I have to admit I had almost forgotten about this one.

Stuck in the limbo-land of students who are past 5-Finger Positions and single octave major scales, but not yet quite ready for 2-octave scales or to tackle the sometimes-daunting minor scales, I have been thinking about new technique exercises. That, not merely distraction (or the Delta variant), is why there has been this long gap in technical talk. I have been thinking.

And then I remembered the Scale Exercise.

The Scale Exercise (always in an italic tone of voice) is what Jane Allen called it. Jane Allen, my college teacher, was the queen of the kind of technical challenges that produced impressive pianists able to leap over buildings. I did my fair share of leaping back then, ignoring my cramping shoulders and aching arms. I pay the price today.

But the infamous Scale Exercise is worth remembering. It is a nice pre-Hanon kind of exercise, requires no additional etude books, and can fill in one of those technical gaps between major and minor scales. It also reinforces over and over again a student’s grasp of key signatures, but as a bonus, there is no fingering to learn. How could I have forgotten the Scale Exercise?

It goes like this:

Choose a key.  (I like C major to begin, but hey! Whatever you want.) Play a 5-Finger position—5 notes up, 4 notes down:

Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re…

At the Re, stop and replace the LH 4 and RH 2 fingers with 5 and 1 respectively and repeat beginning on Re:

Re Mi Fa Sol La Sol Fa Mi…

Once again at Mi, replace fingers and repeat beginning on Mi, and so on until you reach the next octave finishing up with a final Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re Do.

At the top, reverse the process—5 notes down, 4 notes up:

Sol Fa Mi Re Do Re Mi Fa…

Replace fingers 5 and 1 on the Fa and continue down the scale, 5 notes down, 4 notes up, until you reach the original octave:  Sol Fa Mi Re Do.

The key (no pun intended) is to stay within the notes of the diatonic scale as you slide through the various combinations of black and white notes. This is simple in C, which is argument for starting there, but more challenging in, let’s say, E-flat major. The challenge is why it is called a Scale Exercise and not a Scale Game.

But around here, no one is complaining. The students are happy to tackle the Scale Exercise in lieu of real live scales. It’s a nice break, a new perspective on an old view, AND they get a reprieve from being reprimanded about fingering.

Just the thing for the last fleeting days of summer.

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