How to play a scale : piano students

Among the many students who come and play to me and ask me for advice, the majority remind me of a well-known limerick about a certain young lady of Rio, whose skill was so scanty she played Andante instead of Allegro con brio!

Piano scale for young students

I must be excused for drawing attention to the young lady of Rio, but it is because her case is true and typical of so many other young females and also males whose houses are much nearer London than Rio. I should like, therefore, to say a few words about attempting to play great masterpieces of pianoforte music without sufficient knowledge of technique, and especially of that immensely important branch of it, the mastery of scales. It has been my experience that whenever particularly young and raw students come to play to me and want to show what they can do, they invariably attempt such giant works as the Brahms- Handel Variations, or the Appassionata Sonata of Beethoven, or the Chopin Ballads.

Playing piano scales : fundamental drill

After they have finished playing a sonata or two (most often in tempo andante, like our friend of Rio), I ask them to play me a scale. They usually evince astonishment at my request, and answer that they never practise scales at all. If ever they do what I ask, their performance of them proves to be, as a rule, unrhythmical, uneven and altogether unsatisfactory. Yet most pianoforte works contain passage writing which is directly based upon scale progressions. I have known many advanced pianoforte students who are quite unable to arrive at any high standard of performance through lack of technical knowledge and want of proficiency in scale playing.