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#1526517 - 10/01/10 09:08 PM Scales and Tempo
OhioBuckeye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 25
I'm learning scales over 1 and 2 octaves and playing to a metronome. What is a good tempo to say: "yea that's good let's move on to the next scale." ? Given that you play the scale correctly at that tempo.



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#1526548 - 10/01/10 10:01 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2313
Loc: Sydney
Hi, are you doing the scales classical or jazz ?

#1526576 - 10/01/10 10:57 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2496
Loc: Virginia, USA
I don't think there's a right answer. You could look at the various exam boards and use their grades as a guide but I think it's more important that you cover more scales at slower speeds and then move back to earlier ones and get them faster. It would be silly to be able to do C major at 150 bpm and not be able to do G major at all.
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#1526641 - 10/02/10 03:17 AM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
EJR Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 861
Loc: Bristol, UK
<< What is a good tempo to say: "yea that's good let's move on to the next scale." ? Given that you play the scale correctly at that tempo.>>

Don't worry about tempo, when practicing focus on knowing the notes, evenness, and musicality. Try playing staccatto as well as legato, and in different rhythms (e.g swing). Vary the volume (pp/ff) and add crescendos and diminuendos. Basically have fun! "Tempo" and attaining maximum velocity should be the lowest priority but long term goals. So how to manage all of this?

I'm enjoying practicing scales working around the circle of fifths doing 2 major and their relative minors a day and working to a metronome click. I'm putting learning all the scales and internalising the notes ahead of pure speed. Many examination boards introduce the scales a few at a time as you go up the grades (usually one, two, three sharps, then one, two, three flats and so on, this is basically going clockwise & anticlockwise around the circle of fifths). I enjoy "working out" for each set the major and its relative minors in both the harmonic & melodic forms. In a sense when starting this mental rehearsal was more taxing than physically bangining them out fast. My aim was to learn all the scales, then on mass increase the tempo gradually.

In a sence tempo is unimportant, since I think you learn and gain more by thorough practice at slow tempos, and going for musicality, evenness, and ensuring the notes are fully internalised. However, I started out using a metronome setting of 60 and playing 1 note per click to check notes and fingering are correct for a minute or so, I then play 2 notes per click. Sometimes when learning the notes I may do 1 note per two clicks.

Aim to increase the metronome click by around 4 for each new cycle around the circle of fifths. But if not ready, then don't and remain at the same tempo. I tend to make this decision away from the piano. Currently I'm on 116. I still start off playing 1-to-1, before increasing to two notes per click (232 notes per minute). Occasionally, I do 3 notes per click. I like to start off with just 1 or 2 octaves (for the slower speed HS/HT), then increase to the higher speeds over 2 octaves or more. The ones I'm more comfortable with I may do over 3 or 4 octaves, or do the 2 octaves in either the lower or upper octaves rather than just around middle C.

Once at the higher speed, as mentioned above I alternate between legatto, stacatto touch and swing rhythms. Again, these are more important to me than tempo.

In the ABRSM schema the higher grades do 4 notes per click with the minimum speed for the highest grade being 88 (352 notes per minute) this will get you a pass, and a distinction being 4 notes per click at well over 100 (>400 notes per minute).

There's been a number of interesting threads in recent months about scales and tempo over on the teacher's forum. You may want to check those out...

Daily ramblings....

#1547801 - 10/31/10 05:17 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
Tubbie0075 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 1026
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
If you are doing 2-octave scales, it maybe that you are quite new to scales. If so, I agree with Andy that you should nit worry about the tempo for the time being. It is more important to play them clearly, and evenly, both the tone and rhythm for both hands. If you play them with separate hands, the problem areas will usually stand out compared to when you play both hands.

Once you are comfortable with the above, you can then work on higher tempo. Increase the tempo with metronome is a start. Once you get to the point where it is very fast and you can't go any further, there are ways to practice to increase tempo at high speed. One that I know of is play it with different mix rhythms (my violin teacher calls it rhythmic scales). This helps with evenness and speed.

Tempo for exams are only indication. The examiner will rather you play at a slightly slower tempo but clear and even, than you play fast and messy.

Good luck!

Good luck!
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#1547830 - 10/31/10 05:45 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
raskdog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 78
Loc: Central Queensland
Can anyone tell me the point of contrary motion scales? I find them such a pain in the butt.

#1547891 - 10/31/10 06:43 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
Dror Perl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/10
Posts: 272
Loc: NY
Elwyn you got some great points there !
To elaborate just a little more about the different resolutions against the tempo, I think its great to choose a tempo you are comfortable with and play whole notes or half notes for a little while, try to really get a beautiful and even sound, then while the metronome still goes in the background, change and start playing the same scale & same tempo but now in quarter notes and still try to keep the same even sound, a few minutes and then change to eighth notes, after that to triplets, 16th, and so on...
I also agree that playing legato & staccato is a great idea.

Raskdog, I think that this exercise can contribute to your coordination capabilities, and control of the keyboard and therefore help you in the future with playing more challenging material/pieces.
Dror Perl. Pianist, Composer, Teacher.


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#1548761 - 11/01/10 08:24 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
molto_agitato Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/09
Posts: 162
Loc: Washington State
Originally Posted By: raskdog
Can anyone tell me the point of contrary motion scales? I find them such a pain in the butt.

Raskdog, I understand your frustration. I recently worked through all of the scales in contrary motion. I practiced them in three octaves, using triplets. It's amusing to me that contrary motion is supposed to be easier than parallel motion--I certainly didn't have this experience! However, when most method books introduce scales, they present a one octave C major scale and perhaps a one octave a harmonic minor scale in contrary motion. Of course a one octave C major scale in contrary motion is going to be easy! Try doing a three octave f# harmonic minor scale in contrary motion! (That was the one that gave me the biggest problems!)

Anyway, my teacher told me that since learning scales in contrary motion is more difficult that learning scales in parallel motion, mastering contrary motion scales will make parallel motion scales seem easier my comparison. My teacher described the process as "over-learning" the scales. Similarly, to make a task easier, one might intentionally make the task more difficult than it already is. After mastering the added challenge, the original task is easy by comparison.

(For anyone who's interested: when I start a new cycle through the scales, I start with C major and its three relative minors, a natural minor, a harmonic minor, and a melodic minor. Then I add one sharp at a time until I get to C# major and the a# minors, which have seven sharps. I then return to C major and the a minors (which have no flats) and I add flats, one at a time, until I get to C-flat major and the a-flat minors, which have seven flats. I work on only two scales per week, so it takes me about eight months to get through all of the scales.)

Edited by molto_agitato (11/01/10 08:28 PM)

#1549053 - 11/02/10 04:30 AM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: OhioBuckeye]
Bunneh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 400
Loc: Berlin
f# harmonic minor scale
oh yes, what a nightmare! wink
Doing this with eyes closed until I reach 100% confidence is the key for me personally when mastering such scales with irregular fingering.

By the way, does contrary motion mean that you move upwards in both hands? (thus always keeping a distance between hands of exactly 1 or 2 octaves) Or is contrary motion moving outwards from the center?
aim for the moon - if you miss, at least you'll be among the stars.

#1549530 - 11/02/10 06:25 PM Re: Scales and Tempo [Re: Bunneh]
molto_agitato Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/09
Posts: 162
Loc: Washington State
Originally Posted By: Bunneh
f# harmonic minor scale
oh yes, what a nightmare! wink
Doing this with eyes closed until I reach 100% confidence is the key for me personally when mastering such scales with irregular fingering.

Contrary motion is moving outwards from near the center of the keyboard. I did them in three octaves. Contrary motion scales in four octaves can't be done for most scales; there aren't enough notes on a standard 88 key keyboard!

Parallel motion means moving upwards in both hands, exactly as you describe. In some British texts, I've seen parallel motion referred to as "similar motion".


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