Monday Mailbag – Teaching Scales and Such

After looking through your blog, it seems to appear that you write out your scales, chords, and arpeggios for your students.  Why do you do this versus using a book?  And, if I would prefer to have a book that already has scales, chords, and arpeggios written out for me, do you know of any such high quality book?

Good question! Actually, I don’t even write out the scales, chords, and such for my students. They learn it all by theory/rote. One of the fundamental concepts I teach my beginning students is half step v. whole step. Once they have that down, we learn the Major pentascale pattern. They have to memorize the pattern, and then we start working our way around the Circle of 5ths learning each of the Major pentascales. At the same time, we are also playing either triads or chord shells, depending on the size and coordination of the student. From there we move on to minor pentascales, then octave scales.

The reason I don’t have them play these things from a book is because I want them to really understand the theoretical concepts that underlie the scales, chords, etc. If they are merely playing notes from a book, the chances of them fully comprehending the theory that is the basis for the scales is much smaller.

There are several scale-based books that I’ve used before for various purposes. Here are some ideas:
Keys to Success by Kevin Olson – there are three books – Major pentascales, minor pentascales, and Major scales. Each key includes a technique exercise, a short mystery tune that the student is supposed to identify after playing the non-staff notation in the specified key, a short composition exercise, and a short piece.
Get Ready for Scale Duets and Get Ready for Chord and Arpeggio Duets – I haven’t actually used these, but they look like a fun complement to scale playing!
Scales, Patterns, and Improvs – I used this book with my piano camp this summer and it was a lot of fun!

I would love to have some input from other teachers on this. Do you use scale books with your students? Why or why not? Have you found any other scale/chord/arpeggio-related resources that have been helpful?

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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