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Teenagers and scales

Scales piano teenagers practice

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#1 hammer action

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 21:16

None of my teenage piano students seem to enjoy practising scales at all and i'm wondering if perhaps it's something i'm doing wrong.  Is there anything i can do to make them more interesting and enjoyable?  I saw a book online called "Improve your scales" but as of yet i've not actually managed to have a flick through it.  Any suggestions please?  Thanks ;)

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#2 ExpressYourself



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Posted 08 October 2013 - 21:33

I don't think improve your scales makes it much more exciting. I like scales pattens and improvs which has a cd of backing tracks. You'd need book 2 for octave scales but no good for more than an octave. I use the in lessons but don't send them home
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#3 Impressionist


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Posted 08 October 2013 - 21:36

I've the Grade 1 Piano Improve Your Scales.  It has some interesting ideas in it but I'm not sure I'd buy the series - each scale has some exercises, some simple pieces and some sight reading.  You could probably make up your own should you have the inclination and time.


I suppose it depends on your students.  Do they know why they have to practise scales?  As a student it wasn't until I was at grade 7/8 level I twigged that they weren't just to pass exams, it was because scales improved your technique, or that almost every piece of music contained aspects of scales or arpeggios.  Explaining why, and showing them examples of more advanced music with scales and arpeggiated passages is helpful as students may not be aware of this.


How do you use them in your lessons?  Do they directly connect with the pieces they're learning (Paul Harris 'simultaneous learning' style) or they chosen for some other purpose? 


You could try improvising while the student plays the scale - a repeating ostinato or funky bass pattern might make it more interesting. 

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#4 linda.ff



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Posted 08 October 2013 - 21:45

I added this page to my website section of Piano Teacher's Helper


https://dl.dropboxus...with scales.pdf


I think I mentioned it before and a couple of the suggestions on it come from other AB forumites.


I've done it with three people over the past two days as a warm-up and they've ended up (a) laughing and (b) with an improved scale. I had a long conversation with one by about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night while he was simultaneously playing up and down the Bb major scale with both hands

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#5 BitterSweet



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Posted 09 October 2013 - 07:58

If you've got several kids who are having trouble, why not devise a competition/challenge that anonymously pits them against each other?


For example, how many scales can you play correctly in two minutes, or master a new scale every week for X weeks, or first to play everything for their grade correctly. You will need a reward at the end for each of them (even if you also have an overall winner), but it might kick start the kids actually nailing a few scales and once you get into them, they're not as awful.

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#6 agricola



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Posted 09 October 2013 - 11:10

Teenagers tend to be impressed by anything fast and loud so I find demonstrating how a good scale should sound is the most effective method.  ( I practise them a lot first of course :lol: )

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#7 Pianotimes


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Posted 09 October 2013 - 12:16

Depends on what suits you and your students obviously, but I have used the get ready for scale duets books as something different to try in the lesson - sparked a bit of interest.
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#8 morceau


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Posted 10 October 2013 - 09:16

I hated scales when I was young - but my teacher never explained why we were doing them, or showed me how the key signatures all fitted together in lovely patterns, or explained how understanding them meant you could improvise and make up accompaniments.


Right from the start my pupils do improvisation around the scales they currently know.  I also set them pop songs or folk songs where they have to put in the left hand accompaniment to a melody line by reading the chord symbols, and they have to know at least the tonic triads to be able to do it.  I probably have one reluctant scale player in over 20 pupils. In fact, I find that some do their scales even when they haven't had time to do the pieces, though to be honest, I find that a bit weird!


I also emphasise the technical aspect of scales and encourage them to aim for a quick smooth "musical" scale.

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#9 Aquarelle



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Posted 10 October 2013 - 12:50

I find boys in particular respond to the "sporty" side - how fast, accurately and how many times without stopping can you play a scale. Girls unfortunately have to be kicked into this a bit but then my girls know I don't approve of "girly" behaviour so they get a rather more robust treatment from the start!


I also find they quite enjoy the logic of the theoretical explanations - placing of semitones, circle of fifths etc - and then relating this to their pieces.


But on the whole I think the teens are a bit late to start putting good scale habits into practice. I start very young, very very simply - often just the first four notes (ie up to the first thumb under in regular RH scales)

and I add things in very slowly indeed. In this way by the time they do the prep test (not all of mine do) they can more or less play the Grade 1 scales and I try to keep them ahead of their grade in scales from then onwards so that it never becomes a dreadful burden.


I am also one of those beastly teachers who start every lesson with scales and they just accept this routine.

I am becoming even more beastly in that I have now added theory to the things that have to be done before pieces! to my surprise, they quite like that as well. But I do it in minute doses!

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