In Part One of this series, I showed how to teach students the proper scale technique for playing smooth one-octave C major scales, hands separately.

After mastering one-octave scales, hands together, (as discussed in Part Two), it’s time to teach the two-octave scale hands separately.

This includes the 4th-finger-over technique, but first, we focus on getting to the next octave by swiveling the thumb under the 4th finger.

There are six steps to teaching this scale technique:

1. Have the student place the right hand in F Position (all white notes) and play the 4th finger on B. Then show how to swivel the thumb under and play C, immediately creating a new C Position of all white notes, although still only playing C.

2. Have the student practice this motion from B to C, going from F Position to C Position smoothly and without moving the arm or elbow.

3. Now have the student play in F Position, starting with F, and immediately after letting go of the thumb to play 2nd finger on G, show how to swivel under the arched hand position to get ready to play the C underneath, even while playing G-A-B.

This prepares students from the beginning to eventually play faster scales without jarring motions. Then after B, drop the thumb on C and immediately fall into the C Position (still just playing F-G-A-B-C).

4. The student should practice F-G-A-B-C like this repeatedly while you observe the hand and arm position.

5. Now the student can finish this portion of the scale by doing step 4, then when in C Position, playing 1-2-3 up to E.

6. Practice this with the student until it is smooth and even, with no jarring movements or louder notes.

Once this scale technique is mastered, you can have them start at the bottom of the C scale and work through the entire two octaves focusing on the position shifts learned: C Position, F Position, C Position, F Position.

This whole process should be translated to the left hand in mirror image, starting from the thumb on G and descending from C Position to F Position, playing thumb under to C after the 4th finger plays D. Then the entire descending two-octave scale can be played in the left hand.

Next is the slightly easier technique of crossing the 4th finger over for the descending right-hand scale.

Here are the six steps for teaching this scale technique:

1. Have the student place the right hand in C Position (all white notes) and play the thumb on C. Then show how to play B by crossing the 4th finger over the thumb as a pivot. Then immediately place the hand in F Position of all white notes, although still only playing B.

2. Have the student practice this motion from C to B, going from C Position to F Position smoothly and without moving the arm or elbow.

3. Now have the student play in C Position, descending from G to C. Then cross the C over to B and immediately fall into F Position (still just playing G-F-E-D-C-B).

4. The student should practice G-F-E-D-C-B like this repeatedly while you observe the hand and arm position.

5. Now the student can finish this portion of the scale by doing step 4, then when in F Position, playing 4-3-2-1 down to F.

6. Practice this with the student until it is smooth and even, with no jarring movements or louder notes.

Once this scale technique is mastered, the student can play the entire descending two-octave scale in the right hand, focusing on moving through the position shifts learned: F Position, C Position, F Position, C Position.

This whole process should be translated to the left hand in mirror image, starting from the thumb on C and crossing the 4th finger over to D, going from F Position to C Position. Then the entire ascending two-octave scale can be played in the left hand.

Once these steps are completed, then the student can begin practicing the two-octave, hands-together C major scale.

You can teach this last step with the same methods discussed in Part Two.

It is very important to have the student say the finger numbers out loud (5-1, 4-2, 3-3 etc.) while playing slowly up and down the scale, using the spots where 3rd fingers play together (on E and A) and thumbs play together (on C in the middle) as guideposts to stay on track.

After this, then two-octave, hands-together scales can be taught in all 12 major keys!

I have found that this is the best method to ensure that students learn to play with the appropriate scale technique from the beginning.

And once they’ve learned C major, the other scales become so much easier to play cleanly and smoothly – and eventually fast!


Inspire your students with this FUN and EXCITING (free) scale exercise! Click the picture below and tell us where to send your free sheet music.

Sharing is caring!