Adult Beginner Piano – Practicing Piano Scales
Ask any piano teacher; individuals learning the piano very rarely admit to practicing scales regularly. However, by skipping that important part of your learning process, you might end up doing more harm than good. Scales are certainly not the most thrilling exercise to practice; they don’t have a particular melody or anything ‘fun’ attached to them. But, no matter how boring or unnecessary you might think they are, they actually are an important part of learning the piano and should be taken seriously. Of course no one is expecting you to practicing 12 scales a day on a daily basis – but you do need to spend a few minutes on scales during each practice sessions in order to become familiar with them and improve your fingers’ strength and agility.
Many beginners are faced with an overwhelming feeling when they first sit at the piano. The reason for this is not because learning the piano is that hard; it simply is because they have yet to ‘tame’ the instrument. They press notes and the sound isn’t as pleasing as they’d like it to, or they don’t know what fingers to use on which notes, etc. This is where scales come into play. Scales can help you learn the language; in a way, scales can be compared to the first step in learning a new language. Before you can form full sentences – or play pieces – you’ll have to learn how to spell the words, how to conjugate verbs, etc. Before you can play a piece, you need to understand how the piano keys react to your touch, how you can move your fingers up and down the keyboard without too much effort and more. Practicing scales will help you become the master of your piano and give you a great starting point to learn more and play your favorite pieces. Here are a few bullet points to help you understand why scales are important and how you can use them to practice many other aspects of playing music:
– Dynamics: Once you’ve learned one scale, there’s not much more to it. You know the notes, you mastered the fingerings; now it’s time to up the difficulty level and add a new aspect to your scale runs. Dynamics are simply the differences in sound from soft to loud. Playing very soft while still getting a full sound from the piano is very difficult; same goes with playing loud without sounding ‘uncontrolled’. If you practice your dynamics while running up and down scales, you’ll be able to focus on that aspect more than when you are playing a piece and have to think about notes, rhythms, fingerings, details, etc. In short, this will help you be more in control of your fingers when you approach the piano.
– Fingerings according to tonalities: If you are interested in playing classical music, or dabbling into jazz improvisation for example, scales will become your best friend. Many classical pieces feature scales runs in their melodies. If you already know how to play that particular scale, it will be easier for you to get this particular passage down since you’ll be familiar with the required fingerings. Jazz improvisation also incorporates the use of scales, which means that the more familiar you become with various scales, the more comfortable you will be when faced with the opportunity or desire to learn a jazz standard and learn improvisation concepts. Again, think of scales as a tool that will help you in the big picture.
How to practice scales
Now that you know a little bit more about why it is important to practice scales when learning the piano, you need to understand how to practice the scales. Again, it is never emphasized enough that piano students should play s-l-o-w-l-y. Whether you are learning a new piece or a new scale, racing through it will never help you. Take your time and spend a few minutes understanding the fingerings and the alterations of each scale before thinking of speeding up. Once you start getting comfortable with it you’ll be able to play it as fast you can – but there’s no need to take on more than you can chew.
When you practice scales, play around with rhythms. Use the metronome, set at a comfortable speed, and practice using quarter notes, half notes, whole notes, eight notes, etc. You can even do variations, such as alternating between a half note and a quarter note. This will help you practice rhythmic figures, on top of everything else that was mentioned above!
In conclusion, practicing scales might seem like more of a chore than anything else, but it is a part of learning the piano and will help you tremendously as you improve your skills.