Finally! We get to the Keyboard.
I think it’s good for beginners in music to learn to see and think of music as something separate from the actual physical instrument, that’s why I haven’t included any visual keyboard aids until now. The best way to learn Scales though, uses the ear, vision, and touch, combined with the mind.
Here is a keyboard of 3 Octaves. See the pattern? The 5 Black keys appear in groups of 2’s and 3’s, and visually mark off sections of the Keyboard. A good way to get familiar with the notes, is to pick one at random. Try E-flat. Now find every E-flat on the keyboard. Go.
Try a few more, how about… A.
Probably without you even thinking about it, your mind recognizes the 5 Black keys and you see the patterns that are created in the Keyboard because of them.
Eventually you’ll learn to find the notes by touch. If you keep your hands on the White keys all the time, with your eyes closed there’s no way to tell one from the next. But if you hold your hands out so that the fingertips lightly touch the Black keys, you’ll naturally increase your feeling of where notes are in relation to one another and develop a good sense of navigation.
The Fingers of the hand are numbered so that we can easily write fingerings in Music, which you will see in the Scales.
There is an important technique used when playing scales on the piano, which is the crossing of the thumb under the long fingers. This is probably better demonstrated with a video when I get the chance, but know that when you see fingerings like 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5, you have to bring the Thumb (1) underneath the Middle Finger (3) for there to be a smooth connection. In the fingering 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1, the Middle Finger (3) crosses over the Thumb (1), to ensure smooth connection between tones.
Chopin started his students with the B Major Scale. B Major perfectly fits under the hand, with the thumb on the white key, B, and the long fingers in a natural reaching position on the black keys. Also we get to throw out the habit of thinking in C Major all the time, so let’s begin on B!
The Right Hand ascending in B Major.
The Left Hand descending from the same ‘B’.
The fingerings remain the same in each hand whether ascending or descending. (They are reversed)
Left Hand ascending
Right Hand descending
Extending the Scales past one Octave is simple. Instead of ending with the pinky finger (5), shift once more so you play that B with the thumb (1). If the scale ends on the thumb, just cross the long finger over and keep going with the same fingering pattern.
If this is the first time you’ve seen 8th notes, don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean to play them super fast. I grouped the notes together to show where the hand position shifts. Just play the notes evenly and smoothly at a comfortable tempo.
Scales that start on white notes usually start with the thumb and end with the 5th Finger if you are moving away from your body. Scales that start on black notes usually begin and end with the 2nd or 3rd finger.
First Master the single Octave B Major Scale in both hands. Play them slowly and aim for a strong, rich singing tone, with a smooth “legato” connection between the notes. Think of a Luxurious Golden Tone, never something sharp and prickly. Roll your hands through the Scale, don’t hammer or poke at the notes. Always be really loose and relaxed. There’s no hurry. Take your time.
Practice playing the entire scale very softly- “piano” or even softer- “pianissimo.” Make a Crescendo up the scale, starting softly and gradually rising to “forte” on the very last note! Do the opposite, Diminuendo, starting loudly (or moderately) and gradually becoming softer and softer…
Depending on if you are Left or Right handed, it may be more difficult to use one than the other, but never neglect it. Push yourself to work the weaker hand even harder than the strong hand. Don’t worry about playing both hands at the same time right now, just one hand at a time, alternating left and right.
Remember to name the notes as you play. Play the Scale from the bottom to the top, and from the top to the bottom. In each hand.
Be sure to listen to the sound of the Scale. Since we already know C Major (even if we haven’t looked at the fingerings for it yet), we can compare the 2 sounds. Notice how they both have the “Major Scale Sound,” it’s the Do-Re-Mi scale. But listen to the subtle difference in B Major, there’s a shift of color… look for it.
Now work on extending the Scale past the Octave. Master 2 Octave scales in both hands and then go even further! The fingering pattern repeats, so go as far as you can up the keyboard. Go until you run out of notes! Bring the left hand all the way up the Treble side, and bring the right hand all the way down the Bass. Now you can cover the entire keyboard with scales like a real Virtuoso!
Mastering the complete set of 12 Major Scales is a big challenge. It’s not something to accomplish in a single day, probably not even weeks. I’ve been playing for years and still practice scales everyday, although I no longer do the 1-2 hour long “Russian Training Regimen” everyday. Scales are a terrific way to warm up and get your Musical Juices flowing, but the most important thing is the way that they teach you the notes and the technique to connect them together musically.
I would recommend a plan of action: Work on 3 scales a day, and learn 2 new scales every day after that. Since we started with B Major, next learn F#/Gb Major and Db Major. Then Ab, E, A, D, Eb, Bb, G, F, and C. By the time you arrive back at C Major you’ll feel like you’ve returned home after a long journey from far away! Keep a written record of the scales you practiced today, so that you can choose new scales to practice tomorrow. You could put little checkmarks or tally marks to let you know how many days you’ve practiced a particular scale. Do this everyday, and within a few weeks you should have all 12 scales by heart!
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