Practicing Scales

Posted by: Carole

Practicing Scales - 09/17/03 09:34 AM

I assign them and I hear them at every lesson, but almost always I can tell that they have not been practiced or very little. I tried the scale boardgame suggested on Practicespotand I have made charts, but nothing seems to motivate them to practice. Do you all have the same problem or do you know something I don't? Any help would be appreciated! (I also can't get them to do hands together-they prefer HS :rolleyes: . Thanks.
Posted by: unreal

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/17/03 12:50 PM

I assign them and hear them at every lesson too. I guess I just know that some will practice them and some won't. Sorry that's no help at all. Actually though, the kids who do CM or Guild will practice at least the minimum required for their level, if not more--maybe these evaluations are the answer. As for hands together, I use Roy Bogas' scale fingering which is found in the California Certificate of Merit syllabus, or I could post it if anyone's interested. His fingering is MUCH easier than traditional, and hands together is not very hard at all. All CM judges are supposed to be familiar with it, and all Guild judges I've had are fine with it. But fingering printed in books and pieces conforms to traditional fingering, so I have to rework the fingering in any piece which has hands together scales in it. Well worth the effort though, IMO.

[ 09-17-2003: Message edited by: unreal ]
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/17/03 01:00 PM

My piano teacher assigned pieces that contained scale passages in them. She also made me play a scale before playing a piece. Always. Every piano lesson. For years & years. No joke. Before I could play a piece for her, she'd ask me what key the piece was written in, then make me play that scale.

The "scale book" my teacher assigned was the good ol' Hanon Complete book, Schirmer edition. She made me memorize all the scales & play them for her during lesson time. Of course, I practiced them because I knew she was going to ask me to play them.

Beats me why today's generation of piano students don't practice scales... but that doesn't mean they don't have to learn them! I hope the above-mentioned ideas help. I don't know what else to suggest.

BTW, it doesn't make any difference whether your students prefer HS or HT. They need to play the scales the way you ask them to play them. Period. Case closed.

Aren't I nice? ;\) \:D

[ 09-17-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Arlene Steffen

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/17/03 03:35 PM

I actually don't teach scales HS. Right from the start, they are HT. However, I have a repertoire of preparation things that I do so that this is successful. I have little fingering games involving the crossover points for the Rule I scales; we block the Rule III scales (which I usually use as their first scales) and we have stop/start games for the Rule II group.

I also hear them at every lesson and make sure that I assign something very specific about the scale (not just "play the A major scale this week"). I always give them something specific to listen for (isn't that the real point in assigning them in the first place? We use them in repertoire and they must sound good?).

There are some who practice scales less than others, but I would say that all of my students practice their scales. I think it helps them if they see their usefulness -- not just because I said so. I make sure we use them in some way during the lesson -- repertoire, improvising or for teaching some kind of articulation.

I personally don't like to practice scales, so I do everything I can to make them interesting. Try to think of as many different ways you can practice them and pass that on to your students. Don't expect them to be excited about it (I never was), but they may be more willing to do them.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/18/03 11:56 AM

What better way to get students to understand the usefulness of scales than to assign repertoire pieces that contain scale passages? ;\) \:D

FWIW, Piano Kid loves the Incredible Scales board game created by Philip Johnston, but she liked practicing scales long before I introduced that game to her... maybe because I practice them.
Posted by: lynn

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/23/03 11:48 AM

I, like Arlene, only teach scales HT from the beginning. Also start everyone with B, F#, and C# to get over fear of black keys and scales. BUT I'd love to know, Unreal, this California alternate fingering. Even with Jane Tan's method of teaching them, some flounder a bit. But of course, enough PRACTICE would also solve the problem! \:\(
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/23/03 04:18 PM

For those of you who teach scales HT from the beginning, have you already done a lot of prep work, as far as the thumb crossing? I do that, of course, but I still teach HS scales first, and even after a couple of weeks of HS, some kids (not most, thankfully), have a hard time getting HT. I'm wondering how you do it from the get-go?
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/23/03 06:36 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoannie:
For those of you who teach scales HT from the beginning, I'm wondering how you do it from the get-go?


1. First, teach TWO octave from the very beginning. Much more value pedagogically, but I'm too tired to elaborate right now.

2. Start out with them practicing "paint rollers" for a week. Example: For C scale, RH, they would play middle C and then glide the hand up to high C (played) and then back down again. The emphasis is on the lateral movement and the gliding. Telling them the ultimate goal for a scale is a zipper works pretty well. Then practice hands together.

3. They then need to memorize the fingering for each hand separately, first chanting it (very important they do it OUT LOUD & quickly without a "bump") and then playing it on a tabletop or the fallboard with the same free lateral/paint roller gesture.

4. Then you're ready to put hands together, but I would start with B first, then F#, since the fingering has the thumbs at the same time. After that, I don't care about hands together from the very beginning and hands separate is OK. If they practice using the above steps the hands will go together quickly.
Posted by: unreal

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/23/03 09:26 PM

Roy Bogas' "universal scale fingering," included in the CM syllabus:
As mentioned in other posts, start with B, F# and C#/Db, as thumbs play together in these scales. Notice that in Db, the thumbs go on F and C. For F, Bb, Eb and Ab, ALSO play the thumbs together on F and C. In addition to the thumbs playing together, the 234 finger groups play together, always on or around the 3-black key group, and the 23 finger groups play on or around the 2-black key group. The same fingering works for all forms of the parallel minors too, but you'll play thumbs on E & B in the sharp-key minors. The RH fingering is the same as traditional, you're just adapting the LH to match up the thumbs and finger groups. You can't believe how much easier it is to play these so-called "hard" scales with this fingering. I show it to transfer students who've already learned some of them and they heave a sigh of relief that they really aren't so hard after all.

The other scale group is C,G,D,A,E,F. (F shows up in both groups.) On these scales, you play the thumbs on the 1st and 5th notes of the scale. F is already fingered that way anyway. So the RH plays 12341231 instead of 12312345--LH plays 14321321, which is traditional, except you start with the thumb instead of the pinkie. You simply adapt the RH to match up the thumbs and finger groups. Again, all forms of the parallel minors use the same fingering. A big advantage here is that all the little changes you make to go from natural to harmonic to melodic minor happen with fingers 23--and the "split" in harmonic minor is very comfortable with RH 23 instead of the more awkward 34 that the RH traditionally plays.

It seems a little long to explain, but it is really easy to learn, and it reduces the fingerings you have to memorize to 2!! I'm totally sold on it, and teach it to everyone, beginners and advanced alike, HT right from the start. When a single-hand scale shows up in a sonatina or wherever, you can use traditional or universal fingering, whichever seems to work best.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/24/03 06:51 AM

I think that was how my piano teacher retaught us scales after she went to a workshop back in the 70's. This was back in the Dark Ages, btw. :rolleyes: I remember she called it the "Lawless" method and I was never sure if it was a person's name or a reference to the method itself, ha.

When I got to college and started "serious" study I had to go back and relearn the old fingerings again because it didn't/doesn't translate to literature as well. It IS easier to teach to students, but, and this is just my opinion that I'm throwing out & not wishing to debate, I'm not sold that it's a better prep for literature. What they will need in a Beethoven sonata dictates how I teach scales in the long run, I guess, but maybe there's something wrong with moi that I couldn't translate it to lit.....

[ 09-24-2003: Message edited by: Lisa Kalmar ]
Posted by: Eric

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/24/03 08:32 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
What they will need in a Beethoven sonata dictates how I teach scales in the long run, I guess, but maybe there's something wrong with moi that I couldn't translate it to lit.....


Dr. Lisa,

I had the same problem but in reverse. I had learned all the orthodox scale fingerings, but when I hit college my evil professor insisted on using the Schnabel edition of the Beethoven Sonatas. His fingerings throughout are in the "Lawless" school, and having been brought up with the traditional scale fingerings, I was thrown for a loop at first.

I think both fingering systems have different liabilities and assets, and I've chosen to go with the orthodox fingerings, although I have offered up the "Lawless" ones as an option for students, letting them choose.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/24/03 08:44 PM

I think you've just confirmed what I was wondering this afternoon, which is that it must be one of those midwest hang-ups or something! ;\)

Poor moi. All my piano profs used an urtext for old Ludwig. (But wait - I can't remember if he included any fingerings in those or not!) Just think of the Pure Misery I might have been spared had I been bi-coastal in my study....

[ 09-24-2003: Message edited by: Lisa Kalmar ]
Posted by: Vivace'

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 03:52 AM

Perfect titles for them........
"Bogus" and "Lawless" ;\)
We all went to our workshops and learned this easy way to teach scalesin the 70's. I was a new teacher and thought I knew soooooo much more than the BHBs that drilled me with traditional method fingering.
I'm for most anything that encourages students to refine their technical skills, but incorporating the "Lawless" fingering to standard literature (and why else to we practice scales) doesn't usually work for me.
Maybe I'm just too lazy to rewrite the fingering in all the literature I've been teaching for 30 yrs. \:o
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 07:36 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Vivace:
Perfect titles for them........
"Bogus" and "Lawless" ;\)


\:D Whew, I feel better now, vindicated, even - waaaaay less BHB-ee and midwest-ee, which is what Eric always endeavours to do to moi now that he's turned on me. ;\)

Vivace, I see you're feeling a little feisty today! Is there anything you'd like to share with us? ;\) \:D

Personally, I'm struggling to remain good on this. After seeing the primary debate last night, I am quivering to draw connections between it and the California association's use of this in the state syllabus. But it would be too easy...
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 07:48 AM

LOL, \:D maybe it's a good thing I didn't go to college! I learned the traditional scale fingerings & didn't have any problems using the fingerings found in classical literature (or in any other book, for that matter). Of course, I have absolutely no clue what the other scale fingerings are! \:o Is it something I need to brush up on? Or can I live the rest of my life in blissful ignorance, using the traditional scale fingerings that have served me well for so many years? ;\) \:D IOW, how important is it for students to learn alternate scale fingerings?

I think the reason I didn't have any problems with literature is because my teacher taught scale passages directly from the pieces themselves, not just from the Hanon book, & I had to use whatever fingerings were printed on the music. Seems to me like students ought to be made to follow what's on the music, which is why I don't like the idea of having students come up with their own creative fingerings. If a student wants to change the fingerings, s/he had better be able to give me a very good justification for the change. I think it's best to try the fingerings indicated on the music before making any changes.
Posted by: Eric

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 09:04 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
I think the reason I didn't have any problems with literature is because my teacher taught scale passages directly from the pieces themselves.


Jala,

It really is important for scales to be taught in context, and in that manner, students will become accustomed to various fingerings.

For example, in the Clementi Sonatina Op. 36, No. 1, all the scales found in the first movement are best played with the traditional scale fingering. But when the student works on the third movement, scale passages found in measures 55 and 64 are better served by an alternative fingering.

I generally think if scales are taught out-of-context, the orthodox fingering is the better way to go for most students. Starting in contrary motion helps with the fingerings in question.

An excellent scale exercise better served better by the "universal" fingering is a one-octave 9-note scale, ascending and descending:

In sixteenth-notes, play
C- D - E - F - G - A - B - C - D - C - B - A - G - F - E - D - C.
The best fingering for this is to avoid ever crossing over with finger three; whenever crossing over, use finger 4. Thumbs play the dominant note together. This works for C, G, D, A etc. scales.
Posted by: arsnova02

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 01:13 PM

You mean you guys actually use the fingerings printed in the score??? Yikes.... I always scratch them out and make up my own, and with my prof's encouragement. (Of course, he also goes through them all and makes it quite clear which are good and which are bad. ) It takes a little longer, but it's SOOOOO worth it to have something that fits your hand.
Posted by: Piano lady

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 04:43 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by arsnova02:
You mean you guys actually use the fingerings printed in the score??? Yikes.... I always scratch them out and make up my own, and with my prof's encouragement. (Of course, he also goes through them all and makes it quite clear which are good and which are bad. ) It takes a little longer, but it's SOOOOO worth it to have something that fits your hand.


Fingering? Who pays attention to that stuff? It's just something some editor decided everyone should use, although there are a few composers who actually wrote fingering that I don't use.

This, I believe, is the reason most composers just write notes and leave the fingerings to the musicians. Who cares if it works?

Moi, who uses a standard C major fingering on a fast F# minor one octave scale in a Bach partita. Why? Because it fits the passage and leaves your hand in position for the next chord.

But I'm glad I'm no longer taking lessons.
:p
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 05:11 PM

My motto: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. :p

Unless the suggested fingerings in the score don't work for me, I use them.

I somehow doubt that most of today's students, when first learning scales, are faced with music that contains contorted fingerings that don't work. :rolleyes: God help 'em if they're expected to utilize fingerings that don't work! Let's use a little discretion here, please. :rolleyes:

Moreover, if the fingerings printed in the score don't work, it should be the teacher's job to work with the student to find fingerings that do work. That's what my teacher did with me. She didn't leave me to my own devices, & she expected me to follow all markings on the music. However, she knew I had rather small hands, & she worked with me regarding fingerings & all issues pertaining to technique. I'm so glad she did. Because of her guidance, I never suffered any performance injuries, & I learned to rewrite musical passages that did not suit my hand size so that I could successfully play the music. \:\)
Posted by: unreal

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/25/03 10:19 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
When I got to college and started "serious" study I had to go back and relearn the old fingerings again because it didn't/doesn't translate to literature as well.


Actually it translates to literature better than traditional fingering in Hands Together scale passages. If only one hand is playing a scale passage, either fingering works. And hey, what's wrong with C Major fingering on F# minor scale--nothing, if that's what works best. \:\) I went to college in the 70's--I never heard of it back then...just learned it when I moved to CA a few years ago.

Someone asked Mr. Bogas if he was planning on publishing a book on technique, and he said "Bogas Technique" was probably not a title that would sell well! \:D

Ugh, the CA elections. Florida hogged election attention for long enough, now it's our turn to be #1. :rolleyes:

[ 09-25-2003: Message edited by: unreal ]

[ 09-25-2003: Message edited by: unreal ]
Posted by: Piano lady

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/26/03 12:32 AM

I think I've played one or two pieces in my life that required parallel hands together scale passages. Most of the time you're playing one hand scale passages.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/26/03 07:15 AM

The beauty of learning to play scales HT is that if you can play them HT, you can also play them HS. \:D

Regarding fingering, I see nothing wrong with teaching the traditional scale fingerings first. When learning literature that contains alternate scale fingerings, a talented student will know why those fingerings are suggested, change (perhaps with the help of his/her piano teacher) the fingerings that don't work, adapt & adjust. There are always students who think that because they learn a certain thing a certain way, then it's always that certain way & that it can't be any other way. That's where the problem lies. Like students who get it into their heads that Middle C must always be played with the thumb, :rolleyes: I imagine that there are also students who think that scales must always be played with a certain fingering. What does a teacher do in a case like that? Teach the scales HT using traditional fingerings, but at the same time assign literature pieces that contain scale passages that may or may not contain traditional fingering. Hopefully, if a student learns scales both in exercise form & through the literature that s/he is studying, s/he will be able to adapt & adjust without major difficulties. A little more practice maybe, but no major anxiety. It's amazing what can be accomplished with sufficient practice. \:D

Lastly, I think that the teacher needs to be careful about the music s/he selects. If the teacher doesn't like the fingerings that are suggested in a certain edition, then the teacher should find another edition with fingerings that s/he likes or use an urtext edition that doesn't have fingerings. If that's not possible, the teacher can always use good old Liquid Paper (White Out) & a trusty pen or pencil to edit the fingerings. ;\)
Posted by: arsnova02

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/26/03 02:08 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
I somehow doubt that most of today's students, when first learning scales, are faced with music that contains contorted fingerings that don't work. :rolleyes: God help 'em if they're expected to utilize fingerings that don't work! Let's use a little discretion here, please. :rolleyes:


Oh, no, no, no! When I said "you guys", I meant you, the pianists, playing Beethoven/Mozart/Haydn sonatas, not you, the teachers, teaching 10-year-olds Clementi sonatinas. I'd nevah want a young student to just go home and make up their own fingerings. Yikes.... I don't even want to think about the contortions that could lead to.
Posted by: Piano lady

Re: Practicing Scales - 09/26/03 03:54 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by arsnova02:
Oh, no, no, no! When I said "you guys", I meant you, the pianists, playing Beethoven/Mozart/Haydn sonatas, not you, the teachers, teaching 10-year-olds Clementi sonatinas. I'd nevah want a young student to just go home and make up their own fingerings. Yikes.... I don't even want to think about the contortions that could lead to.


I knew that. I'm not teaching 10 year olds. I make up my own fingering.

And yes, I know that if you can play them HT you can play them HS. Just trying to have a little fun. \:D