As a beginner learning to play the piano, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the new information — major scales, minor scales, and triads, oh my! How do you remember it all? Start with major scales and check out these tips from St. Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...
Maybe the beginning of your piano studies has gone just swimmingly. Perhaps note reading is coming easily to you. You’re a natural at technique and posture. But you’ve really hit a wall with those major scales. It can be tough to see which keys belong in that specific order. (“Where’s the black key, again?”) Have hope! There are easy ways to remember your scales. Here’s a list of tricks for beginners to visualize piano major scales.
Use colored objects
This terrific blog entry from The Teaching Studio highlights some great ways to have fun and learn a lot, too. One way is to take little colored fuzz balls that you can get at any craft or dollar store and, using a different color for every key, place the balls on the correct keys first before playing the scale. If you need help remembering at home, you can check out the free printables Jenny offers, including fun piano games and exercises.
Remember where your “neighbors” live
Pictured above is an illustration from Emily Clark Music of a keyboard and a description of a major scale. The idea here is that you can start anywhere on the piano and build your scale, key by key. For example, begin on an E flat. Every scale is made up of both whole steps and half steps (also referred to as “tones” and “semitones”), and major scales have their own order. It goes like this:
whole – whole – half – whole – whole – whole – half
This means that, beginning on E flat, you would play:
E flat – F – G – A flat – B flat – C – D – E flat
Remember, a half step is when two keys are neighbors. There’s no other key between them. A whole step is when two keys have one other key between them.
Another way to think of this is to remember that in major scales, there’s always a half step between scale degrees three and four and between seven and eight. The only neighbors are between the third and fourth keys and the seventh and eighth keys.
Highlight the keys
Over time, you’ll begin to see and “highlight” the keys of each scale, as if they’re lit up from the inside. Until then, there’s a really neat tool from pianotools.com that you can use to highlight the keys for you! Just enter the name of the scale that you’d like to see, and the tool will color the correct keys of that scale for you to see. It’s a great reference for those days when you’re just stumped.
One or more of these tricks for beginners to visualize piano major scales will surely help you. If you’re still having a difficult time visualizing the scales on the keyboard, then it could be that you simply aren’t a visual learner. Some people are, while others are aural learners (who learn best through sound and words), while still others are kinesthetic learners (who learn best through motion and muscle memory). Talk with your school music teacher or your piano teacher about it. He or she may be able to help you find out which kind of learner that you are. Once you know, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success by finding different ways to approach your piano studies.
Looking for a piano teacher in your area? Start your search here!
Heather 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!
Photo by Celeste