6 Piano Songs to Help You Learn Major and Minor Scales

piano scales

Need to work on your major or minor scales? Piano songs abound by both classical and contemporary pianists that can help you improve your skills. Here, St. Augustine, FL Heather L. shares her recommendations. 

 

Even as a piano teacher, I can be sympathetic to students who find themselves practicing major and minor scales over and over without any variation. Scales are often cited as the least favorite part of taking piano lessons. Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, the best way to learn anything musical is to play real songs, real literature in which the sought-after technique or element is found throughout. Major and minor scales can be so much fun when you hear them in action. This list has six of the most fun piano songs to help improve your major and minor scales.

• “As Time Goes By” (Hupfeld)


This classic song from the cinematic gem “Casablanca” has beautiful descending and ascending scalar passages throughout. On an interesting note, “Casablanca” was originally a made-for-television movie, a kind of “movie of the week,” which makes the creation of such a lyrical and lasting tune so remarkable.

• Minuet in G (Bach)


Bach’s Minuet in G might be the most recognizable beginner piano piece of all time. A minuet is in three-quarter time, by its very nature, so playing the G major scale section by section in a minuet can be just challenging enough to keep you on your toes.

• “Your Song” (John)


Perhaps Elton John’s best-loved song, “Your Song”, is no bubble gum pop tune. Classically trained John has no problem showing off stellar keyboard skills, and in this hit, he incorporates scalar passages in a great way.

• March in D Major (Bach)


Bach’s March in D not only showcases scalar passages, but also rolling triads. Triads, in many ways, are tremendously important in helping you to learn and understand scales and their structure. They are the root, third, and fifth of a chord, and therefore, the scale where that chord exists.

• “Rhapsody in Blue” (Gershwin)


This piece delivers what the title suggests. It’s rhapsodic. Before the very first line is through, the right hand races to play every key from the F below middle C to the Bb above the treble staff. This idea is repeated throughout, contributing to a dizzying, dreamy, and romantic mood.

• Sonata in D Minor (Bach)


As you begin to learn Bach’s D minor sonata, you might feel as though you’re just practicing scales, only in a little more challenging and a lot more fun way. Bach put in just enough thirds, fourths, and other intervals to keep you from going into autopilot as you sight read.

A lot of Western music (music that comes out of the culture and history of Europe, some of Eurasia, and the Americas) is based on major and minor scales. As you grow as a pianist, you’ll start to see more and more how important they are in making up the framework of your music. Remember, though, that songs like the ones above are no substitute for daily practice of the major and minor scales on their own. You’ll find that being able to play them is a requirement for many of the top auditions and pianist gigs. But nothing says that you can’t have fun playing scales in piano songs, too!

 

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

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