I have left him to his own devices? Or did it make more sense to say how impressed I was that he could do it, but then demonstrate a conventional fingering?

I would have praised the five-finger solution but would have also demonstrated the conventional fingering.
Quote:

What purpose does a teacher serve- if not to convey the basics of conventional wisdom to a student? If a student can play a standard 343 pattern scale consistently and without any problems, they can do their own thinking and use whatever alternative they wish.

I have yet to understand what a "343" pattern scale is…
Quote:

If they have never understood the fundamental principle behind how to play a scale, they ought to learn it, before experimenting. The whole point of a teacher is to give students something beyond what can emerge from nothing but unguided experiments.

Again, I agree. This is what is making me shake my head. You appear to be assuming that I disagree with your points here. I don't.
Quote:

Teaching fingerings is not about closing doors to a student. It's about ensuring that they don't end up doing random stuff that might hold them back, simply because they don't know any better. At the very least they ought to be able to make up their own mind, whether they want to follow the principles. Something so important should never be witheld from a student.

Again, I agree. Either extreme is wrong. One extreme is to guide students by giving them advanced and non-conventional fingerings before they have understood basic fingering. In general (with some unusual exceptions) I am against this. The other extreme is to teach ONLY the conventional fingerings then leave students to work out all others, on their own, at best relying on editors without understanding the logic the editors are using.
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#1251550 - 08/18/09 06:49 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Gerry Armstrong Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
God, I'm getting sick of the back-biting, posturing and basically catty comments here.

Why don't you guys give it a break and contribute instead of engaging in this endless and unproductive sniping.


It is getting increasingly difficult to keep reading but there are still some gems for those of us who are here to learn.

It takes longer and they are harder to find as the noise levels from the nonsense continues to rise but they are still there if you look for them. I for one am still able to learn a lot of things I didn't know.
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#1251554 - 08/18/09 06:54 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Gary D. Offline
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I have a follow-up question:

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

I do not teach the standard fingering for F sharp minor, because I find it vastly illogical.

Which hand? Which minor scale? (Natural, harmonic, melodic?)
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#1251580 - 08/18/09 07:35 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Akira]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Originally Posted By: Akira
I'm wondering if some of you teachers can help me over this hurdle?

I am just not seeing any benefit to practicing scales. Because I hate them, I find myself not practicing them everyday, trying to cram one weeks worth or practice into the morning of my lesson. Of course, as expected, its a disaster during the lesson. I think if I understood the "why," it would help with the motivation and practice. My teacher's explanation of the benefits have left unconvinced and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I know everybody (or at least, most people) practices them, but I just dislike doing them. Yes, I know like I sound like seven year old boy, complaining about eating his vegetables.

Any insights you may have to offer is appreciated.


There are two types of benefit offered by scale study.

The first is technical - regular, mindful scale work which has a purpose (not just mindless 'typing') will improve your technical skills.

The other is theoretical (as in music theory) - learning and understanding scales will assist in your conceptual understanding and is an excellent basis for music theory study, as well as "experience" in playing in all the different keys - even if what you are playing is 'just' a scale.

In other issues...while it is true that most beginning theory classes probably involve some sort of piano/keyboard lab so that there is a visual reference for the concepts being discussed, I am not particularly comfortable with a totally "piano-centric" approach to theory. I knew enough other instrument and voice majors in college to understand that conceptualizations of theory that were totally piano-centric were limiting and...really...irritated non-pianist musicians wink
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#1251585 - 08/18/09 07:41 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: ProdigalPianist]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
In other issues...while it is true that most beginning theory classes probably involve some sort of piano/keyboard lab so that there is a visual reference for the concepts being discussed, I am not particularly comfortable with a totally "piano-centric" approach to theory. I knew enough other instrument and voice majors in college to understand that conceptualizations of theory that were totally piano-centric were limiting and...really...irritated non-pianist musicians wink


AAGH YES YES YES I feel like an idiot for only just getting a grip on the idea of the Pythagorean comma. It's got to be the coolest thing EVER, and studying on a piano puts it so far under the radar that I remained ignorant of it for ages.

Anyone who doesn't know that the circle of fifths doesn't actually close shouldn't be teaching.


Edited by J Cortese (08/18/09 07:44 PM)
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#1251599 - 08/18/09 08:02 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: J Cortese


AAGH YES YES YES I feel like an idiot for only just getting a grip on the idea of the Pythagorean comma. It's got to be the coolest thing EVER, and studying on a piano puts it so far under the radar that I remained ignorant of it for ages.

Anyone who doesn't know that the circle of fifths doesn't actually close shouldn't be teaching.

I'm not sure what you are talking about with "close". Are you talking about the reason behind tempered 5ths?
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#1251603 - 08/18/09 08:14 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
J Cortese Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Anyone who doesn't know that the circle of fifths doesn't actually close shouldn't be teaching.

I'm not sure what you are talking about with "close". Are you talking about the reason behind tempered 5ths?


Yup -- how, if you go up by twelve perfect fifths (where perfect is the 3:2 ratio), you overshoot seven perfect 2:1 octaves. The numbers are easy as pie, but I finally sat down and read up on it, and it hit me like a hammer. Wait a minute ... the circle of fifths lands you seven octaves above where you were!

Except it doesn't.

It's just amazingly cool. This is what I meant when I said YES YES YES to the whole statement that a piano-centric approach to music theory isn't the only or even best way to approach it, and I can see why it would annoy other instrument players.


Edited by J Cortese (08/18/09 08:17 PM)
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#1251606 - 08/18/09 08:27 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Gerry Armstrong Offline
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Hence the reason why you should always get a professional to tune your Piano, and never have a go yourself with an ETD and a calculator!! grin
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#1251609 - 08/18/09 08:32 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gerry Armstrong]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gerry Armstrong
Hence the reason why you should always get a professional to tune your Piano, and never have a go yourself with an ETD and a calculator!! grin


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#1251611 - 08/18/09 08:37 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gerry Armstrong]
J Cortese Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gerry Armstrong
Hence the reason why you should always get a professional to tune your Piano, and never have a go yourself with an ETD and a calculator!! grin


I'm just glad I don't have to get a G by opening the thing up, pressing down on the C strings 2/3rd of the way up, and hitting the C again!
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#1251630 - 08/18/09 09:08 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: J Cortese


Yup -- how, if you go up by twelve perfect fifths (where perfect is the 3:2 ratio), you overshoot seven perfect 2:1 octaves. The numbers are easy as pie, but I finally sat down and read up on it, and it hit me like a hammer. Wait a minute ... the circle of fifths lands you seven octaves above where you were!

Except it doesn't.

It's just amazingly cool. This is what I meant when I said YES YES YES to the whole statement that a piano-centric approach to music theory isn't the only or even best way to approach it, and I can see why it would annoy other instrument players.

You have no idea what a can of worms you are opening up. smile

I'm assuming you have never listened carefully to 5ths on a piano, after just being very well tuned, to hear the slow beat that indicates it has been tuned just a wee bit flat, to cancel out the problem you have mentioned.

You don't have to end up 7 octaves high. Multiply by 3/2 for the first fifth, then 3/4 to get an octave down from the next. Continue in the same manner, but use 3/4 for the last two. You will end up almost at your starting point, but at 446 and change.

446.0030365/440=1.0136432648

And there you go. smile
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#1251639 - 08/18/09 09:18 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
jotur Online   blank
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I wholeheartedly agree about non-piano-centric music theory, and I think it can be introduced from very early on. Many students play in band or sing in choir, and, at least to me, the differences in what pitches can be produced by what instrument can be a lead-in to it. Music is, to me, about sound and rhythm. I knew for *years* that barbershop quartets and gospel groups sang harmony that I couldn't reproduce on my piano, at least not if it was tuned in any way I'd ever heard it tuned. But I didn't know what that difference was until much later.

Similarly, the day I figured out that a major scale was *not* a series of individual pitches which can be played on keys on a piano or particular fingerings on some other instrument was a good day for me. It opened up a whole new understanding of music building blocks - including the circle of fifths and, eventually, the Pythagorean comma. The circle of fifths isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a consequence of 5-finger positions on a piano, and I pity some poor kid who tries to convince a guitar player that has any knowledge that it is, much less try to explain to a guitar player who is tuning to what he hears of fifths why his last string is sharp. Can 5-finger positions be a part of the education towards understanding theory? Yes, but they aren't the theory. And the theory long-pre-dates the piano.

The whole concept of major and minor scales as a series of intervals lead to a much wider appreciation of scales - in the folk music based in Western Europe, in music of Eastern Europe (which I dance to often), in music of Asian countries, in jazz.

This is a piano forum. But teaching students *music* is a wider subject, and I think teachers here want to teach music, and not just pressing keys in response to what the eye sees on the staff paper. And, at least to me, piano is embedded in the much much broader subject of music, and is *not* the be-all and end-all of either music or music theory. Certainly not the only way to teach theory, and many times not the best way to do so.

I do think there's a lot of math, science, and physics involved in music theory. It's why I don't think the piano is the ultimate way to teach it. It's why, when I'm discussing music with other people I don't discuss it from a piano-centric viewpoint. Including when I'm talking to young students who are learning piano. After all, some of their parents are playing banjo in the same band with me laugh They are not too young to understand that what they are learning is a subset of what there is to learn.

Someone asked in another thread what most teachers would think if they got a student whose teacher had taught them that curled fingers were the only way to play piano, and the implication was that we'd mostly be dismayed. I feel exactly the same way when someone says that natural notes are the white keys on the piano. Sorry. That's just the way I feel. I'm dismayed.

So perhaps we're a little closer to being back on topic here smile

Cathy
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#1251642 - 08/18/09 09:22 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
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WARNING:

Tuning is the 3rd RAIL of internet forums. I have never, EVER, seen a discussion about tuning remain friendly. When people start talking ratios and Hertz, I am GONE.

Run! Run for your lives while you still can!

Don't misunderstand me. Tuning is really cool, and the science of acoustics is a fascinating field of study. But on piano forums, it's EVIL. EVIL I SAY! laugh
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#1251645 - 08/18/09 09:29 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
jotur Online   blank
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LOL.

Cathy
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#1251693 - 08/18/09 10:54 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
J Cortese Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: J Cortese


Yup -- how, if you go up by twelve perfect fifths (where perfect is the 3:2 ratio), you overshoot seven perfect 2:1 octaves.
...
It's just amazingly cool.


You have no idea what a can of worms you are opening up. smile


Whoops, sorry. :-D

Quote:

I'm assuming you have never listened carefully to 5ths on a piano, after just being very well tuned, to hear the slow beat that indicates it has been tuned just a wee bit flat, to cancel out the problem you have mentioned.


You have no idea how out of tune the thing I played on was. To this day, I'm very forgiving with pianos, but can tell if a guitar or voice is a zillionth of a semitone flat or sharp.
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#1251695 - 08/18/09 10:55 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
J Cortese Offline
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Registered: 07/20/09
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Originally Posted By: Kreisler
WARNING:

Tuning is the 3rd RAIL of internet forums. I have never, EVER, seen a discussion about tuning remain friendly. When people start talking ratios and Hertz, I am GONE.

Run! Run for your lives while you still can!


*flails arms and heads for the hills*

:-)
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#1251709 - 08/18/09 11:25 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gyro]
Manachi Offline
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(Disclaimer: this is just my opinion and experience - you're probably better off listening to the more experienced teachers etc in here for technical answers.)

When I first started learning I didn't enjoy scales... Now days they are the #1 most intruiging part of music there is. The circle of fifths, modes, the patterns you start to see. I think it's beneficial to try and see them in a positive light. If you're doing them and hating them, what's the point?

These are the building blocks of music! Everything is based on them. A master of scales is a master of music. If you learn to repeat pieces of music one after the other without understanding the theory behind them, you'll eventually lose motivation (I did). If you understand the language behind it, it can become a lifelong passion. It will become second nature. Repeating/mimicking a phrase in a different language doesn't mean you can speak the language. A budgie can do that. But learning the langauge properly means you can say anything. Which is it you want to be able to do?

I actually believe that one of the previous posts about practising the blues or pentatonic scales and improvising over other music is a very good idea, and might well be enough to trigger interest? I know for me it certainly was the turning point. It's when you realise 'wow', that improvising I so often here, is just one (or two) scales? This single scale opens so many opportunities.

Could it also perhaps be partially related to an age thing? ie. being able to appreciate the theory?

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#1251716 - 08/18/09 11:47 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: jotur

Similarly, the day I figured out that a major scale was *not* a series of individual pitches which can be played on keys on a piano or particular fingerings on some other instrument was a good day for me. It opened up a whole new understanding of music building blocks - including the circle of fifths and, eventually, the Pythagorean comma. The circle of fifths isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a consequence of 5-finger positions on a piano, and I pity some poor kid who tries to convince a guitar player that has any knowledge that it is, much less try to explain to a guitar player who is tuning to what he hears of fifths why his last string is sharp.

I started playing brass only three years after starting piano, and I actually taught it more than piano for a decade more or more. *If* I am forced to approach theory only from the POV of one instrument, I would probably use piano/keyboard. But it would frustrate me.

However, let's not forget that the frets on guitars are more or less based on equal temperament too, at least those made to play traditional western music. The reason is pretty obvious: any pitch played on any fret, using any string, has to smoothly blend into all 12 keys, and modulation happens just as fast on guitar as on piano.

The peculiar idiosyncracies of wind instruments bring in a whole universe of special problems, but also different colors. Violin (and other string instruments) together with voice offer the most freedom to play with pitch.

The problem with going to far with piano only is that at some point there are so many things that are not possible on piano.
Quote:

This is a piano forum. But teaching students *music* is a wider subject, and I think teachers here want to teach music, and not just pressing keys in response to what the eye sees on the staff paper. And, at least to me, piano is embedded in the much much broader subject of music, and is *not* the be-all and end-all of either music or music theory. Certainly not the only way to teach theory, and many times not the best way to do so.

I don't see why anyone would say that teaching theory through piano is the only way to teach theory, but I do believe that certain areas of theory are easiest to undertand with a thorough knowledge of keyboard. You see this if you play several instruments plus piano when talking to people who have very little knowledge of piano (or keyboards). The idea of grabbing whole groups of notes at the same time is a huge piano advantage.

Now, having said that, my friends who play ONLY piano, and who don't sing, simply don't understand other things that are extremely important to me. So it cuts both ways.
Quote:

I do think there's a lot of math, science, and physics involved in music theory. It's why I don't think the piano is the ultimate way to teach it. It's why, when I'm discussing music with other people I don't discuss it from a piano-centric viewpoint. Including when I'm talking to young students who are learning piano. After all, some of their parents are playing banjo in the same band with me laugh They are not too young to understand that what they are learning is a subset of what there is to learn.

The other side of this is the huge block in trying to explain to people peculiarities of instruments with which they have zero "hands on experience". Imagine explaining to beginning piansts what it feels like to have to relax for low notes, or use extra support and the diaphram, or to fine tune notes with the lips, or fingers, or vocal apparatus. Or what it feels like to run out of air, to HAVE to breathe, and what breathing addes to music. And so on.
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#1251717 - 08/18/09 11:49 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Originally Posted By: Kreisler
WARNING:

Tuning is the 3rd RAIL of internet forums. I have never, EVER, seen a discussion about tuning remain friendly. When people start talking ratios and Hertz, I am GONE.

Run! Run for your lives while you still can!

Don't misunderstand me. Tuning is really cool, and the science of acoustics is a fascinating field of study. But on piano forums, it's EVIL. EVIL I SAY! laugh

LOL!!!

Strangely, I think you will find that people who have used a lot of tuning systems and who have at least experimented with music that has very different ideas of in and out of tune are rather open-minded. wink
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#1251720 - 08/18/09 11:53 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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For all:

Earlier Nyiregyhazi said:
Quote:

I have a follow-up question:

I do not teach the standard fingering for F sharp minor, because I find it vastly illogical.

I've been trying to figure out what his point was all night. Does anyone else see it? The standard fingering I'm familiar with seems to make more sense than any alternative…
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#1251725 - 08/19/09 12:00 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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"I have yet to understand what a "343" pattern scale is…"

Thumb under 3, thumb under 4, thumb under 3- and 3 over the thumb, 4 over the thumb, 3 over the thumb. Anything else is essentially extraneous information that merely distracts from the key movements. Even the thumb is the same every time, so it's simplest to describe the differing fingers that coincide with it's use. Obviously 1 1 1 means nothing, but 343 alone is a very simple way of covering that which requires thought, without the distraction of that which you really don't need to waste mentally energy on. This order covers all white keys except f and B. I'm amazed that anyone would complicate matters by deviating from that pattern for such simple scales. It really seems like madness, not to start off with this simple premise.

"Again, I agree. Either extreme is wrong. One extreme is to guide students by giving them advanced and non-conventional fingerings before they have understood basic fingering. In general (with some unusual exceptions) I am against this. The other extreme is to teach ONLY the conventional fingerings then leave students to work out all others, on their own, at best relying on editors without understanding the logic the editors are using."

Perhaps I misread your point. By no means was I implying that you own teaching methods are slack, but it was that you mentioned that you had never learned proper fingerings in your youth- as though is a completely acceptable situation for anyone to be in. Perhaps you were lucky and intelligent enough to thrive regardless, but can this ever be seen as an ideal situation to find yourself in? Frankly, any teacher ought to check the student knows the most convenient fingerings properly. Then you can start to think of finding alternatives, if there is just cause. I didn't read your post as endorsing the idea of letting a student just do whatever they chance upon, but it did seem a little overly tolerant as this as an 'alternative'- as opposed to something that is really a failure to convey what a student ought to be told.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 12:13 AM)
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#1251727 - 08/19/09 12:03 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
For all:

Earlier Nyiregyhazi said:
Quote:

I have a follow-up question:

I do not teach the standard fingering for F sharp minor, because I find it vastly illogical.

I've been trying to figure out what his point was all night. Does anyone else see it? The standard fingering I'm familiar with seems to make more sense than any alternative…


I relate it to A major fingering, just as C sharp minor is related to E major fingering. The thumbs anchor around the relative major, making an easy reference point for a regular 3-4-3 pattern in each hand. Aside from raised 7ths, it's literally the same scales as the majors. Why piss around with a new fingering for F sharp minor, but not C sharp minor? They are entirely equivalent. Physically, the official fingering does not feel any more or less comfortable. However, it introduces considerably greater mental difficulty- for no reason I have yet managed to uncover. For young students, I see no reason to impose a unique coordination between hands (that relates to no single other scale), when a very simple one is available.

PS. I also get students to practise these scales by playing the relative major first. Then changing the raised 7th- while still beginning from the note of the relative major. When you realise how little is changed, it's easy to then go back to playing from the black note. Any student who can play A and E can learn F sharp minor and C sharp minor within a matter of minutes. The 'correct' fingering for F sharp minor leaves no point of reference between thumbs- hence vastly more work to acquire a coordination that is simply not necessary.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 12:21 AM)
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#1251732 - 08/19/09 12:26 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Ferdinand Offline
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Edited by Ferdinand (08/19/09 01:45 AM)

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#1251767 - 08/19/09 02:55 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Gary D. Offline
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Quote:

I relate it to A major fingering, just as C sharp minor is related to E major fingering. The thumbs anchor around the relative major, making an easy reference point for a regular 3-4-3 pattern in each hand. Aside from raised 7ths, it's literally the same scales as the majors. Why piss around with a new fingering for F sharp minor, but not C sharp minor? They are entirely equivalent.

They most definitely are not.

The E major scale in the LH uses the least number of thumb turns for a one octave scale, starting from the tonic, but it also follows the very logical rule of turning from a white to black note, thumb turns. Four crosses over to F#, then three crosses over to C#. So using the same fingering for the relative minor makes perfect sense.

The A major scale in the LH also uses the least number of thumb turns for a one octave scale, starting from the tonic, which makes sense for speed when starting from the tonic, for that very reason.

However, it forces the fourth to cross over to B, a white note. The rule of least thumb turns trumps the rule of passing from black to white (or white to black). A less comfortable fingering is balanced against fewer thumb turns.

That advantage totally disappears in the relative minor. With the conventional fingering of 4 on F# and 3 on C#, which is true for natural, harmonic and melodic, the smoothest fingering is used, but no advantage is lost—because you can't start on five for that scale.
Quote:

Physically, the official fingering does not feel any more or less comfortable.

Yes, it does, for the reasons I just mentioned. Your thinking is faulty here.
Quote:

However, it introduces considerably greater mental difficulty- for no reason I have yet managed to uncover. For young students, I see no reason to impose a unique coordination between hands (that relates to no single other scale), when a very simple one is available.

You avoid an immediate problem, which I agree is a tough, but later a second best fingering will be internalized. Granted, there are few times when hands together will need to rip up and down the piano for several octaves, which is yet another reason why the reasoning BEHIND scale fingerings should be examined carefully for passage work.
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PS. I also get students to practise these scales by playing the relative major first. Then changing the raised 7th- while still beginning from the note of the relative major. When you realise how little is changed, it's easy to then go back to playing from the black note. Any student who can play A and E can learn F sharp minor and C sharp minor within a matter of minutes. The 'correct' fingering for F sharp minor leaves no point of reference between thumbs- hence vastly more work to acquire a coordination that is simply not necessary.

Yes, but: this is a short-cut for passing scale exams.

The conventional F# minor fingering for the LH puts thumbs on B and E or E#, depending on type of minor.

RH puts thumbs on A and D for F# natural minor but A and E# for harmonic and melodic, ascending, also highlight how artificial melodic minor is as the RH must come down with a different fingering.

The conventional fingerings stress WHY those fingerings are chosen, and since scales almost never happen going up and down four octaves at a time in the "Hanon" type presentation, simplifying fingerings for ease of hands together is sloppy instruction.


Edited by Gary D. (08/19/09 02:56 AM)
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#1251771 - 08/19/09 03:18 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Thumb under 3, thumb under 4, thumb under 3- and 3 over the thumb, 4 over the thumb, 3 over the thumb. Anything else is essentially extraneous information that merely distracts from the key movements. Even the thumb is the same every time, so it's simplest to describe the differing fingers that coincide with it's use. Obviously 1 1 1 means nothing, but 343 alone is a very simple way of covering that which requires thought, without the distraction of that which you really don't need to waste mentally energy on. This order covers all white keys except f and B. I'm amazed that anyone would complicate matters by deviating from that pattern for such simple scales. It really seems like madness, not to start off with this simple premise.

If you had written 3434 or 4343, I would have guessed your meaning. Please do not assume that other people are morons because they don't read your mind. I teach the "white scales" other than F and B as those that have the thumbs meet once per octave and not meet the other time, always opposing with 1 against 2 or 2 against 1. The thumbs can also be described as falling on the the first and fourth note of each scale, in the RH, and the first and fifth, in the LH.

But I explain that Ab follows the same pattern because the thumbs fall on the same notes as in the C scale.

I teach F, B, Db and Gb as another "set", easiest because the thumbs always meet (hands together).

That takes care of 10.

So I put great stress on Eb and Bb, which are different from all the others. The thumbs never meet.


For the benefit of those reading, one always meets with two in Eb. Bb is worse. Once per octave one meets with two, the other time one with three. In a scale audition for majors, if something goes wrong, it usually is one of those two scales, for students who have practiced all of them.
Quote:

Perhaps I misread your point. By no means was I implying that you own teaching methods are slack, but it was that you mentioned that you had never learned proper fingerings in your youth- as though is a completely acceptable situation for anyone to be in.

You need to learn to read and not read things into posts that are not there. Why in the name of heaven would you assume that the way I was taught, badly, reflects my own way of teaching? I was not bragging about nailing down the scales later. I was reporting what happened to me. The point is that the moment I began practicing them, I analyzed WHY the fingerings were what they were. We don't all have the luxury of excellent teachers when we are young. My teacher just gave them to me. It was left totally up to me to work out the whys behind the dos.
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Perhaps you were lucky and intelligent enough to thrive regardless, but can this ever be seen as an ideal situation to find yourself in?

Of course not.
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Frankly, any teacher ought to check the student knows the most convenient fingerings properly. Then you can start to think of finding alternatives, if there is just cause. I didn't read your post as endorsing the idea of letting a student just do whatever they chance upon, but it did seem a little overly tolerant as this as an 'alternative'- as opposed to something that is really a failure to convey what a student ought to be told.

"Overly tolerant?":)

If anything I am so obsessive about intelligent fingering in my own teaching that at times I fear I risk giving too much help. There is a razor's edge between being too lax about fingering (producing deadly technical flaws) and too careful (in which case a student may not be able to solve problems independently later on).
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#1251800 - 08/19/09 07:58 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
"I have yet to understand what a "343" pattern scale is…"

Thumb under 3, thumb under 4, thumb under 3- and 3 over the thumb, 4 over the thumb, 3 over the thumb. Anything else is essentially extraneous information that merely distracts from the key movements.


When looking for the minimum information, we need to be careful not to err on the side of too little as well.

I did not understand the 343 description. I assumed it was an ideosyncratic shorthand for the idea that all scale fingering is just a repeat pattern of 1231234. (So far, nobody has argued against the 1231234 theory; I'll continue to assume that is correct until refuted.)

I see now there is an implicit rule contained in the 343 shorthand. Yes, one uses 1231234, but when choosing the starting finger, one seeks to minimize number of times the thumb is passed. I think that is what Mr. N is saying? I was working with an alternate "rule," match fingers 2 and 3 to the black keys.

Why rules? Children beginners are just told to memorize the fingering. Adults ask why. It is not because we are obstructionist, though I suspect teachers conclude that. It is because our memories have faded, and we can recall much better in context. I rotate through the scales one key signature a week, and some keys I have to figure out anew every time. If I didn't have the rule I'd have to look it up every time.

I think Mr. K's idea of thumbs meeting is very helpful to children learning these patterns. It adds an additional anchor point. I suspect it's too noncontextual to be very useful to adult beginners. For me it adds a rote memory step that is difficult.

If the rule is to minimize thumb passes, there are many exceptions. It doesn't work if you play a scale greater than one octave in length (rarely found in the repertoire though). It doesn't work if you play scales as modes - starting on different degrees of the scale but retaining the major scale fingering. And if you use it for scale fragments you will have to vary from the standard fingering.

But it is easy to remember and workable. I think if Mr. N applied it consistently he too would vary from the traditional "standard" fingering. Actually, doesn't any rule based system suggest deviation from the standard?
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#1251802 - 08/19/09 08:06 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I'm assuming you have never listened carefully to 5ths on a piano, after just being very well tuned, to hear the slow beat that indicates it has been tuned just a wee bit flat, to cancel out the problem you have mentioned.



But that's not why.

Well, it is why, sort of, but it isn't all of why.

Yes, tuning to ET would result in a slow beat somewhere, if all you were tuning were the fundamentals.

But we don't tune a piano to ET. We have to tune a piano to sound as if it were tuned to ET, but that requires stretching away from ET.

A piano string is not limp. It is a thin steel bar, and it is equally as stiff as an I beam in a skyscraper. (just thinner) That means the upper harmonics don't have a simple relationship, unlike organ pipes or trombones. (that's called inharmonicity) So if you tune the fundamentals to ET, your overtones will clash. To avoid that you tune the fundamentals slightly away from ET, reducing the clash somewhat. And adding another source of slow beat.
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#1251808 - 08/19/09 08:36 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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"The E major scale in the LH uses the least number of thumb turns for a one octave scale, starting from the tonic, but it also follows the very logical rule of turning from a white to black note, thumb turns. Four crosses over to F#, then three crosses over to C#. So using the same fingering for the relative minor makes perfect sense.

The A major scale in the LH also uses the least number of thumb turns for a one octave scale, starting from the tonic, which makes sense for speed when starting from the tonic, for that very reason."


So if a student can play A major with no problems, precisely why should this cause difficulties within the context of F sharp minor? A major really is not a hard scale. I regard the mentally difficulty of changing to an alternate fingering as wholly unecessary. Having practised both, neither causes me any particular problem. However, I would personally say that the cramped position of the hand (from 3 on the C sharp) is probably more uncomfortable than in the A major alternative. That which is supposedly flawed- not turning onto a black note is exactly the same as A major anyway. If you can deal this for fewer thumb turns why not deal with in favour of more natural coordinations?




"Yes, but: this is a short-cut for passing scale exams.

The conventional F# minor fingering for the LH puts thumbs on B and E or E#, depending on type of minor.

RH puts thumbs on A and D for F# natural minor but A and E# for harmonic and melodic, ascending, also highlight how artificial melodic minor is as the RH must come down with a different fingering.

The conventional fingerings stress WHY those fingerings are chosen, and since scales almost never happen going up and down four octaves at a time in the "Hanon" type presentation, simplifying fingerings for ease of hands together is sloppy instruction."


Well, I'm a "sloppy" instructor then. I utterly dispute your claim that that the standard fingering is inherently more comfortable. If you find turning the 4th finger in A major to be particularly 'uncomfortable' to get your fingers around, then you might have a point. I certainly don't, however. Unless A major is inherently uncomfortable to play, then I really struggle to see how you can possibly claim my fingering (which is designed precisely for ease of hands together playing) to be 'sloppy'. The idea that this fingering is uncomfortable simply does not hold up.

Having practised both fingerings, I honestly believe that the cramped position that comes from having 3 to turn onto C sharp is vastly more uncomfortable than the A major standard. I prefer turning the 3-2 over onto two black notes. They are easier to line up in an instant. The fourth finger on B gives an opportunity to prepare the hand for what is otherwise a slightly more awkward C sharp to D. I really cannot see how there is a significant physical advantage with either. However, in terms of comfort, I'm actually slightly towards the A major fingering, for these reasons. And in terms of logic, it wins hands down...


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 11:42 AM)
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#1251817 - 08/19/09 09:02 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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"When looking for the minimum information, we need to be careful not to err on the side of too little as well."

Sure, I should have clarified it here. Obviously I explain fully when teaching, but once the kid understands the basic 123123412312345 etc. anything beyond that is just a waste of thought. With prior understanding, 343 conveys everything that needs to be known, without mental energy being wasted on that which does not require it.

"I think Mr. K's idea of thumbs meeting is very helpful to children learning these patterns. It adds an additional anchor point. I suspect it's too noncontextual to be very useful to adult beginners. For me it adds a rote memory step that is difficult."

343 doesn't take much learning. Anything that is based around the layout of black keys on the piano has exceptions. The rule of 4 on B flat and 3 on E flat for rh flat scales is useful, but I prefer to avoid thinking primarily in terms of anything much beyond anchoring around the tonic note and using 343, except for scales that necessitate it. Adults should respond well to such a simple approach.

"But it is easy to remember and workable. I think if Mr. N applied it consistently he too would vary from the traditional "standard" fingering. Actually, doesn't any rule based system suggest deviation from the standard?"

Sure, but if you realise that around 85% (perhaps more) of scales relate to one of two patterns- 343 or thumbs ALWAYS together (including F major and minor, B major and minor, D d flat, B flat minor, F sharp major, E flat minor) it saves a hell of a lot of diverse thought about things that are really side-issues, rather than the primary issue that governs fingering. Once you have these covered, you can learn the variants that occur out of necessity.

The only scales that are not covered (if you use my A major fingering for F sharp minor- which stand by both in terms of comfort and convenience) by either 343 with anchored thumbs, or thumbs ALWAYS together principles are G sharp minor, B flat and E flat. A flat major is 343, when conceived from the reference point of the thumbs together on C. C sharp minor and F sharp minor are 343 patterns from the note of the relative major. The only non-standard fingering I use is for F sharp minor.

So there we have it! Two simple rules based on coinciding thumbs cover EVERY scale execept for 3 (or 4 if you insist on the standard pattern for F sharp minor)!

So why go to all the trouble of these confusing rules that have countless exceptions? Considering how overwhelming the trend towards these two patterns is, obviously this was the primary issue when these fingerings were devised- above the issue of certain fingers on certain black keys (which comes into play within the exceptions when these basic patterns do not work). Only in conventional F sharp minor is this basis dropped, from anything other than outright necessity.

PS Just to clarify- the constant thumb together rule is based on planning to the next thumb. Once you've memorised the two notes for the scale, you merely think how far away the next one is, and give an according number of fingers- to correspond with that distance. No brain-dead rote memorization other than the thumb notes (which are usually F and C). The student starts very slowly and has to actively think for themself about what fingers are required. When they understand why they need a certain number of fingers (ie to ensure that thumbs always meet up) the learning is very secure.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 10:15 AM)
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#1251842 - 08/19/09 10:07 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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"If you had written 3434 or 4343, I would have guessed your meaning. Please do not assume that other people are morons because they don't read your mind. I teach the "white scales" other than F and B as those that have the thumbs meet once per octave and not meet the other time, always opposing with 1 against 2 or 2 against 1. The thumbs can also be described as falling on the the first and fourth note of each scale, in the RH, and the first and fifth, in the LH."

Please don't assume that I assumed anyone to be a moron. Where did I criticise anyone for not understanding? Apologies for not having defined it, but I don't think there's any need to start feeding such words into my mouth, simply because I did not clarify myself. It's not 3434 though. The last four is not significant. I only refer to those that are accompanied by a thumb. Any running of fingers doesn't need to be over-analysed. Only the turning motions are of great significance, when looking at the key points.

"But I explain that Ab follows the same pattern because the thumbs fall on the same notes as in the C scale.

I teach F, B, Db and Gb as another "set", easiest because the thumbs always meet (hands together).

That takes care of 10.

So I put great stress on Eb and Bb, which are different from all the others. The thumbs never meet."


Interesting. I think we've come to very similar conclusions. I hadn't read this before my other post, but I we've looked at much the same things. G sharp minor is also a unique coordination, like those two.


"For the benefit of those reading, one always meets with two in Eb. Bb is worse. Once per octave one meets with two, the other time one with three. In a scale audition for majors, if something goes wrong, it usually is one of those two scales, for students who have practiced all of them."

I teach that (on black notes) 3 always comes with 4 and 4 always comes with 3 in that one. The hands never meet up. Basically, it's always the finger you least expect.


"You need to learn to read and not read things into posts that are not there. Why in the name of heaven would you assume that the way I was taught, badly, reflects my own way of teaching?"

Umm, isn't that a somewhat ironic response to my sentence that read "By no means was I implying that your own teaching methods are slack". I never suggested a thing about your own teaching. I said that your post struck me as a little overly tolerant of others who might use slack methods. I'm sorry, but you're the one who is reading things into posts, if you took personal offence. I was simply saying that I do not think failing to learn simple scale fingerings is a particularly wise 'road to Rome', as you put it. Just because I feel that some roads to Rome CAN be rather more direct than others, does not mean that I was commenting upon the success or failings of your own method. It really wasn't even in my mind.


What I disagreed with was this (from Kreisler, I think):

some people like to be very systematic in their approach to technical training, others tend to look for it in repertoire or exercises chosen or invented "as needed."

I haven't noticed anything to suggest one way is better than another.


To which you were adding you agreement- surely implying that your not having learned any scale fingerings is no better or worse than having learned them earlier on? You didn't previous make it terribly clear that you see not having learned standard fingerings as having been a worse way to go, when raising that point. I any case, I was arguing solely against being too tolerant of teaching that does not convey fingerings (as if it's merely a 'different' approach). Not against you, or your personal method. Seeing as it obviously IS NOT your method, why would you feel that it was directed at you? Please don't assume that merely because I was replying to your post, everything in it was aimed at you personally. I simply felt it is important to stress that although scales are only are beginning, as you said, they ARE an important beginning. If you're in agreement with my stressing that they are a beginning but not an end then why are you reading my post as being an attack on you- and asking such an inaccurately assumptive question as:

"Why in the name of heaven would you assume that the way I was taught, badly, reflects my own way of teaching?"

I am sorry if you chose to think that was implied, but I was simply discussing the issues- primarily through agreement with you. I was certainly not making personal accusations. If you had stated that you are a teacher who does not believe in teaching any fingerings, I would have attacked you specifically and made it absolutely clear that I was referring to you and your methods in particular. However seeing as you did not, I neither assumed that you would believe such things and nor did I write anything that attributed such beliefs to you. You should not just assume that anything that is stated in a generalised, open discussion is supposed to be a personal attack. I particularly struggle to see why my statements of views that are largely very similar to your own would make you see a personal accusation.

Earlier on you said "You appear to be disagreeing with me, but I do exactly the same thing."

Well, I wan't particularly disagreeing with much said at all. I was following up on your point with one of my own. If you can only interpret somebody else chipping with a few generalised points as though it were a specific attack on you, it's going to put something of a limiter on discussion.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 02:04 PM)
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#1251854 - 08/19/09 10:34 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Kreisler Offline


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I'm with N on this one:

3's together (C, G, D, A, E, Ab)

1's together (F, B, F#, Db)

Weird (Eb, Bb)
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#1251900 - 08/19/09 11:54 AM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
J Cortese Offline
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You know, I've been thinking about this more, and I think the most sensible answer to whether I've heard slow beats in a fifth on a piano is ... compared to what? I think a tempered fifth can be heard best compared to a perfect one. At the age I was learning, no one ever used to word "tempered" with me, so I wouldn't have even known that any slow fluctuation I heard WAS as a result of tempering, why, and had anything else to compare it to. A fifth was simply what you played on a piano by definition.
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#1251907 - 08/19/09 12:01 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
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Thanks, Tim - I was aware that a piano isn't tuned to theoretical ET because the real world doesn't work exactly theoretically :), both in the materials of the piano and in the way our brains interpret the input, but this was succinct and clear.

Cathy
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#1251992 - 08/19/09 02:25 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Originally Posted By: jotur

Someone asked in another thread what most teachers would think if they got a student whose teacher had taught them that curled fingers were the only way to play piano, and the implication was that we'd mostly be dismayed. I feel exactly the same way when someone says that natural notes are the white keys on the piano. Sorry. That's just the way I feel. I'm dismayed.

So perhaps we're a little closer to being back on topic here smile

Cathy


At the risk of introducing Pierre Bourdieu to the conversation (you think people should run away from discussions of tuning...try dredging up habitus and doxa wink )...

It's sort of an artifact of the keyboard landscape (those white keys just look bigger and more important wink ) combined with the fact that, in printed music, if nothing is "done" do a note (ie-flatted or sharped) it will be a white key, that might give piano students who only know piano 'odd ideas' about theory.

I think it might lead to some unconscious assumptions that have to be realized to be overcome.
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#1252016 - 08/19/09 03:16 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Monica K. Offline

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Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
It's sort of an artifact of the keyboard landscape (those white keys just look bigger and more important wink ) combined with the fact that, in printed music, if nothing is "done" do a note (ie-flatted or sharped) it will be a white key, that might give piano students who only know piano 'odd ideas' about theory.

I think it might lead to some unconscious assumptions that have to be realized to be overcome.


Exactly. And I think this is an important enough point that I felt it was worthwhile (and still do, for that matter) to stress that octaves aren't defined by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard.
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#1252025 - 08/19/09 03:36 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Monica K.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
It's sort of an artifact of the keyboard landscape (those white keys just look bigger and more important wink ) combined with the fact that, in printed music, if nothing is "done" do a note (ie-flatted or sharped) it will be a white key, that might give piano students who only know piano 'odd ideas' about theory.

I think it might lead to some unconscious assumptions that have to be realized to be overcome.


Exactly. And I think this is an important enough point that I felt it was worthwhile (and still do, for that matter) to stress that octaves aren't defined by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard.


In fairness, the piano keyboard IS probably the best visual representation available for pitches though. It illustrates why some notes have unique sharps and flats- whereas raising others results in notes that are effectively the same. I'm aware that string players will tend to play an f sharp slightly differently to a g flat say, but we're not talking almighty differences.

There's nothing absolute about the idea that sharps or flats relate to black notes on a piano, but it certainly is a convenient way of 'seeing' pitches in a way that illustrates intervals. The 12 pitches don't have to laid out that way, but when I think about the logic of sharps and flats (which are used for all standard instruments), I can see how it does illustrate something rather important about the nature of those.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 03:40 PM)
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#1252032 - 08/19/09 03:47 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
J Cortese Offline
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I seem to recall that my teacher communicated sharps and flats to me by just saying something like sharping a note pushes it up a half-step, and flatting it pushes it down a half-step. It was all just relative to the note you were talking about. It seemed to make things easier.

That, plus playing scales, seemed to set things in my head so that I never struggled to remember what notes were sharp or flat in a key signature. When I had to play something in C#, I just knew the notes of which that scale was composed, so I never had to look back at the clef and find out whether a certain printed note was sharp or flat. When you play something in C#, for instance, you know that when one of the notes is parked on the G line, it's a sharped G because that's the one that's in the scale for that key. I can't imagine having a hard time keeping track of sharps and flats once you know scales.

But sharps and flats weren't told to me in any sort of a concrete way, I don't think. It was just pushing a note up or down by a half-step, and a certain number of pushes one way or another starting from C moved you up a fifth each time.

I'm actually having a tough time thinking about how I learned all this now that I'm approaching it again. It's like asking which way is up. This stuff REALLY sank in deep.
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#1252064 - 08/19/09 04:41 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Monica K.]
Betty Patnude Offline
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Monica says: ".....this is an important enough point that I felt it was worthwhile (and still do, for that matter) to stress that....octaves aren't defined by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard."

The "Essential Dictionary of Music - Alfred Publishing Company" defines octave:

The interval of eight diatonic steps or from one note to it's nearest note of the same name.

Common usage in piano teaching also includes the understanding that there are 7 white key letter names within an octave and 5 black notes along with the duplicated octave note.

There is also an "octave hand span" - the distance that most teen and adult hands can easily span.

Within the two matching notes of an octave it is understood there are 12 half step; From these 12 half steps, the tetrachord formula determines the major scale.

So, how ever many times Monica says this, and no matter what inflection given to the word, I cannot agree with Monica. Nor do I understand what she is trying to say.

"...OCTAVES aren't defined by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard."
"...octaves AREN'T defined by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard."
"...octaves aren't DEFINED by the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard."
"...octaves aren't defined BY the number of white and black keys on a piano keyboard." etc., ad naseum.

Furthermore on an acoustic piano:
There are 8 octaves of A
There are 8 octaves of B
There are 8 octaves of C
There are 7 octaves of D
There are 7 octaves of E
There are 7 octaves of F
There are 7 octaves of G

Can this be agreed upon?

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#1252074 - 08/19/09 04:55 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Common usage in piano teaching also includes the understanding that there are 7 white key letter names within an octave and 5 black notes along with the duplicated octave note.

Yes it does. But that is a PIANO teaching book. I think what some of these folks are saying (not just Monica) is that octaves are not solely defined by a piano keyboard. Of course they are if you are teaching piano.

Octaves are not white and black keys on instruments.
Nor are there as many octaves on instruments.
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#1252081 - 08/19/09 05:05 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Kreisler Offline


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Loc: Iowa City, IA
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#1252082 - 08/19/09 05:07 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Kreisler]
J Cortese Offline
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Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Sorry. I feel like I shot the horse myself. :-) It went off while I was cleaning it, honest ...
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#1252102 - 08/19/09 05:43 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Betty Patnude]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
The "Essential Dictionary of Music - Alfred Publishing Company" defines octave:

The interval of eight diatonic steps or from one note to it's nearest note of the same name.


I think this is a (not the whole truth) true statement:

The piano has 8 white keys that, in the key of C major, represent a diatonic scale from one C to the next, called an octave because of the definition of a diatonic scale. (I don't think a piano has to have its keys colored black and white in the scheme we are used to - even tho most of them these days do.) (The Alfred's definition does take in to account that one can play only 2 pitches and be playing an octave, leaving out the steps in between.)

I think this is a false statement:

An octave has 8 diatonic steps because a piano has 7 white notes, represented by letter names, that span an octave.

It's the use of the word because that makes the difference.

So I agree with Monica.

Cathy
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#1252104 - 08/19/09 05:44 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: J Cortese]
jotur Online   blank
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
J. Cortese -

I believe you, ma'am. We all just do the best we can.

laugh

Cathy
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#1252144 - 08/19/09 07:09 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: jotur]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3200
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: jotur

I think this is a false statement:

An octave has 8 diatonic steps because a piano has 7 white notes, represented by letter names, that span an octave.

Cathy


My two Eurocents:

An octave is indeed named because it contains 8 steps. Octa = 8 in several languages.

But an octave is defined as a 2:1 ratio of frequencies. This predates the piano by several thousand years. The octave was known to the ancient Greeks, who determined frequency ratios with monochords. They also defined other simple integral ratio intervals like the third, fourth, fifth, etc. And they knew in Pythagoreus's day that a circle of fifths would not close, missing by a comma.

I have never seen a convincing explanation for why an octave sounds like a repetition of the same note. It's a neurological mystery, or at least was the last time I researched it.
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#1252168 - 08/19/09 08:00 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: TimR
But an octave is defined as a 2:1 ratio of frequencies. This predates the piano by several thousand years. The octave was known to the ancient Greeks, who determined frequency ratios with monochords. They also defined other simple integral ratio intervals like the third, fourth, fifth, etc. And they knew in Pythagoreus's day that a circle of fifths would not close, missing by a comma.


Thank you Tim smile
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#1252173 - 08/19/09 08:12 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
jotur Online   blank
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Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5529
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Yea, Tim.

Cathy
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#1252195 - 08/19/09 08:49 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: TimR]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
There are not 8 steps in an octave. There are 8 (diatonic) notes, with 7 steps between them. I feel so strongly about this that I made a new topic. laugh
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#1252200 - 08/19/09 09:04 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

So if a student can play A major with no problems, precisely why should this cause difficulties within the context of F sharp minor? A major really is not a hard scale. I regard the mentally difficulty of changing to an alternate fingering as wholly unecessary. Having practised both, neither causes me any particular problem. However, I would personally say that the cramped position of the hand (from 3 on the C sharp) is probably more uncomfortable than in the A major alternative. That which is supposedly flawed- not turning onto a black note is exactly the same as A major anyway. If you can deal this for fewer thumb turns why not deal with in favour of more natural coordinations?

For me fingering is always going to be determined, in the end, by what works best. When scales are taught and practiced, hands together, up and down four octaves, this may or may not have much to do with what we need to to when actually playing music.

If I'm playing a one or two octave A scale, LH, starting and ending on A, of course I will start with the 5th finger and use the default fingering. On the other hand, if a run starts on F#, LH only, and ascends to C#, an octave and a 5th, the fingering I choose will be totally according to which makes my LH feel most comfortable. This is a simplistic example. I can't give you a better one taken from a famous passage by composer A or B, though I'm sure they exist. Regardless of the chord structure, this would feel like a modal movement using the notes of the A scale and so could be thought of either that way or as an ascending natural minor scale, F#. I could honestly flip a coin, I think, between one fingering and the other, and I have to admit that I don't have a clear preference just for ripping up and down the natrual minor scale. So I'll give that point to you. Fair?

Introducing an E# into the scale still does not give me a really solid preference. But when the D# is added, so that now there is a melodic minor, I want 4 on F#, because the feel is more like that an F# major scale, with a lowered 3rd.

But this gets away from some solid principles for scale AND passage playing that I think are rather solid.

The number of thumb turns needed in a run are weighed against the ease of the thumb turns. In the keys of C, D, E, and G the RH fingering is set up so that both are true. You start on thumb, end on 5, and there is no better way to do it, assuming you are starting on the tonic.

The left hand, in contrast, is set up for least number of thumb turns, but G, D and A do not utilize optimum black to white thumb turns. This does make these scales marginally more "bumpy" for the LH than the RH, although the difference is very small. For intance, starting on F#, but thinking modally for a moment:

F# G A B C# D E F# G A B, ascending in the LH, only LH, in a passage, would surely put 4 on F# and 3 on C#. To you this is so obvious that you would not even think about it. For a very good student, the same would be true. A less advanced student might not immediately think it through. This is where the theory behind how scaled fingerings are chosen should become interesting to people who are learning.
Quote:

Well, I'm a "sloppy" instructor then.

I doubt it. I slipped into a bit of rhetorical posturing for a moment. smile
Quote:

I utterly dispute your claim that that the standard fingering is inherently more comfortable.

I utterly dispute your utter dispute, or something. My father can beat up your father. This is going to get REALLY stupid fast. wink

I was saying that there is good reason to study the reasons why the conventional fingerings were chosen. To mindlessly follow ANY fingering system without adjusting for any number of reasons would be so rigid that some music would never be played will. Fingering is not a science. It's an art.
Quote:

If you find turning the 4th finger in A major to be particularly 'uncomfortable' to get your fingers around, then you might have a point. I certainly don't, however.

No more than it is "uncomfortable" to play a C scale. But most people acknowledge immediately that a scale like B major is much faster and smoother for the LH than C. Do you disagree with that? Db should theoretically be easiest for the LH because of the half step thumb turns from white to black.

On the other hand, the kind of patterns used often by people such as Mozart are easier in C because we can set up a pattern. It's not a clear matter of what is easiest or hardest, in all cases. The first scale patterns in the RH in K545, first movement, is a perfect example. There you go up 34, using your abbreviation, but come down 44 because the downward pattern is 9 notes, not 8. This is effortless to do in C, much harder in Gb. There are always tradeoffs.
Quote:

Having practised both fingerings, I honestly believe that the cramped position that comes from having 3 to turn onto C sharp is vastly more uncomfortable than the A major standard. I prefer turning the 3-2 over onto two black notes.

But that happens in F# melodic minor, ascending. There too you want to turn to B with your 4th finger?
Quote:

They are easier to line up in an instant. The fourth finger on B gives an opportunity to prepare the hand for what is otherwise a slightly more awkward C sharp to D.

True for natural and harmonic, not for melodic. And that means potentially changing the fingering descending in both hands as they return with 6 and 7 lowered.

For the others, natural and harmonic, frankly, I would most likely present both fingerings, yours and the conventional one. But I would explain why.

Which MAY mean we actually agree. Because for me, as a teacher, the WHY is the important part. This gives a student the opportunity to think flexibly and does not leave him/her boxed in by limited thinking.
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#1252259 - 08/19/09 10:50 PM Re: I hate scales! [Re: Gary D.]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
"F# G A B C# D E F# G A B, ascending in the LH, only LH, in a passage, would surely put 4 on F# and 3 on C#. To you this is so obvious that you would not even think about it. For a very good student, the same would be true. A less advanced student might not immediately think it through. This is where the theory behind how scaled fingerings are chosen should become interesting to people who are learning."

Quite honestly, I would take three on the F sharp without a shade of doubt. As I said earlier, I find 4 on the B to be an excellent means of preparing for 2 and 3 on C sharp and D. I find it slightly more uncomfortable to lead straight into this position direct from the thumb. There's very little in it, but I would certainly be more inclined to start on 3. I would likely then take 4 on the second F sharp, to finish on the thumb,

"I doubt it. I slipped into a bit of rhetorical posturing for a moment. :)"

Well, with respect, the entirety of your previous post seemed quite unequivocally damning of the notion that my alternative fingering might possibly be considered valid. The explicit statement you made about picking fingerings for convenience of coordination implying sloppy teaching did not come across as to me being a slip.

"I was saying that there is good reason to study the reasons why the conventional fingerings were chosen. To mindlessly follow ANY fingering system without adjusting for any number of reasons would be so rigid that some music would never be played will. Fingering is not a science. It's an art."

Well, having played it myself conventionally for years (before I decided that the conventional pattern was not optimal) I can safely say that my hand is marginally more comfortable with the A major- despite the years I had spent playing it with a normal fingering. The difference is certainly slight. However, that's precisely why I see no reason to divert from the A major fingering to a unique coordination that is found in no other scale. This is the single case where I believe the logic of the standard fingering is flawed. Even for those who might find 4 more comfortable, I believe that any benefits are unlikely to be sufficient for it to be worth teaching such an awkward coordination as the norm. I think that should be the variant for those who wish to use it, not the standard.


"No more than it is "uncomfortable" to play a C scale. But most people acknowledge immediately that a scale like B major is much faster and smoother for the LH than C. Do you disagree with that? Db should theoretically be easiest for the LH because of the half step thumb turns from white to black."

Not at all. These do lie very nicely. However, standard F sharp minor fingering is nowhere near that level of comfort. It doesn't offer much difference to my hand. I have never felt an inherent problem with going to a white note on my fourth finger. It's no D flat major in terms of comfort, but neither is F sharp minor- however you finger it. If this ought to be considered a problem, the conventional F sharp minor ought to be regarded as 'easier' than A major- as, on your principle, every left hand finger turns to land on a black note. Do you think this is this the case? Perhaps it's just me, but it's not of the most natural fits imaginable. I honestly find the A major lies better under my hand. Have you tried practising it that way? So, why do we usually teach kids something so complex- merely in order to solve a 'problem' that they will inevitably encounter and have to master in A major scales?


"But that happens in F# melodic minor, ascending. There too you want to turn to B with your 4th finger?"

Especially there. It involves a simple thumbs always together going up and 343 back down. Physically I encounter no problems whatsoever. A regular 343 turns the single most accident-prone scale into a fairly straightforward one.

"True for natural and harmonic, not for melodic. And that means potentially changing the fingering descending in both hands as they return with 6 and 7 lowered."

Just an in C sharp minor/E major yes. The principle is identical. It's actually quite easy, when you do the same in both.

"Which MAY mean we actually agree. Because for me, as a teacher, the WHY is the important part. This gives a student the opportunity to think flexibly and does not leave him/her boxed in by limited thinking."

Indeed. I always explain both pairs of scales together- showing how simple the principle is. They can use four if they wish, but nobody has ever complained that my simpler alternative is uncomfortable in any sense. Even if it were less optimal- where do you draw the line? After all, we don't tell beginners to use 4 on B flats in chromatic scales. It's too complex when the hands come together. So why not start simple for F sharp minor- and let them try more complex coordinations later, if they feel it fits their hand more? To my mind, it seems clear that what is standard ought to be the variant, not the rule.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/19/09 11:15 PM)
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