I have only met one piano student who actually enjoyed practicing scales. She was a very organized, analytical person who found the “rules” of scales comforting.
Every other student has sighed, groaned, avoided, detested and otherwise vehemently wished scales would just disappear.
I can’t really blame them. Scales are like the spinach of piano lessons. You know it’s good for you… so you choke it down… but you would really rather not.
6 Ways To Take The “Snore” Out of Scales
Because the benefits of regular scale reinforcement are so valuable I recently set out on a quest to make scales a little more palatable. While the following six activities may not turn spinach into cotton candy… they might be like those yummy bacon bits that permit spinach salad to be included on a menu 😉
1. Mid-way Madness
Call out a scale and a scale degree. Next, instruct your student to start the given scale from that point. For example – shouting “mediant!” for a C minor hamonic scale would mean your student would start with her 3 finger on Eb and continue up the scale. To make it even more difficult, call out a second scale degree on which they need to finish.
2. Contrary Call-Out
Call out a scale. Next, instruct your student to place both of her thumbs on the tonic (thumbs should be sharing the key) and then (in contrary motion) play the first 5 notes (only) using the correct fingering. The contrary motion will solidify her knowledge of the fingering and the accidentals in the scale (each hand is playing something different). This game becomes really fun when you start calling out a variety of scales rapidly… without giving your student a break in between.
3. Crush It
Call out a scale and then instruct your student to use her 1 through 5 fingers in both hands to “crush down” the first 5 notes of the scale. For example, if you called out “F major”, the F, G, A, Bb and C keys would all be depressed at once.
This game becomes really fun when you allow your student to a) crush the keys loudly and b) move between requests rapidly.
4. Scale Hurdles
If you have track and field kids in your piano studio they’ll understand hurdles. If you don’t, you might want to show them a youtube video 😉 To play Scale Hurdles, select two notes in a scale and cover the corresponding keys on the keyboard with small post-its. Instruct your student to play the scale while “hurdling” over the marked keys (skipping over them without actually playing them).
See how quickly your student can complete the scale without “knocking over a hurdle” (accidentally playing the key). If you have a blossoming Scale Hurdle Athlete in your studio, up the ante by having her play the scale hands together and placing the “hurdles” on different keys in each hand
5. Dizzy Degrees
Select a scale and then call out a varying arrangement of scale degrees. Next, have your student… a) play the correct scale degrees using the correct accidentals, b) play each scale degree with the finger that is typically required in that scale and c) play each scale degree in the order requested.
For example, in the C Major scale you could call out “Dominant, Leading Tone, Mediant” and your student would play G with her 2 finger, B with their 4 finger and E with her 3 finger. Your student’s hand should lift with each key she plays in a bouncing motion. See how fast can she can complete your requests and how many degrees you can call out before she gets mixed up?
6. Never Would I Ever…
Call out “Never would I ever…” and then complete this sentence in one of the following two ways:
- Insert an incorrect accidental “Never would I ever add an F# to a C minor scale”
- Insert a correct accidental “Never would I ever add an G# to a E Major scale”
Instruct your student to decide (as quickly as possible) if your sentence is true or false. If it’s true she plays the scale (correctly). If its false she plays nothing. If she makes a mistake in determining “true or false”… she has to play the scale three times over 🙂
More Piano Activities To Turn Boring Into Brilliant…
Scales, theory, sight reading… all of these things don’t need to be boring! With a good dose of creative energy your piano kids can actually look forward to the parts of their lessons that they used to dread. And… if you’re looking for creative energy you’re in the right place! Our PianoGameClub theory and ear training games are exactly what you need to make these aspects of your piano lesson absolutely amazing!