Scales and arpeggios are perhaps the most difficult aspect of instrument development to teach because young pupils tend to hate and ignore them. Scales are a fundamental part of technique – that area of musicianship embracing the control of all physical movement involved in playing an instrument or singing. Technique also controls tone, tone color, intonation, dynamic level and rhythm. Almost all component parts of technique can be dealt with by the study of scales and their related patterns.
Why to practice scales?
1. Scales will vastly improve all aspects of technique, facility and control 🎹
2. They will speed up learning of new pieces because so much material is actually based on scale and arpeggio patterns 🚀
3. Learning to play arpeggios and related patterns will improve the ability to move around the instrument with facility and ease 🎶
4. They will improve sight - reading ability because so many melodic patterns are based on scales and arpeggios 🎼
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they will help you develop a sense of key 🖐
Here are the main characteristics of a really well-played scale
1. Evenness of pulse and rhythm – feel a secure and stable pulse 🕰
2. Control and evenness of tone - no unnecessary accents ❌
3. The smooth passage of the thumb - prepare your thumb before turns 👍
4. A sense of key 🎹
5. Fluency and dexterity 🧬
6. A musical shape – aim for gentle arc with sense of direction 📍
7. Never leave fingers alone – relax your shoulders, arms and wrists 🙌
8. Check your posture – good setup at the piano and straight back 💯
It is really important that you listen critically to your scale playing. In this way you will begin to hear any inconsistencies of tone or rhythm.