If you have young piano students who are happily learning their pentascales and are on the cusp of moving to one-octave scales, press the “pause” button momentarily and first introduce them to Scale Bits.
What are Scale Bits?
“Scale Bits” are mini-exercises that improve understanding, coordination and flexibility in students preparing to take on one-octave scales. Before you jump head-first into various fingering patterns, accidentals and discussions of the circle of 5ths, set your piano students up for success with a few weeks spent learning Scale Bits in preparation for the fun to come.
Three Videos You Can Use To Teach Scale Bits
Scale Bits are best used as warm-ups and are designed to isolate specific skills, focusing on the finger strength, coordination and flexibility that is needed to perform scales beautifully. We’ve included written instructions for each of my three favorite Scale Bits, but for all of you visual learners, we’ve also included a short video demo as well.
*Each of these videos has a youtube link that you can text or email to your student for reinforcement during the week.
Scale Bit 1: Tucking Exercise
Instructions: Place your thumb on C. Step to E, and then tuck your thumb under your 3 finger. Step back to C and repeat three times. Next, place your thumb on C. Step to F, and then tuck your thumb under your 4 finger. Step back down to C and repeat three times. Practice alternating between a “3 tuck” and a “4 tuck”.
Benefits: Gaining comfort with the two most common varieties of finger tucks required by one-octave scales allows your students to build the necessary coordination in a focused and friendly way. Start slow and gradually build up to a faster tempo once your students can play without hesitation.
Scale Bit 2: Cross-over Exercise
Instructions: Place your 5 finger on C. Step down to F and then cross your 3 finger over your thumb, tapping “E” three times with your 3. Try it again, crossing your 4 finger over your thumb and tapping “E” three times with your 4. Alternate back and forth between your 3 and 4 finger, gradually increasing the tempo with each repetition.
Benefits: Learning to smoothly cross one finger over the other will eliminate possible hesitations once placed back into the context of a scale. The tapping that this exercise includes provides a “longer moment” in that crossed position that increases cross-over comfort.
Scale Bit 3: Chromatic Exercise
Instructions: Using your 1 and 3 fingers to play solid intervals, move up the chromatic scale placing your thumb on the white key and your 3 on the black key. Swap fingers and use your 1 and 2 as needed on the E-F and B-C pairings (mimicking the fingering used in a chromatic scale). Aim for a staccato touch that allows you to move up and down the octave quickly.
Benefit: Reinforcing the fingering of a chromatic scale in this blocked fashion gives your students the opportunity to both feel and see the arrangement of black and white keys which will result in a quicker internalization of the fingering.
More Finger Warm-Ups With An Awesome Bonus!
This month’s PianoBookClub from Teach Piano Today is all about finger flexibility and strength. Your students will perfect their tucking, crossing and leaping skills with an inspiring blend of creativity and improvisation provided by our rocking’ lead sheets!