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#2102069 - 06/13/13 04:35 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: balalaika
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
You may have run out of steam for this thread, but if someone else still has steam, why try to persuade them not to post?

OK... Then may be you can tell how is that you learn what notes are in a key while studying scales. I am very curious about it.


Huh? The notes in a given key and the notes in the scale of the same key are the same notes. If you know one you will know the other.
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#2102103 - 06/13/13 05:31 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
balalaika, your question seems strange to me because the answer seems so obvious. malkin has pretty much answered it. I will try to say a little bit more. I don't know if this is the only way I learned the notes in a key; I think I learned lots of things in multiple overlapping ways. But here is one way it can work:

Learn B major scale for RH: 1 on B. 2 on C#. 3 on D#. Cross. 1 on E. 2 on F#. 3 on G#. 4 on A#. 5 on B. Examine the notes. Notice that this is all black keys, except whites for B and E. Assemble the information: key of B major includes sharps for all notes except natural B and E.

As I observed in my post, I brought it up because someone else had, I believe I recalled, mentioned this. For myself, it actually worked differently. On the piano, I learned to play the scales for keys with five or more sharps or flats as patterns of moving my fingers without being aware of the actual notes as other than movement. I learned key signatures as patterns of writing down sharps and flats without consciously being aware of the actual notes as other than a pattern of "move up and down with the sharps and flats in order." For the keys with five or more sharps or flats I had to consciously do a lot of careful mental thinking to figure out and memorize exactly which notes were in a key. For example, I have now memorized that Db major includes the four flats I'm comfortable with, plus Gb.

For keys with four or fewer sharps and flats, it has been so long ago that I learned them that I don't remember how I learned them. I may have learned them in connection with learning scales on the flute for all-state auditions though, which would mean I did learn the notes in the key as part of learning to play the scales.

Why does it seem strange to you that someone would connect "learning to play a scale" with "learning the notes in a key", such that you question it?
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#2102192 - 06/13/13 10:12 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
balalaika, your question seems strange to me because the answer seems so obvious. malkin has pretty much answered it. I will try to say a little bit more. I don't know if this is the only way I learned the notes in a key; I think I learned lots of things in multiple overlapping ways. But here is one way it can work:

Learn B major scale for RH: 1 on B. 2 on C#. 3 on D#. Cross. 1 on E. 2 on F#. 3 on G#. 4 on A#. 5 on B. Examine the notes. Notice that this is all black keys, except whites for B and E. Assemble the information: key of B major includes sharps for all notes except natural B and E.

As I observed in my post, I brought it up because someone else had, I believe I recalled, mentioned this. For myself, it actually worked differently. On the piano, I learned to play the scales for keys with five or more sharps or flats as patterns of moving my fingers without being aware of the actual notes as other than movement. I learned key signatures as patterns of writing down sharps and flats without consciously being aware of the actual notes as other than a pattern of "move up and down with the sharps and flats in order." For the keys with five or more sharps or flats I had to consciously do a lot of careful mental thinking to figure out and memorize exactly which notes were in a key. For example, I have now memorized that Db major includes the four flats I'm comfortable with, plus Gb.

For keys with four or fewer sharps and flats, it has been so long ago that I learned them that I don't remember how I learned them. I may have learned them in connection with learning scales on the flute for all-state auditions though, which would mean I did learn the notes in the key as part of learning to play the scales.

Why does it seem strange to you that someone would connect "learning to play a scale" with "learning the notes in a key", such that you question it?

I am very sorry, but my intellectual capacity proved to be inadequate to comprehend how exactly you are doing this (in practical terms, I mean, hands-on). Are you singing notes alone while playing the scale? Or is it a sort of mental exercise one can do in his or her own mind? I do not think anybody mentioned this application of scales in previous posts except you. I never heard that anybody was studying notes this way.
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Didn't someone upthread mention that by learning to play scales, you learn what notes are in a key?

Just rent Sound of Music. Doh, a deer, a female deer.........
(a great example of both fixed and movable do!)

That is how people usually study notes as I know it...

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#2102217 - 06/13/13 10:57 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
balalaika, you seem to be referring to how to sing in key and the sounds of the notes, while I am referring to how to play in key and the names of the notes.

I have reread the thread and you're right that no one seems to have said what I thought I recalled, although one poster came close. I seem to have misremembered the specifics.


Edited by PianoStudent88 (06/13/13 11:11 PM)
Edit Reason: add a paragraph
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#2102222 - 06/13/13 11:13 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
balalaika, you seem to be referring to how to sing in key and the sounds of the notes, while I am referring to how to play in key and the names of the notes.

No, I am not referring. I am just asking you (and now it is the last time I am doing it) how exactly you are naming the notes while playing the scale in practical terms. From your last post I can see that you are not singing the note names along. Are you naming them out loud or it is a kind of mental exercise? This is the third time I am trying to get a simple answer on my simple and straight forward question. Thank you.

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#2102225 - 06/13/13 11:19 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
No, I don't usually vocalize while playing scales.

I hope that answers your question, because while I think I understand your question, I am puzzled because I don't understand why you are asking. So that makes me wonder if I have misunderstood what you are asking.
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#2102231 - 06/13/13 11:37 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
soundofsilenc3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/11
Posts: 103
I love scales.

I think understanding scales would help because all piano really is: Is the same 12 keys. That's it. The great thing about piano is ... you can actually see all the keys/notes in front of you.

It's the SAME 12 keys. Nothing more and nothing less. If you know scales than your learning to see patterns of those keys in your minds eye. It's like compartmentalizing.

You can geographically correlate distances, see runs, and feel passages based on how they look - and translate that via impulse into how they should sound. Scales would definitely strengthen and hone those impulses. Which would help someone be able to better articulate how those 12 keys are dispersed on paper - how that relates to your hands - and eventually to sound.

I think Pianostudent88 was being very helpful. smile


Edited by soundofsilenc3 (06/13/13 11:51 PM)

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#2102243 - 06/14/13 12:03 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
soundofsilenc3, that's very kind of you to say so. It's really the teachers on this thread who have given me a lot to think about and try to put into practice. I think balalaika has a different way of teaching music than the way I have learned music, and I'd be happy to pick up crumbs of wisdom, except that somehow we are like ships passing in the night as far as communication is concerned.

Incidentally, I think I learned how to sing a major scale (as well as ascending and descending thirds) from practicing them on the flute. Need I point out that while doing this on the flute I was not saying or singing anything out loud?
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#2102245 - 06/14/13 12:05 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Well said, soundofsilenc3! I like the geographical aspect too.

(I don't think balalaika is looking for help, and certainly not from me or PS88. I'm not sure exactly what he or she is looking for, but I keep thinking of Monty Python's 'Argument Clinic' sketch.)
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#2102284 - 06/14/13 04:11 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Perhaps the questions about singing notes is about whether or not people who are learning which keys to press are actually hearing the pitches in their minds in a way that they can hear them without pressing the keys.

The exact way in which people link physical movements (pressing keys) to actually hearing the notes (pitches) remains a mystery to me.

When I touch a key, without actually pressing it, I hear it. If I play keys in my mind, I hear them. I know for a fact that I could not do this when I first started playing. I know that I could later, by high school.

Perhaps some people are fearful that practicing scales without doing something to link the sounds of the notes (keys pressed) may result in the fingers doing the right thing but no link to the sound of the keys themselves?
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#2102339 - 06/14/13 08:35 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Perhaps some people are fearful that practicing scales without doing something to link the sounds of the notes (keys pressed) may result in the fingers doing the right thing but no link to the sound of the keys themselves?


That sounds likely, but I interpreted the comments slightly differently.

What I thought I heard was some people thinking that merely running scales physically would also make the mental connections of the notes and especially the key signatures associated with the scale.

I tend to think running scales can be done perfectly mindlessly, and in fact if done fast enough it can be very hard to know what note you're on. So it would seem to me that long periods of scale running would probably teach endurance, fluency, and either good or bad technique. Good technique would be improved by scales if-and-only-if (IFF) good instruction ensured the scales were done with careful attention to mechanics; since practice makes permanent, bad technique would be set in stone if the student just does scales haphazardly.

The question that was asked about how playing scales would teach the notes seems a reasonable one to me. I haven't seen answer other than "it will." It does not connect for me, unless I'm concentrating on thinking the notes.
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#2102344 - 06/14/13 08:40 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
My original comment implicitly was meant to suggest both possible ways.
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#2102410 - 06/14/13 10:47 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: TimR]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi Tim,

Here's an idea for you.

Scale playing does teach one to think in terms of the key intellectually and aurally. When I teach beginners, most of them can't sing a scale on pitch when they start. But by the time they've played two or three scales, they've heard it enough that they've become familiar with the sound. Most of them start singing scales in tune at this point because, since they've been playing scales, they've also been listening to them as they've played them. It requires no special concentration to make this happen. They've been in the same room with the piano while they played, sound comes out, they hear it. Voila, an association is made!

At the same time, beginners also start to think in terms of key signatures as they study the scales. They go around the circle of 5ths playing scales and chords, and they become acquainted with the sharps and flats as they play them. After a short while, they are able to find their way around the circle of 5ths without help from me or by looking at the keyboard, because they can imagine the scales they've already played and figure out the key independently. Again, this does not take any special concentration except some nagging from me.

Scales that are done haphazardly or unthinkingly have a special quality that makes them stand out - they sound bad! Most people can tell that without special help from a teacher. If students hear their scales sound bad, then they are listening to them, and thinking about them. It's very simple.

To answer the OP's question;

Ultimately, the real reason one practices scales is because they are the most difficult thing in the world to do well on any instrument or the voice. Horowitz said so during one of his interviews with David Dubal, especially about the two-handed variety. I agree with him wholeheartedly; if anybody knows what they are talking about, he does. Scale playing is the kind of consummate skill that one can slave over all your life and still not be very satisfied with. Scales make up one of the three essential tools every pianist must master, or you can't play anything. Lastly, the idea that, for some reason, jazz players need more scale technique than classical players is fatuous. Your scale playing has to be perfect to play Mozart well, let alone everybody else. And as fluent and skilled as many good jazzers are, the scale textures they play don't require that level of control or that kind of artistry.


Edited by laguna_greg (06/14/13 11:19 AM)
Edit Reason: clarity
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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
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#2102533 - 06/14/13 02:34 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: laguna_greg]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
When I teach beginners, most of them can't sing a scale on pitch when they start. But by the time they've played two or three scales, they've heard it enough that they've become familiar with the sound. Most of them start singing scales in tune at this point because, since they've been playing scales, they've also been listening to them as they've played them. It requires no special concentration to make this happen. They've been in the same room with the piano while they played, sound comes out, they hear it. Voila, an association is made!

Wow! Doesn't it sound great! Unfortunately, the reality is not that rosy. All my students have to prepare scales for their exams. Almost none of them able to sing them. Solfeggio, in my opinion would be a much more useful technique to teach kids singing in pitch than playing scales.

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Ultimately, the real reason one practices scales is because they are the most difficult thing in the world to do well...
I didn't know that's the reason. I thought people practice scales to do better with their pieces...

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Scale playing is the kind of consummate skill that one can slave over all your life and still not be very satisfied with.
Yeh, perspective nothing but encouraging...

Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Scales make up one of the three essential tools every pianist must master, or you can't play anything.
I didn't know there are THREE of them. I thought there are five or maybe six...

So, to summarize the message: you gotta do it because I said so...

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#2102561 - 06/14/13 04:03 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: laguna_greg]
beeboss Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1213
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Lastly, the idea that, for some reason, jazz players need more scale technique than classical players is fatuous. Your scale playing has to be perfect to play Mozart well, let alone everybody else. And as fluent and skilled as many good jazzers are, the scale textures they play don't require that level of control or that kind of artistry.


Jazz players need a different kind of knowledge about scales than classical guys and this usually comes across in the way that they practice them. For instance I often practice scales that most classical players have never heard of, diminished scales, augmented scales, all the modes of every type of minor scale, indian scales, pentatonic scales etc. In addition to this learning the scale and playing it up and down with a couple of articulations and accents is just the very starting point, jazzers have to know at what point in the music to employ the scale and, more importantly, how to find something interesting to do with it. This is quite a lot of stuff to learn and so there is not enough time to spend developing 'classical' technique. It is certainly not that jazz players have more technique but just that they have different types of techniques more applicable to the music they play.
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#2102562 - 06/14/13 04:12 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: beeboss]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3214
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: beeboss
In addition to this learning the scale and playing it up and down with a couple of articulations and accents is just the very starting point, jazzers have to know at what point in the music to employ the scale and, more importantly, how to find something interesting to do with it. .


When I listen to jazzers who use a lot of scales, I think I'm hearing a figure-ground relationship, where the scale is ground and the interesting riff occurs against it as figure (when and if it does occur <g>).

I could often do with a little less ground and a little more figure, but of course that is very dependent on the individual performer.

But I'm not a jazzer myself and could be hearing it wrong.
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#2102568 - 06/14/13 04:40 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi B,

"Almost none of them able to sing them. Solfeggio, in my opinion would be a much more useful technique..."

Well, don't you do something like that wih your beginners?

"I didn't know there are THREE of them...."

Well I guess you learned something else today.

Cheers!
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2102571 - 06/14/13 05:12 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
laguna_greg, what are the other two tools?
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#2102581 - 06/14/13 05:45 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: laguna_greg]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg

"I didn't know there are THREE of them...."
Well I guess you learned something else today.

Cool! But I doubt it... More likely your list is kinda incomplete. Or your mathematical skills are in need of some revamping.

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#2102583 - 06/14/13 05:54 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
balalaika, what would you name as the "five or maybe six" essential tools?
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#2102591 - 06/14/13 06:30 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
balalaika, what would you name as the "five or maybe six" essential tools?

From the the top of my head:
- Developing a sense of rhythm and mastering playing with a steady pace
- Developing sound production skills
- Mastering pedal
- Developing a comprehensive arsenal of piano technique, including runs, double notes, jumps, repetition, chords
- Obtaining a vast active repertoire
- Mastering different performing styles like Baroque, Classical, etc.
- Mastering intense listening and preemptive hearing of the sound
- Mastering the balance between different elements of the music structure (like balance between melody and accompaniment, etc.)
- Mastering phrase shaping
etc, etc, etc.
Those are all essential tools. I did not prioritize them in this list and list is obviously incomplete.

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#2102605 - 06/14/13 07:07 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Thank you, balalaika.
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#2102695 - 06/14/13 11:27 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
As I thought.
Balalaika is not looking for 'help,' or information, as he or she already knows everything he or she is interested in knowing.
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#2103162 - 06/16/13 02:55 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: malkin]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: malkin
As I thought.
Balalaika is not looking for 'help,' or information, as he or she already knows everything he or she is interested in knowing.


I did find it interesting that nobody recognized their sarcasm, and proceeded to post long replies in assuming legitimate ignorance. Whatever point was trying to be made was surely lost.

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#2103253 - 06/16/13 10:36 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Bobpickle]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11724
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: malkin
As I thought.
Balalaika is not looking for 'help,' or information, as he or she already knows everything he or she is interested in knowing.


I did find it interesting that nobody recognized their sarcasm, and proceeded to post long replies in assuming legitimate ignorance. Whatever point was trying to be made was surely lost.

Well, someone who is listed as "part time piano teacher", as balalaika is, will not be asking for that kind of information, so the question seemed rhetorical to me, or for the purpose of expanding on ideas depending on the answer.

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#2103256 - 06/16/13 10:39 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2610
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: malkin
As I thought.
Balalaika is not looking for 'help,' or information, as he or she already knows everything he or she is interested in knowing.


I did find it interesting that nobody recognized their sarcasm, and proceeded to post long replies in assuming legitimate ignorance. Whatever point was trying to be made was surely lost.

Well, someone who is listed as "part time piano teacher", as balalaika is, will not be asking for that kind of information, so the question seemed rhetorical to me, or for the purpose of expanding on ideas depending on the answer.


...or just being kind of a PITA.
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#2103266 - 06/16/13 11:03 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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I want to thank btb for his post a few days ago. It takes character to do that. Hats off.
Originally Posted By: btb
I must just tell you chaps (Gary D and AZNpiano amongst others)
who got hot under the collar with my upbraiding of keystring ...
that I have had a very kind private message from keystring ...
in which he openly admits to a very limited piano dexterity ...
although he is trying presently to work on some simple keyboard works .

Might I wish keystring every piano success in trying to catch up .

I responded to the dexterity question privately, because this forum is about teaching and learning. It didn't seem appropriate to turn it into a discussion of an individual's abilities. My playing background is that when young I was self-taught, which created habits and dubious "technique" which now have to be ironed out. As teachers here know, fixing faulty habit is much harder than getting it right the first time round. I also sent btb two sound clips of my playing to answer that question. Unfortunately something has happened to his system for hearing things on-line. (Maybe someone here can help the gentleman out? smile It happened to me a few years ago and turned out to be a virus checker gone nuts.)

I think I understand the concern that prompted the dexterity question. One can read books and come on the site sounding learned without ever having played. That said, we have to be cautious about anything we read, because how many members have we actually heard play, or how much is known about anyone here? It's an ongoing weakness of the Internet. The answer probably lies somewhere between gut instinct and what seems to ring true.

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#2103272 - 06/16/13 11:14 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
keystring Online   content
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This thread originally involved the story of a parent passed his/her child on to a teacher after teaching the child at home, and now is having that child study jazz with another teacher in the summer. That teacher wants the child to know all scales. That was the original thing.

Meanwhile the discussion went off on a tangent, including both the idea of scales, and the idea of exploring chords. My thought is that there will be teachers here who will be teaching from all kinds of angles, and not going "by the book". There is a relationship between scales and chords. I don't think that this has to be explained here. I can imagine some teachers doing all kinds of things with that. Arguing about that without knowing what they might do seems crazy. My own reaction would be "This could be interesting. Tell me more." Can the intricacies of your teaching be transmitted in a forum? Will it be understood? That's a different question.

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#2103419 - 06/16/13 04:46 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Bobpickle]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
I did find it interesting that nobody recognized their sarcasm, and proceeded to post long replies in assuming legitimate ignorance. Whatever point was trying to be made was surely lost.
I am unpleasantly surprised with the overall level of the discussion. Irony is not appreciated here and falls completely on deaf ears. Only blunt and straightforward posts getting understood though sometimes partially.

When engaged with the argument some posters either ignore it completely or respond with a personal attack. I expected a bit more intelligence and civility from this audience.

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#2103471 - 06/16/13 06:22 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: malkin]
balalaika Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: malkin
...or just being kind of a PITA.
malkin -
It is the Piano Teacher's forum.
What are YOU doing here??

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