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#963011 - 11/21/08 10:38 AM Teaching minor scales
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I have a student who has been playing major scales chords and arpeggios in all keys, one octave. He has gone around the circle of fifths 2-3 times, and now in his repertoire he is beginning to play pieces in minor keys.

What's the best way to introduce minor scales? When I learned them my teacher had me play in the natural minor first I believe (it was so long ago!). Perhaps she had me play the major scale to get the sense of the key, and then the relative natural minor. After doing all the keys like this, I think then she had me play just the minor scales in all 3 modes (natural, harmonic, melodic).

How does this progression sound to you? When you teach minor, do you ignore the modes and just do harmonic?
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#963012 - 11/21/08 11:00 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
Gyro Offline
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Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
One could argue that you don't even need
to do the minor scales, since they are
essentially the same as the maj. ones,
as the natural min. uses the same
notes as it's related maj. scale. But
if you're going to do them, then the
argument could be made that you can
skip the natural min., since it's essentially
the same as it's related maj. scale.
The melodic min. is the same as the
natural min. downwards and is almost
the same as the harmonic min. upwards,
and so you might skip the melodic min.
too, which leaves only the harmonic min. to
do.

In any case, min. is essentially just a variaton
of maj., and so maj. and min. are so closely
related as to almost interchangeable
in music, and so dwelling on min. as
distinct from maj. might not even
be worthwhile.

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#963013 - 11/21/08 11:14 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Morodiene, is it ok to share what we did mostly in theory since it addresses part of what you wrote? When we began major scales I asked my student to listen to how the leading note leads into the tonic, and that it was a semitone.

The first minor scale was the natural minor of its relative major, starting three note names below or the 6th degree above. She listened to its minor sound, and knew that the same notes were being played.

When this was comfortable I drew attention to the 7th note, which does not "lead", and she experimented with how it sounds when raised. She could hear how the leading note of an harmonic scale does lead, and one reason that it exists. I then taught that this was an harmonic scale, and that one accidental or raised note was easy to grasp and remember.

This is in the context of a young adult learning theory in another country so mostly it doesn't apply. But for undestanding the concept and structure it helped me and seemed to help this student, so I hope it's ok to mention it.

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#963014 - 11/21/08 11:44 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Nothing revolutionary, and I'm sure you've thought of this (since you mentioned the natural minor first).

I just ask the students to play a major scale starting on the 6th note.

Once that is firmly etched in their mind, we deal with the harmonic and melodic with the "feeling" of reaching or sagging near the tonic.

This works well for about 80% of my students.
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#963015 - 11/21/08 11:45 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Sure, that is how I teach the difference between natural and harmonic minors as well, keystring. My main question is which scale to teach first to a student, or which order to teach them.
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#963016 - 11/21/08 12:05 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
Minor scales are of limited value in piano practice. They are much more useful with other monophonic instruments that have actual "fingerings".

With the clarinet, for example, where you must learn to flow through melodic passages using individual, bizarre fingerings for each note and do it quickly and smoothly, scales and various Hanon-type excercises are indispensible.

But for the piano, the key layout is so intuitive and the ten-finger, polyphonic fingerings of even mundane music are so varied, that scales and other single-note excercises are of limited value. I think their use had been established long before the invention of the piano and they were simply adopted as the standard way to learn any instrument.

Generally, even in conservatory environments, only the seven basic, white-key, major scales and the chromatic scale are regularly practiced. Everything else is learned from etudes and selection of actual pieces that progressively expose the student to increasingly complex techniques.

Don
Kansas City

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#963017 - 11/21/08 12:16 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
Well, I hesitated in writing, Morodiene - It was perhaps mostly to say how well this worked for me as a student, and the other person I am teaching, in case. I hope I haven't offended.

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#963018 - 11/21/08 12:18 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Pete the bean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 455
Loc: Canada
I teach my students minor scales and the modes. It is a essential requirement of the Rockschool course. It is extremely useful when teaching theory and improv.
I teach both parallel and relative approaches but I find altering the major scale to create the parallel minor (b3b6b7) is the best way to teach the minor scales. Then I go through b3 b6 to crreate Harmonic minor and just b3 for Jazz minor Not only does the student understand how the new mode or scale is created but it reinforces the notes of the major key.
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#963019 - 11/21/08 12:35 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Morodiene, I'm not sure I'm the right person to help you here, as when I joined Guild, I had to dramatically change much of my teaching methodology (the "when to teach this" aspect) to conform with their exam criteria.

For years and years, I did the five finger patterns and primary chords, I, V7, and IV, through all the major keys, then slowly expanded to scales. It wasn't a real priority for me, but I knew that students needed the basics, and I didn't want any of them going off to college not knowing at least a passable presentation of scales.

When I started Guild, I had to totally revise much of my curriculum. I had to introduce scales almost immediately, but limited them to one octave, and the white keys only (F, C, G, D, A, E, & B). Then the harmonic minor, same keys. I start with c minor, then g minor, then a minor, then a minor, followed be f, e, and b.

I teach the scales and chords by rote, not using note reading. At this point, I want students to listen and think about what their doing, not focus on reading.

Guild requires this for 1st to 2nd year students, and for 2nd to 3rd year students, the remaining major and minor scales, which I teach in this order: F#, C#, Ab, Eb, and Bb. By year three, we also expand to two octaves. To make this a bit less confusing, by the end of the first year of lessons, they should be able to play the white key major and minor scales, and at the end of the second year, add the black key major and minor scales, and by the end of the 3rd year, everything in two octaves, at the end of the 4th year, 3 octaves in triplets.
_________________________
"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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#963020 - 11/21/08 12:57 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Well, I hesitated in writing, Morodiene - It was perhaps mostly to say how well this worked for me as a student, and the other person I am teaching, in case. I hope I haven't offended. [/b]
Not at all! That is exactly how I teach the scales, but I just was questioning the order. \:\)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#963021 - 11/21/08 01:00 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Speaking as a student, my teacher has me do each major scale and then all three variations of it's relative minor. \:\)
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#963022 - 11/21/08 02:29 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
John,
Do you ever address natural and melodic minors then?
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#963023 - 11/21/08 02:52 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
Hi Morodiene,

This is the order I teach scales:

C, G, F, D, Bb - 2 octaves. Along with tonic triad inversions, arpeggios, basic chord progression.

After these are mastered we then go back to C, and I teach A minor. First week, natural scale explaining why it is its relative. The next week we add harmonic, then melodic (of course depending on student, I may teach each form a week, but for most they get the grasp pretty quickly.) I then have them play all three forms: natural, harmonic and melodic. Along with the other skills listed for major.

After they have played C/a, G/e, F/d, D/b, Bb/g,
we then go on to A major. After that key is mastered, we immediately learn A major's relative minor (f# minor) (all three forms.) We finish the Circle of Keys in this way.
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#963024 - 11/21/08 03:35 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Morodiene, the answer is yes, but not until students are ready for Baroque music, which is generally around year 4.
_________________________
"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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#963025 - 11/21/08 03:37 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Pianobuff, I used to use the C/a, G/e, F/d, D/b, Bb/g, approach, but then in recent years, I shifted to C/c, G/g, D/d, etc., and I have them play them that way after they've learned them. It appears that the students find this less difficult/complex to grasp, so I've stuck with it for a while.
_________________________
"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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#963026 - 11/21/08 04:41 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
John, I don't want to be a pain, but what happens when you get past four sharps or flats? I happened to be looking at these last night.
(re: tonic major** & minor instead of relative)

** Edit: It seems that what I've been taught to call tonic major/minor might be called parallel key. I learned "tonic major / relative major"

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#963027 - 11/21/08 07:04 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Oh, you're not being difficult at all. The maximum number of black keys is 5, and B major uses all 5. As do F# and C#. Then it's progressively fewer black keys.

When I teach B major, and again when teaching F# and C#, I point out that these are the 3 easiest scales to play, the keys that pianists prefer, because it fits our hands so well. Finger 2 and 3 play the two black keys in the group of two, and 2, 3, and 4 play the group of three black keys. The only question is where does the thumb go. Students like these three scales because they can suddenly see that in fact, they are the easiest to play. Now, if you teach them from the score . . . . . we're talking about the voyage to you know where.
_________________________
"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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#963028 - 11/21/08 08:06 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11688
Loc: Canada
John, I might muddy the waters since this is for playing piano and I thought in theory. You're going G/g A/a and you can go all the way to the end in sharps signatures. But Db Gb Cb and a# d# g# don't have a tonic* on the other side. There is no "db minor" or "A# major". But this isn't pianistic thinking. That's where my mind was going.

 Quote:
Students like these three scales because they can suddenly see that in fact, they are the easiest to play
I just learned them and I love them too! All must should be written in those signatures ;\)
 Quote:
Now, if you teach them from the score . . . . . we're talking about the voyage to you know where.
You're teaching them away from the score? That's how I find I'm learning them.

* Edit: "tonic major/minor" as I was taught is A major / a minor - but it seems this might be called the parallel key from what I'm seeing here. (?)

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#963029 - 11/21/08 08:12 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Pete the bean:
I teach both parallel and relative approaches but I find altering the major scale to create the parallel minor (b3b6b7) is the best way to teach the minor scales. Then I go through b3 b6 to crreate Harmonic minor and just b3 for Jazz minor Not only does the student understand how the new mode or scale is created but it reinforces the notes of the major key.
That's very close to what I teach: major, then lower 3, then 3 and 6, then 3, 6 and 7.
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Piano Teacher

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#963030 - 11/21/08 11:04 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Pete the bean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 455
Loc: Canada
When teaching scales past E or Ab in the key cycle loaded with sharps or flats, I like to emphasize white notes. Suddenly it's not all about the flats.
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#963031 - 11/22/08 04:37 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Use of a linear chart which compares scales allows the student to establish a mental model of differences ... in the key of C (60)where the notes have been numbered (as the 5-minute divisions on a clock face) ... the yellow colour captures the consistent scale notes keynote, supertonic, subdominant, dominant and octave ...
while the blue shows use of the chromatic run of notes in the minor melodic scale between the dominant and the octave.

They say " a picture tells .... "

comparative scales

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#963032 - 11/22/08 10:12 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11935
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by Pete the bean:
When teaching scales past E or Ab in the key cycle loaded with sharps or flats, I like to emphasize white notes. Suddenly it's not all about the flats. [/b]
This is what I do as well...it's much easier than thinking about all the sharps or flats!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#963033 - 11/22/08 12:24 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Pete the bean:
When teaching scales past E or Ab in the key cycle loaded with sharps or flats, I like to emphasize white notes. Suddenly it's not all about the flats. [/b]
Again, I do the same thing. The most difficult scales to teach are the ones with 3 and 4 flats or sharps, for that reason…
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Piano Teacher

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#963034 - 11/23/08 04:28 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Pianobuff, I used to use the C/a, G/e, F/d, D/b, Bb/g, approach, but then in recent years, I shifted to C/c, G/g, D/d, etc., and I have them play them that way after they've learned them. It appears that the students find this less difficult/complex to grasp, so I've stuck with it for a while. [/b]
Hi John,

I personlly find the opposite is true. Teaching parallel minor scales at the beginning is way more confusing because of the different key signatures. I do teach parallel minor scales after my students have a thorough grasp of relative minor.
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Private Piano Teacher,
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#963035 - 11/23/08 04:29 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by Pete the bean:
When teaching scales past E or Ab in the key cycle loaded with sharps or flats, I like to emphasize white notes. Suddenly it's not all about the flats. [/b]
Yes, I do this too!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#963036 - 11/23/08 04:32 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
For fun, and I don't meant to derail the thread, but what is the easiest major scale for you (teachers) to play?

Mine is E Major, and it has four sharps, but it is so comfy to play.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#963037 - 11/23/08 04:37 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5934
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
For fun, and I don't meant to derail the thread, but what is the easiest major scale for you (teachers) to play?

Mine is E Major, and it has four sharps, but it is so comfy to play. [/b]
B major and C#major are my favourites. Least favourite is B flat major.
_________________________
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#963038 - 11/23/08 05:30 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
lotuscrystal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/08
Posts: 304
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
B major hands down for me, and maybe B minor harmonic...I like the way my finger 4 feels the stretch from G to A#...lol

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#963039 - 11/23/08 02:24 PM Re: Teaching minor scales
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4802
Loc: South Florida
In general B, Gb, Db and F should be the easiest scales to play hands together, because the thumbs always strike at the same time. Less coordination problems. If this group, F is least comfortable.

C, D, D, G, A and Ab all have thumbs together once. Now Ab is the odd one.

Eb is one that needs to be studied separately. One thumb always hits with 2 of the other hand.

Bb is the only scale in which the thumb of one hand comes with 3 in the other. That makes Bb the most awkward, hands together. It needs special attention.

For those who need scales absolutely nailed, all 12, I spend extra time with students on Ab, Eb and Bb. When there is a major shift of fingering from major to minor, parallel or "tonic", extra care is needed.
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Piano Teacher

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#963040 - 11/25/08 02:02 AM Re: Teaching minor scales
Pete the bean Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 455
Loc: Canada
I teach the scale tone chords to my intermediate/advanced students. It is a must have to playing contemporary styles and improvisation. Unfortunately I find this lacking in the standard technical requirements. How can you study harmony without the skill in your fingers?
I keep getting students who wanna play pop after they are at a Gr8 or 9 level. I have rarely had a student make the switch because they do not have basic harmonic knowledge and they do not want to go back and start sound like a beginner. \:\(
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