Monday Mailbag – Teaching Pentascales

When do you introduce the five finger pentascale to a student? Any information regarding pentascales would be greatly appreciated.

I usually introduce pentascales as soon as the student has learned the names of all the white keys and understands half steps and whole steps. We start with the C-Major pentascale, and I teach them the pattern (Start-Whole-Whole-Half-Whole). I have them line up their fingers silently on the correct keys to show that they know which keys are in the scale, and then they play them. I also try to use this as an opportunity to discuss finger shape, arm weight, and the idea of dropping the weight through the finger into each key.

I even have them start playing what I call cross-hand-chord-shells as soon as possible. (Left hand plays C-G, then right hand plays C-G, then left hand crosses over and plays C; then back down the same way – hope that makes sense!) This is not only a great skill, but also sounds really cool, so the young students feel very grown up being able to play them!

As soon as they’ve mastered the C-pentascale, we work our way around the Circle of 5ths through all the sharp keys, then start back at C and go through the flat keys. Then it’s on to the minors. We use pentascales frequently for working on other skills as well – like staccato vs. legato between the hands, dynamic balance, etc.

I’m curious to know how other teachers approach this. When do you start teaching pentascales? In what order do you teach them?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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