In Part 1 of this series, I talked about how to show students the proper technique for playing a smooth one-octave C major scale, hands separately.

The essential thumb-under and 3rd finger-over techniques can take a while for students to learn, but once they have been mastered, the scale can be played hands together.

Here are some tips for teaching this important next step:

Have the student focus on the position changes (not just the individual fingers or notes), going from C Position to F Position when ascending and from F Position to C Position when descending.

The challenge is to successfully pivot the thumb under or 3rd finger over at different points between the two hands, with the right hand changing from E-F and the left hand changing from G-A.

‘When one hand shifts, make sure the other hand stays in position until it needs to move.

Watch the student’s arms and wrists to make sure they don’t move them during the scale, even when shifting thumb-under.

All of the movement should come from the fingers, with just a small amount of necessary gliding up or down the keys with the arms.

The wrists should not move up and down for the thumb-under technique, as this causes notes to be played louder and less evenly.

Have your student play the scale very slowly and say the finger numbers out loud as they ascend.

I like to say the left then right finger number (i.e. 5-1, 4-2, 3-3, 2-1, 1-2, 3-3, 2-4, 1-5). Emphasize the fact that the third fingers always play together and encourage the student to think of them as “guideposts” that help ensure the right track.

Have the student say the numbers out loud while playing the descending scale, and pay particular attention to the left-hand thumb, as I find that many students have more problems with the shift timing and thumb-under technique of the left hand.

Saying the finger numbers out loud this way was the critical step in my own development in playing scales accurately and smoothly as a student, and I have found that teaching this approach solidifies the patterns in the student’s mind and fingers in a very clear and effective way.

Once this process is mastered, then the student should learn the other 4 major scales which use this fingering: G, D, A, and E major.

Eventually, all 12 major scales can be learned this way and then the student can advance to learning the two-octave scale technique.

I look forward to showing my approach to the two-octave scale in Part 3!


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