Monday, April 4, 2011

Teaching Scale Technique Creatively

  I'm sure we all have students who don't particularly like doing scales and arpeggios.  Shhhhh, don't tell them, but some of us teachers don't like them either! ;)  I am a big fan of helping students connect their theory knowledge to their actual pieces of music.  So why not implement this into the learning of scales, chords, and arpeggios? 
     Below is a picture of part f Czerny's "Study in C" (which I believe is a Grade 1 piece for those of you familiar with RCM curriculum).  This was taken from the Music Analysis section of my theory textbook. There are a few things missing in the piece, obviously for the purpose of study. But my primary purpose is to highlight the technique that could be taught from this piece.

     There are so many things you could teach from this piece, but I'll list just a few:

1. Notice that there is a C pentascale (5-finger) in measure 1, a G pentascale in measure 3, and a bass C pentascale in measure 5.  Lots of scale practice there for beginners!

2. Blocked chord recognition in measures 2, 4, and 6.  Broken chord recognition in measure 7.

3. Chord inversions.

      I am not advocating "sneaking" scales into a student's repertoire so they won't know they are there.  Rather I am suggesting that they be actually shown the scales (and be reminded to use the same correct fingering they have been learning separately).  When they realize that the "boringness" of scales can be utilized in a pretty piece, that's when music comes alive for them!

     With intermediate students, take it a step farther.  Get them to transpose the song into various keys.  You guessed it- they get scale practice in all kinds of keys! 



Sarah said...

Good for you! I am a BIG advocate of making connections between technical concepts, theory, and repertoire. I want my students to understand just why they are working on all those drills ;) And there's nothing like seeing that lightbulb come on when they personally finally make that connection!

Transposition is an excellent skill to drill even with beginners. I never was taught this as a student, so it always amazes me how quickly young students can grasp this concept- and it makes them proud when they can play a piece in multiple hand positions (not to mention it's great theory practice ;) )!

Leah said...

Yes, I have a few level 2ers in Piano Adventures who are transposing. I find it amusing that the method book keeps them in C but really they are playing their pieces using G,D, and A scale notes. I always point that out so they understand what they are actually doing. And they are usually surprised!
Now for those of us who play by ear (I do and I have a few students who do)- transposing is a cinch and can be done almost without thought. But I still teach them the other ways for the purpose of sight training.