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#2160881 - 10/02/13 02:45 PM Start practicing scales with C major not recommended?
Delphian2001 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/13
Posts: 68
Loc: Lovely So Cal
So I made a point about 2 weeks ago to start practicing scales as part of my daily practice routine. Naturally, I picked C major to start as I thought it would be the easiest being all white keys. After two weeks of persistent practicing, I can do 2 octaves both hands in parallel and contrary motions. So my next logical step is to master 4 octaves then start a new key (G major in my mind). However, upon my research to read more about scales practicing, I've run across multiple documents saying C major scale being the hardest and recommend to leave it later and start with something easier such as B major. How can this be with your fingers going over a mix of black and white keys easier than zipping through all white keys? Should I start over again and pick the recommended keys to start learning doing scales and arpeggios?

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#2160884 - 10/02/13 02:57 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Sweet06 Offline
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Registered: 06/22/13
Posts: 389
you're taking this far far far to literally. just knock them out... one at a time. thats it. theres no special order that gives you flying abilities or anything magical. its about, just doing it.
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#2160890 - 10/02/13 03:16 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I also don't think it matters that much, but some of the "blacker" scales fit under the hand quite nicely, if you use the right fingering.

I don't think it matters all that much, but being orderly about how you learn them can help you see & remember the patterns in which sharps or flats are added/removed as you go from one key to the next around the circle of fifths.
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#2160895 - 10/02/13 03:28 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
dcb Offline
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Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 199
It depends on your definition of difficult. The C scale is certainly the easiest to remember what notes to play....they are all lined up without any black keys to worry about.

However, one reason people practice scales to to improve their technique so they can play very evenly. It is surprisingly hard to play a scale with perfect, even rhythm and perfect, even loudness on each note. Practicing scales gives you the chance to practice it.

It is much hard to play a C scale with even loudness and rhythm because there are no black keys. You have to go 3-1 and 4-1 (thumb under) without the benefit of having your 3 or 4 finger on a black key.

I would suggest learning C maj, G maj, and then Dmaj and you will see what I mean.
-C has 3-1, 4-1 that is very tricky
-G solves the 4-1 issue but still has the 3-1 on all white keys
-D solves both the 3-1, and 4-1 issue because the 3,4 fingers are on black keys before the thumb has to go under and back to a white key.

I bet you will find that your D scale is the smoothest and most even and your C scale is the choppiest.

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#2160908 - 10/02/13 04:23 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Amaruk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/02/11
Posts: 802
Loc: New England, USA
It is interesting to note here that Chopin considered C major the hardest scale for the very reason dcb referred to above.

Originally Posted By: From Wikipedia
C major is often thought of as the simplest key, due to its lack of sharps or flats, and beginning piano students' first pieces are usually simple ones in this key; the first scales and arpeggios that students learn are also usually C major. However, going against this common practice, the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin regarded this scale as the most difficult to play with complete evenness, and he tended to give it last to his students. He regarded B major as the easiest scale to play on the piano, because the position of the black and white notes best fit the natural positions of the fingers, and so he often had students start with this scale. A C major scale lacks black keys and thus does not fit the natural positions of the fingers well.
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#2160915 - 10/02/13 04:57 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Delphian2001 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/13
Posts: 68
Loc: Lovely So Cal
Thanks all for the information. I learn so much from this forum. So theoretically, I picked the hardest key to start with. Hopefully, I'll have easier time with the subsequent keys!

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#2160944 - 10/02/13 06:46 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
DinaP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/12
Posts: 149
First, make sure you understand the theory behind how any Major scale is built -- the pattern of whole and half steps.

Starting with C Major may be harder to do evenly -- but I think personally it was the place to start to learn parallel motion, which for me was quite difficult -- then all of a sudden it fell into place.

I strongly recommend, if within your budget, that you acquire a copy of Scales Bootcamp. Not only does the author group scales (Major and Relative minors) into logical categories based on finger patterns and ease but also makes clear visually the finger patterns used to play each scale. Establishing the pattern for a particular scale allows one to see that if you can play two octaves you can run the entire keyboard. You also can earn points, like a game, based on challenges for each hand separately and then together. The more difficult challenges help to develop that evenness that has been mentioned by others as well as tempo and dynamic variations when playing a scale.

My order so far under my teacher's direction has been C Major, A minor, G Major and my newest, F Major -- which deviates in the RH by altering the pattern -- and when you play it you will understand why -- but the result is an ascending octave in the RH ends with the 4th finger.

I also recommend Alfred's The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios &Cadences -- good theory explanations and the charts on the inside front cover are priceless.

Happy practicing.

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#2160953 - 10/02/13 07:23 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Some links to some scale-related resources you might enjoy: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=19043.msg206351#msg206351

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#2161070 - 10/03/13 05:24 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1406
Loc: Georgia, USA
My teacher started me with B major. Fits under the hand well. The thumb under happens when the black keys run out, so it's obvious. The same can be said for other mostly black key scales. Just try it and you'll see what I'm talking about. It's much easier than C major in my opinion.

Sam

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#2161384 - 10/03/13 07:57 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Delphian2001 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/13
Posts: 68
Loc: Lovely So Cal
Bobpickle - thanks for the links to threads on pianostreet. I found Bernhard's 2 black keys/3 black keys using fingers 23 and 234 practice method particularly intriguing and plan to practice it myself.

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#2161505 - 10/04/13 12:44 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Whizbang Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 733
Originally Posted By: Delphian2001
So I made a point about 2 weeks ago to start practicing scales as part of my daily practice routine. Naturally, I picked C major to start as I thought it would be the easiest being all white keys. After two weeks of persistent practicing, I can do 2 octaves both hands in parallel and contrary motions. So my next logical step is to master 4 octaves then start a new key (G major in my mind). However, upon my research to read more about scales practicing, I've run across multiple documents saying C major scale being the hardest and recommend to leave it later and start with something easier such as B major. How can this be with your fingers going over a mix of black and white keys easier than zipping through all white keys? Should I start over again and pick the recommended keys to start learning doing scales and arpeggios?


You ultimately have to be reasonably comfortable in many keys.

Just play out B major and don't stress about the various sharps. Note that you are playing thumb and pinky on white keys and longer fingers on black keys.

With C major, you sort of have to contort your hand to hit all the keys. The long fingers get scrunched in.

It's completely an anatomical thing. Don't freak out about key signatures with lots of flats and sharps. They're harder to read, to be sure, but they're easier to play in some ways. It may take a while for you to feel that.
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#2161509 - 10/04/13 12:57 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 942
Loc: Italy
I just watched an old interview with Martha Argerich talking about what she used to practice when she was little. She says no scales, no exercises whatsoever, just music. She says she only practiced her pieces and troubled spots, and that once you can do an exercise you are not necessarily able to play a specific passage inside a piece. Pretty radical, but I tend to believe her - although I think at a beginner level, scales and arpeggios help to learn keyboard geography and useful hand/arm movements.

Edited to add: thanks for the link Bobpickle, I'm having such a great read! If only that forum wasn't white on black. It kills my eyes.


Edited by sinophilia (10/04/13 01:44 AM)
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#2161526 - 10/04/13 01:49 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: sinophilia]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: sinophilia
Pretty radical, but I tend to believe her - although I think at a beginner level, scales and arpeggios help to learn keyboard geography and useful hand/arm movements.


Not as radical as you may think. Vladimir Ashkenazy is said to have never done "exercises" himself throughout his learning. The theory is based on a certain definition of piano technique and the notion that all that practicing a given exercise (oftentimes, though not ubiquitously) does is to help you play the given exercise. The concept that technique can be acquired in a vacuum - that is, outside of a musical context - goes against the aforementioned certain definition of piano technique. You can read a little more here: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=4385.msg40858#msg40858

edit: If you go to "print preview" while reading pianostreet, the screen reverses the white text on black background to black text on white background if you want to give that a try for/while reading.


Edited by Bobpickle (10/04/13 01:52 AM)

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#2161537 - 10/04/13 02:13 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
peekay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/13
Posts: 184
I think it's good to practice scales, arpeggios, etc., not necessarily as "exercises" but to thoroughly learn the various scales and related chords.

Scales and chords form the foundation of modern music, and at a certain level, it will be difficult if not impossible to progress without mastering them.
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#2161549 - 10/04/13 03:03 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 942
Loc: Italy
I agree peekay, I find scales more an exercise for the mind than for the fingers. That's why I wouldn't obsess on fingering and speed, but on actually learning the notes that make up each key. Other than that, I guess they're good for control and evenness of touch, although this can also be done directly in specific pieces.
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Martha Argerich... is an incarnation of the artistic metaphor of the "eternal feminine" that draws us upward. (Sergio Sablich)

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#2161553 - 10/04/13 03:13 AM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: sinophilia]
floydthebarber71 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/12
Posts: 178
Loc: South Africa
Originally Posted By: sinophilia
I agree peekay, I find scales more an exercise for the mind than for the fingers. That's why I wouldn't obsess on fingering and speed, but on actually learning the notes that make up each key. Other than that, I guess they're good for control and evenness of touch, although this can also be done directly in specific pieces.


+1
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#2162201 - 10/05/13 04:19 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
AudreyJean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/13
Posts: 24
Loc: Beaver island, Michigan
I would like to say that this is a fascinating thread for me, and has given me much to think about. Thank you all for this discussion.

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#2162203 - 10/05/13 04:21 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 237
I have been playing for a while and I've had 3 different teachers, but none have had me work on scales. No idea why not. Anyway, I'm starting to on my own, as a way to help me transition from one piece to another when they're in different keys.

One thing I just don't get is how to know when to move the thumb. Sometimes it just happens naturally at the right key and sometimes it doesn't, and I haven't been able to identify what the right pattern is. So I always have to refer to my book of scales to know what the correct fingering should be.

If I didn't have the book, how would I know the right fingering?
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#2162227 - 10/05/13 05:30 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Oongawa]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Basically, you want fingers on the black keys, and when you go from black keys (or a single black key) to white (when moving up) is when you bring the thumb under for the next white key. Hope that makes sense...

I no longer need to look up scales because i have a clear intuition of how the thumb and fingers handle the white to black to white transitions, but I've never tried to describe it beforel
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#2162268 - 10/05/13 07:24 PM Re: Start practicing scales with C major not recommended? [Re: Delphian2001]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2309
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: sinophilia
...I guess [scales] are good for control and evenness of touch, although this can also be done directly in specific pieces.
The notes in pieces have different dynamic weights and usually should not be played evenly. Scales should be played with and without accenting the notes.

Originally Posted By: Oongawa
If I didn't have the book, how would I know the right fingering?
In RH, rising in fifths from G major, put 4 on Bb/A# while that key's in the key signature or on the seventh note (= the last sharp in the key signature) if it's not, F# in G, C# in D, G# in A, D# in E, A# in B and keep it on that same key, A# or B flat until you get back round to C major through F#/Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, and F. For C major it goes back to being on the seventh note.

In LH, keep 4 on F#/Gb while that key's in the key signature or on the fourth of the scale if it's not (4 on fourth). F# in G, D, A, E, B, F#, on Gb in Gb and Db then on Db in Ab, Ab in Eb, Eb in Bb and Bb in F. The convention for C major is to put 4 on the second note, D, rather than the fourth note, F.

The idea is always to raise the 4th finger on a black note to make it easier to pass the thumb under and conversely give the finger a raised (easier) target for when it crosses over the thumb.

Most students learn C fingering in LH for F, G, D and A. I don't know why. I learnt this way and I've never forgotten it.
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