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#2094763 - 06/03/13 06:40 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Online   content
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Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 403
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
And when we talk about Rachmaninov, we need to remember that an hour a day practice on scales, by itself a great idea, might be more than a child practices in two or three days.


We are in concurrence on that matter for certain.

What distresses me on this subject is when a prospective student auditions with me playing a Beethoven sonata, or various Chopin etudes, up to tempo and with earnest musical expression, but only a vague idea what the key signature is, no comprehension of harmony whatsoever, wretched fingering, bizarre hand positions, no rhythmic control, and so forth. This happens too often. These young students, usually between 12 to 20 years of age, have been severely cheated out of good instruction for years. And, of course, they never were taught to play scales - that goes without saying.

I am not upset with those students of their own account, of course, they may be exceedingly talented and industrious, but I am exasperated with the previous 'teachers' who let them get that far down the road with no decent guidance. What in the world went on during those lessons? And it is so very, very arduous to then put a foundation underneath their feet since they are already running fast and have little interest in learning how to walk.
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#2094943 - 06/03/13 11:02 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3220
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: TimR

Your last clause seems rather important to me.
Quote:
if practiced with that intent


Are scales valuable if not practiced in some specific manner, with some specific intent? Probably not, which is probably why so many put decreased importance on them.

Correct. As a T-bone player you are aware that practicing scales, over and over, if the slide technique is not right and the positions are not right and the notes are not in tune, is purely destructive.


Quite right. Practice doesn't make perfect, it merely makes permanent; and I have yet to find any exercise I cannot do incorrectly.
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#2095006 - 06/04/13 12:48 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

What distresses me on this subject is when a prospective student auditions with me playing a Beethoven sonata, or various Chopin etudes, up to tempo and with earnest musical expression, but only a vague idea what the key signature is, no comprehension of harmony whatsoever, wretched fingering, bizarre hand positions, no rhythmic control, and so forth.

I call students who play well but have no idea what is going on in the music well-trained robots. Some of them do have a sense of interpretation, but it is based on instinct. Regardless, teaching is horrendously incomplete.

But you are talking about something much worse. You are talking about horrible rhythm and terrible physical habits.

Scales will not automatically correct those things.

Scales have to be taught in a careful, analytical manner. Quite obviously the kind of sloppy, third-rate teachers who work in the manner you just described are going to assign scales from a book and will not explain how they work, technique involved, many other things.

So what you are talking about is in general terrible teaching. Not learning scales is just a symptom.
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#2095122 - 06/04/13 09:09 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4425
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...My teacher said learning music without knowing scales compares learning language without knowing the alphabet..."

...or learning to speak without using the tongue. A few hilarious and dreadful moments of example might give a rebellious young student cause for pause, or help them past the tension and resistance they feel at not being immediately able to manage a challenging feat of coordination.

How amazing that a piano teacher would characterize this essential skill as a waste of time. However, convincing a young student of their value by giving understandable reasons and examples of what the scales can do for them, is valid enough... as is, giving them a workable technique for learning them. It can be difficult and challenging for a young pianist. Using examples from the literature to help them to understand that the discoveries of interval, tonality and scale (and the keyboard itself, not to mention notation, and even fingering) are works of genius, might breathe some life into the subject. But it takes a special kind of teacher to put these things across.

But, I'm told that many university geology departments no longer teach stratigraphy. In the end, it will be necessary to reinvent (or rediscover it), when someone figures out that even with all the satellites in the world, some features can still only be read from the ground.

In the meantime, Alfred's edition of Willard Palmer's Scales, Chords, Arpeggions and Cadences has a page of quotations--- right at the front of the book--- from some great performers, regarding how they view the matter. It is not necessarily my favorite book, but it's worth the price for that single page alone.
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#2095150 - 06/04/13 09:53 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Online   content
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Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 403
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
[So what you are talking about is in general terrible teaching. Not learning scales is just a symptom.


Yes, I am expanding the issue beyond the parameters of scale playing. However, in each case I have encountered of this type, they had flimsy or non-existant knowledge of key signatures and scale playing.
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http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2095321 - 06/04/13 02:18 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
tend to rush Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 53
Her "regular teacher" doesn't know anything about jazz. Her answer may make some sense for a classical student (not really, though, as referring back to the key signature to know what sharps and flats to play isn't much of a way to read music - even a classical player needs to know "I'm in A flat" - and exactly what A flat looks like.

The jazz player, however, needs an absolutely thorough knowledge of scales - not just the Majors, ultimately, but the modes - Dorian, Mixolydian, etc., as well. If you haven't had enough replies yet, post this in Pianist Corner - Non Classical. They'll let you know.

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#2095405 - 06/04/13 03:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
[So what you are talking about is in general terrible teaching. Not learning scales is just a symptom.


Yes, I am expanding the issue beyond the parameters of scale playing. However, in each case I have encountered of this type, they had flimsy or non-existent knowledge of key signatures and scale playing.

I agree with you. We are talking about something huge here, far larger than scales.

Someone mentioned Rachmaninov. Rachmaninov also used chromatic scales extensively. To give an example of what I was getting at, my high school teacher had all students learn scales i 12 keys, major, minor (harmonic, natural, minor) but never mentioned how to play a chromatic scale. My technique was crippled using the 31 31 321 thing, never having been told about using 4321321 and so on.

My high school teacher also told me I was "tense", but had NO idea WHY. I was left to work that out on my own and with the help of other fine teachers that I met later.

There is no end to this. If I have a student who has interest in scales, who practices enough for me to teach them, I don't just teach scales. I teach the thinking behind them, structures, position of hands, how the fingers cross, angle of hands, angle of elbows, problems when the elbows go in and out with thumb turns, why both hands play scales coming in easier than going out.
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#2095446 - 06/04/13 04:39 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
This thread has taken an interesting turn. One would think that the points being made by Gary and Jonathon would be common knowledge among teachers, but the reality is that it isn't. Focusing in on, and careful listening to, the tones produced by the instrument as you play, is actually a very difficult task. Helping students learn to do this is paramount, regardless of the type of music the student wishes to play. This isn't a "classical" thing. It's what differentiates the artist from the hack (mechanical player) regardless of genre.

And students must be able to do this if they are to make music.

FWIW, I don't believe we can start the listening process too soon or too young. And it is the primary reason I advocate that a teacher work out of a studio with two instruments as soon as they can financially manage to do so. Playing A/B comparisons for students is greatly hampered with only one instrument at your disposal. Students can grasp the differences fairly quickly if they are exposed to them often enough.
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#2095958 - 06/05/13 02:48 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Very interesting thread! I noticed that nobody sided with the teacher of the original poster's daughter. So I am the first!
Originally Posted By: montunoman
...The regular teacher went on to explain that it's better to learn pieces that contain lots of scale passages - like Bach. Basically she said that practicing scales outside of a musical context was a bit of a waste of time. In short she wouldn't agree to teacher my daughter her scales. OK... What do you think?

I totally agree with this teacher on scales. Recently I discussed this topic with my older friend, very distinguished music educator and piano clinician who previously taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music and currently teaches at the University of Toronto.

She agreed that there are much better things to do then practicing scales. Instead of scales it would be much more beneficial to assign the students lots of studies and technically challenging pieces. Instead of spending hours of mechanical exercises her students use that valuable practice time for the activities that develop their creativity and musicianship while improving their piano technique and acquiring new repertoire at the same time.

The major problem with practicing lots of scales is that it goes contrary to the fundamental goal of piano performance which is the revealing of the emotional content of the musical composition. In my opinion, no matter what kind of music your student is studying it should always have deep core emotional content. One does not need to play soulless scales for hours every day. On the contrary, playing lots of dry and boring exercises develops a boring and mechanical performing style.

When I was a music college student I was taught to listen my own playing very intensely. The physical accommodations were supposed to arrive from within as a result of the desire to re-create on the piano the sound you create at first in your mind. I believe it is the right approach. Also helpful were exercises my teacher and later myself were creating out of difficult places of my current pieces.

All the benefits of playing scales listed in the previous posts could be achieved while studying musically and emotionally engaging repertoire. It is very rare case when a child likes playing scales. Most of them hate scales.

Forcing a child (especially a young one) to play hours of scales daily is very often a sure way to lose him or her as a student.

Originally Posted By: Barb860
It might be interesting for teachers who do not teach scales, and think they are a waste of time, to post their reasoning and experience here. I do not understand this approach at all.


I cannot claim that I do not teach scales. Unfortunately, (because of the RCM curriculum) I have no choice but get my students to prepare tons and tons of scales for the practical examinations. RCM has totally overwhelming scale and arpeggio requirements which are in my view completely useless. All these scales separated by third, sixth, tenth and so on student will probably never encounter in his/her real piano repertoire. What a waste of time!

If one wants to master double notes he/she should study Thirds by Chopin or Feux Follets by Liszt. I never encountered someone who got proficient with double notes by studying double note scales...

Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
I cannot name one major pianist in history who did not master scales, arpeggios, etc. at an early age, nor can I name one major piano teacher in history who dismissed scales as irrelevant. Any so-called teacher who dismisses the importance of scales should themselves be dismissed, and promptly.

Unfortunately, I am not a major piano teacher (though I managed to win an international piano competition myself and my students are doing quite well). So I guess I am falling into the category of 'so-called' teachers.

But with the example of the major pianist - it's easy! Russian born (with German roots) pianist Sviatoslav Richter could be a good enough example of a renowned pianist who did not studied scales. He talks on this subject in the Monsaingeon's biographical film 'Richter: The Enigma'. Not playing scales did not prevent him from achieving amazing virtuosity. Instead of wasting hours on mechanical exercises he spent the valuable time on developing his vast repertoire.

Or may be Richter also should be promptly dismissed as a 'so-called' pianist??

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#2095968 - 06/05/13 03:31 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Jonathan adds to the chat with ...

“I cannot name one major pianist in history
who did not master scales, arpeggios, etc. at an early age”

Chopin used to play Bach.

Regards btb

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#2095986 - 06/05/13 04:28 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5512
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: balalaika
Forcing a child (especially a young one) to play hours of scales daily is very often a sure way to lose him or her as a student.

I'm not sure anybody here is doing that!

Kids need some discipline at the piano. Just because some kids are forced to practice hours and hours of technique does not mean that none should be taught.

A lot depends on the kid. Some kids have such wonderful fingers, they hardly need any technical exercises. Some kids have such woeful fingers, no amount of Czerny, Hanon, or technical exercises will solve their issues.

For example, I loathe Hanon. I think it's one of the dumbest things a teacher could use, and it's quite irresponsible of the teacher to assign Hanon mindlessly without covering the important techniques involved (shaping, rotation, etc.). That being said, I see the value of Hanon for some students, and I don't hesitate to include Hanon when necessary.
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#2096007 - 06/05/13 07:38 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4425
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...One does not need to play soulless scales for hours every day..."

You do until your hands know how to do them. If it takes hours, well, then it does. But I don't think anyone is saying that practice or lesson time should be all technic and no repertoire (and no one has said anything about 'forcing' except you). They have to be integrated and taken in due measure, and the mainspring is the desire to be able to play things you love.
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#2096030 - 06/05/13 08:37 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I noticed that Jonathan Baker offered an advice to promptly dismiss colleagues who have a different teaching method. I also noticed that nobody objected. Does it mean everybody here agree with Jonathan?

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#2096083 - 06/05/13 10:14 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
Jonathan Baker Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 403
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: btb
Jonathan adds to the chat with ...

“I cannot name one major pianist in history
who did not master scales, arpeggios, etc. at an early age”

Chopin used to play Bach.

Regards btb


You are correct - Chopin memorized a great deal of Bach's keyboard music and assigned it to his students. Chopin mandated the practice of scales, arpeggios, trills, which he specifically supervised with all his students.

According to his students:

"The scales with several black keys (B, F# and D-flat) were studied first, whereas C major, as the most difficult, came last. He made his pupils practice scales with a full tone, as legato as possible, very slowly at first and only gradually advancing to a quicker tempo, and with metronomic evenness. To facilitate passing the thumb under the other fingers and passing the fingers over, the hand was to be given a corresponding turn inward." - Mikuli

"Chopin made his pupils begin with the B major scale, very slowly, without stiffness." - Dubois/Niecks

"He recommended daily work on scales and arpeggios played with regularity, and set great store by scales lightly accented in groups of three or four, or even played three against four and vice versa." - Gretsch.

Chopin's technical studies included Clementi's Preludes et Exercises and Gradus ad Parnassum, a few of Cramer's Etudes as well as a wide variety of Bach. These he considered indispensable preparation to the study of his own music.

I recommend Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger's "Chopin, Pianist and Teacher: as seen by his pupils." published by Cambridge.

Regards,

JB
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Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2096100 - 06/05/13 10:35 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2648
Originally Posted By: montunoman
My 9 year old daughter has been doing piano about five years now. She’s done well... I arranged to sign her up for lessons this summer with a well know jazz pianist/teacher. The jazz teacher requested that she comes to first lesson knowing all the major scales.



I have a feeling there is some misunderstanding about what the teacher has asked you to do. I think that a teacher telling a parent to teach their child all the major scales, means that you teach the child the key signatures so that the child can write the scales.

"Knowing the scales" is quite different from playing the scales fluently, and is more suitable to what a parent wanting to jump start lessons could manage.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (06/05/13 10:36 AM)

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#2096115 - 06/05/13 10:51 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
And I'm pretty sure the jazz teacher would want the student to be fluent in scale playing. Have you ever watched jazz players? They use scale material all the time! The fluency with which they play is amazing. I would bet the teacher is looking for that and will adapt the scales to the jazz forms.
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#2096124 - 06/05/13 11:02 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4425
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...I have a feeling there is some misunderstanding about what the teacher has asked you to do. I think that a teacher telling a parent to teach their child all the major scales, means that you teach the child the key signatures so that the child can write the scales..."

Five years, doing well, no scales--- I find it hard to understand, too, but the OP's statement is clear enough. So is Chopin's. End of argument; the court rules in favor of Chopin. Recognizing and writing the key signatures is good, Ann, but when one can't play the scales, what are they but ink spots on the page. If the mind knows them but the fingers don't, it's not enough. I could almost say, that depriving a child of the opportunity to take this in, while the mind is plastic and effortlessly acquisitive, is even cruel.

But I'm getting the feeling we're revisiting the "we don't vaccinate" argument again, and no facts will persuade.

"...My 9 year old daughter has been doing piano about five years now. She’s done well... I arranged to sign her up for lessons this summer with a well know[n] jazz pianist/teacher. The jazz teacher requested that she comes to first lesson knowing all the major scales. I told her regular piano teacher about the jazz teacher's request and I was surprised that the regular teacher said she did not understand why my daughter would have to know her scales. The regular teacher went on to explain that it's better to learn pieces that contain lots of scale passages - like Bach. Basically she said that practicing scales outside of a musical context was a bit of a waste of time. In short she wouldn't agree to teacher my daughter her scales..."
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#2096125 - 06/05/13 11:07 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2648
My guess is that this 9 year old can already play 3 or 4 major scales at least.

In my own experience of jazz lessons, we wrote out scales and from there worked on triads and 7th chords, identifying major, minor, diminished, half diminished, augmented. We worked on playing chords, but I never was asked to play a scale.



Edited by Ann in Kentucky (06/05/13 11:07 AM)

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#2096910 - 06/06/13 11:14 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: tend to rush]
montunoman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/11
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: tend to rush
Her "regular teacher" doesn't know anything about jazz. Her answer may make some sense for a classical student (not really, though, as referring back to the key signature to know what sharps and flats to play isn't much of a way to read music - even a classical player needs to know "I'm in A flat" - and exactly what A flat looks like.

The jazz player, however, needs an absolutely thorough knowledge of scales - not just the Majors, ultimately, but the modes - Dorian, Mixolydian, etc., as well. If you haven't had enough replies yet, post this in Pianist Corner - Non Classical. They'll let you know.


I'm a jazzer, so yeah, I fully understand the importance of scale study. I was just wondering if my daughter's "legit' teacher's philosophy on scales was typical. Aparently not.


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#2096922 - 06/06/13 11:24 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
montunoman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/11
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: balalaika
Very interesting thread! I noticed that nobody sided with the teacher of the original poster's daughter. So I am the first!
Originally Posted By: montunoman
...The regular teacher went on to explain that it's better to learn pieces that contain lots of scale passages - like Bach. Basically she said that practicing scales outside of a musical context was a bit of a waste of time. In short she wouldn't agree to teacher my daughter her scales. OK... What do you think?

I totally agree with this teacher on scales. Recently I discussed this topic with my older friend, very distinguished music educator and piano clinician who previously taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music and currently teaches at the University of Toronto.

She agreed that there are much better things to do then practicing scales. Instead of scales it would be much more beneficial to assign the students lots of studies and technically challenging pieces. Instead of spending hours of mechanical exercises her students use that valuable practice time for the activities that develop their creativity and musicianship while improving their piano technique and acquiring new repertoire at the same time.

The major problem with practicing lots of scales is that it goes contrary to the fundamental goal of piano performance which is the revealing of the emotional content of the musical composition. In my opinion, no matter what kind of music your student is studying it should always have deep core emotional content. One does not need to play soulless scales for hours every day. On the contrary, playing lots of dry and boring exercises develops a boring and mechanical performing style.

When I was a music college student I was taught to listen my own playing very intensely. The physical accommodations were supposed to arrive from within as a result of the desire to re-create on the piano the sound you create at first in your mind. I believe it is the right approach. Also helpful were exercises my teacher and later myself were creating out of difficult places of my current pieces.

All the benefits of playing scales listed in the previous posts could be achieved while studying musically and emotionally engaging repertoire. It is very rare case when a child likes playing scales. Most of them hate scales.

Forcing a child (especially a young one) to play hours of scales daily is very often a sure way to lose him or her as a student.

Originally Posted By: Barb860
It might be interesting for teachers who do not teach scales, and think they are a waste of time, to post their reasoning and experience here. I do not understand this approach at all.


I cannot claim that I do not teach scales. Unfortunately, (because of the RCM curriculum) I have no choice but get my students to prepare tons and tons of scales for the practical examinations. RCM has totally overwhelming scale and arpeggio requirements which are in my view completely useless. All these scales separated by third, sixth, tenth and so on student will probably never encounter in his/her real piano repertoire. What a waste of time!

If one wants to master double notes he/she should study Thirds by Chopin or Feux Follets by Liszt. I never encountered someone who got proficient with double notes by studying double note scales...

Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
I cannot name one major pianist in history who did not master scales, arpeggios, etc. at an early age, nor can I name one major piano teacher in history who dismissed scales as irrelevant. Any so-called teacher who dismisses the importance of scales should themselves be dismissed, and promptly.

Unfortunately, I am not a major piano teacher (though I managed to win an international piano competition myself and my students are doing quite well). So I guess I am falling into the category of 'so-called' teachers.

But with the example of the major pianist - it's easy! Russian born (with German roots) pianist Sviatoslav Richter could be a good enough example of a renowned pianist who did not studied scales. He talks on this subject in the Monsaingeon's biographical film 'Richter: The Enigma'. Not playing scales did not prevent him from achieving amazing virtuosity. Instead of wasting hours on mechanical exercises he spent the valuable time on developing his vast repertoire.

Or may be Richter also should be promptly dismissed as a 'so-called' pianist??


Yes, your views seem to be similar to my daughter's "regular" teacher. Although I'm not quite full agreement, you make some good points. Thanks for posting.

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#2096938 - 06/06/13 11:42 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Overexposed]
montunoman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/11
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted By: montunoman
My 9 year old daughter has been doing piano about five years now. She’s done well... I arranged to sign her up for lessons this summer with a well know jazz pianist/teacher. The jazz teacher requested that she comes to first lesson knowing all the major scales.



I have a feeling there is some misunderstanding about what the teacher has asked you to do. I think that a teacher telling a parent to teach their child all the major scales, means that you teach the child the key signatures so that the child can write the scales.

"Knowing the scales" is quite different from playing the scales fluently, and is more suitable to what a parent wanting to jump start lessons could manage.


The jazz teacher wants my daughter to be able to play the major scales with correct fingering.

Good news, since I originally posted this, she has learned all 12 major scales with standard fingering (in C, she can do hands together and the rest of the keys she is doing just RH, one octave) I did have to bride her a bit... I told her that when she learned her major scales, could play them in tempo and with correct fingering, she'd get a trip to the water park. Guess where I'm going this weekend? smile

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#2096998 - 06/06/13 01:27 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
KurtZ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 928
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
a lot of this discussion reminds me of the debates about phonics vs. whole word teaching. My daughter did great on phonics but my son didn't respond to to phonics but did learn to read with whole word (Dick and Jane style). Now, both score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. So what am I getting at? There's more than one way there, wherever there is. When I went from rock guitar, with it's emphasis on learning chords and then learning to solo over them with scales, to recorder and (classical) piano I was surprised at how long you could go in lessons without having talks about knowing what chord you were on and how a horizontal melody was harmonized with vertically stacked notes roughly a third apart. Scales were only presented to me as exercises to develop facility with a vague, you'll need to know these one day. On the piano, it was only after 2 years and when we were in book 3 did we start to break pieces down by what chord we were on and understanding the harmonic movement/progression.
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I just wanted to be just "a" guy. That's enough of a life.

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#2097061 - 06/06/13 02:33 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: montunoman
Good news, since I originally posted this, she has learned all 12 major scales with standard fingering (in C, she can do hands together and the rest of the keys she is doing just RH, one octave) I did have to bride her a bit... I told her that when she learned her major scales, could play them in tempo and with correct fingering, she'd get a trip to the water park. Guess where I'm going this weekend? smile

Your daughter is to be congratulated for some major progress in short order. However, so you are aware of the varying standards, in my studio, this would not be considered acceptable, for a 5th year student. Such a student would be doing 3 octaves, in triplets, hands together and separately, at a metronome setting of 72 per beat (every 3 notes in this case). This, incidentally, is not an unusually high standard.
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"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#2097136 - 06/06/13 03:56 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Your daughter is to be congratulated for some major progress in short order. However, so you are aware of the varying standards, in my studio, this would not be considered acceptable, for a 5th year student. Such a student would be doing 3 octaves, in triplets, hands together and separately, at a metronome setting of 72 per beat (every 3 notes in this case). This, incidentally, is not an unusually high standard.

My main concern would be that a one octave scale does not teach at all what the hands have to do for 2 or more octaves.
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#2097138 - 06/06/13 03:58 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: balalaika
I noticed that Jonathan Baker offered an advice to promptly dismiss colleagues who have a different teaching method. I also noticed that nobody objected. Does it mean everybody here agree with Jonathan?

No. Not completely.
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#2097167 - 06/06/13 04:57 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
montunoman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/11
Posts: 82
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: montunoman
Good news, since I originally posted this, she has learned all 12 major scales with standard fingering (in C, she can do hands together and the rest of the keys she is doing just RH, one octave) I did have to bride her a bit... I told her that when she learned her major scales, could play them in tempo and with correct fingering, she'd get a trip to the water park. Guess where I'm going this weekend? smile

Your daughter is to be congratulated for some major progress in short order. However, so you are aware of the varying standards, in my studio, this would not be considered acceptable, for a 5th year student. Such a student would be doing 3 octaves, in triplets, hands together and separately, at a metronome setting of 72 per beat (every 3 notes in this case). This, incidentally, is not an unusually high standard.


I will try to get her scales up more octaves and hand's together over the summer. At this point, I just wanted her to get a feel the major scales especially now that she'll be needing them in her jazz studies.

She has been with her "regular" teacher for two years now. The first year I taught her and then she had lessons with another teacher but that didn't really work for us.

Anyways, besides the issue with scales, I'm quite happy with her regular teacher. She has her students very active in recitals, competitions, and festivals. Many of her students (including my daughter) received "All State" and the outstanding rating. Many of the judges are recognized names in piano education some of them are composers of music that a lot the teachers here use in their programs. she was a good personal friend of the author of "a Dozen a Day"- a book she does use. In short, her teacher is well respected and known in this area.

But her oppositions to scales is not seating well with me. I have no issues with her not really knowing or understanding jazz, but to me scales are so fundamental to any style of music. I just figured that she would get to them at some point. Her teacher is in her 80's so I figure she'll well retire within a few years (though she shows no signs of slowing down, she's very active)

Perhaps my daughter’s jazz teacher will get her on a stronger scale study routine, that shouldn’t really be her job.

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#2097583 - 06/07/13 12:26 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jonathan Baker Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 403
Loc: New York City!
balalaika -

Regarding scales: my goal with younger piano students (I am referring to the 5 - 11 year old category) is to develop, lesson-by-lesson, easy familiarity with key signatures and their corresponding scales and the simple triads built on those scales.

Younger students learn scales very quickly and easily, and it amuses me that they enjoy showing them off to me, and that they think flipping chords up and down in different inversions is clever, or trying out cadences in different keys is an adventure worth taking on. Sight reading is pursued the same way. And why not? - to have it all as common and normal as any other child's adventure. In this regard, the darker realms of grim suffering you refer are unknown to me and my students. But then, I do not have the burden of working under someone else's agenda as you do, and I appreciate the unfair imposition that puts upon you.

Within lessons I usually spend around 5 to 10 minutes supervising scales specifically to follow up on whatever aspect we discussed the previous week. I doubt these younger students spend much more time than that practicing them daily, and that is fine with me, because my goal at those early stages is not robotic hyper-virtuosity of the sort pursued by ambitious "tiger-moms" for their precious prodigies (so they think), but to gracefully guide students forward into being actual musicians. I do not find this difficult, nor do they resist.

After we put together the basic scales we are free to experiment with suppleness and tone - the sort of things that even younger pianists never find "boring". Not around me, anyway. Sight reading is always in their practice agenda and gets about another 10 minutes in the lesson as well, and we pursuit in the same spirit. Then there is the repertoire with all that entails. I incorporate some of theory teaching into the repertoire at hand as much as possible without being to heavy-handed about it (" Say, how many V chords are followed by a I chord in this piece anyway? Let's look...") and they seem to be game for the exploration. Ear training is always interesting to children, so there are no end of opportunities for that: listening to identifying chords (major,minor, augmented, etc) or intervals, or simple dictation, and so on. So, with children that is how I go about scales extending into musicianship.

(Regarding teenagers in the more advanced stages - that would move this into a more extensive discussion, particularly if they decide they have professional ambitions - so I am limiting this post only to younger students in the elementary to intermediate stage). And since children pick up these lego-blocks of scales & chords, etc. and other elements of music so easily, and without resistance (in my experience) I regard it as a golden opportunity not to be missed to build real music literacy while their minds are most receptive and will retain it for the rest of their lives.

Why should we regard something so simple and easy to acquire as scales and chords as a chamber of horrors? The notion is comical. Students will take their cues from me, and if I have a negative attitude about something, however much I think I am hiding it, they will pick it up subconsciously - that much I am sure of.

I have known suffering in this life, but none of it came from scales or arpeggios. LOL!

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http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2097614 - 06/07/13 02:26 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
I work with families who for the most part simply can't afford more then 1/2 hour lessons. I know that many people here teach a minimum of 45 minutes, and that is a luxury I wish I had.

That's why I asked about lesson length.

Because I have to try to cover scales in very little time, I start out with two and hammer on what we can get out of them. The two scales are C and B.

I teach C because it is difficult, requires angling of the hands, has two white to white crosses, and so on. I start with two octaves, never one, and only discuss one octave scales as "special cases", since they appear frequently in music and sort of teach themselves. I not only encourage students to play more than 2 octaves, I'm fine with them doing more than 4. But they need to play at least 2 octaves to understand the fingering principles and the technique.

With the C scale my young students will always miss the fingering until we drill on it, and I never do both hands together until I think that both hands are equally fluent and automatic. I will delay hands together as long as necessary to get this done.

The B scale almost teaches itself. Thumbs on B and E, play all the black keys, effortless movement.

Starting off with B, F# and Db is technically sound, but unless we have young students who are playing in those keys regularly (I WISH!), they are not automatically reinforced by music.

The technical advantages of understanding scales are obvious. Knowing all 12 of them, understanding the key signatures, how they change to various minor forms, how they can morph into modes, all these things are very important and useful.

But after absorbing all the four octaves scales that are normally taught through high school I never practiced them after that except when teaching. To this day I am not sure what the balance should be between scales, isolated as a way of practicing technique, and etudes that USE them, which seem to drill them in a different, more flexible way.


Edited by Gary D. (06/07/13 02:31 AM)
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#2097698 - 06/07/13 08:41 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4425
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...I told her that when she learned her major scales, could play them in tempo and with correct fingering, she'd get a trip to the water park..."

As the sages say. You can catch more flies with sugar...

The very same technique works like a charm when training my dogs, who will do just about anything for half a weenie.
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#2097707 - 06/07/13 09:00 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I'm waiting for the video of the dogs playing their scales!
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