Learning to ace your scales

The first thing to know about scales is that playing them is a musical activity and not a boring exercise that your teacher makes you play at the start of some lessons! Scales can be found in the music of our greatest composers including Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy! So how do we start treating them musically? Well, the first thing is to listen for a good, clear and even tone. Next, you should consider how you might give it shape. This might include playing the beginning of your scale piano and gradually getting louder until you reach the highest notes. Like everything – what goes up, must come down! So on your way down, try to gradually get softer until you reach the same dynamic at which you started.

So, we can understand what makes a scale musical now. But how can we get our fingers to play them well? For this I will start out by making one rule: Scales are to be practiced like your pieces – don’t just play them once and move on.

Here are some tips for creative repetition:

  • Staccato practice
  • Additive practice (start with the first note, then play the first two, the first three etc.)
  • Note clusters (play each note in your hand position at the same time – ask your teacher to show you this one!)

Reminder!! Always listen for a good quality tone!

Enjoy practicing your scales – you’ll become great at them if you follow these tips!