Do you always shudder at the thought of another piano scales practice session?
If you want to develop dexterity when playing your piano, regular scales practice is inevitable.
With focus and attention, practicing piano scales will simultaneously help you strengthen many elements of your playing.
For example, wouldn’t it be great if you could finally play in smooth legato or crystal clear staccato?
Or better yet, play at an even level of volume without distorting the rhythm?
Despite the known benefits of practicing your scales, the whole process can get boring and feel like another tedious chore.
But what if you had a way of spicing it up a bit? making it less unimaginative.
Well, we have some fun activities you can use when practicing scales to make the whole process bearable and exciting.
Below are 5 activities you should strongly consider to make scales practice more palatable.
1. Use a Metronome to Practice Piano Scales
A metronome is a great of way of improving your natural timing when playing the piano.
And we all know timing is what determines how evenly you play each note.
A metronome helps you to implicitly correct yourself when practicing piano scales. Over time, these timing corrections will work themselves into your natural playing.
Remember to start off with a slow tempo and work your way up to a faster beat.
After a solid training session, take a 30-minute break and try playing without the metronome. Chances are you will keep noticing a positive change every time you do this.
But this isn’t a quick fix for mastering your scales.
For the sake of your playing skills, try not to get too attached to using a metronome.
If you become too dependent on it, you’ll be uncomfortable playing without it.
Pro tip: Do you have a close friend or relative who can play with you? A human metronome is a great idea. You can even switch roles.
Getting the chance to give someone else a tempo is a good learning experience.
2. Dynamics Work like Charm
Did you know you can make good use of dynamics in your piano scales practice?
Next time you practice, for example, try to concentrate on playing a continuous pp through a scale without altering the notes.
You can then practice with the whole scale as well.
Also, don’t forget to practice your crescendos and diminuendos.
Here’s an interesting idea. Why not start a forte then diminish as you ascend? You can do that and reach a pianissimo at the top of the scale before you crescendo back to a forte on your way down the scale.
Once you comfortable enough doing this with scales, you can take it a notch higher and try it with arpeggios.
3. How to Use Scale Hurdles
Any pianist determined to develop a natural and harmonious playing technique will find scale hurdles helpful.
You can play scale hurdles by selecting two different notes in a scale and covering the corresponding keys on the keyboard.
The aim is to play the scale while skipping over the covered keys.
With constant practice, you’ll be able to complete playing the whole scale without “hurdling over” a covered key- by accidentally playing it.
Another hurdle you can set for yourself is starting a scale in the middle.
Don’t always use the tonic as the starting point when practicing piano scales.
Try starting the scale from the middle going down to the bottom and then back to the starting note.
If you can play a scale starting on any note, you’ll always be prepared to play any piece of music.
4. Be bold: Explore Rhythmic Alterations
Are you finally comfortable enough to play your scales in straight quavers?
You can then try experimenting with swing quavers, triplets over three octaves, and scales with five-eighths timing.
If you’re exploring new rhythmic alterations and using a metronome, don’t forget to set it accordingly.
Set it to subdivide the notes for you.
You don’t want to miss out on the full pulse underneath the beat when practicing your piano scales.
Remember, one important element of learning how to play any instrument is developing a sense of rhythm or pulse.
But rhythm goes beyond the tempo or speed of a musical piece. A song’s unique sound is shaped by how well a pianist can blend together different styles.
And being able to come up with creative rhythms on the piano is a skill which can improve your playing almost overnight.
5. A Dizzying Degree of Scales
This is an interesting one to try out with a friend.
Pick out a scale to play and arrange it according to varying degrees.
If you’re the first one to go, you’ll have to follow the following guidelines:
- Try to play the varying degrees using the right accidentals.
- Each degree should be played with the required finger of that scale.
- And finally, each scale degree should be played in the exact order requested.
Let’s take a C major scale as an example.
You can call out mediant, dominant, and leading tone as the varying arrangements of the scale.
G should be played with the second finger, B with the fourth, and E with the third.
To shorten your learning curve, we advise pianists to lift their hand with a bouncing motion for every key they play.
See how fast you can complete each other’s requests before getting mixed up.
There you have it. You don’t have to hold off on buying a new piano. Your scale practice sessions can actually be a fun pastime, after all.
A little creativity is all it takes to make you look forward to these lessons.
Pro tip: If possible, practice your scales with another person who is also working on theirs. You’ll be able to learn from each other and share ideas too.
This is the best foundation you can lay when learning how to play the piano.
If you’d like to share more ways of turning piano scales practice from drab to brilliant we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!