Are you all thumbs when it comes to scales?


When you play your scales, do you feel like you are all thumbs? Or is it comfortable and fluid, like smooth flowing water?  To find out if your fingering method works, take this simple quiz:

1 Do you finger your scales based on your phone number (not including the area code)?

2.  Do you use the caloric value from the package of Twinkies you just ate as your guide (352, then repeat)?

3. Do you look at Facebook first, find your number of friends and add that to your address to come up with a fingering pattern?

Caution!!!!! If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the above, you are probably experiencingScaliditory lazineck numberic-itis.  (Definition: You don’t get it.)

Hey … there is hope for you ! Scales might seem scary, but they are crucial to master if you ever want to play Fur Elise or Joy to the World!  Just about every piece of music is built on a scale fragment or an entire scale passage.

Let’s take a look at four important elements to consider:

SIGHT: Scales are built upon formulas, sort of like recipes.  The note pattern is simple…Tonic (the tonal center or key you begin upon), whole step up, whole step up, half step up, whole step up, whole step up, whole step up, half step up.

Sight also involves NOTICING the obvious fingering classes your scales are divided into.  In ‘About Scales… Food for Thought” …… the post I will add next;  a PDF is included with instructions on how to explain scales, what finger does what job and how to make them sound smooth and glide up the keys!

SOUND: How should scales be played? As musically as possible.  They are not cold math.  They are not simply an exercise, but rather a chance to perfect parts of a greater whole.  Scales are the foundational melodies of all Western music.  You will find scales throughout all the great Masterworks.  For example, Romance by Sibelius.  At the very climax of this beautiful romantic piece is an Ab scales the length of the piano in both hands… if done well it sets the stage for the finale of the piece.  Then the theme returns powerful in melody and in octaves.  Scales are exciting and can provide suspense and speed to any piece if done well.  If they are performed poorly, they leave the audience feeling somewhat disappointed in the performance.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Dozens of theories exist about correct hand placement, Yin, Yang, Rotation, correct fashion sense and other thoughts on psychic scale vibrations.  Seriously, it’s not rocket science. Keyboards are flat.  Your fingers and writsts operate in a circular motion. To compensate you form a “C: with the hand, use the wheel and axle principle by rolling the fingers as you twist the arm and ‘wala!’  Problem solved. Check back for more detail and a video next time.

MENTAL MASTERY: Practice smart no hard.  Better yet…. watch the “About Scales… are you all thumbs” video on Check out the playlists. You’ll see… your thumbs will thank you!

Published by pianomastermind

I have taught and shaped musicians for 30 years. I am a pianist with unique insights about people, communication and multi-tasking while practicing. I am a 6th generation student in the pedigree of Beethoven and am a passionate musical performer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: