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#2290669 - 06/16/14 07:11 PM Effective deliberate practice of scales
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
I had such an overwhelming constructive response to my other thread about learning to sight read, I thought I'd open a discussion on another topic: how to practice effectively.

I'm just looking for suggestions on a practice regime that is focused enough to address the areas I specifically want to improve on, within a short enough period of time to maintain 100% focus.

Right now, I feel I should be focusing on learning the major and minor scales with correct fingering. Having learnt to play by ear, I essentially learnt scales by trial and error then felt the "shape" of the scale and transposed it when changing tonics (with incorrect fingering, which is a major issue for me trying to unlearn now).

I don't want to repeat the mistake of acquiring bad habits!

I want to put at least 20 minutes a day into developing correct fingering. How should I structure my practice?

Eg. Major scales ONLY first; white keys only until about to pass up and down multiple octaves accurately at 60bpm. Add Bb until at 60bpm, add Db etc etc

I guess I have the kind of personality where a set structure helps me maintain focus and actually complete tasks and narrow the gap towards my goals.

Are there any workbooks with exercises and regimens I could find around or any suggestions?

Cheers!


Edited by ZigZiglar (06/16/14 07:13 PM)

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#2290714 - 06/16/14 08:19 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11747
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Slower is better to start. Only play the scales as fast you can do so accurately and easily - which is to say, VERY slowly.

Start out with Major scales, chords, and arpeggios. It's my understanding that you are a relative beginner? (Sorry if I misremembered) If so, 20 minutes on this is way too long, probably. It all depends on how long it takes you to play something well, but if you spent 10 minutes per day on one key (e.g., C major) then after about a week of that you'd know it really well and could move on to G major.

Maybe do one key per week, focusing on scales, chords and arpeggios for one octave in that key. You can go around the circle of 5ths if you like, or arrange your scales according to the same fingering, or start with ergonomic scales first - the order, I believe doesn't matter much. The most important thing next to consistent fingering is to make sure you are free of excess tensions.

I don't recommend doing more than one octave to start, though, because it might be too overwhelming. If anything, you can go through a cycle of all keys in one octave, then 2 octaves, then 3, etc. Don't get into speed or metronome work until you can do the 2 octaves in all keys pretty easily.

Having said all that, fingering is not only worked on in technical work like scales. In everything that you play, strive to be consistent with your fingering. Use suggestions at least to start since you're not sure what to use (and be sure it's a good edition of sheet music with standard fingering), and then if you find they just do not work, try and figure out an alternative. Whatever you do, make sure it doesn't hinder your ability to play the passage well technically and musically, or add excess tension.
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#2290727 - 06/16/14 08:53 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Thanks for your reply. I guess I should put a bit more information on my current skill level.

I have been playing piano on/off for over a decade. I have played in a few bands and was actually pretty successful with regular paid gigs for years. I have composed lots of music ranging from electronica to lounge. I play by ear and have very small hands, so I developed a rather bad and limiting/unscalable technique.

The lack of a foundation of correct technique and theory has lead me to the point where I'm failing to improve any more and failing to properly comprehend more complicated theory. I can quickly identify a lot of chords; like if you say Bbmaj7 I can almost instantly play it in root position and rather quickly establish multiple voicings, but ask me to play a lydian mode in the key of C and I have no idea ...

Ask me to cycle through the major scale with correct fingering over all tonics and ... I cannot.

So while you can probably communicate with me me as though I have more of an intermediate level, I really want to be treated like a beginner or sorts so that I can really lay down the foundations I lack, unlearn my bad habbits and pave the way for further improvement.

My ultimate goal is to be able to read through the jazz piano books I have and become able to improvise a LOT more freely. At the moment I feel so limited to pentatonic scales and basic chord voicings - it really makes my ability to follow songs and to solo rather bland.

Cheers!

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#2290728 - 06/16/14 08:54 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1515
Loc: Australia
A subject close to my heart as just a few weeks ago I finally managed to learn all twelve major and harmonic minor scales in two octaves. I had a couple of false starts in my 20 months since beginning piano which I put down to partly not being ready, and being swayed by the anti scales reading I came across.

While I had a few major scales fairly secure I had a mental barrier against the flat major scales and all the harmonic minor scales. But when the time was right I just gritted my teeth and dived in. Surprisingly, although I don’t deny scales are hard, I learned all the fingerings to the previously unknown scales within a month just through daily practice.

On a previous attempt to learn scales I set up an excel spreadsheet which count the amount of the times I play a scale. Using this all the unknown scales had a zero attempt against them and so I just concentrated on those adding one or two a day if possible. If the scale were easy it might not get any practice for a few days but if it were hard it would be included in the next day’s session. It became apparent early on that the major scales were easier than the minor scales so the minor scales were practiced more often. In the early days I might be exhausted after only three scales but after a while some became more secure and I would do four, five, six and so on until I reached my present regime. I keep a copy of the circle of fiths in front of the piano and my scale fingering book handy for reference. Every morning I do twelve scales all minor or all major. Because the minor scales are harder and some still not very secure I will do two days of minor scales then one day of major then back to minor. This system is working really well and the count of the scales is increasing which gives a sort of feedback. Speed is irrelevant at the moment on any scale I am just working on accuracy and confidence. Future work will include increased tempo, contrary motion, staccato scales and all those other tricks but for now happy to have finally gotten over this hurdle.

This is a link to what my spreadsheet looks like.
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#2290729 - 06/16/14 08:57 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1071
Loc: Manywheres
What is your primary learning objective?

Are you trying to learn the scales and fingering so that when you encounter them in music, you are able to instinctively execute the patterns without calculation/thought?

OR

Are you trying to learn the different contour/shape of each key area on the piano, so that you instinctively know the 'feeling' [and slight sound difference] of each key area--including automatically 'knowing/feeling' all of the tonic-subdominant-dominat relationships among the keys?

OR, maybe something else entirely?

BTW, can you quickly answer [hypothetically] how many accidentals are in every key area, including the other way around (e.g., 5 flats = what key area)?
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#2290742 - 06/16/14 09:29 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
noobpianist90 Online   confused
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 367
Loc: India

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#2290767 - 06/16/14 10:56 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1948
Loc: Philadelphia area
As a classical guitarist, I was taught to use scale practice to develop tone quality through careful listening.

I guess fingering comes along with that too.

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#2290771 - 06/16/14 11:10 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: earlofmar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
A subject close to my heart as just a few weeks ago I finally managed to learn all twelve major and harmonic minor scales in two octaves. I had a couple of false starts in my 20 months since beginning piano which I put down to partly not being ready, and being swayed by the anti scales reading I came across.

While I had a few major scales fairly secure I had a mental barrier against the flat major scales and all the harmonic minor scales. But when the time was right I just gritted my teeth and dived in. Surprisingly, although I don’t deny scales are hard, I learned all the fingerings to the previously unknown scales within a month just through daily practice.

On a previous attempt to learn scales I set up an excel spreadsheet which count the amount of the times I play a scale. Using this all the unknown scales had a zero attempt against them and so I just concentrated on those adding one or two a day if possible. If the scale were easy it might not get any practice for a few days but if it were hard it would be included in the next day’s session. It became apparent early on that the major scales were easier than the minor scales so the minor scales were practiced more often. In the early days I might be exhausted after only three scales but after a while some became more secure and I would do four, five, six and so on until I reached my present regime. I keep a copy of the circle of fiths in front of the piano and my scale fingering book handy for reference. Every morning I do twelve scales all minor or all major. Because the minor scales are harder and some still not very secure I will do two days of minor scales then one day of major then back to minor. This system is working really well and the count of the scales is increasing which gives a sort of feedback. Speed is irrelevant at the moment on any scale I am just working on accuracy and confidence. Future work will include increased tempo, contrary motion, staccato scales and all those other tricks but for now happy to have finally gotten over this hurdle.

This is a link to what my spreadsheet looks like.



Thanks for the input. Sounds good to me! I find the fingering of the scales starting on sharp/flats the hardest to get to stick. My hands kind of instinctively predict the notes in the other tonics based on the physical shape of the pattern. I guess I should learn ALL the major scales before starting to practice minors, then do something similar to you every day.

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#2290777 - 06/16/14 11:18 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: A443]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: A443
What is your primary learning objective?

Are you trying to learn the scales and fingering so that when you encounter them in music, you are able to instinctively execute the patterns without calculation/thought?

OR

Are you trying to learn the different contour/shape of each key area on the piano, so that you instinctively know the 'feeling' [and slight sound difference] of each key area--including automatically 'knowing/feeling' all of the tonic-subdominant-dominat relationships among the keys?

OR, maybe something else entirely?

BTW, can you quickly answer [hypothetically] how many accidentals are in every key area, including the other way around (e.g., 5 flats = what key area)?


Hi, thanks for chiming in. I guess more option 2: given that I have learnt by playing by ear so far, my ability to learn scales based on fingering pattern/shape and SOUND will allow me to learn a lot faster than with a view to reading music. I'm trying to learn to read music as a side venture at the moment.

No, I cannot answer how many accidentals are in every key area quickly. Although I do understand the question. I will study the circle of fifths more intently once I have the practical underlying skills. Also, because I've managed to avoid the black noted scales so far, I haven't memorised all the notes within them and I understand that the high number of flat/sharp notes in the major scale are mostly from black note roots.

I could tell you how many are in the white note roots though laugh B has 5!

Is there some particular reference I should read to strengthen this knowledge and to better understand why this information is beneficial?

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#2290779 - 06/16/14 11:22 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Greg Howlett Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 79
Loc: Monroe, GA
If you plan on improvisation at all, here is a quick tip on learning scales. Don't just learn finger numbers, etc. Learn the scale degrees. For example, you need to know that E is the 3rd note in the C major scale. This gets very important over time. In fact, in real world music, it is probably more important than fingering. Here is an article discussing this more: http://greghowlett.com/blog/free-lessons/a-new-way-of-looking-at-scales.aspx
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#2290793 - 06/17/14 12:21 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: Greg Howlett]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Greg Howlett
If you plan on improvisation at all, here is a quick tip on learning scales. Don't just learn finger numbers, etc. Learn the scale degrees. For example, you need to know that E is the 3rd note in the C major scale. This gets very important over time. In fact, in real world music, it is probably more important than fingering. Here is an article discussing this more: http://greghowlett.com/blog/free-lessons/a-new-way-of-looking-at-scales.aspx


Thanks for the link, Greg. I understand the degrees based on major or minor keys, but the order of my thoughts goes more like this:

Fmaj: Ok so F is obviously the Root, then my hand "feels" the shape of the typical root triad F A C OR my mind can map the shape metaphysically and subsequently process the notes in isolation. I understand that A is the third and C the fith. I know how to add the 7th etc.

But my THINKING always seems to be based on building upon the root, then reverse engineering after my muscle memory creates the shape of the major scale.

Is there a better way? And how do you re-learn it? smile

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#2290806 - 06/17/14 01:25 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1071
Loc: Manywheres
Think/do this:
FM (1 flat): scale degrees 1(F), 4(B-flat), 5(C). The standard 1-3-5 hand shape/feel produces automatically I (F,A,C), IV (B-flat, D, F), and V (C,E,G).

Don't build up from the root: know the standard hand shape, and set your thumb on the scale degree that you intend.

Once you have your I, IV, and V, feel, you can expand it to the more functionally accurate I, ii6, V7. Then expand your hand shape repertoire to include first and second inversions. Not what they look like on the music or on the keyboard--what they feel like. <----this allows you to then play the same patterns in EVERY key, and not have to rethink, relearn, and rememorise relationships that simply happen to start on different tonal centres.
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#2291758 - 06/18/14 06:36 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Thanks, A443! I have kind of memorised the 3rd and 5ths already, but not from scales, but from root position major chords. I'll try to be mindful of the notes I'm hitting in scales too!

I have severely neglected my left hand in my self-teaching, so I'm trying to learn the scales equally on left and right hands and ... wow I'm bad.

The asymmetrical fingering increments really mess with my head. And I'm having a lot of difficulty with the larger thumb tuck when descending a left handed scale. Ie tucking under finger 4 to place the thumb back on the root tonic.

I have really short stumpy fingers, so I may need coaching to work with my unique hand shape. What keeps happening is my thumb lands on the same note that the 4th finger has depressed and can't quite make it one note further to the left. The fact that the key is depressed is probably like a point of resistance for it to tuck into or something.

I also have very inflexible fingers due to arthritic joints. I know I don't sound like the best candidate for playing piano haha I tend to make up for my disadvantaged reach (I can only JUST reach an octave) by using clever inversions and relying on dexterity moreso than flexibility.

Any tips? Should this be a new thread? Cheers!

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#2291765 - 06/18/14 06:59 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1515
Loc: Australia
I believe any movements even if it may seems strange can be learned by very slow practice. As previously mentioned I have just recently finished learning major and minor scales in two octaves. While majors seem a little more instinctive some of the minors are like brain teasers. But a daily slow practice session on these scales is working wonders.
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#2291960 - 06/19/14 07:45 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Daffodil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/09/07
Posts: 166
Loc: In a big country
If you want to learn all the major and harmonic minor scales, you could try working around the circle of fifths for the major scales, and learning each related minor as you come across each major.

So, first scale is C major(no sharps or flats), then its related minor: A harmonic minor (notice it is the same notes as C major except the seventh note is raised). Next major is G (with F sharp - it is the same as C also, with the seventh raised), and G's related minor is E (same as G major but with the seventh raised), next major is D (F sharp and C sharp - same as G, but with the seventh raised), and its related minor is B (same as D major but with seventh raised) and so on, all the way around.

This method is also very good for learning to recognise keys and key signatures.
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#2291972 - 06/19/14 08:12 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2333
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: ZigZiglar
The asymmetrical fingering increments really mess with my head.
All scales use the two group pattern [1,2,3] [1,2,3,4] (RH rising, LH falling) with modifications at the extremities. Correct fingering for scales means finding out where the 4th finger goes as it's only used once per octave. Passing the thumb under the 4th finger is harder than under the 3rd so it's ergonomically easier if the 4th finger is raised on a black key.

The natural (ergonomic) rule for the major keys and their relative minors is that RH 4th finger 'belongs' on Bb in the flat keys or the last sharp in the key signature where it's not used. In C Major it's usually used on B (fifth finger on the tonic).

The LH 4th finger 'belongs' on F# for the sharp keys or on the last flat in the key signature where it's not used. In C Major it's usually used on D (fifth finger on the tonic).

This is in contrast to the (Hanon?) method of trying to use C Major fingering as a default.

B Major is the easiest key for RH, physically, and D flat the easiest key for LH. These are the keys to learn first (and C Major last) if you're focussing on fingering or comfort.
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#2292003 - 06/19/14 09:25 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3169
Loc: Maine
ZigZiglar, experiment with allowing your arm and elbow and wrist and angle to the keyboard to be flexible. You may be trying to hold everything at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard which I think will make the thumb-passing harder. Do this hands separate at first until you've found a healthy and useful motion.

Experiment with going the other way: observing what happens when you pass the hand over the thumb to make a 1-4 transition. That's RH descending, LH ascending. Do this hands separate. Do you have similar problems as with the 4-1 transition? If not, figure out what the motions are for the working 1-4 transition, and see if you can reverse them for a 4-1 transition. If you do have problems, you still may find it easier to find a solution in the 4-1 transition first.

None of this is guaranteed, and you have to be careful not to end up with hurtful motions, which I'm not qualified to give any particular advice on. But these are things that I have found helped me over time in working on my own to achieve more facility and more comfort in scales and arpeggios.

For example, when I first started practicing arpeggios, I quickly found that I was hurting myself; I backed off of them and then over the course of several months found better ways of moving. Not all of that time was spent working on the arpeggios; some of it I think was that I found better ways of moving overall, and more ideas about flexible touch and motion, and when I started trying arpeggios again I had more ideas than when I first tried them.
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#2292109 - 06/19/14 01:19 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 247
I am working on scales, too. I have a really hard time knowing when to use 4 or 1 ascending, and the when descending, same thing, can't consistently remember when to switch and whether I should be trading 1 for 3 or 1 for 4 in the right hand. And all these same issues on the left, though the fingering isn't the same.

Is there a good way to remember this? I'm using a scale book that has the fingering for a two octave scale and if I'm not looking at the book I typically mangle it up, mostly on the descent, but sometimes on the ascent.

Also, is a particular note always played by the same finger on both theascent and the descent, for any key? Is the pattern used when playing contrary motion any different? My book doesn't show contrary motion.

I'm trying to identify rules and patterns that I can apply, so I don't have to rely on the book for fingering.
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#2292367 - 06/19/14 10:14 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: Oongawa]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Oongawa
I am working on scales, too. I have a really hard time knowing when to use 4 or 1 ascending, and the when descending, same thing, can't consistently remember when to switch and whether I should be trading 1 for 3 or 1 for 4 in the right hand. And all these same issues on the left, though the fingering isn't the same.

Is there a good way to remember this? I'm using a scale book that has the fingering for a two octave scale and if I'm not looking at the book I typically mangle it up, mostly on the descent, but sometimes on the ascent.

Also, is a particular note always played by the same finger on both theascent and the descent, for any key? Is the pattern used when playing contrary motion any different? My book doesn't show contrary motion.

I'm trying to identify rules and patterns that I can apply, so I don't have to rely on the book for fingering.


I think it is relatively easy to memorise fingering, as you only really need to remember one note; this is the note where your finger 1 (thumb) creates a pivot point.

There is a similar pattern that emerges when transcending multiple octaves, you simply pivot a note earlier in compensation for the 8th note.

If I were you, I'd focus on repeating one key across one octave in both hands by following the fingering in the book. You will soon enough memorise it and develop an understanding of the fingering.

Then the next step would be identifying which keys have altered fingering and slowly adding them into your repertoire. Like Fmaj, for example; it only has one difference, 1234,123 instead of 123,1234 and the inverse on the pass back. That would be the first irregular fingering major scale I'd learn next.

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#2292373 - 06/19/14 10:35 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 247
Thanks! I had not thought about it that way - just remembering the pivot note. I will give that a try!
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Presently working on:
Schubert- Ave Maria
Saint Saens- Danse Macabre
Attempting a little blues improv
'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2292431 - 06/20/14 03:45 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Art_Vandelay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/13/14
Posts: 127
Loc: Stillwater, OK
I don't understand your approach of starting with only white keys. Sure, C Major is the easiest one to remember the notes, just work your way up and down the white keys, but it's actually the hardest scale for your hand to adapt to, because the keys are in a straight line, while the tips of your fingers are not. Chopin started his students with B Major, which is much easier on the hand. The longer fingers (2nd, 3rd, 4th) play the black keys while your thumb and pinky play the white ones. Also, the thumb crossing is easier because your hand is slightly elevated from playing the two previous sharps, allowing the thumb to pass under with relative ease.

This just struck me as odd, since you say you're new to scale practice. Why make things hard on yourself?
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#2292466 - 06/20/14 08:13 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
PianoStudent88 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3169
Loc: Maine
Oongawa, I can't tell from your posting if you're trying several scales or just one, but I would work to master one scale at a time. It sounds like you might be trying multiple scales before mastering any one single scale and that would be adding to the difficulties.
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#2292854 - 06/21/14 06:16 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2333
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Onngawa
I'm trying to identify rules and patterns that I can apply, so I don't have to rely on the book for fingering.
You don't have to rely on the book for fingering. A simple crib sheet to over the scale fingerings can fit on a single sheet of paper while you're learning your preferred fingerings and the principles you use to choose them.

Of the four scales we usually practise, major and three minors, harmonic, melodic and natural, all we need for each key is the starting finger and the note the 4th finger plays. As we usually play the melodic minor ascending and the natural minor descending we don't need the starting finger for the natural minor, just the note played by 4 in descent. For example, E major with conventional fingering is (Major, Minor Harmonic, Minor Melodic and Natural Minor):
E Major:
RH: 1D#, 1D#, 1D#, D(nat)
LH: 5F#, 5F#, 5F#, F#

For A-flat:
RH: 2Bb, (G#m) 2A#, 2A#, A#
LH: 3Db, (G#m) 3C#, 3C#, F#

If you've learned them properly, knowing the notes and seeing the keyboard should be all you need.

Working out the fingering need not take long and can teach you more about fingering than anything you'll learn from a scale book. The trick is to work out on which key to use your 4th finger. The turn (1-under-4 or 4-over-1) is easer when the thumb is on a lower white key and the 4th finger on a raised black key. As we use the same finger on the same note in each octave there are a maximum of seven ways to play the scale - using 4 on any one of the seven scale notes.

Using two octaves for each fingering (you won't but you might) takes 105 key presses, or about two minutes, to reach a reasonable conclusion. The time will diminish rapidly as you repeat the process each day you practise that key and will become almost instinctive with time and will be applicable also in your pieces. That won't happen getting the fingerings from a book.

For C major there are seven different ways that don't really differ much. Generally 4 is used on the 7th note when there are no other considerations. Since there are no black keys in C major it's even possible to use just [1,2,3] repeatedly (finishing the second octave on 4) though more appropriate in a piece than in a scale.

When there's one black key (G major, F Major, A Harmonic Minor) it makes sense to use 4 there (putting 4 on a white key is unnecessary when there's a black one available, ceteris paribus) but there are six other ways to try also. Give each a go and see what you prefer. If nothing else it shows what you're giving up when choosing a fingering and what reasonable alternatives there are.

Where there are two black keys (D Major, Bb major, D and E Harmonic Minors) there are two alternatives to try (and five less convenient ones). To speed things up, if there's an A#/Bb in RH, 4 goes there - and for LH it's F#/Gb. To see why, place your LH on F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C and your RH on E, F#, G#, A#, B. This is the most natural and comfortable position for each hand and these are their preferred keys (B Major in RH and Db Major in LH).

As the number of black keys increases in a scale so do the number of likely ways to try. Experience will reduce the number of fruitless tries such as using 4 on the outer of two adjacent black keys (higher note in RH, lower in LH).

For F#, C# and G# melodic minors that use a different key when descending in natural minor, it's best to learn slowly and pay attention as you go. It should quickly become natural.

Responsible examining bodies permit any reasonable fingering if you're thinking of exams.
_________________________
Richard

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#2293591 - 06/22/14 10:03 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: zrtf90]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 247
What I've been doing is spending a little time on the scale for the piece I'm working on.

So, mostly C, F maj, and G maj, though I did fiddle a bit with a few others, depending on the pieces my teacher assigns.

My teacher doesn't have me working on scales, but I thought a little time on them might be helpful.
_________________________
Oongawa
Presently working on:
Schubert- Ave Maria
Saint Saens- Danse Macabre
Attempting a little blues improv
'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2293733 - 06/23/14 06:47 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2333
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Oongawa
My teacher doesn't have me working on scales, but I thought a little time on them might be helpful.
Not nearly as helpful as working on the scalar passages in your pieces.

If your teacher hasn't started you on scales yet, they're really best left. Far too many beginners put too much emphasis on them in the beginning to the detriment of their long term technique.

Scales are exercise for the brain, not for the fingers, and require a developed technique to be most effective. I find it better in the beginning to build technique into the fingers from a wide range of pieces (and that use all five fingers). When the technique is more rounded and more versatile the restrictions imposed by scales are more meaningful.

Think of playing pieces as cross-country running on a variety of surfaces and speeds, and scales as measured distances on a level track. The track time will improve some aspects of your running technique but won't build the techniques you need for cross-country running. (Personally, I wouldn't run for a bus so the analogy may not be the best.)
_________________________
Richard

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#2293998 - 06/23/14 05:55 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Again, some really helpful and insightful comments. Thanks everyone.

I really agree that it's important for students to integrate what they are learning with playing actual music right from the beginning. However, I'm in my 30s and possess patience and an appreciation of the bigger picture. I've also been composing and playing piano for a decade or two, and I still can't read music.

It's so hard to learn pieces of music when you can't read the score its written in. So the way I'm learning is probably not very typical of a beginner student!

Since I first posted, I've been playing a note recognition game for a few minutes here and there throughout each day as well as between 1 and 3 ~10 minute practice session focusing on loosening up and using correct technique and fingering, mostly while playing scales.

After that I tend to reward myself by having a bit of fun improvising and laying down correctly executed scales melodically or as a bass line with the left hand.

I am already noticing more fluidity as I ascend or descend a mode and also more freedom in my soloing, now that I have a more instantaneous "map" of the modes from various roots. Simple things like turning a Cmaj scale into a Fmaj half way up etc but with correct fingering, equally spaced and accentuated notes etc.

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#2294579 - 06/24/14 10:32 PM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: ZigZiglar]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 247
I agree, working on the assigned pieces scale passages is very important.

I think that working on scales is helping my ears a lot. I find it easier to hear errors.

My teacher doesn't seem to think scales are something to work on, or maybe she thinks the repetitive nature might be a discouragement. I'd classify myself an intermediate player on classical music but a rank beginner on anything else, including any improvisation, playing by ear, or playing by chords. Those are all on the 'to do' list.
_________________________
Oongawa
Presently working on:
Schubert- Ave Maria
Saint Saens- Danse Macabre
Attempting a little blues improv
'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

Top
#2294631 - 06/25/14 01:15 AM Re: Effective deliberate practice of scales [Re: Oongawa]
ZigZiglar Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/15/14
Posts: 12
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: Oongawa
I agree, working on the assigned pieces scale passages is very important.

I think that working on scales is helping my ears a lot. I find it easier to hear errors.

My teacher doesn't seem to think scales are something to work on, or maybe she thinks the repetitive nature might be a discouragement. I'd classify myself an intermediate player on classical music but a rank beginner on anything else, including any improvisation, playing by ear, or playing by chords. Those are all on the 'to do' list.


Having started this thread myself, I'm clearly not an authority on the topic haha However, you're probably right in your observation that not promoting scale practice is probably to avoid students losing interest and finding learning piano laborious. That being said, I personally feel scales form an extremely important foundation in music theory.

Like you said, scales are opening your ears more to the particular sounds you associate with different keys. Being familiar with what scales look like in score would allow you to "chunk" those sequences of notes into single memory units in your long term memory, freeing up more of your limited frontal cortex for responding more quickly to more dynamic aspects of the score when sight reading.

Also, as has been stated, being mindful of the intervals of each note within the scale appears to be another massively beneficial aspect to learning scales, as you will start seeing the piano from a much broader perspective; again allowing the problem solving centre of the brain to dedicate its limited resources to more expressive aspects of your playing.

I totally lack discipline, so I started this thread (probably to subconsciously procrastinate haha) to have a pre-defined system for a practice regime so that I would have my mission outlined and ready to achieve each day. It's working quite well, thanks to all the help from the amazing people on here!

Cheers

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