Piano Scales – The Foundation of Mastery of the Instrument and Foundation of Musical Understanding
When starting piano lessons, teaching the scales is vital since it lays the foundation for a pianist’s understanding of music and the keyboard skills. Nonetheless, no one can blame you if you are not clear on where to start when teaching scales because there are numerous different approaches to teaching and introducing them.
Mainly, training the scale varies drastically, and it is especially a matter of coaching preferences and individual style. Hence, as a teacher you will probably embrace an approach to scale study that works for you. To this regard, there are several methods to teaching scales; here are some tips if you don’t know where to start:
1. Start with the pentascale only just adjust the fingering
Beginning with the pentascale is an excellent technique of bringing in your young piano students to scales. Nonetheless, it is vital to note that using the standard right-hand fingering of 1-2-3-4-5 may lead to imminent confusion when you ultimately turn to the 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5 fingering to smoothen the progress of the octave scale.
So, as an alternative, train your students to execute the right-hand pentascale by “tucking the thumb” rather than the 5-finger scale. In this case, you can teach your students to perform the pentascale in this manner with hands together once they have mastered this approach.
2. Drill “scale fingering” off the scales
Provide your students with the time they require to adjust into scale fingering without being concerned about accidentals. Here, you can create some simple fingering drills with a pen and blank piece of paper so as to reinforce the practice they need without being concerned with making mistakes. As such, you can write out patterns for them such as:
RH 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 -1 – 3 – 2
LH 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 1
RH 1 – 2 – 3 – 1- 2
LH 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 4
You can challenge your students using these types of patterns to see if they can pilot the changes in direction. You can as well time them to see how promptly they accomplish each fingering pattern. Each week, send your students home with one or two patterns on their assignment sheet for practice and drill.
3. Provide the students with the advantage of the “whole step, half step.”
Importantly, you can give your students the advantage of comprehending each scale’s of the whole and half step pattern instead of just having them memorizing the accidentals of each pattern. Before introducing a scale, you can spend time with drills that are fun and short such as starting on Db and playing the W H W H pattern in an ascending order and starting on F# and playing the W W W H in descending order. After you have spent some time, you can assist your students to learn the main scale outline (W W H W W W H) and then the melodic minor, harmonic minor, and natural minor.
4. Avoid training your students only on the easy scales first
In authenticity, all scales are just patterns. Therefore, it is critical that your students do not mentally separate “hard” scales with “easy” scales. As such, you should avoid saving scales such as Db major until when your students are older since this will give them the impression that they are more difficult.
5. Introduce scales in a set order
Although there is no right order to introduce scale, it is crucial to establish a sense of organization when presenting scales. An approach that is “willy-nilly” can lead to feelings of negativity and confusion towards the scales. For instance, teaching D major alongside F major can create fingering confusion. Notably, some teachers choose black key patterns, others like better the circle of 5ths, while others prefer to introduce scales in the block that comprises the similar fingering. On this note, it is important to choose an approach to scale study that suits you best, and you should adhere to it.
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