GRADE 1

Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales (Volume 1)


PIANO METHOD (HOME)



TO TEACHERS & STUDENTS: Before beginning the learning of scales, it is of utmost importance that you first carefully read the section Important Practice Rules, which summarizes several of the most essential points to keep in mind when practicing. These rules help prepare a strong technical foundation for the student, of which teachers and students need to constantly be aware and on watch. 99% of all beginners do no not observe most of these rules, which makes it even more important that these rules are observed and followed during all stages of practice. Teachers need to do everything necessary to make sure their students observe these rules and put them into practice. These rules apply to pianists of all levels, not just beginners, and are general rules relevant to developing an efficient economy of motion at the piano.

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TO TEACHERS & STUDENTS: The objective of Grade 1 is to learn all 12 major scales one octave in parallel and contrary motion at a slow tempo. This is spread out over a total of 14 weeks, not including the “Exam”. Ideally, each “Lesson” equals one week, but could be extended to two weeks for students who either learn at a slower pace and/or have less time to practice. Conversely, for students who are unusually gifted and/or fast learners, two or perhaps three lessons could be learned in one week. In any case, students should avoid rushing through lessons and skipping steps. The better one can learn these rudimentary lessons, the stronger one’s overall technical and theoretical foundation will become. The average student should spend at least 10-15 minutes daily on each lesson, making the learning of major scales an integral part of their overall daily piano practice. Each lesson corresponds with musical systems (lines) in the book. Simply screen-shot or print out each lesson and use the instructions as a guide to help work your way through the book! 


WEEKLY LESSON CURRICULUM FOR GRADE 1

LESSON 1 (lines 1a – 1b):  C MAJOR

  1. Let us begin with C major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of C major has no sharps or flats.”
  2. Examine line 1a. Begin with the right thumb on middle C and play all white keys from C to C and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Make sure to play legato (connect all notes with no space between), but do not overlap keys (fully release the previous key at the same time as depressing a new key). Most importantly, aim for a beautiful tone with controlled movements and avoid “mashing” the keys down in a percussive fashion.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the C one octave below middle C.
  4. After steps 1 and 2 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is C major in parallel motion or C major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play E and A together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 1b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, middle C, and the scales progress outwards to two Cs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to middle C. This is C major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when playing hands together, the RH fingering ascending is the same as the LH fingering descending, and vice versa. This is known as mirror fingering.
  6. For lines 1a-b, aim for a metronome speed of 63 bpm (beats per minute). That is, set the metronome to 63 and play one note for each click of the metronome. Resist the temptation to play faster than this. Even if you can play faster than 63 bpm, it is best in this early stage to stick to this slow and steady speed since it will help build a strong foundation. Finally, focus on producing a beautiful tone and avoid “mashing” notes down in a percussive fashion.  

LESSON 2 (lines 2a – 2b):  G MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn G major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of G major has one sharp, which is F.”
  2. Examine line 2a. Begin with the right thumb on the G above middle C and play six white keys and one black key from G to G and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Play legato, do not overlap keys, and aim for a beautiful tone. Rather than focusing on the note names, it is easiest simply to visualize the white-black key relationships, that is, G major consists of six white keys and one black key:  WWWWWWB(W). This should be memorized.  
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the G below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is G major in parallel motion or G major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play B and E together.
  5. Examine line 2b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, G, and the scales progress outwards to two Gs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original G. This is G major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when played together, both hands have mirror fingering. Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Keep the metronome at 63 bpm. 

LESSON 3 (lines 3a – 3b):  D MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn D major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of D major has two sharps, which are F and C.”
  2. Examine line 3a. Begin with the right thumb on the D above middle C and play five white keys and two black keys from D to D and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Play legato, do not overlap keys, and aim for a beautiful tone. The white-black key relationship for the D major scale is WWBWWWB(W), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the D below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is D major in parallel motion or D major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play F# and B together.
  5. Examine line 3b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, D, and the scales progress outwards to two Ds an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original D. This is D major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when played together, both hands have mirror fingering. Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Keep the metronome at 63 bpm.

LESSON 4 (lines 4a – 4b):  A MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn A major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of A major has three sharps, which are F-C-G.”
  2. Examine line 4a. Begin with the right thumb on the A below middle C and play four white keys and three black keys from A to A and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Play legato, do not overlap keys, and aim for a beautiful tone. The white-black key relationship for the A major scale is WWBWWBB(W), which should be memorized.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the A an octave below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is A major in parallel motion or A major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play C# and F# together.
  5. Examine line 4b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, A, and the scales progress outwards to two As an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original A. This is A major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when played together, both hands have mirror fingering. Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Keep the metronome at 63 bpm.

LESSON 5 (lines 5a – 5b):  E MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn E major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of E major has four sharps, which are F-C-G-D.”
  2. Examine line 5a. Begin with the right thumb on the E above middle C and play three white keys and four black keys from E to E and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Play legato, do not overlap keys, and aim for a beautiful tone. The white-black key relationship for the E major scale is WBBWWBB(W), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the E below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is E major in parallel motion or E major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play G# and C# together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 5b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, E, and the scales progress outwards to two Es an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original E. This is E major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when played together, both hands have mirror fingering. Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times. In the case of E major in contrary motion, the key colors also fall into a mirror pattern. (E-flat major in contrary motion also has a mirror pattern, however with opposite key colors than E major.)
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Keep the metronome at 63 bpm.

LESSON 6 (lines 6a – 6b):  B MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn B major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of B major has five sharps, which are F-C-G-D-A.”
  2. Examine line 6a. Begin with the right thumb on the B below middle C and play two white keys and five black keys from B to B and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. Play legato, do not overlap keys, and aim for a beautiful tone. The white-black key relationship for the B major scale is WBBWBBB(W), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fourth finger begins on the B an octave below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is B major in parallel motion or B major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play D# and G# together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 6b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, B, and the scales progress outwards to two Bs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original B. This is B major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play B and E. Watch for the white keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Keep the metronome at 63 bpm.

LESSON 7 (line 7a):  ARTICULATION

Now that you have learned 6 of the 12 major scales and your piano playing is becoming easier and more natural, we are taking a diversion in this lesson to a new and important concept. The way the keys are striked is called articulation. In this lesson, we will learn the main modes of articulation. 

  1. Examine line 7a. Play the C major scale as you have practiced all the scales already, in a smooth and legato fashion. Now, with the RH alone try out a new mode of articulation, which is called staccato. This is a rather quick and short strike of the key resulting in a pointed and disconnected sound, which is indicated with a dot above or below the notehead. Play C major with the RH several times ascending and descending in a staccatofashion, but do not play any faster than you would if playing legato (smooth and connected). About half of the movement comes from the fingers and about half comes from the wrist and arm. A correct and effortless staccatotechnique can best be likened to the dribbling of a basketball. Observe an experienced basketball player dribble a basketball and you will discover that the arm and wrist are both engaged about half and half. The dribbling is not done exclusively with wrist motion (with no arm involvement) or exclusively with arm motion (with no wrist involvement), but rather, both the arm and wrist are engaged equally. This is analogous to the finger and wrist/arm movement when playing staccato at the piano. 
  2. Now, play playing the C major scale staccato with the LH several times ascending and descending.
  3. Now, play the C major scale staccato hands together several times ascending and descending.
  4. The next mode of articulation we will learn is commonly referred to as non-legato, which is a touch somewhere between a smooth and connected legato and short and quick staccato. Try this out with C major with the RH alone several times ascending and descending. Try aiming for a semi-short key strike about midway between staccato and legato. Now repeat this with the LH alone, then try it with hands together. Non-legato is also sometimes referred to as portato or portamento. These three terms are often used interchangeably by pianists. 
  5. Your final assignment for this week’s lesson is to try out the three modes of articulation (legatostaccatonon-legato) on all the major scales learned so far:  C, G, D, A, E, B. Try them with the metronome set at 72 bpm, which is a little faster than the previous practice speed of 63 bpm. When learning a new scale, as in the coming lessons, it is a good idea to practice them staccato and non-legato as well as the more common default mode of touch, legato.          

LESSON 8 (lines 7b – 7d):  SLURRING

This lesson is a continuation of the diversion of Lesson 7, which teaches another important concept. The way notes are grouped together is called slurring. In this lesson, we will learn some of the most basic modes of slurring.  

  1. Examine line 7b. Each group of two notes is connected with a bow-shaped line called a slur. The first note in the two-note slur, C, contains an accent sign meaning the note is played with an extra emphasis. The second note in the two-note slur, D, contains a staccato dot meaning the note is played short (as learned in Lesson 7). 
  2. Now, with the RH alone play the two-note slurs ascending giving more emphasis to the first note in each slur group and less emphasis and a shorter touch to the second note. It is easiest to achieve these details by thinking “down-up” with slight arm motion for each slur group. Repeat as many times necessary for the slurring to become natural. 
  3. Next, do the same with the LH alone until it becomes natural.
  4. Now, set the metronome at 63 bpm and play line 7b with hands together. Be sure that each note falls on each click of the metronome.
  5. Examine line 7c. In this example, the notes are grouped into three-note slurs. The first and fourth slurs consist of only two notes, however, the first note value in these groups gets two counts when counting eighth notes. Practice line 1c hands alone, then together, and when you are able set the metronome to 72 bpm and be sure each click equals one eighth note. It is best here to count “1-2-3” for each slur group. 
  6. Examine line 7d. In this example, the notes are grouped into four-note slurs. The first and third slurs consist of only three notes, however, the first note value in these groups gets two counts when counting sixteenth notes. Practice line 1d hands alone, then together, and when you are able set the metronome to 84 bpm and be sure each click equals one sixteenth note. It is best here to count “1-2-3-4” for each slur group. 
  7. Your final assignment is to try out two-note slurs, three-note slurs, and four-note slurs on all the major scales learned so far:  C, G, D, A, E, B. Try them with the metronome set at 72 bpm. When learning a new scale, as in the coming lessons, it is a good idea to practice them a few times with the correct fingering with the slurring as demonstrated in lines 7b-d.          

LESSON 9 (lines 8a – 8b):  F MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn F major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of F major has one flat, which is B.”
  2. Examine line 8a. Begin with the thumb of the RH on the F above middle C and play seven white keys and one black key from F to F and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the F major scale is WWWBWWW(W), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the F below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is F major in parallel motion or F major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play C together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 8b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, F, and the scales progress outwards to two Fs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original F. This is F major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play F and C together (except for the highest and lowest Fs). Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6, but with the metronome set at 72 bpm.  

LESSON 10 (lines 9a – 9b):  B-FLAT MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn B-flat major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of B-flat major has two flats, which are B and E.”
  2. Examine line 9a. Begin with second finger of the RH on the Bb below middle C and play two black keys and six white keys from Bb to Bb and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the B-flat major scale is BWWBWWW(B), which should be memorized.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the third finger begins on the Bb an octave below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is B-flat major in parallel motion or B-flat major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, the third and fourth fingers play the black keys at different times. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 9b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, Bb, and the scales progress outwards to two Bbs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original G. This is B-flat major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play A and C together. Watch for the black keys though, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Set the metronome at 72 bpm.

LESSON 11 (lines 10a – 10b):  E-FLAT MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn E-flat major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of E-flat major has three flats, which are B-E-A.”
  2. Examine line 10a. Begin with the third finger of the RH on the Eb above middle C and play three black keys and four white keys from Eb to Eb and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the E-flat major scale is BWWBBWW(B), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the third finger begins on the Eb below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is E-flat major in parallel motion or E-flat major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both third fingers play Eb and Ab together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 10b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, Eb, and the scales progress outwards to two Ebs and octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original Eb. This is Eb major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Notice the mirror fingering when played hands together. In the case of E-flat major in contrary motion, the key colors also fall into a mirror pattern (E major in contrary motion also has a mirror pattern, however with opposite key colors than E-flat major).
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Set the metronome at 72 bpm.

LESSON 12 (lines 11a – 11b):  A-FLAT MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn A-flat major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of A-flat major has four flats, which are B-E-A-D.”
  2. Examine line 11a. Begin with the second finger of the RH on the Ab below middle C and play four black keys and three white keys from Ab to Ab and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the A-flat major scale is BBWBBWW(B), which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fifth finger begins on the Ab an octave below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is A-flat major in parallel motion or A-flat major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play C together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 11b. Notice how both treble and bass clefs begin on the same note, Ab, and the scales progress outwards to two Abs an octave higher and lower then back inwards to the original Ab. This is A-flat major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Watch for the black keys, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Set the metronome at 72 bpm.

LESSON 13 (lines 12a – 12b):  D-FLAT MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn D-flat major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of D-flat major has five flats, which are B-E-A-D-G.”
  2. Examine line 12a. Begin with the second finger of the RH on the Db above middle C and play five black keys and two white keys from Db to Db and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the D-flat major scale is WWWWWWBW, which should be memorized.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the third finger begins on the Db below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is D-flat major in parallel motion or D-flat major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play F together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 12b. This is D-flat major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Watch for the white keys, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Set the metronome at 72 bpm.

LESSON 14 (lines 13a – 13b):  G-FLAT MAJOR

  1. Let us now learn G-flat major. Repeat this sentence out loud a few times daily:  “The key of G-flat major has six flats, which are B-E-A-D-G-C.”
  2. Examine 13a. Start with the second finger of the RH on the Gb above middle C and play five black keys and two white keys from Gb to Gb and back using the prescribed fingering. Repeat several times slowly until the fingering and thumb and finger crossings become natural. The white-black key relationship for the G-flat major scale is WWWWWWBW, which should be memorized. 
  3. Repeat step 2 with the LH, except the fourth finger begins on the Gb below middle C.
  4. After steps 2 and 3 become comfortable and natural, then learn the scale hands together. This is G-flat major in parallel motion or G-flat major in parallel octavesNotice that when playing hands together, both thumbs play Cb and F together. This is an important landmark that will help with remembering the fingering when playing hands together.
  5. Examine line 13b. This is G major in contrary motion. Practice the LH a few times alone, then the RH alone, then put hands together. Watch for the white keys, since they occur at different times.
  6. Follow the same metronome instructions as Lesson 1, Step 6. Set the metronome at 72 bpm.

EXAM FOR GRADE 1

  1. Play each of the twelve major scales two times in a row in parallel motion with no stopping at a slow tempo with the correct fingering. Now, pause for a few seconds, and do the same for the twelve major scales in contrary motion. No metronome is needed. 
  2. Play them in their correct order of increasing sharps and flats as in Lessons 1-14. 
  3. Before playing each scale, say “This is the __ major scale and it has __ sharps, which are___.” (Name the sharps or flats in the correct order.)
  4. Everything must be memorized.

Once the Exam for Grade 1 has been completed successfully, you are ready to move on to Grade 2!

START GRADE 2

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