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Piano scales – why bother?
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A video tutorial on the basics of piano scales, and why they’re useful – even if you’re mainly interested in improvisation styles rather than classical piano.
Though knowing your scales isn’t essential to become a good pianist (especially if your focus is on jazz or pop piano rather than classical) they’re definitely worth the effort required to learn them. Though they may seem boring and pointless, playing scales is actually one of the best ways to improve your control, flexibility and hand independence on the piano keyboard.
When playing a lot of improvised piano, it’s easy to become reliant on just a few fingers. This leads to weakness and lack of control in your other fingers, which in turn means you use them less, creating a sort of vicious circle. The best pianists will use all of their fingers equally, which makes for better control, as well as a greater range and more freedom when improvising.
If you’ve had classical lessons in the past, you may be able to play a lot of scales from memory. If you’ve never played scales before, don’t worry – you can find all of them on the internet. There are also plenty of scales books available for purchase; just make sure that you choose one which gives the fingerings as well as the notes.
Try to integrate scales into your usual practice regime, even if it’s only 5-10 minutes a day at first. Start by playing one-octave scales using one hand at a time. As you gain more confidence you’ll find that you can play scales over several octaves. You should also try playing your scales with both hands at the same time.
The key is to make sure that you don’t play too mechanically. You may find that the notes you play with your thumb sound more accentuated, whereas the notes played with your other fingers are weaker. It takes a lot of practice and focus to make each note completely even. It’s really important to listen to what you’re playing in order to make your scales as smooth and even as possible.