Friday, January 5, 2007

Fun with Scales??????

Quick, what's the best business to be in in January? My
guess would be diet books, and exercise programs. But
piano workshops are pretty popular this time of year

Hopefully a piano workshop will be more FUN than a diet
or an hour a day at the gym. But piano can have its
more challenging moments. I recently got a letter from
one of our subscribers asking about scales and
exercises. He asks, "What other types of exercises can
you recommend that will help? I'm looking for exercises
that will help with harmonization."

Here was my reply to him.

Harmonization is more of a cerebral issue, while
practicing scales and exercises is more physical. What
is really challenging, helpful, and fun is to make up
exercises that address both issues. Here is what I
would recommend.

1. Keep learning the major scales with both hands.
Learn one per week. Should take you 12 weeks. Make sure
your brain is engaged with this exercise, not just your
fingers. You should know exactly what notes belong in
each major scale. Good news: no need to practice minor
scales for now.

2. Review Hanon exercises 1 - 20.

3. Now for the challenge. Learn the Hanon exercises in
all 12 keys. Start with Hanon #1 in F. Then G. Then
gradually add the more challenging keys. Do the same
for all 20 exercises. Fingering might be awkward with
some of these combinations, but this is a mental
exercise as well as a physical one. See what we're
doing here? We are combining the physically oriented
Hanon exercises with the more cerebral idea of scales
and harmony. It's a real physical/mental challenge.

So there you have 240 new exercises to master.

Sounds like a lot of work. Realistically I have haven't
yet done all 240 of the combinations myself, but I have
worked on many of them. I highly recommend this
exercise for intermediate to advanced players.
Beginners, you can relax for the time being.

For "Hanon," pick it up at a music store. It's real
name is "The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises." And the
author is C.L. Hanon. It's cheap. Get the authentic
version, not any of the dozens of reworkings.

As for piano workshops, here's where you can find a
schedule. There might be one in your neighborhood.

Keep playing.