How to Practice Piano Scales and Arpeggios and Why It's Important
Thursday, October 8, 2020 by Alan Moore | Uncategorized
Learning to play the piano is much more than just sitting down, pressing the keys, and creating music. It takes talent, but that talent can be learned through careful practice and attention to details. While learning to sight-read is important, and playing actual music is the end goal, it's also important to practice scales and arpeggios.
Practice Makes Perfect
You're not going to be able to sit and play your scales and arpeggios the first time you try. You're going to need to practice over and over to perfect the movement of your hands, learn how to play rhythmically, and learn how to play without needing to think about where you're placing your fingers. Practising even a few minutes a day can give you the opportunity to learn how to play and to improve how well you play. Regular practice will offer more in the long run than just practising at first and never playing the scales or arpeggios again.
Different Ways to Practise
Many people are taught to practise using the circle of fifths. This is a precise order in which they'll play the scales and arpeggios so they'll learn to play them better. Other alternatives include chromatic and anti-chromatic. Anti-chromatic is simply doing the chromatic order in reverse. Chromatic forces the person to adjust to a completely different formation for their hands between scales, as does anti-chromatic, so the person can benefit greatly from this order. Switching orders periodically can also help the person learn to play better and reduce the boredom of practising the same thing every day.
Slow and Steady
One thing you need to remember is that practising isn't a race. You don't need to speed through the lesson and try to complete it as quickly as possible. Playing slower gives you the opportunity to focus on what you're doing and work on improving. You'll learn how to keep a steady beat and then progressively play the scales and arpeggios faster over time. This also enables you to relax as you're playing, which can also help enhance everything you're learning.
Don't Look Down
When a person learns to read music, they'll need to be able to play without looking at their hands. Their eyes will need to stay on the sheet of music, even if they feel like they have the song memorized. Since they will need to look at the music, they won't be able to pay attention to the position of their hands or which keys they're going to press next. It's important to practise while looking up, even without a music sheet, so the person learns how to do the scales and arpeggios without looking at what they're doing.
Experiment and Have Fun
Although practice is important, it's also important to enjoy your practising. It's important to go slow and steady throughout the practice, but once you have become proficient, you can start to experiment with what you're playing. You may play everything correctly the first time through, then play some scales slower and some faster the next time through. You may even play some parts faster than others to play around and have a little bit of fun. You'll still be gaining many of the benefits of practising, but it won't be the same thing over and over every day.
Warm Up Before Playing
Even if a you are practising regularly, you still need to warm up before playing your repertoire by playing scales. This gives you the chance to get in the mood to play and gives your fingers a bit of an exercise to help them warm up. Those who have been practising their scales regularly will be able to run through them with little thought as to what they're actually doing, then start playing the songs they wish to play. They'll be ready to play, seated comfortably, and know if they need to adjust anything before they start playing.
Although all of this can take time, there is a lot that can be done to make it easier and more fun. Take the time to practise every day, even if there are no lessons that day or you aren't in the mood to practise. You don't have to do more than the scales, but it may be fun to go through them once, slowly and steadily, and then go through them a second time speeding up and slowing down to make it more entertaining. Once you've been practicing quite a while, you'll find it's easy to sit down and play scales and arpeggios without looking at your hands and without really having to concentrate on what you're doing. You'll also see the rest of your playing improve as you continue to practise.