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#2092725 - 05/31/13 09:07 AM Why learn scales?
montunoman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/11
Posts: 82
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 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. OK... I'm a pianist to so I taught her the major scale/ circle of 5th. It took about five min. a day for a few weeks. Now she has them down cold. I just thought it would be silly to pay the jazz teacher (who charges a lot of money) to teach my daughter the major scales. It’s something she'll need to learn at some point. Or so I thought... Her regular teacher thought on scales seems a bit odd. What do you think?

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#2092744 - 05/31/13 09:42 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
IMHO scales are mainly important to learn fingering, and to gain the knowledge to be able to build and analyze chords. (The most basic way to figure out what a Bb major chord is, is to take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes from the Bb major scale.) I would never require a 9-yo to know all the major scales, but I can see how for jazz it would be essential, especially if they will be working off lead sheets. Outside of jazz/improvising, I'd tend to side with the regular teacher here, although I definitely think that at a certain point it is really important that they understand *how* to make a scale. (whole/half step pattern.)

(Full disclaimer: I never formally learned more than a couple scales, and I managed to survive just fine! smirk )

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#2092754 - 05/31/13 09:54 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Scales are an important part of a technical regimen and serve several purposes. I use them to develop fluency of tone, to build an understanding of key and to help students understand the unique properties of their own hands (I teach how to play the scale differently depending on the student's hand size and structure).

I totally understand why the jazz teacher insisted on knowing them. They are the basis of all harmonic implications, and he needs to be able work the circle of 5ths and make the alterations to jazz scales.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
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#2092826 - 05/31/13 11:51 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
You asked what we think. My first thought was to suggest you reevaluate your daughter's current teacher. Minniemay offered several important reasons to learn scales, but there are many others. Musicians need to learn to listen to their own playing. Our fingers each have different strengths and so learning to play with a very even touch (as well as timing) is a must. Practicing scales allows the student to focus on just one or two skills at a time, allowing her to hone in on this vital skill.

Music often requires the pianist pass their thumb under the hand. This isn't a natural motion and takes time to develop a smooth technique. Again, learning and practicing scales allows the student to do so without having to concentrate on other aspects of piano playing.

These are just a few additional reasons. Wishing your daughter great success at the piano.

John
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2092946 - 05/31/13 02:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3005
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Musicians need to learn to listen to their own playing.


John


Gieseking said this was the most important skill, and the most neglected skill, in piano playing, and that playing scales with careful attention to evenness of tone and evenness of timing was the best way to learn it. And for this reason, scales should always be done HS.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2093038 - 05/31/13 06:08 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Joyce_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/02
Posts: 191
Loc: Chicago
All my students do a daily warmup practice with scales. They start with pentascales and learn the pattern. That way, they are not intimidated by sharps and flats. We do without the written music until the scales are presented in their method books. They also plays arpeggios and chord progressions. So it is a simple daily exercise used to improve technique, key tone, knowledge of scale and chord patterns, to develop independent fingering, to learn phrasing, dynamics, and theory, and speed, as they learn to move around the circle of 5ths. I struggled with this for some time as most method books don't introduce these things early on. I was unhappy with my students not knowing and understanding scales. Little by little, I developed a regimen that it working well, and while different students on focusing on differents parts of the exercise, it is working well. When the students encounter hand moves, cross-overs, scale patterns, chord progressions, etc., etc., in their music, they are knowledgeable and equipped to analyze and play. Even when they are simply playing a pentascale and I V7 I chords.


Edited by Joyce_dup1 (05/31/13 06:10 PM)

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#2093048 - 05/31/13 06:29 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Congratulations, Joyce, and with your more adept students, you might try skipping the pentascales and go directly to one octave scales. You might be pleasantly surprised at how quickly many students can grasp this concept.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2093100 - 05/31/13 09:26 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1644
Loc: northern California
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.
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Piano Teacher

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#2093108 - 05/31/13 09:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Barb860]
Ahmediy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/13
Posts: 43
Maybe the jazz pianist/teacher is going to teach with alot of theory so if your daughter knows scales already it will save alot of time.
My teacher said learning music without knowing scales compares learning language without knowing the alphabet. It makes more sense to learn scales!

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#2093569 - 06/01/13 07:23 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Joyce_dup1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/01/02
Posts: 191
Loc: Chicago
Yes, a lot of teachers go straight to the one octave scales. I did once have all my students play a scale pattern with finger #2 only, stating whole, half, etc. Each week they moved to a different scale. I went back to pentascales for the early students because it is presented in the method books so often. I more focused on the pattern WWHW than the method books suggest. Perhaps it's time to go back to the one-octave scale for all students. You are right, they often can handle it. I am amazed myself at how my youngest students (4 yrs old) can readily respond to "cross-hand arpeggios", chord progression I-V7-I without blinking an eye. I like having the students knowledgeable about terminology and basic skills. Thanks for comments.

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#2093584 - 06/01/13 07:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5277
Loc: Orange County, CA
I think scales are important; however, they need to be tied to the literature and be given in appropriate doses.

I have taken a transfer student who knows all the major scales (quite evenly and fluently) and most of the minor scales. But he can't play Level 3 music without stumbling! There was a giant disconnect between scales and repertoire.

The purpose of teaching scales is to teach the common or traditional fingering, with smooth legato being a secondary goal. I don't hit scales until students are about the level of Clementi Sonatinas. I just teach whatever is in the method books.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2093766 - 06/02/13 05:24 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
"I just teach whatever is in the method books."

How ghoulishly boring!

The whole reason for teaching scales is to make sure on finger dexterity and NOT RUN OUT OF FINGERS in completing a passage.

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#2093856 - 06/02/13 10:48 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
btb, AZNpiano is a very high quality and successful teacher (I've heard a number of his students perform and they are uniformly well prepared), and I respect his opinion while disagreeing with it. He obviously achieves the same goals by other means.

And this brings me to a sidebar. While teaching in Germany, I learned that for the most part, European teachers use a technique first, then literature, approach to teaching, whereas we in the USA generally take the opposite approach (instant gratification, and all that). Both approaches achieve success, so what we have is a chicken and egg type argument. If you've found a means to successfully teach students, stick with it, and search for ways to improve it as time passes.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2093864 - 06/02/13 11:10 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: red-rose]
Charles Cohen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 938
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: red-rose
. . . I would never require a 9-yo to know all the major scales, but I can see how for jazz it would be essential, especially if they will be working off lead sheets . . .


+1.

You could argue that, when improvising (which includes playing lead sheets), scales and chords (and arpeggios) _are_ jazz!

There's no music to read -- what other patterns is the player going to use to fill-in the harmonic structure? The scales had better be "under the fingers" -- playable without much thinking.

. Charles

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#2093933 - 06/02/13 02:12 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
There are several issues here:

1) How long is the lesson, and how many other things need to be taught?

2) What are the priorities of the teacher?

3) How advanced is the student?

4) What are the needs of the student?

5) How much time does the student practice?

I would be very wary of judging another teacher without a lot of information, and here is not the place to do it.

I have parents who try to push me to do all sorts of things at a time that I do not think is right. I think we can all agree that knowing scales is important.

The big question is: WHEN is the best time to learn/teach them?
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2093961 - 06/02/13 03:25 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
pianolover85 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 94
This is probably my most short post ever: one word: to be able to improvise!
_________________________
Peace and love and play smile

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#2094169 - 06/02/13 10:56 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5277
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: btb
"I just teach whatever is in the method books."

How ghoulishly boring!

The whole reason for teaching scales is to make sure on finger dexterity and NOT RUN OUT OF FINGERS in completing a passage.

Obviously you are not familiar with post-1984 method book series. Kids complete quite a few 2-octave scales by the time they're through.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2094177 - 06/02/13 11:06 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 439
Gary D - my daughter's teacher teaches them as they come up in music. Sometimes she assigns a new one just because (usually though it turns out she has a plan and they come up quickly).

She doesn't play all the scales every day. She just practices the ones listed in her log book. It might mean some are over and done with quickly and others get more practice.

I think it odd that the teacher doesn't give a more detailed reason. When approached that they were needed for jazz, was she more in the camp of "she needs to focus on HER lessons more before starting something new." It's hard to understand why she was not willing to compromise.


Edited by MaggieGirl (06/02/13 11:08 PM)

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#2094201 - 06/02/13 11:36 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5277
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
btb, AZNpiano is a very high quality and successful teacher (I've heard a number of his students perform and they are uniformly well prepared), and I respect his opinion while disagreeing with it. He obviously achieves the same goals by other means.

Thanks, John!

Perhaps my earlier post led some to believe that I don't teach scales at all. I do teach scales. But I'm erring on the minimalist end. I teach scales as they come up in method books, and then if the kids do CM I teach the required technique for each level. For really little kids (under 8) I am being extra judicious when it comes to teaching scales.

This is the same logic that I apply to teaching pedaling. I skip pedaling altogether for little kids unless they have everything else together, and are talented musically. Otherwise I see no rush to teach pedaling until the kids can reach the pedals naturally.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2094442 - 06/03/13 10:17 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 258
Loc: New York City!
Of all the exercises I have worked throughout the years - Clementi, Czerny, Tausig, Brahms, etc. - none has delivered more useful 'bang for the buck' than simple, old fashioned scales. Rachmaninoff practiced them daily almost to the day he died. Their technical value is obvious: the consecutive finger motion is the most common configuration in music written for the piano, and the value of listening carefully to the evenness of scales will refine both hand and ear sensitivity, if practiced with that in intent.

And scales are the basis of harmony, so one cannot be too familiar with key signatures and every type of chord and harmonic progression. No musician can function very well without a comfortable familiarity with the building blocks of music.

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.

It is true that after achieving world fame, both Leopold Godowsky and Wladimir Horowitz did not practice scales daily as they had in their youth, but instead, invented exercises tailored to their personal needs. One hardly needs to argue with that, given the level at which these two super-technicians worked, but they had long since mastered their scales, arpeggios, octaves, double notes, etc., while they were young students.

No exercise should be engaged if it does not deliver a tangible result - time is too precious. Scales deliver very tangible results by upgrading technique and enhancing musicianship. For a pianist to not learn scales early on would be like a mathematician who learns addition but not multiplication - the idea is incomprehensible.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2094451 - 06/03/13 10:31 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3005
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Of all the exercises I have worked throughout the years - Clementi, Czerny, Tausig, Brahms, etc. - none has delivered more useful 'bang for the buck' than simple, old fashioned scales. Their technical value is obvious: the consecutive finger motion is the most common configuration in music written for the piano, and the value of listening carefully to the evenness of scales will refine both hand and ear sensitivity, if practiced with that in intent.


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.

Gieseking agreed with you about using scales to increase ear sensitivity. And for that reason he insisted on them being done HS. Whiteside seemed also to agree, but thought beginners needed to wait until ready.

Scales for consecutive finger motion would be most valuable if they were a platform for correct motion, including angles of wrist and forearm, rotation, distance, etc. How many teachers actually address that when assigning scales? From the discussions here, probably very few. The assumption is that scales are valuable in themselves regardless of how played, so attention to technique is unnecessary. That's an assumption worth reexamining, maybe.

Quote:
Rachmaninoff practiced them daily almost to the day he died.


For the purpose of increasing his listening skills? or his fingering skills? Surely not. If you told me he practiced them daily during his first two years it would be relevant; during his last two years, not so much.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2094472 - 06/03/13 11:02 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: TimR]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 258
Loc: New York City!
Quote:
Rachmaninoff practiced them daily almost to the day he died.


Quote:
For the purpose of increasing his listening skills? or his fingering skills? Surely not. If you told me he practiced them daily during his first two years it would be relevant; during his last two years, not so much.


Every athlete must exercise in his chosen manner to stay in condition, and apparently Rachmaninoff did not consider himself above that necessity. And what musician does not try, with each new day, to increase and refine his acquired assets?
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2094482 - 06/03/13 11:33 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3005
Loc: Virginia, USA
From Mr. Rachmaninov himself:

Quote:
Personally, I very much believe in scales and arpeggios. What is their advantage? If you know how to play them well, you can continue training, with a genuine technical foundation. Technology devote two o'clock every day for as long as the hands and muscles are not sufficiently trained for the tasks of high performance masterpieces of music - it's not too much. In Russia the best teachers to the goal as early as possible to complete this training period, regardless of when that child health. Indeed, in the six years studying for the most part in doing this. In sixth grade, he had to test for the next grade. This exam is mainly performed by scales and arpeggios. If the student is unable to cope with that, then he is detained in the same class. That's the way a lot of attention was paid to Russian technology, and we have had a reputation for educators virtuoso



There you have it. Two hours a day for the first six years.

I suspect his scale playing in later years was meditative in nature.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2094528 - 06/03/13 12:39 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 399
Loc: Vancouver BC
I like the way Gary put it:

Not if, but when and how.

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#2094671 - 06/03/13 03:57 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano

Perhaps my earlier post led some to believe that I don't teach scales at all. I do teach scales. But I'm erring on the minimalist end. I teach scales as they come up in method books, and then if the kids do CM I teach the required technique for each level. For really little kids (under 8) I am being extra judicious when it comes to teaching scales.

This is the same logic that I apply to teaching pedaling. I skip pedaling altogether for little kids unless they have everything else together, and are talented musically. Otherwise I see no rush to teach pedaling until the kids can reach the pedals naturally.

I differ with you a bit on the issue of "reaching the pedals naturally", or perhaps I just introduce pedal earlier. I will adjust seating lower, only temporarily, to develop the concept - if I see no damaging tension happening. Small children are very resilient. I then return them to a higher seating for non-pedal issues.

Otherwise I am very close to what you are doing. I have written my own materials, but they are reasonably in sync with most of the better methods. In general I think it is bad to hammer concepts before they can be applied.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2094681 - 06/03/13 04:04 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Of all the exercises I have worked throughout the years - Clementi, Czerny, Tausig, Brahms, etc. - none has delivered more useful 'bang for the buck' than simple, old fashioned scales. Rachmaninoff practiced them daily almost to the day he died. Their technical value is obvious: the consecutive finger motion is the most common configuration in music written for the piano, and the value of listening carefully to the evenness of scales will refine both hand and ear sensitivity, if practiced with that in intent.

And scales are the basis of harmony, so one cannot be too familiar with key signatures and every type of chord and harmonic progression. No musician can function very well without a comfortable familiarity with the building blocks of music.

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.

It is true that after achieving world fame, both Leopold Godowsky and Wladimir Horowitz did not practice scales daily as they had in their youth, but instead, invented exercises tailored to their personal needs. One hardly needs to argue with that, given the level at which these two super-technicians worked, but they had long since mastered their scales, arpeggios, octaves, double notes, etc., while they were young students.

No exercise should be engaged if it does not deliver a tangible result - time is too precious. Scales deliver very tangible results by upgrading technique and enhancing musicianship. For a pianist to not learn scales early on would be like a mathematician who learns addition but not multiplication - the idea is incomprehensible.

Just be careful that you do not wrongfully assume that teacher A or B or C is dismissing scales as unimportant because that teacher does not always have time to cover them to the extent that teacher D or E believes is best in a perfect world.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2094691 - 06/03/13 04:16 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: TimR]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
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.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2094702 - 06/03/13 04:24 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: MaggieGirl]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
Gary D - my daughter's teacher teaches them as they come up in music. Sometimes she assigns a new one just because (usually though it turns out she has a plan and they come up quickly).

She doesn't play all the scales every day. She just practices the ones listed in her log book. It might mean some are over and done with quickly and others get more practice.

I think it odd that the teacher doesn't give a more detailed reason. When approached that they were needed for jazz, was she more in the camp of "she needs to focus on HER lessons more before starting something new." It's hard to understand why she was not willing to compromise.

How long are the lessons? How many hours practice does she do each day?
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Piano Teacher

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#2094707 - 06/03/13 04:28 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 258
Loc: New York City!
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Just be careful that you do not wrongfully assume that teacher A or B or C is dismissing scales as unimportant because that teacher does not always have time to cover them to the extent that teacher D or E believes is best in a perfect world.


Taking my cue from the original message, a teacher dismissing scales as "a waste of time" outside of music rather misses the point since scales are the fabric of music itself. Naturally, any good teacher will deduce what material to introduce to a given student at the appropriate time of their development.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2094741 - 06/03/13 05:42 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Just be careful that you do not wrongfully assume that teacher A or B or C is dismissing scales as unimportant because that teacher does not always have time to cover them to the extent that teacher D or E believes is best in a perfect world.


Taking my cue from the original message, a teacher dismissing scales as "a waste of time" outside of music rather misses the point since scales are the fabric of music itself. Naturally, any good teacher will deduce what material to introduce to a given student at the appropriate time of their development.

I'm not sure the teacher has been correctly quoted. Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

I have made such strong statements when irritated. It usually happens when Mom or Dad, after asking me to teach, begins to second-guess me and make "suggestions" that are really more like interference.

I might say "waste of time at this moment", but that would mean something very different.

I still say it is a matter of when and how. 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.
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Piano Teacher

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#2094763 - 06/03/13 06:40 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 258
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 Online   content
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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. Online   content
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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
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"...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 Offline
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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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#2095321 - 06/04/13 02:18 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
tend to rush Offline
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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. Online   content
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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
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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
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
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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
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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
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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
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"...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
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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 Offline
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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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#2096100 - 06/05/13 10:35 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
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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
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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
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"...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]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
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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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a fancy air by chance,
And straightaway all her polka dots
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#2096910 - 06/06/13 11:14 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: tend to rush]
montunoman Offline
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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
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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: Ann in Kentucky]
montunoman Offline
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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
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Registered: 03/13/10
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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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#2097061 - 06/06/13 02:33 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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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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#2097136 - 06/06/13 03:56 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Gary D. Online   content
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Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
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. Online   content
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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
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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 Offline
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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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#2097614 - 06/07/13 02:26 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Gary D. Online   content
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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
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"...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
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I'm waiting for the video of the dogs playing their scales!
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#2097723 - 06/07/13 09:36 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: malkin]
TimR Online   content
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Originally Posted By: malkin
I'm waiting for the video of the dogs playing their scales!


Wrong species.

Fish have scales, dogs have fur.
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#2097746 - 06/07/13 10:26 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jeff Clef]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"...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.

The same works for groups of kids in the classroom. They stop being curious in the subject and wanting to learn, and go after the rewards and feel like failures if they can't reach the bar. Reversing that is a monumental task. People aren't dogs.

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#2098103 - 06/07/13 07:49 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"...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.

The same works for groups of kids in the classroom. They stop being curious in the subject and wanting to learn, and go after the rewards and feel like failures if they can't reach the bar. Reversing that is a monumental task. People aren't dogs.

The kids I work with do not make progress for long unless the reward for the time they put in enables them to play music that makes them feel proud of themselves.

I think delayed gratification is over-rated. There are rare individuals who will set a nearly impossible goal then work to accomplish - even if it takes years - but in my experience that is rather unusual.
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#2098625 - 06/08/13 01:42 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
Jeff Clef Offline
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"...They stop being curious in the subject and wanting to learn, and go after the rewards and feel like failures if they can't reach the bar..."

They are failures--- what is your point?

No doubt, any one motivational technique has its limitations, and it would be a very poor teacher who gave up after half a weenie. Food rewards only help overcome inertia, and establish momentum (with dogs). It is a big step toward learning good habits, but hardly the journey of a thousand miles--- it takes a teacher and an exemplar to get as far as that.

Anyway, even in this meager example, there are many elaborations, found to be effective in experiments by behavioral scientists. Well, grad students. I'll tell you one thing, though: you can house-train a basenji puppy in three days this way. Three days. Of course, one also has to anticipate their needs by taking them out sufficiently, praise their success and smartness, never strike or yell at them (never!), and associate the reward with something that will always happen, and that they love: going for a walk. And remember that they will never do anything that is contrary to their nature.

A cracker once in a while will get the sleepiest or laziest dog to the door, and it's good for their teeth. But even dogs get bored, and the same thing does not work forever. Anyway, I am not saying to feed dog crackers to piano students.

Stimulus/reward is like falling through a trapdoor. Once one falls through by learning the task, the task is learned and there's no falling back up. Yes, it is a trap, but I'm not above it.

Feel free to interrupt anywhere you find that the above is not applicable to the way a kid behaves. Those who still scoff would do well to consider the slot machine.


PS:
"...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?"

Yes, completely. His last post was completely agreeable to my personal experience, the discussion was complete, and it was beautifully stated. I think there are quite a few who would do well to take it to heart. Since you asked.


Edited by Jeff Clef (06/08/13 01:49 PM)
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#2098645 - 06/08/13 02:37 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jeff Clef]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
"...They stop being curious in the subject and wanting to learn, and go after the rewards and feel like failures if they can't reach the bar..."

They are failures--- what is your point?

I'm writing from my teaching experience, both in the classroom and privately. A lot of these kids actually mastered the subject but had been persuaded otherwise because of that system. You have written a lot about dogs. Can you share what you have found in teaching - whether privately or publicly, in music or outside music is immaterial.

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#2099069 - 06/09/13 12:27 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
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.
Good for you! But the reason we are discussing this topic here, as I understand it, is not because the OP's daughter was deprived of opportunity to get familiar with basic rudiments and to flip some triads. We are talking scales because 9 year old student needs to study all major scales to play fluently and hands together on short notice. Unless the student is a little genius I doubt that 5-10 minutes a lesson would make it.

I learned from my experience that nobody is perfect including of course myself. The best of us are wrong as often as 40% of the time. Good example, probably, would be forecasts of our famous economists. Because of the above I would shy away from the advice given by overconfident, self-righteous, know-it-all people. It is not that they know everything. They are simply unaware about their own limitations.

The teacher after all is not all that bad as some self proclaimed gurus are suggesting.
Originally Posted By: montunoman
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.
So, if I was the original poster, I would give the teacher the benefit of doubt.

The cavalier attitude in suggesting to dismiss the teacher based on mere short post, without getting sufficient information and solely based on teacher's approach to studying scales I, as a teacher myself and as a colleague of the teacher of OP's daughter, consider as completely inappropriate, unprofessional and unethical. I would be ashamed to offer such a superficial and ill-thought-out advice.

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#2099130 - 06/09/13 05:10 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
btb Offline
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Come on chaps ... we play up scales to

find the most dextrous THUMB FOLD
in negotiating 7 white and 5 black keys.

RH scale playing (dot for thumb fold)

C major
1 2 3.1 2 3 4 5

C#major
1 2 3 4.1 2 3 4 (quite a stretch)

etc.

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#2099137 - 06/09/13 05:50 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: btb
RH scale playing (dot for thumb fold)

C#major
1 2 3 4.1 2 3 4 (quite a stretch)

etc.
Whaat? Is that really the fingering you use for C#? No wonder you find it a stretch.
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#2099173 - 06/09/13 08:34 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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balalaika -

How do you expect a student to become familiar with a variety of Seventh chords if they do not have an easy and handy familiarity with common scales? How could anyone begin to get a grip on even a tiny slice of the vast panorama of jazz at the piano (in this case) without a familiarity with both? I do not think you can, or want, to address such practical skill-building.

There are many ways of being a musician-pianist. Not everyone spends all their days wallowing in the voluptuous hallucinations of a Skryabin Vers la flame. Some may be working with an orchestra, whether classical or broadway, or they may work in a church or synagogue, or they may be a collaborative pianist with singers and instrumentalists, or work in a nightclub, and so forth. I cannot know for certain which roads my students will ultimately travel, but I do require of myself that I give them the foundation of practical skills that will allow them to move with relative ease into any of these avenues.

I cannot recommend a piano teacher who is dismissive of practical skills such as scales / that lead into chords / that lead into harmonic progressions, much less recommend a teacher who is in a burlesque rage against them. I did not say such teachers should be publicly executed (LOL) nor would I publicly name them, but I will silently skip over them and recommend someone else when consulted on the matter.

My focus is on providing a thorough music education for students, not personal 'job protection' for lazy teachers.

Your tumultuous frustration bordering on hysteria, and volcanic rage, have little or nothing to do with what I have written. I wish you the best of luck, and I will leave you to yourself. Ciao.

JB




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#2099285 - 06/09/13 12:35 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
balalaika -

Your tumultuous frustration bordering on hysteria, and volcanic rage, have little or nothing to do with what I have written. I wish you the best of luck, and I will leave you to yourself. Ciao.
JB

Wow! Tumultuous frustration... Hysteria... volcanic rage...
Sounds a bit impolite... Thank you for your kindness though.

This is really has nothing to do with what I have written.

Is this how you show your respect to your colleagues?
Having nothing to say about the message then let's say something kind about the messenger! That is a well known strategy...
I am not wishing you luck.
Bye, smartie.

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#2099526 - 06/09/13 05:37 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
TimR Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

I cannot recommend a piano teacher who is dismissive of practical skills such as scales / that lead into chords / that lead into harmonic progressions, much less recommend a teacher who is in a burlesque rage against them.


The student is however nine years old. The teacher who knows her well may be making decisions based on what she thinks a very young student needs at this point in her development. She may be right or wrong, but she isn't necessarily incompetent.
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#2099662 - 06/09/13 06:39 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: TimR]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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Originally Posted By: TimR
The student is however nine years old. The teacher who knows her well may be making decisions based on what she thinks a very young student needs at this point in her development. She may be right or wrong, but she isn't necessarily incompetent.


Hello Tim,

In the first post the teacher in question opined that familiarity with scales, regardless of age, was a "waste of time" and "did not understand why" such an "odd" request was made.

When improvising, it is exceedingly handy, to put it mildly, to have working knowledge of the circle fifths if, for instance, one wishes to create a sequence as a bridge to another section. That common musical device is an invaluable skill endlessly exploited by great improvisors from Bach to Chopin to Brubeck.

I think it is reasonable and very much within the ability of any piano teacher to have sufficient breadth of culture to grasp that simple fact. If the goal is nothing much more than the one trillionth recitation of Fur Elise, then the current teacher is fine.
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#2099711 - 06/09/13 07:15 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
nothing much more than the one trillionth recitation of Fur Elise


Classics get played. Some say too much. But I never hear anyone suggest taking "To Kill a Mockingbird" off school reading lists (yet perhaps teachers tire of this one too).


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (06/09/13 07:16 PM)
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#2099738 - 06/09/13 07:49 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Ann in Kentucky]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky

Classics get played. Some say too much. But I never hear anyone suggest taking "To Kill a Mockingbird" off school reading lists (yet perhaps teachers tire of this one too).


I hate to say this but:
"Why was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' banned from schools?"

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#2099744 - 06/09/13 07:53 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Ann in Kentucky]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Elise's Fur, now there's an interesting side bar. I had a student perform this for Auditions this year, with the caveat that she could only play it if she actually mastered it and played it reasonably correctly. Then I apologized to the judge for allowing her to play it on the program, only to be told by the judge that this was the first time in decades that she'd actually heard it played correctly, and it was actually a pleasure hearing it. It's actually an amazing Bagatelle if played correctly.
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#2099762 - 06/09/13 08:09 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
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I've just noticed that Mr. Baker after submitting his post, saying his Ciao and receiving my reply promptly went back and edited his post. The note that his post was edited he conveniently removed though.
Now my reply on his post looks kind of irrelevant. Mr. Baker's original post is fully quoted within my reply.

I will decide later whether I should or should not reply.

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#2099891 - 06/09/13 09:02 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky

Classics get played. Some say too much. But I never hear anyone suggest taking "To Kill a Mockingbird" off school reading lists (yet perhaps teachers tire of this one too).


I hate to say this but:
"Why was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' banned from schools?"


Hi Keystring,

I definitely picked the wrong example. It is disappointing to see this book has been banned.
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a fancy air by chance,
And straightaway all her polka dots
began a lively dance."
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#2099913 - 06/09/13 09:19 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Ann in Kentucky]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky

Classics get played. Some say too much. But I never hear anyone suggest taking "To Kill a Mockingbird" off school reading lists (yet perhaps teachers tire of this one too).


I hate to say this but:
"Why was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' banned from schools?"


Hi Keystring,

I definitely picked the wrong example. It is disappointing to see this book has been banned.

Yes, in a kind of backward way, the fact of its banning also makes your point. smile

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#2099921 - 06/09/13 09:32 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Jonathan Baker Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
It's actually an amazing Bagatelle if played correctly.


I must confess that it was only through teaching Fur Elise that I really came to admire it. In fact, the Bagatelles now astonish me. The man knew how to write.
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#2100041 - 06/10/13 01:42 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jonathan Baker]
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I decided to address the part of the post that Mr. Baker sneaked in after receiving my reply.
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
balalaika -

How do you expect a student to become familiar with a variety of Seventh chords if they do not have an easy and handy familiarity with common scales? How could anyone begin to get a grip on even a tiny slice of the vast panorama of jazz at the piano (in this case) without a familiarity with both? I do not think you can, or want, to address such practical skill-building...


Need to study chords, sequences, modulations and circle of keys - good course of keyboard harmony will make it for you. All that has very little to do with the subject of studying scales as we know it.
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker

There are many ways of being a musician-pianist. Not everyone spends all their days wallowing in the voluptuous hallucinations of a Skryabin Vers la flame. Some may be working with an orchestra, whether classical or broadway, or they may work in a church or synagogue, or they may be a collaborative pianist with singers and instrumentalists, or work in a nightclub, and so forth. I cannot know for certain which roads my students will ultimately travel, but I do require of myself that I give them the foundation of practical skills that will allow them to move with relative ease into any of these avenues.

I cannot recommend a piano teacher who is dismissive of practical skills such as scales / that lead into chords / that lead into harmonic progressions, much less recommend a teacher who is in a burlesque rage against them. I did not say such teachers should be publicly executed (LOL) nor would I publicly name them, but I will silently skip over them and recommend someone else when consulted on the matter.

My focus is on providing a thorough music education for students, not personal 'job protection' for lazy teachers.

Your tumultuous frustration bordering on hysteria, and volcanic rage, have little or nothing to do with what I have written. I wish you the best of luck, and I will leave you to yourself. Ciao.

JB

It is all just smoke and mirrors - a voluminous idle talk away from the subject of the discussion combined with furious personal attacks on those who dare to disagree.

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#2100043 - 06/10/13 01:49 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: balalaika

Need to study chords, sequences, modulations and circle of keys - good course of keyboard harmony will make it for you.

I'd like to understand better what you mean by this. Do you mean "study" in the sense of music theory that is done on paper? I'm familiar with harmony, but less familiar with keyboard harmony.

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#2100069 - 06/10/13 02:37 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
balalaika Offline
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Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 84
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: keystring

I'd like to understand better what you mean by this. Do you mean "study" in the sense of music theory that is done on paper? I'm familiar with harmony, but less familiar with keyboard harmony.

Sorry for my late hour typo. I meant to write "take" a course of keyboard harmony. One has to take it with a private teacher. Usually it is one-on-one instruction. You study how to play chord progressions in all keys that include all kind of chords, sequences and modulations.

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#2100086 - 06/10/13 04:11 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: balalaika
Originally Posted By: keystring

I'd like to understand better what you mean by this. Do you mean "study" in the sense of music theory that is done on paper? I'm familiar with harmony, but less familiar with keyboard harmony.

Sorry for my late hour typo. I meant to write "take" a course of keyboard harmony. One has to take it with a private teacher. Usually it is one-on-one instruction. You study how to play chord progressions in all keys that include all kind of chords, sequences and modulations.

I see what you mean now. It strikes me that this is not dissimilar to playing scales. In both cases you are doing something outside of music or pieces, in order to get a handle on theoretical things which also have a physical component, which you will use inside pieces. I see as either having a place, and also that teachers will have different angles and choices toward either.

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#2100097 - 06/10/13 04:50 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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The early currawong bird catches the worm (me) ...
sorry you don’t like my C# major fingering ...
with my big hands any stretch is a doddle ...
do tell how you handle C# major (with small hands)

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#2100111 - 06/10/13 05:59 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: btb
The early currawong bird catches the worm (me) ...
sorry you don’t like my C# major fingering ...
with my big hands any stretch is a doddle ...
do tell how you handle C# major (with small hands)
The standard fingering is 2312341 (RH), 3214321 (LH). The thumb plays the white keys, 23 on the 2 black keys, 234 on the 3 black keys. Similarly with F# major and B major.

Of course, a scale passage in an actual piece may require a different fingering according to the context, but that's the standard fingering.
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#2100159 - 06/10/13 08:47 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: keystring

I see what you mean now. It strikes me that this is not dissimilar to playing scales. In both cases you are doing something outside of music or pieces, in order to get a handle on theoretical things which also have a physical component, which you will use inside pieces. I see as either having a place, and also that teachers will have different angles and choices toward either.

Keyboard harmony is an exploratory and creative method of studying harmony. Yes, one does it on the piano. But that's where the similarity to scales ends. Logical step to prepare a student to learn harmony is through studying basic rudiments.

Oranges and apples are round in shape and both are fruit but they are not the same thing.

Exploratory activity in playing scales is minimal. The purpose of practicing scales, how people usually perceive it, is to build someone's technique and there are IMHO better ways to do it.
The keyboard harmony is a part of Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum. In my opinion, it is a much better way to study harmony than doing it on paper.

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#2100264 - 06/10/13 11:46 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Jeff Clef]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
PS:
"...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?"

Yes, completely. His last post was completely agreeable to my personal experience, the discussion was complete, and it was beautifully stated. I think there are quite a few who would do well to take it to heart. Since you asked.

Yah! Basta! End of discussion! Hasta la vista baby!
I cannot argue with JC. If JC said the discussing is complete than it is. JC knows better... I know my little place in the darker corner of this Universe...

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#2100265 - 06/10/13 11:47 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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Originally Posted By: balalaika

Keyboard harmony is an exploratory and creative method of studying harmony. Yes, one does it on the piano. But that's where the similarity to scales ends. Logical step to prepare a student to learn harmony is through studying basic rudiments.

Oranges and apples are round in shape and both are fruit but they are not the same thing.

Exploratory activity in playing scales is minimal. The purpose of practicing scales, how people usually perceive it, is to build someone's technique and there are IMHO better ways to do it.
The keyboard harmony is a part of Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum. In my opinion, it is a much better way to study harmony than doing it on paper.

I'd like to explore what you have written here from another angle.

There are the skills we want to have for playing music at the piano: facility in chords and scales, a quick gut level feel for chords and progressions so that we can anticipate them in written music and also use them in improvising. Then there is the student: what his natural strengths and weaknesses are as well as where they are because of the point in his studies. Then there is the way to transmit these skills. This is where it gets varied, even if the skills are always the same.

Teachers will have different approaches, and this can be a long term process in stages. Maybe one draws it out of music, turns that into technical exercises, and inserts the theory later (if ever). Another may begin with technical exercises, be overt about theory, and link it to music. Then there are method books, exam systems like the RCM with its suggested books which experienced teachers may use in a variety of ways. The nature of a particular student may suggest one approach or another.

What I've seen you do a couple of times now is to describe a particular approach. In one it was what your teacher did in college. Here we have an "exploratory and creative way of studying harmony" vis-a-vis scales for building technique. In other words, very particular ways of doing each, which I suspect is how you experienced them yourself. In this kind of forum we must leave room for imagining the many ways others may be approaching these things, in ways we have not experienced or known them. That is not an easy thing to do.

I suspect - in fact I'm almost sure of it - that a few of the teachers here are approaching both scales, and keyboard harmony, in rich and very different ways. I suspect that the scales are being approached in a manner similar to how you describe the harmony, by one or two individuals here.

Time and again I see arguments that shouldn't be, because it is so hard to imagine something being said from an unfamiliar viewpoint. The arguments shouldn't be, but they persist for that reason.

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#2100272 - 06/10/13 11:57 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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Originally Posted By: balalaika

The keyboard harmony is a part of Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum. In my opinion, it is a much better way to study harmony than doing it on paper.

You mean part of the exam syllabus, so that in order to pass this part of the exams, you need to do these kinds of studies? (Someone whose compositions are featured in such exams once straightened me out on that. smile )

I have some definite thoughts about music theory, and I have taught the three levels of RCM rudiments at one time. Here goes. Music theory (written) is a codification of the patterns that we have in music, the V7-I cadence being a simple and obvious one. It is to music what grammar and syntax are to language. We listen and speak before we learn grammar, and that way we also have a feel for the exceptions and what "feels right". There is also the idea that physical experience precedes abstract theory: that's why kids use counting blocks and then learn arithmetic - skip that and you have problems with algebra later. .... And then the theory has to be tied in with music, integrated with it. The danger is that people get (written theory), they get music, and maybe they get exercises, and each is a separate thing.

So I do want written theory. But I want it after having rich experiences at the instrument, so that the theory relates and completes it. Theory has its place, because you can sketch out things that are in front of your eyes. But it becomes a cross between geometry and algebra if you haven't experienced the music end of it first. I'd also say that when music itself (pieces) is taught, theory gradually gets inserted. If a student plays a cadence, maybe the fact gets mentioned?

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#2100282 - 06/10/13 12:19 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
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keystring - Thank you for your reply.

Originally Posted By: keystring
Here we have an "exploratory and creative way of studying harmony" vis-a-vis scales for building technique.

This comment sounds confusing to me. Exploring harmony on the piano and building piano technique (like dexterity and evenness of playing runs, double notes and octaves) are quite different things. I do not understand why are you trying to join them together? If we mix different concepts up and give them a good shake then we will never be able to come up with any clear conclusion. Let's keep the ideas clear.

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#2100291 - 06/10/13 12:32 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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About the original topic

A couple of things that haven't been looked at. There is the regular teacher who has been teaching this child for two years, and the child has done music for five. This teacher is giving classical training, and believes in bringing scales in through music.

Now there is a second teacher, the jazz teacher for summer courses. In regards to two teachers at the same time, the rule of thumb is usually that if the student is advanced enough (= 5 years?), can handle the extra work (regular lessons kick out in summer?) it's ok, IF the second teacher is teaching something totally different - otherwise there can be a conflict. What the one teacher is doing has nothing to do with the other.

But here the jazz teacher expects major scales to be mastered, and the first teacher doesn't believe in it. For classical maybe it's not needed in the same way as it is needed for jazz. What is the relationship between the two teachers? Does the main teacher have any role in preparing the student for what the jazz teacher needs? Can the jazz teacher's take on music impact the what the main teacher is doing? If the main teacher doesn't know how scales work in jazz, should she, even? Should these two teachers be talking to each other?

When my child was still in school, he was in an arts magnet program, and there they had to produce a monthly etude which ws graded, and had a performance exam each semester. What happened in school affected the private teacher, who had to prepare the student for these things. There was some kind of relationship between the two programs however fuzzy.

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#2100292 - 06/10/13 12:33 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
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Originally Posted By: keystring

You mean part of the exam syllabus, so that in order to pass this part of the exams, you need to do these kinds of studies? (Someone whose compositions are featured in such exams once straightened me out on that. smile )

I have some definite thoughts about music theory, and I have taught the three levels of RCM rudiments at one time. Here goes. Music theory (written) is a codification of the patterns that we have in music, the V7-I cadence being a simple and obvious one. It is to music what grammar and syntax are to language. We listen and speak before we learn grammar, and that way we also have a feel for the exceptions and what "feels right". There is also the idea that physical experience precedes abstract theory: that's why kids use counting blocks and then learn arithmetic - skip that and you have problems with algebra later. .... And then the theory has to be tied in with music, integrated with it. The danger is that people get (written theory), they get music, and maybe they get exercises, and each is a separate thing.

So I do want written theory. But I want it after having rich experiences at the instrument, so that the theory relates and completes it. Theory has its place, because you can sketch out things that are in front of your eyes. But it becomes a cross between geometry and algebra if you haven't experienced the music end of it first. I'd also say that when music itself (pieces) is taught, theory gradually gets inserted. If a student plays a cadence, maybe the fact gets mentioned?

I have nothing against studying harmony both on the keyboard and on paper. The harmonic analysis of the works of great composers would be also very beneficial. But this is going away from the topic Re: Why learn scales... Unless somebody believes that you can also improve your harmonic analysis skills by playing scales smile

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#2100320 - 06/10/13 01:19 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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Didn't someone upthread mention that by learning to play scales, you learn what notes are in a key? (Actually, it's possible to learn scales just by fingering and not retain much imprint of which notes are in the key without concentrating on that and learning it separately, as I can report by sad experience, but let's assume that one does learn the key by learning the scale): It seems to me that understanding the notes in major and minor keys is a fundamental starting point for doing harmonic analysis.

[ETA: I say this from the student's point of view from having studied harmonic analysis. As a teacher, balalaika, perhaps you see or approach it differently.]


Edited by PianoStudent88 (06/10/13 01:23 PM)
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#2100328 - 06/10/13 01:31 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Didn't someone upthread mention that by learning to play scales, you learn what notes are in a key?


But that takes, what, a week? Is it really necessary to play scales daily for any length of time to 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!)

I'm not arguing that scale practice isn't valuable, just that for this particular purpose it seems a bit inefficient. If you can play E major scales fluently, can you automatically spell chords in E major? Can you play pieces in E major and remember all the sharps? And if not, will more scale practice help?
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#2100354 - 06/10/13 01:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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Chords and scales interrelate. Working with either does not have to be rigid. Just because a method book, or an RCM or ABRSM course, or a given teacher, did routine things with them, does not mean that these are the only ways they can be approached. Nor that any member here, whether teacher, musician or other, is limited to such approaches.

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#2100519 - 06/10/13 05:59 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
tend to rush Offline
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Didn't someone upthread mention that by learning to play scales, you learn what notes are in a key? (Actually, it's possible to learn scales just by fingering and not retain much imprint of which notes are in the key without concentrating on that and learning it separately, as I can report by sad experience, but let's assume that one does learn the key by learning the scale): It seems to me that understanding the notes in major and minor keys is a fundamental starting point for doing harmonic analysis.

Yes!

For me, learning each scale (and mode) thoroughly - so we can see them as well as we see C Major - is a greater reason for playing scales then technical proficiency, and both classical and jazz players need that level of scale knowledge - jazz players much more so.

Quote:
Unless somebody believes that you can also improve your harmonic analysis skills by playing scales


Harmonic analysis is of little use without the ability to improvise in the appropriate mode - which requires a great familiarly with it. You just need to know the scales.

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#2100523 - 06/10/13 06:06 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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You can figure out what notes are in a key by learning important chords in a key.

You can figure out chords using the notes in a key (or scale).

The two are interrelated.

C chord, F chord, G chord, C E G F A C G B D, there is the C scale.

Chicken/egg...

In the end you need both. Each reinforces the other...
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#2100699 - 06/11/13 12:01 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Didn't someone up thread mention that by learning to play scales, you learn what notes are in a key?
I am curious how are you doing this amazing thing? Are you pronouncing notes out loud while playing a scale?

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
It seems to me that understanding the notes in major and minor keys is a fundamental starting point for doing harmonic analysis.
What a wonderful insight! I totally agree with this observation. Understanding the notes in harmonic analysis may not be overlooked! thumb

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#2100702 - 06/11/13 12:13 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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I learn by any method that works.
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#2100709 - 06/11/13 12:31 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: tend to rush]
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Originally Posted By: tend to rush
For me, learning each scale (and mode) thoroughly - so we can see them as well as we see C Major - is a greater reason for playing scales then technical proficiency...
I am left in the dark on your method of learning scales thoroughly. No matter how much I learn the scale I still cannot see it (C Major included). Could you please provide with some assistance on how you are doing your shtick?

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#2100712 - 06/11/13 12:34 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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Originally Posted By: balalaika
keystring - Thank you for your reply.

Originally Posted By: keystring
Here we have an "exploratory and creative way of studying harmony" vis-a-vis scales for building technique.

This comment sounds confusing to me. Exploring harmony on the piano and building piano technique (like dexterity and evenness of playing runs, double notes and octaves) are quite different things. I do not understand why are you trying to join them together? If we mix different concepts up and give them a good shake then we will never be able to come up with any clear conclusion. Let's keep the ideas clear.

You did not understand what I was saying. Taking that one introductory sentence in isolation won't give it to you. Let my try again.

It starts off describing what you were comparing. On one hand you wrote about exploratory harmony. On the other hand you wrote about scales, but the teaching of scales you compared with it was specifically "scales for building technique". I was saying that teachers will teach in many different ways. Therefore not all teachers will teach "scales for building technique" so if you are countering this, you may not be countering what they are doing.

It would be easiest if you read the entire post and understand the whole idea.

I read Jonathan's posts as well as your own. The teaching he described was multifaceted. I've experienced this style. It is very possible that the way scales were featured were exploratory as well - i.e. not just a thing for building technique in the way it is sometimes done. I imagine other teachers here might also have multidimensional ways of weaving the various elements of music together.

Quote:
I do not understand why are you trying to join them together? If we mix different concepts up and give them a good shake then we will never be able to come up with any clear conclusion. Let's keep the ideas clear.

It's hard to respond to this since you didn't understand what I was saying and I had to clarify it now. Hypothetically - ok, mixing together "scales for technique building" and "exploratory harmony (chords)" don't mix. But scales and chords in an exploratory manner would mix, since they interrelate. One can explore them back and forth.

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#2100714 - 06/11/13 12:41 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: tend to rush]
balalaika Offline
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Originally Posted By: tend to rush
Harmonic analysis is of little use without the ability to improvise in the appropriate mode...

Right! Real cowboy does not need a saddle! cool

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#2100770 - 06/11/13 03:16 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
btb Offline
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Must ask verbose keystring a simple question
(cutting out all the multi-facetted claptrap) ...
Can you freely play the piano with dexterity,
or is all this hyper-theoretical double-talk
just a way of occupying your time ...
so as to avoid having to mow the grass?

Mozart was guity of too my notes by some royal git ...
others on this Forum jabber too many words.

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#2100791 - 06/11/13 04:44 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted By: btb
Must ask verbose keystring a simple question
(cutting out all the multi-facetted claptrap) ...
Can you freely play the piano with dexterity,

Ouch! tiki

Get some tact, please!
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#2100837 - 06/11/13 09:00 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
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keystring -
I appreciate your response. I did read your posts entirely and I still think we have here a mix up of concepts on hands. Studying scales on piano as a term has a pretty narrow common meaning of playing a set of very specific runs and arpeggios in the certain key with emphasis on fluency and evenness. That's how most of the forum members interpreted the subject of the discussion.
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.

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
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.


What you are advocating for, as I understand it, is learning the elements of music theory (a.k.a. basic rudiments) on piano in exploratory manner. This subject would include getting familiar with the structures of different modes, flipping chords, transposing little tunes into different keys of the circle of 5th, figuring out what Da Capo means, how scales and chords intertwine with each other, comparing binary and ternary and so on. However, this subject does not include playing formula pattern 4 octaves hands together with the metronome reading of 120 per minute.
I have nothing against familiarizing students with basic rudiments of music. More over I do it on a regular basis in my class. But this is not, in my view, the topic of this discussion.
That's why I suggested to clearly define what we are talking here about.


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#2100880 - 06/11/13 11:02 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
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Answering
Originally Posted By: btb
Must ask verbose keystring a simple question
(...
Can you freely play the piano with dexterity,
or is all this hyper-theoretical double-talk


What you usually stress - in fact seems your only concern - is the ability to read music, and an outdated system that makes reading music hard. So if you ask about anything, it would have to go back to the ability to read.

One must often guess what you mean. By "dexterity" do you mean something like smooth playing? If so it would have to hinge on music reading, since that is what you stress. But "dexterity" (if I've understood what you mean) also comes from technique, which is something I had none of and am getting now, since as a child I had no teacher.

If you are asking to hear my playing, I don't think that is appropriate in this forum. You have it in PM in case that's what you asked for.

But if this involves reading, can you explain how dexterity fits in with it? And what you mean by dexterity, since I'm not sure it's understood?

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#2100893 - 06/11/13 11:48 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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Balalaika -
grabbing some key phrases:
Originally Posted By: balalaika
...Studying scales on piano as a term has a pretty narrow common meaning .....
What you are advocating for, as I understand it....


The crux of what I've been trying to say is this: That there will be many ways for teachers to be approaching things, but a few things that are well known. We will tend to extrapolate what we are familiar with, and then think what someone is saying is that thing.

I've seen some arguments break out with a sort of "you are wrong" and "you are wrong". You'll see teacher A argue against what teacher B has written, and it appears to be an argument against what he thinks it means, according to the context he knows. I saw that here.

I am not advocating anything at all (literally). smile I have worked with, and talked to, teachers who are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. When I teach, especially in problem-solving tutoring, it's the same. When such a teacher "works with scales", it may be in a manner that is very different than what you can imagine. At that point, the "you are wrong" will be arguing against something that isn't there (the common approaches), and at the same time a wonderful opportunity for dialogue (explore ideas) is lost.

I think I was seeing some of that, and this is why I posted. That's the main message I tried to bring across.

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#2100949 - 06/11/13 01:46 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
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keystring -
Famous deep thinker and one time US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said (among other amazing things) that:

There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

My gut feeling tells me that in your message you are referring to the latter. But I am not quite sure. Some years ago I thought I was indecisive - now I am not sure about that neither.

However, I would like to conclude this discussion by slightly rephrasing another quote from Mr. Rumsfeld's repertoire:

Needless to say, keystring, you are correct. Whatever it was you said.

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#2100955 - 06/11/13 01:55 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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Or more simply stated, the essentially physical skills gained by long hours of scale practice may not correlate at all with either the intellectual or the intuitive harmonic knowledge useful for the complete musician.
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#2100959 - 06/11/13 02:09 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
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#2101036 - 06/11/13 04:55 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
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I have no idea what you people are talking about. I wonder if anyone else reading this thread does...
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#2101051 - 06/11/13 05:03 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I have no idea what you people are talking about. I wonder if anyone else reading this thread does...

thumb

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#2101074 - 06/11/13 05:56 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
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Check the original message, what it says, the fact that a teacher is more or less accused of not teaching scales.

Now research the person who posted that. The child in question was taught first by her.

We don't know if the description of the teacher is fair. We don't know if the jazz teacher is fairly described. We know nothing about this situation.

Furthermore, people have given good reasons why scales may or may not be best to teach at some time or another. Chords have been mentioned.

Every time a reasonable point has been made, it has been ignored.

Why assume that there are not many points of view regarding how and when scales are best taught and leave it at that?
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#2101084 - 06/11/13 06:07 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: AZNpiano]
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Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: btb
Must ask verbose keystring a simple question
(cutting out all the multi-facetted claptrap) ...
Can you freely play the piano with dexterity,

Ouch! tiki

Get some tact, please!

Agreed...
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#2101088 - 06/11/13 06:16 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Furthermore, people have given good reasons why scales may or may not be best to teach at some time or another. Chords have been mentioned.

Every time a reasonable point has been made, it has been ignored.

Why assume that there are not many points of view regarding how and when scales are best taught and leave it at that?


This is the part that I tried to stress. I addressed the situation of the OP in a separate post, including the question of the relationship of the two teachers. Nobody responded afaik.

The other element in this thread involves the teaching of scales. There were a lot of ideas and a lot of approaches. It would be nice, where someone is doing something different, to say "That's interesting. Can you tell us more?", rather than automatically dismissing it, or assuming that you already know what it must be about. "You" is generic. smile

That is what I was trying to bring across.

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#2101810 - 06/13/13 03:08 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
btb Offline
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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 .

But the point of my broadside was to warn against a theoretical approach
on the subject of scales ... and talking vaguely without a hands-on
keyboard dexterity (not to mention the verbose overlay).

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#2101849 - 06/13/13 07:43 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: btb]
TimR Online   content
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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 ...


Kudos for this reasonable and courteous post.

I am also in the limited dexterity camp and always will be, for a variety of reasons (though I do make some incremental progress).

That fact can have an impact on the level of understanding of an issue. We may not consider something that is perfectly obvious to the experienced. But calling attention to the limited part sends a missed message.

Some people find it easy to explain, "no, that turns out to be wrong, and here's why....." Others seem to relish the opportunity to say, "you're obviously so stupid/inexperienced/limited you don't understand that......."
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#2101969 - 06/13/13 01:05 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
balalaika Offline
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I believe this thread ran out of steam... Let's let it go... tired

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#2101983 - 06/13/13 01:28 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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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?
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#2102066 - 06/13/13 04:32 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: PianoStudent88]
balalaika Offline
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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.

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#2102069 - 06/13/13 04:35 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
malkin Offline
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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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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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 Online   content
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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
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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
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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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#2102533 - 06/14/13 02:34 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: laguna_greg]
balalaika Offline
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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 Online   content
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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 Online   content
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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
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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!
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1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
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#2102571 - 06/14/13 05:12 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Thank you, balalaika.
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#2102695 - 06/14/13 11:27 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
malkin Offline
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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

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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
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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
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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
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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
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11179
Loc: Canada
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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#2103501 - 06/16/13 08:16 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2202
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Welcome to the internet.
wink
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2103506 - 06/16/13 08:23 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
Welcome to the internet.
wink
malkin-
Go back to your school and learn how civilized people suppose to behave in public.

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#2103546 - 06/16/13 09:25 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: balalaika]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: balalaika
I believe this thread ran out of steam... Let's let it go... tired

{cough, cough}

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#2103550 - 06/16/13 09:26 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: montunoman]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
(one way to surely NOT let a thread die is to keep replying to it! eek )

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#2103575 - 06/16/13 10:26 PM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: red-rose]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Speaking of which, I was sorting my library and came across this tome. If you really want to learn scales and become a truly artistic and phenomenal player, pick up a copy of Alberto Jonas's 288 page book on scales. Dover has recently republished this century old book.

Just so you know, it contains etudes especially written for it by composer/pianists including: Ferruccio Busoni, Alfred Cortot, Ernst von Dohnanyi, Ossip Garilowitsch, Leopold Godowsky, Josef Lhevinne, Moriz Rosenthal, emil von Sauer, just to name a few.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2103654 - 06/17/13 02:50 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1370
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Speaking of which, I was sorting my library and came across this tome. If you really want to learn scales and become a truly artistic and phenomenal player, pick up a copy of Alberto Jonas's 288 page book on scales. Dover has recently republished this century old book.

Just so you know, it contains etudes especially written for it by composer/pianists including: Ferruccio Busoni, Alfred Cortot, Ernst von Dohnanyi, Ossip Garilowitsch, Leopold Godowsky, Josef Lhevinne, Moriz Rosenthal, emil von Sauer, just to name a few.


I remember exploring the re-published collection several months back and remember these two links being of nice value [on the topic]:



For those unfamiliar with her, Sara Davis Buechner is a concert pianist and pedagogue with quite a resume.

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#2103717 - 06/17/13 07:48 AM Re: Why learn scales? [Re: malkin]
TimR Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3005
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: malkin
Welcome to the internet.
wink


Well, yes, but in some ways this scale discussion has been in more depth than most, and probably was more valuable.

Previous scale discussions tended to contain too much repetition of "scales are good, do them" with too little reflection on why, and none on how. This one had more thoughtful responses, at least until near the end.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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