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2 minutes reading time (387 words)

March/April 2018: Create and motivate

The previous issue's column included a list of the benefits of scale practice as well as an approach to "squaring" scales to fit the four- and eight-measure phrase lengths so common in piano literature.

Now, here's another way to practice scales for advancing pianists. Assign it to students who have a history of being motivated by extra challenges. You might even present it cunningly by asking, "I wonder if you're ready for a slightly more difficult way to play scales?" (Tap your chin while staring into the distance for maximum effect.) 

Continuous scales

Sometimes called "modal scales," the idea is to continuously move up and down the notes in a key-changing direction on successive scale degrees. For example, in the key of D major, it's up on D, down on E, up on F-sharp, down on G, etc.

Fingering Tips

Fingerings for continuous scales are the same as traditional scales. For example, in D major, the right hand plays F-sharps with the third finger and C-sharps with the fourth finger—using normal fingerings.  

Keep in mind that a passage resembling continuous scales in actual literature might call for different fingerings, but the point here is to reinforce traditional scale fingering, even if it moves around.

Like traditional scales, fingering exceptions are made on the "outside edges." For example, think of how the right-hand F note at the top of an F-major scale is more easily fingered with the fourth finger, even though the thumb is the correct "in flight" finger. Similarly, the G at the top of measure two in this D Major example is also more easily played with the fourth finger than the thumb since it turns right around.

Benefits of continuous scales

• Motivational: Capable students enjoy the up and down virtuosic momentum of this roller coaster scale.

• Emulates actual music: We often practice scales from low tonic to high tonic and back again but scale passages in both actual written and improvised music may start, end, or change direction on any note.

• Muscle memory: Playing scales with constant direction changes sends correct scale fingering deeper into the unconscious.

Next time, we'll look at ways to combine scales and chords for extra efficient technical practice.

Until then, enjoy your creative music-making journey.

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March/April 2018: Mind Matters
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About Piano Magazine

Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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