What is the importance of practicing scales on piano, and the proper fingering of them? Music: Practice – Theory Stack Exchange

why learn piano scales

What is the importance of practicing scales on piano, and the proper fingering of them?

First of all I want to point out that I practice scales a lot and even enjoy it. I just don’t know why they are so important, as this site says for example:

“Proper fingering of the scales on the piano is very important to development of your skills and advancement as a pianist.”

When you are playing a piece you are not doing anything remotely like playing a scale.

Maybe practicing scales is important to memorize them, and the proper fingering is important to improve dexterity. Is there a better answer?

5 Answers 5

Memorizing your scales accomplishes at least these four things:

Trains your fingers to play common patterns found in music. There are a lot of scales in music. They’re just so satisfying, why not write them?

They can be a controlled environment for practicing other techniques, such as playing fast, playing in octaves, and playing fast in octaves.

It trains your ear to hear the qualities of a key and the different scale degrees within that key. When learning a new piece, practice scales for the keys within that piece. You’ll catch your own mistakes more often since you’ll be accustomed to tonal qualities of the keys in that piece.

It also trains you to play smoothly in time. Practice speed, but maintaining a steady tempo with a variety of articulations. You could also use them to experiment with rubato (credit to Matthew Read in the comments).

Adding another good point from the comments:

In addition to @bearcdp’s well written answer, I’d like to point out that almost every piano-teaching book I’ve read, strongly emphasizes the importance of playing a song/riff in all of the 12 keys!. This is annoying in the beginning, but it helps you to get equally familiar with all the different keys (and not just C major and A minor). – @Saebekassebil

There are a ton of scales in classical music. They tend to be hidden, though, with only a few notes at a time. Take, for example, Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca: It’s main theme has a snippet of a scale, and its middle section is almost entirely made up of scales. The 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata has brief runs to build up tension. Bach’s inventions all have scales in the music. Just because they just don’t go on for octaves and octaves doesn’t keep them from being scales.

As far as fingering, it just makes scales really easy to play. The fingerings are optimized so that you can go really really fast without tripping over your fingers. There is a small aspect of training dexterity–being able to perform cross-overs smoothly is extremely important–but it’s secondary to the goal of allowing you to recognize patterns in music.

Of course, everything bearcdp said counts, especially hearing the qualities of the scale degrees in the key. Knowing your scales and the sounds of each degree makes learning every style of western music infinitely easier.

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