Monday Mailbag – More About Scales

There was such an interesting and helpful discussion about scales last week in response to the Monday Mailbag post and the Prescription for Scale Sickness that I thought it would be good to share a couple of the questions that were raised and some additional thoughts on them.

LaDona wrote, “My thinking is, if students have never actually seen the patterns written out, how can they be expected to visually recognize them?” And then Mindy added, “This is what I was thinking also. So, Natalie, can you address this part of how you transfer the scale information to the page for students?”

Honestly, I’d never really thought about that being a disconnect before! I thought it was an excellent point, though, so I thought I would do some investigative work in my teaching last week. With one of my little guys who was getting ready to learn the simple Let’s Go Team at the end of the Piano Adventures Primer Level Lesson Book, I asked him to look at what notes were used in the song, then look at which keys that would be on the piano. Then I asked him if he could tell what that pattern was – if it reminded him of anything that he had played before. He spent a moment scrutinizing the page and the keys and then exclaimed, “It’s a C-scale!”

I was glad to know that he was actually able to recognize the pattern as such, but I would like for this to be an instant and self-directed observation rather than me having to guide him (or other students) to that realization. I think the way that I’ll approach that is by specifically including this question in the initial analysis time that I spend with my students at the lesson when they are being assigned a new piece: “What specific scale or chord patterns do you see in this piece that you can point out to me?” This will go right up there with identifying key signature, time signature, dynamic markings, etc. Hopefully that will help train them to quickly see those sorts of patterns in their music.

This has gotten a bit long, so I’ll address the scale fingering issues tomorrow…In the meantime, does anyone else want to weigh in on how you help your students recognize scale patterns in music if you are teaching scales by rote, rather than using a scale book?

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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