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  • Writer's pictureAmy Taylor

Playing Piano Scales

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

What is a Piano Scale?

A piano scale is a collection of all the notes that you need to make up an entire song from beginning to end. The notes in a scale can be organized into chords to harmonize a melody and make it sound beautiful. It’s the foundation of musical theory. If you know your scales you can learn anything related to music theory. You may have heard of a few piano scales, for example, C major scale or F sharp major.

The Secret To Playing Piano Scales?

It’s all about using the correct fingering and taking things slowly. Don’t expect yourself to master the scale right away, give yourself time to practice and repeat it. You have to learn to play the scales on each hand separately. The real secret to playing a scale well is knowing exactly what note your fourth finger lands on. But the tricky thing is that on every scale your right-hand and left-hand fourth fingers land on different notes. In C major, the right-hand fourth finger lands on B while the left-hand fourth finger lands on D.

C Major Scale

The C major scale is the most common scale because it only uses the white keys, there are no black keys that are being used. Most beginning songs are in the C major scale. You can even take any song and play it in the key of C. The key of C is easy to understand and is often used for teaching the fundamentals of music theory.

Your First Assignment For Playing Piano Scales

Spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day working on one scale. Be patient and take your time. Expect to work one scale for a couple of weeks. Practice four octaves so you get the experience of using the whole piano instead of just a small portion of the keys. When you make a mistake, don’t start over from the beginning every time. If you are learning C major, just go to the nearest C and start from there.

The Difference Between a Major and Minor Scale?

People tend to say concrete things like “major is happy and minor is sad”. The real answer is more complex than that. The problem with reductions like that is that major and minor scales are art. Art is something we feel as an experience, it’s not something we label as concrete. So if I say “this minor scale reminds me of a little puppy,” it's going to be more emotional. I could say “major is like sunshine and minor is like clouds and mist” this doesn’t mean the music is a specific emotion like “happy” or “sad”. Everyone feels different emotions when listening to music. And everyone has to interpret major and minor music for themselves.

Pentatonic Scale

The pentatonic scale is similar to a major scale but it’s missing the fourth and seventh tones. Pentatonic scales don’t have half steps in them. A half step is when two notes are so close together on the piano that they couldn’t be any closer. If you play all the notes of a pentatonic scale at the same time it's going to sound very pretty because there aren’t any half steps in the scale. Half steps create tension, which is what you would find in a major scale. If you played all of the notes of a major scale at the same time, you would get a lot of tension.

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