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Why do I have to Practice Scales?

Unhappy child practicing scales to develop her piano technique

Piano Technique of a Legend

It has been reported that the Hungarian Pianist Franz Liszt practiced exercises to develop piano technique including scales, chords, and arpeggios for five to six hours a day. Liszt's technical abilities were legendary. For those of us who play the piano for personal enjoyment and don't need the conditioning of an"Olympic Athlete",  do we really need to practice scales? Some argue that people give up their piano studies because technical exercises are tedious and boring. Perhaps the opposite is also true. People give up their piano studies because they have not done the necessary technical training.


Benefits of Exercises to Develop Piano Technique

Pattern Recognition

There are two areas where exercises for developing piano technique are beneficial. These include pattern recognition and also precision and control. First, let's deal with pattern recognition. Music is made up of scales, chords, and arpeggios. These are the fundamental building blocks of music. When we run across a chord or segment of a scale in a piece of music, we will recognize it more easily as it is a familiar friend from our technical practice. We will more easily recognize the key because we have knowledge of the patterns associated with that key. In addition, we will learn an organized system of fingering. We will be equipped with a reference point for finding the best fingering in a difficult passage of music.


Precision and Control

The second benefit is precision and control. Technical exercises provide a testing ground for developing the building blocks of our technique. It’s an opportunity to strip away other variables we would otherwise encounter in a piece of music. This allows us to focus on mastering just one aspect of our technique. In addition, we will build up our strength and dexterity, and improve endurance. As a result, we are able to play it with ease and effortlessness, with, evenness and smoothness and with precision and control.


The Middle Path

We do not want to dampen our interest by overdoing exercises for developing piano technique. Perhaps we can find a middle path. At the elementary level, we can start with just a few keys. We can choose keys of the music we are learning and leave the more difficult ones for a later. As we progress we can gradually increase the amount of time for this practice. When we are tackling more difficult repertoire the benefits become more self-evident.  At this stage, we will be more willing to put the effort into technical practice.


Related Post: Get Your Child to Practice


4 thoughts on “Why do I have to Practice Scales?

  1. Thanks Ford, This article is most helpful I particularly like the idea of practising the keys of the pieces I am learning. Excellent article

  2. Excellent article. One can apply the same disciplines to master any instrument : know your scales and know your chords first and then learn arpeggios.

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