The Journey of Scales

Playing scales on the piano used to be a dreaded part of my musical practice. My music teacher would assign me different keys each week along with the corresponding broken and solid arpeggios. It wasn’t until an instructor of mine in university brought up the reasons behind using a scale and all the variations within it that I realized that scales can be fun and expressive. To me, scales meant you had to play a succession of keys with the same fingering up and down a keyboard with only tempo and articulation being the changing variables. But scales are much more than that. They are the journey that is laid out before us that can inspire many things such as creative freedom and expression.

Sure, doing scales over and over again will increase stamina, speed, precision, and muscle memory. Not to mention you are becoming more and more acclimatized to the landscape of the piano. However, as beneficial as I was told this was to me, it was NOT fun. Especially when a metronome was brought into the picture. Then in university my professor instructed me to close my eyes as I played the scale. I felt scared at first because this was something new. Even though I was playing the exact same thing, I felt like the freedom to just feel the keys under my fingers and to no longer worry about looking at the keys allowed me to enjoy playing a scale that much more. This small variation within what I considered a mundane thing gave me a feeling of power over the keys. I came to see and understand it as a limitation that created a sense of freedom and control over something I used to feel I had no control or “say” about.

As I see it, scales are part of the rules of the road. You are taught these universal rules because everyone needs a baseline understanding of where everything is on the piano so that they can navigate in an organized way. But these rules of the road are also around when you decide to venture out on your own exciting road trip and journey. If we can see these rules as tools to help us to travel and explore the world of the piano, then we can truly enjoy the journey and know that we can always find our way home is something that learning our scales enables us to do.

Post by: Laura Thompson

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