Introduction: How to Practice Piano Scales in Different Ways

Before starting this lesson, make sure that you are pretty comfortable with most of your major and minor scales.

It is probable that you've already experienced practicing your scales in different ways using rhythms, different tempos, one-handed, and in some different scale books.

Today I'm going to give you at least two new ways that you probably haven't tried before, especially if you are a late beginner and early intermediate level student.

This lesson is short but what it gives you will help you learn your scales a lot faster and it will help you think of your own new and neat ways to continue learning the building blocks of music; our scales!

Let's look at the first way I want to teach you how to practice your scales today.

Step 1: Play Scales in Contrary Motion

This way of practicing your scales might be best done after your first cup of coffee.

Up until now, you've mostly played scales with your left hand starting with the 5th finger and the right hand starting with the thumb.

In Contrary Motion, we start the scale with our thumbs on both hands...and we start on the same note!

In the image you can see that both of my thumbs are on middle C. From here we simply play each note consecutively going in the opposite direction of the other hand.

Many students seem to find this way of playing scales easier because the finger crossings happen at exactly the same time. Normally, we learn what is called the Parallel way first, and that's the method where the 5th finger starts the left hand and the thumb starts the right hand.

Remember to play all of the sharps and flats indicated in your key signature for whatever key you are playing in for each Contrary Motion scale that you do. This can be challenging because you'll have a sharp in one hand and not the other hand. I'll give you examples of these in the video at the end of this lesson.

Now let's look at the second way that you can practice your scales differently that will really help you progress faster in your skill level.

Step 2: Practice Scales in Thirds

This next way to practice your scales differently involves harmony!

We're going to practice them in 3rds.

All this means is that we're going start our left hand with our 5th finger on the name of the scale. For example, if we're playing C Major you would put your 5th finger - left hand, on C.

Now, in the right hand, instead of putting your thumb on Middle C, you're going to put your 3rd finger on E, the 3rd tone up from C, and start from there instead of Middle C.

You can see this in the image above. Left-hand thumb on C - right-hand 3rd finger on E.

Now you just play the scale like this...and you'll have a lovely harmony while you do it.

The finger crossings are different here than in the previous step. This time, you will have an immediate crossing in your right hand when starting with the 3rd finger on E. Notice that?

Each scale will be different in terms of where your fingers will again pay attention to the key signature for each scale when you practice it.

There's another neat way that you can practice your scales, but I have saved that for the video so make sure to watch what that one is and how you can play it on the piano.

Are you clear on how much you need to be practicing your scales and using these different techniques to learn them better? Let's touch on that next.

Step 3: How Often Should You Practice Scales?

Only Practice On The Days You Eat :)

No really... every time that you practice, which should be most days...scales need to a part of your practice routine.


Because all music is based on scales in one form or another. If you can play your can play anything.

The easiest way to learn and practice your scales is by following the Circle of Fifths. If you need a review of what the Circle of Fifths is, please go through this lesson as it covers everything you need to know so that you can apply that to your scale work.

Practice your scales following the Circle of Fifths. So you'll start with C Major, then move to G Major, then D Major, and so on. Learn the sharp and flat keys.

Practice slowly, use both hands from the beginning, and really concentrate on each note that you're playing with each hand, so you'll get everything right from the beginning.

But before you start the video in the final/next step so you can see me play real examples of each of these methods for practicing your scales.

Step 4: Come Practice With Me!

These two different ways of practicing your scales will be best understood after you've watched me play them in this video.

Have your keyboard nearby so you can pause, try it yourself and then come back again to the video and watch it again if you need to.

I play several examples of each method plus I show you another neat way to play through and practice your scales that you'll want to try with me so you'll be able to do it on your own.

Try coming up with some of your own twists and turns for practicing scales - especially those that you find most challenging to master. Those are the ones that really benefit from being practiced in unusual ways.

Have fun...the possibilities are limitless!