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#27596 - 02/12/03 06:09 PM Been on one scale for over a month...
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
Have any of you had a student that stays on one scale for over a month, or been on a scale for a number of months? I have a student that began scales (major and related minor) about a year ago (would need to double check for sure >_~ ) and is only as far as G minor. The main problem is getting fingering down, and I'm *strict* enough so that I won't settle for an O.K. fingering; it needs to run smoothly instead of questioningly (if you get my meaning).

Each week we spend time on making sure the fingering is understood, and I point out helpful hints to help the student remember it that much more. I make sure they know what to do for their week of practice (and have them go over it during lesson, etc.) and they do it fine - during the lesson. But... argh!!! it doesn't seem to click at all in their minds and I'm really at the end of my rope on this matter.

I've gone over my own experience with scales to see if I could pass on anything new, but I've used all the suggestions my teacher used with me and need some different advice. The indivual student that I mentioned above is about 3rd year in lessons, if that is going to aid in an answer.

Anything else I intended to say... has slipped my mind at the moment. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.

#27597 - 02/12/03 07:32 PM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Eric Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 2325
Loc: New York, NY
Madeline Bruser really helped me "see the light" in terms of scales and their proper role in technique. If your student is bored by scales, or frustrated, or just plain uninterested, it might mean that you need to dump the whole scale agenda entirely. Well, almost entirely, at least for the time being.

Keep in mind that scales are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. The theory and technique benefits of scales can be found in actual pieces.

Find a great piece in G minor; check out Black Cat Scherzo by Melody Bober. Upon mastery of this piece, the student will have accomplished not only full-octave G-minor scales in both hands, but also played the i, iv, and V7 chords in several inversions....and in a musical context.

After learning the piece, the G-minor scale will be a breeze. Some students benefit more from learning technical and theoretical aspects in context. If this particular student glazes over when you mention "scales" it might be due to this. For students like this, consider teaching music first, scales afterwards.

[ 02-12-2003: Message edited by: Eric ]

#27598 - 02/12/03 07:40 PM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
awesome!! thanks immensely, Eric!! \:D
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.

#27599 - 02/12/03 07:51 PM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Jalapeņo Offline
Star Member

Registered: 11/04/00
Posts: 5712
Makes me wonder if the student really doesn't understand, or if he just dislikes scales. :rolleyes: No matter, as long as he learns them by hook or by crook. ;\) Eric's suggestion is right on the money. \:\) Do whatever it takes. No problem teaching technique directly from the repertoire. That's what my piano teacher did with me (except for scales, which she insisted I learn the old-fashioned way). \:D

#27600 - 02/12/03 08:36 PM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
While teaching scales, I use that book Rhapsody told me about, Scales and Pieces in All Keys by Schaum. After learning a scale, we go to the book, find that key and play the 4 line song. Voila! Now they know what it is like to play in that key. I especially like this book as it is sight-readable and no hands together.

#27601 - 02/12/03 11:03 PM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Piano lady Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 361
Scale fingering remains a mystery to some people. It is like the free-throw in a basketball game. There are players who can hit a difficult fall-away jumper from 15 feet and cannot hit a free throw to save their lives.

I think there are only about 4 different fingerings in the entire circle of 5ths. One thing that may be causing the difficulty is the students hand shaping. They may be baffled at hitting that b-flat instead of the b. G minor = C major fingering. If they can play a C major scale there are no excuses. Look at the shaping. Make sure the student plays the scales with a relatively high wrist (not too high). It will help.

#27602 - 02/13/03 03:46 AM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Bontempo Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 353
Loc: Belgium/Portugal
We shouldn't forget that each student has his/her own pace of learning... but when it comes to scales I should say that there are limits.
Whenever a normal learning student needs more than 2 or 3 weeks to master a scale (that is logically inserted in the students knowledge) then there is a problem. Either the student dislikes scales or simply is not up to the task. The sequencing upon which scales are presented is a quite interesting and perhaps underrated issue. Has anyone ever reflected about this?

*eager to rejoin the active discussion, at least to practice his English in the middle of unavoidable French-speaking-territory*

#27603 - 02/13/03 07:40 AM Re: Been on one scale for over a month...
Marcia Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/18/00
Posts: 354
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
Several things to try:
1 Print out the scales found at The fingerings are presented visually on a piano keyboard and are two octaves. This really "clicks" with some kids.
2 Present scales in the form of a game, sticker chart, etc. [Maybe you have already tried this.] A little competition with other students who are on the same level can do miracles.
3 Use "stop and go" scales: for example, the g minor - play RH - g a bb c [stop] start again, add only 1 note - g a bb c d [stop]start again - g a bb c d eb [stop], and proceed in this way, adding only 1 extra note on each repetition until the octave (or 2 octaves) is mastered. Do the LH the same way, then do hands together the same way. This will work if it is followed in a absolutely disciplined way. This practice technique also works well for chromatic scales, as in MacDowell's "Alla Tarantella."

Good Luck. The technical development learned by doing scales is worth being a "stickler" about, whether you learn the scales for their own sake, or for the sake of repertoire that contains them. If the student is early intermediate I use Clementi Op 36, especially Nos. 1 (I), 2 (III)and Kuhlau Op 55, No. 1. They readily recognize the melodies in these movements and will make the effort to learn the piece.


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