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!

Practice made Perfect

I think practicing is very much like a recipe. Add your ingredients in the wrong order and the entire dish is a disaster. Add too much of one ingredient and not enough of the other…. well you get the picture. One of those German Pancakes that is supposed to be 10 inches tall, golden brown turns and delicious turns out an inch tall and much like a Frisbee. And you have a new nickname! “Burnt offering Maha.” Yes! I have experience in this department.

I also have experience in the perfect practicing department.  Here are some guaranteed ways to keep your students practicing, succeeding and motivated to do it RIGHT!

1. The Triple A list. I developed a way to incorporate older repertoire and still keep up on the new weekly assignments. Insist on a day off. That’s right…. a vacation day once a week from practicing. Your students will be shocked, and you will be one step ahead of them. Reward them PROFUSELY for completing this list WELL. The pieces performed must be memorized. They must be passed off previously by you. They must be played once a week because who knows when the whim for an on-demand performance will pop into your creative (and slightly devious) mind! You retain the right to ask for any piece on the list…. at any time…. and anyone includes you!


2. The “crazy practicing roll the dice and find out how you should play it this time” chart. Please don’t laugh at my artwork! I made this chart in ten minutes and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve come up with! Your student simply rolls the dice and whatever number they land on is how they will perform the new line they learned today. This chart requires some preparation…. dividing their music into sections ahead of time and making sure they own two dice. Then they are ready to “play” while they “play”! Snap… the job’s a game!

roll and play(Printing out this Jpeg will give you a full size game image.)

3.  Coming up with any summer time challenge can be a challenge in and of itself. When you reward your students with praise and loads of energy, even a small treat seems to them as if they’ve won a gold medal. They know you care about them and they will believe in you.

My students love coming back for Fall, and the LOVE showing off to their friends who also want to find out about my program. It’s a win/win.

Best of luck with your teaching!

Piano Mastermind