How To Play Piano Scales


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How To Play Any Major Scale On The Piano

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Changing Articulations And Rhythms

Going back to our analogy of cooking, after you successfully made a dish for the first time, you need to continue making it until you know all the steps really well and can make it without hesitation. Now that you know how to move your fingers on the keyboard, we can look at ways to improve your speed and accuracy. One of the ways to practice scales and arpeggios is to vary the articulations. Instead of playing these scales and arpeggios legato, we can play them all staccatos.

Remember to bounce from the wrist with an upward motion for staccato playing. Listen for an even tone as you play each scale and arpeggio. You can try other articulations, such as tenutos and accents.

You can also try changing the rhythms. Here are a couple of ways. One is to play dotted rhythms.

As shown above, each of these dotted rhythms is played in the long-short pattern. Keep the 16th notes short and rolling on to the next beat.

This dotted rhythm is the opposite of the previous one. It is still played in one gesture, but in the short-long pattern.

We can also alter the rhythms by grouping the notes in threes:

Or in fours:

Each group is, again, played in one gesture. The double slashes in between the groups mean to pause for a brief moment before the next group. You can also practice in groups of five notes, groups of six notes, so on and so forth.

Other Minor Piano Scales

C is always a safe place to start learning scales, but dont get stuck there too long. Check out this table of the natural minor scale in some other keys.

Advanced tip:

You may notice that the A minor scale only uses the white keys! This makes it the sort of minor side-kick of C major. This is the relative minor, which means that the notes are the same, but the character of the scale is different. Its different because it starts on A instead of C, making the interval relationships in the scale different.

Heres another way to think about it:

If you look at the chart of other major scales, you will see that the A major scales third, sixth and seventh degrees are sharp notes .

This is why, in the minor scale, all those notes become flat and turn back into regular natural notes . This is important because it can be confusing minor doesnt mean black keys! It just means certain notes are a semitone lower than their major cousin.

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Relative Keys Major And Minor

Relative keys have, as said above, the same notes and can be found for all major and natural minor scales. G Major is relative with E Minor, F Major is relative to D Minor here are all relative keys listed:

You don’t need to memorize all relative keys, if you want to know the relative minor just go to the sixth degree in the major scale or, the other way around, to the third degree in the minor scale to identify the relative major. Although the notes are the same, there is a difference between two relative keys: the tonic is different and this leads to different sounds. If you play in the A Minor you will get a gloomier and kind of melancholy sound compared to C Major.See also harmonizing minor scales into chords.

Understanding The Minor Scales

Can You Improve Your Piano Playing by Practicing Scales?

There are three main different types of minor scales: natural, harmonic and melodic.

While major scales sound quite happy, minor scales sound mysterious, sad, or exotic. They are often used to express more complex emotions. Pay attention to how the scale degrees are different than major. The construction of a natural minor scale looks like this:

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Incorporating Scales And Arpeggios Into Practice Routines

Now that weve talked about the whys and hows of practicing scales and arpeggios, you might ask, when? It is important to incorporate scales and arpeggios into your daily practice routine. They are great warm-ups for your fingers to get you into the practice mode, which keeps you more focused on what you need to work on for the practice session.

For example, spend the first 5 minutes of your practice session with some kind of scales and arpeggios. Pick only a couple to work on, for example, two easy ones whose fingerings and patterns you are comfortable with and one trickier one with different fingerings and patterns, or one of the scales and arpeggios that begin on the black keys .

Play through them one time legato at a moderate tempo, while paying attention to the weight transferring, keeping the elbow tucked in as the thumb tucks under and the fingers cross over the thumb, and keeping an open hand position for the arpeggios. Afterwards, you can vary the articulations and rhythms. Lastly, play the same scales and arpeggios a bit faster with more fluidity and flow.

If there are any scales and arpeggios in your repertoire, isolate those passages and use them as part of your warm-ups. These sessions can transition warm-ups nicely to repertoire.

Start With Your Hands Separate

When you start practicing your scales, keep your hands separate.

Hand independence is a skill that takes time to learn, and it begins with each hand knowing how to play its part.

So start by playing a C scale with just your right-hand.

When you can play it without any mistakes, move on to your left-hand.

Only when you can play mistake-free with each hand should you play the scale with both hands.

Heres where things get tricky

Youll be changing your fingering at different times. That means your thumb-tucks and crossovers will be happening at different points.

Ive seen this trip up so many beginner piano players, that I really recommend taking things super-slow to begin with.

Im talking one note at a time.

Really focus on getting those transitions perfect. Even if you feel like its too slow, youre creating correct mental pathways and helping your hands feel what its like to play correctly.

Going too fast only leads to mistakes. And if you keep practicing mistakes youll keep making them.

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Exercises For Playing Piano Scales

The best way to start practicing scales is by playing the blackkeys. Yes, really!

Scales are played with finger groups of 3 and 4 fingers,using finger 1 for transition from one group to the next, and finger 5 only forstopping or turning.

So, a very easy way to begin is with the black keys since those are already organized i 2 and 3 note groups!

Exercise : Playing 2 And 3 Finger Groups

PIANO SCALES: The ULTIMATE Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners
  • Start by playing all the groups with 2 blackkeys, using fingers 2 and 3. Play hands separately and both together, back and forth, all overthe piano.
  • Do the same with the groups of 3 black keys.
  • Now combine the 2 and 3 black key groups. Playboth fast and slow.

Have fun, but remember to keep your hand «cupped» and inthe correct position, and to play on your fingertips.

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Summing Up The Scales

Exploring new and interesting scale patterns can lead to some very interesting results. Maybe you will try a new scale and think of sadness, or sunlight, or outer space, or something crazy like the chromatic scale! You can even try combining your new scales with basic piano chords

There is a reason why composers and pianists of all skill levels practice scales, because they are the key to learning about new major keys and new ways to express yourself. The best way to learn to express yourself with the piano is by taking online piano lessons, and using the new Piano Learning App Skooves Free Trial!

Piano Scales Overviews And Instructions

Piano scales are valuable knowledge for every person playing the piano. It is the theory behind that will help you understand chords and other concepts in music. Playing scales is a great way for improving your technique and can serve as building blocks for creating melodies.Because of the relationship of notes in specific scales, they will always sound well played together. This make scales a primary foundation for everyone who wants to improvise on the instrument. It can be done just by playing the white keys as in the C Major Scale, or it can be more advanced by, for example, using modus for jazz improvisation. Therefore, you shouldn’t consider scales as some boring and dull stuff â it can be your step up to a new level of playing. In addition, training at scales will make your fingers stronger. This in combination with your increasing knowledge about how the tones relates will make you capable to play faster.On this site you can learn lots of piano scales and receive tips explaining how to use them. It is boring just to memorize if you don’t understand the use of it ⦠Therefore, the idea is to always provide the musical context for the scale and not just hand over the notes.In the menu, you will find different categories of piano scales as well as resources including printable scales and explanations of correct fingering. There are more areas to explore, including exercises and an introduction to the theory of piano scales.

Various tips for practicing on the piano.

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How To Play Scales: Scale

We’re gonna start by explaining what a scale is.

A little foreword

Here at Whipped Cream Sounds we’re all about making things simple.

So don’t worry, we’re not gonna use fancy words and explanations that confuse the hell out of you!

Simply put: a scale is a series of notes played in a particular order.

That particular order is determined by how you want your scale to sound.

There’s quite a few different orders you can arrange the notes and different sounds you can get.


Luckily for us, we’re only going to focus on major and minor scales for now .

Now we know what a scale is: how can we play scales on the piano?

First of all, we need to understand what semi-tones and whole tones are.

How To Define Scales

How to Play Piano Chords for Beginners

Scales are collections of notes that belong together. They can also belong to a certainkey. This relationship is also true about chords â but the difference between chords and scales is that a scale normally consists of more notes, which are not played simultaneously as often is the case with chords.A scale consists of notes that have a musical connection and are building blocks for chords and schemes for improvisation. By knowing and recognizing scales, you will be able to place a song in a musical context and as a result be able to play it with less effort. Knowing scales on the piano can, of course, also assist you in composing your own music.

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Practicing Scales Improves Sight Reading & Your Ability To Learn New Music

The key to sight reading effectively isnt to simply read every note on the page as quickly as possible. You have to recognize chords and patterns as yourre playing. If everything you see in a piece of music is brand new meaning youve never played in that key, seen those chords, or practiced those patterns playing it by sight the first time will be extremely difficult. When you have all of your scales under the fingers, youll recognize scale patterns in new music and be able to play those passages without reading every note. The same applies to arpeggios, which you should practice alongside your scales every day.

When it comes to learning new music, youll appreciate not having to learn new passages from scratch every time you see them. Take the following passage from Liszt, for instance. The left hand looks daunting, but its just the E Major scale running up and down and if youve practiced your scales, its actually pretty easy.

The First Minor Scale: The Natural Minor Scale

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

Tonic Tone Semitone Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone

This scale uses the same fingering pattern as the C-major scale above. Mad World by Tears For Fears introduces the A minor scale. Learn the A-minor scale in the related Skoove lesson. Skoove will give you guidance and instant feedback on your playing.

The natural minor scale is also called aeolian scale. The semitones are between note 2-3 and 5-6.

* You can do the same with scales. ** You can invert chords and scales

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How Do You Start Learning Piano Scales

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The piano major scale is the most common and useful major scale to learn, followed by the natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scale. If you dont have sharps or flats, start with C Major first and progress to G, D, A, and E before beginning minors. Continue with pentatonic, blues, and chromatic scales, as well as modes.

Music notes are arranged in ascending order of pitch using a scale. The eight pitches of the major scale are identical to the first eight, but the eighth pitch is only an octave higher. Scales with other types of patterns have different half and whole steps. The Von Trapp children are taught how to play the major scales by Do-Re- Mi from The Sound of Music. Songs, like scales, are frequently preceded and ended on their naming notes. For a song in the key of C major, the notes in the scale would be framed. Playing the 5-finger scales correctly in all keys is essential for a smooth performance.

Scales should be played in contrary motion by moving hands in opposite directions at the same time. You can keep a consistent tempo by varying the articulation of each note. Backing tracks are a better alternative to playing with a metronome when it becomes tedious. The tempo should be increased to 4-8 beats per minute once you have mastered the fundamentals.

Necessary Terminology For Learning Piano Scales

How to Play Chromatic Scales | Easy Piano Technique 1

Before we dive into scales more, here are some some necessary terms:

  • Pitch: a tone measured by vibrations: how high or low a tone sounds.

  • Step: moving from one key to the next.

  • Half Step: the closest any two pitches can be to each other .

  • Whole Step: distance of two half steps.

  • Scale: organized set of pitches.

  • Tetra Scale: a playing position using all fingers on both hands to play the scale.

Ok – lets talk about piano scales for beginners.

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What Else Should I Be Practicing To Improve My Piano Technique

Your scales are a key part of a foundational piano technique, but theyre certainly not the only part. You should also be practicing your arpeggios and broken chords, as well as your sight reading. If theres one thing I wish Id done more of when I was at university and practicing the piano regularly, its sight reading. Scales and arpeggios will help sight-reading technique hugely, but its also something you need to practice on its own.

The easiest way to do this is to buy a book of songs. It doesnt matter what it is Strauss or Schubert Lieder, a Schumann or Brahms song cycle anything. However, Id stay away from pop music as this tends to be too simplistic and youll probably become bored after a while. Open the book, and just play through it. Dont worry about wrong notes they simply dont matter. The key things are rhythm and continuity. Do not stop playing, even if you get lost make something up. This is most students biggest issue with sight reading they stop even if they make one minor mistake.

Think about it. If youre playing with a singer to a room of 1000 people, what do you think the singer or the audience cares about more one silly little wrong note, or the fact that you stopped the music to start over again? The singer will never want to work with you again.

Keep Practicing Until It Feels Natural

Playing scales on your piano might feel a bit awkward at first and might be boring to you as a new piano student. Cmon, you might say, I want to play actual music! The best way to get there, most musicians agree, is to know your scales up and down, forwards and backwards.

One of the best resources for learning scales is the book by the Hal Leonard Corporation, Scales and Finger Exercises Upper Elementary to Lower Intermediate Piano, available for purchase at It will provide scale exercises for each hand separately and both hands together, as well as fingering tips.

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Add Some Creativity To Your Practice

One of the main reasons that some pianists see scales as a chore is because there is no creativity involved in practising them. Our brains crave to create. When it comes to taking your piano exam, you are not able to play your scales with your own interpretation, because the examiners themselves request the style theyd like you to play it in. However, there is nothing stopping us adding some creativity into our practice if it helps us to develop quicker! British concert pianist Jonathan Plowright explains here how we can add some flair to our practice.

When practising scales, play each hand with a different touch . Try emphasizing the third beat of every bar when it would be normally on the second, change the shape of your phrases, try playing it at double speed play musical games with yourself.

“In unison, fast semiquaver scales try crossed hands both ways. This forces the left hand to stop being a passenger, and become a leader, therefore becoming stronger and more independent. This is where playing scales in this way comes in handy!”

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