› Playing Piano Scales

Playing Piano Scales

Playing piano scales is made easier with some clever strategies! Did you think C major was the easiest scale? Then you're in for a surprise! Learn how to practice piano scales in this tutorial directed to adult beginners.

The Technique of Playing Piano Scales

The technique of playing scales is simpler than you may think. Basically, we play patterns of three plus four notes up and down the piano. But connecting these two patterns is where one of the difficulties lay.

Your thumb needs to move under the palm of your hand (thumb under movement) as smoothly as possible, and your wrist and arm should stay in a relaxed and balanced position moving along horizontally (not up and down).

Another challenge is that all fingers are not alike. If you look at your hand stretched out in front of you, you’ll notice how all fingers are of different length and thickness. You also know that some fingers are easier to use than others.

Part of this problem is solved if you learn how to keep your hand in a rounded or «cupped» position, like holding a ball. The first thing you’ll notice is when the hand is in a rounded position, all fingers line up to an equal length!

Playing Piano ScalesPerfect Hand Position

Placing your hand in this position on a table, you should also notice that the three middle fingers are standing on the tips, your little fingers a tiny bit to the outer side of the tip, and the thumbs on the sides.

This «perfect hand position» gives you the possibility to use each finger with its ultimate strength and flexibility. It is also the most correct for piano playing and especially important when playing scales for an even sound and smooth playing.

So, the basic technique you need to master piano scales is:

  • Practice finding the groups of 2 and 3 notes.
  • Mastering the change of positions with a smooth thumb under movement.

You also need to sit with the correct posture, have a perfect hand posture and keep a fluid, lateral arm movement without any unnecessary movements, so that you can control the sound and evenness of your playing.

Exercises for Playing Piano Scales

The best way to start practicing scales is by playing the black keys. Yes, really!

Scales are played with finger groups of 3 and 4 fingers, using finger 1 for transition from one group to the next, and finger 5 only for stopping or turning. So, a very easy way to begin is with the black keys that are already organized i 2 and 3 note groups!

Exercise 1: Playing 2 and 3 Finger Groups

Black key fingeringLeft Hand Fingers
Black key fingeringRight Hand Fingers
  • Start by playing all the groups with 2 black keys, using fingers 2 and 3. Play hands separately and both together, all over the piano.
  • Do the same with the group of 3 black keys.
  • Now combine the 2 and 3 black key groups. Play both fast and slow.

Have fun, but remember to keep your hand «cupped» and in the correct position, and to play on your fingertips.

Exercise 2: Thumb Under Movement

  • Block (play simultaneously) one group of 2 black keys. While holding them down with fingers 2 and 3, press with your thumb on the white key on each side. Do this several times.
  • Repeat with the 3 black key group. A bit bigger stretch this time!
  • After playing with blocked notes, break them up and play one at a time.
  • Do this exercise hands separate as well as together, all over the piano. Experiment with different speed and different dynamics (loud and soft).

Eraser for piano scale practice

"Test-drive" your thumb-under movement!

Place a flat eraser on top of your wrist as you play. If it falls off you need to practice more to play without popping your wrist or arm up and down. If it stays- Good job!

Practice with 3 Real Scales

Now practice the patterns you learned in 3 different major scales, B, Db (or C#) and Gb (or F#) major. They all use all five black keys. Practice to play the scales all over the piano, both up and down:

B major

Picture scalesB Major Left Hand
Picture scalesB Major Right Hand

D-Flat Major

Picture scalesDb Major Left Hand
Picture scalesDb Major Right Hand

G-Flat Major

Picture scalesGb Major Left Hand
Picture scalesGb Major Right Hand

Hah! You thought you should start playing piano scales with C major, didn’t you? C major may be easier to read, but the scales you just learned are actually easier to play technically!


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Related Pages

› Playing Piano Scales

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