The Best way to Practice Your Scales Part 2-Understanding the Major Scale


This article us a continuation of The Best Way to Practice Your Scales Part 1. You may want to begin with that one, as this is a continuation of it and some parts may be confusing otherwise.

5. Improvement of passage playing-Whether playing Chopin’s nocturnes, a Mozart piano sonata, or improvising a long improvised musical line a la Bill Evans, we want to be able to execute the music with ease, prowess and musicality.

6. Improvising Skills-Let’s now watch another video. As you watch think about how they improvise new ideas and melodies in real time, with fluidity, ease, and spontaneity. Many people look to scale practice to build improvisation skills.

Once you’ve spent some time thinking about this, let’s examine how we can use scale practice to improve on your desired skill or area.

The Best way to Practice Your Scales

notes on a piano

Piano Keys

Though teachers and players would almost all agree that knowing your scales is important, 10 different players might have 10 different views on the “right way” to practice scales. For me, the first question is what do we intend to glean from the practice and study of scales?

In no particular order, we probably hope to achieve all or some of the following:

  1. Manual Dexterity.
  2. Familiarity with tonal centers (keys) and modalities.
  3. Manual and Aural fluidity (within keys).
  4. An understanding of harmony.
  5. Improvement of passage playing.
  6. Improvement of or foundation for improvising skills.
  7. Probably other things!

We can also think of what we are going to be playing and how scale practice might help:

  1. Classical Music (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven)
  2. Jazz
  3. Rock
  4. Blues
  5. Improvising in any of the above styles
  6. Boogie

Whether you’re a teacher, a student or a parent, you should spend a little bit of time thinking about this before going on.

Let’s revisit the first list and try to define the terms on it. As we go through it, watch some footage of piano players (or whatever your instrument is) and think about how the idea applies to what your seeing.  Youtube or any other video page may be your best source.

1. Manual Dexterity-The fine muscle movement of your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms, specifically with regards to playing your instrument. Think of the arch in the fingers as they strike and leave the keys. Be aware of the movement up and down the keyboard, fretboard or what-have-you.

2. Familiarity with tonal centers-What sharps or flats do you find in the key of F major? B major? D minor? E lydian dominant? Knowing the keys that you’re playing in and what accidentals they consists of is crucial for your conception, if you are to learn the piece deeper than by rote.

3. Manual and Aural Fluidity-Being able to hear, play, improvise and compose within a given key without hesitation.

4. An Understanding of Harmony-Harmony refers to two notes or more sounded together musically. In other words, chords! Since chords and scales are closely related you would need to know your scales well, before you can really learn your chords. Watch Bill Evans playing Autumn Leaves. Right from the beginning, you can hear how he must have a deep understanding of harmony:

After you watch this video, please go on to The Best way to Practice Your Scales-Part 2.

Copyright Piano Lessons World 2010-2011 This custom domain is hosted by