Scale Study Without Monotony

By Louis Stillman

Carl Czerny was the greatest pedagogue of the period in which he lived. His pupils, Franz Liszt and Theodore Kullak attest his ability as a teacher. He knew what was necessary from the technical standpoint and new equally well how to presented attractively to his pupils. He once told a pupil who rebelled against scale practice that if he wish to become a pianist, he must not neglect the scales area scales are the very backbone of piano technique. It is impossible to compass the difficulties of the compositions of the classical, romantic or modern school unless one does daily scale practice.

First Steps in Scale Practice

Recite the note names and fingering for the Right Hand then the Left. Play them on the piano, hand separately through the first form in quarter notes only; when all keys have been played in quarter notes, began again with C major, playing it in quarter notes first and then immediately and eight notes. When all keys of been played in eight notes, the 16th notes may be studied. It is of the utmost importance, not to neglect the quarter and eight notes 1/16 notes are undertaken.

The best way to get results in scale playing is always play up and down the keyboard in quarter and eight notes before playing the one measure each of quarters, eights and sixteenths.

Rounded Fingers

The finger should be rounded, the nail joint always aimed at the key, not sticking out straight pointing at the name board. Much greater ease, velocity and accuracy results by obeying this principle. While playing quarters and eight the finger should be raised high as possible for the very good and sufficient reason the greater strength is generated in the lifting muscles. But when the sixteenths are played the finger should be kept as close to the keys because in developing velocity the shorter the distance the finger has to travel, the greater the speed. Furthermore, if the student tries to play quickly and raised fingers high the same time, the touch becomes very uneven, choppy. Hence, remember the rule “to keep the tips is close to the keys as possible 1/16 or practice.” The arm should not move in and out from the shoulder when black keys are played. A slight extension of the nail joint as the finger descends to the key will enable the player with short fingers to reach the tip of the key. When the key is released the finger should spring back to its uplifted position with the nail joint drawn in pointing perpendicularly at the keys.

The thumb exercise should be kept in practice until the velocity has reached for notes to the metronome click at 200. A stretching exercise must always be kept in daily practice. The legato touch should be the only touch used until a velocity of 100 220 has been developed.

Beginners and untrained players usually have a kind of natural arm staccato touch which is really not staccato or legato but a detached note touch which is produced by poking out each one with a stiff wrist and inactive finger from the elbow. It is very irritating to a teacher and difficult to remedy if it has become a long-established habit.

If the exercises are played as they are written a quiet hand and arm habit will surely develop; making the finger strong and independent, enabling them to draw sufficiently large tone to satisfy musical year.

Staccato Scales

The real staccato touch must now be practice. There are three distinct ways of playing staccato; first, from the wrist; second, from the finger first joint, and, third, from the second joint. The first and most important touch to establish at the wrist staccato. The master pianist rarely if ever uses anything but the wrist staccato for octaves or three note chords. For no cords are best played from the arm.

Up-and-down wrist motion should be made away from the piano. Then, at the piano, hand separately, a very slow temple, the wrist staccato scale may be played. With the hand raised, extend the thumb away from the hand, as far as possible, then drop the hand, thumb striking C; as the thumb strikes its key, don’t relax the thumb muscles. Raise the hand with the thumb in the same position it was in before playing C. Next to the same with the second finger. Be sure to extend the finger before the hand is allowed to drop from the wrist. This is not so easy to do and require some thought, the concentration on each finger, preparing each one before the attack will have a very beneficial effect – mentally. The wrist staccato must be kept in practice for a very long time, years before the finger staccato is attempted.

The finger staccato is just what its name implies. The hand is held quiet though not rigid, while the finger spring quickly down and up. This form of staccato practice develop strength, clearness and brilliancy and passage playing.

Practicing Staccato

The third form of practicing staccato should not be used until the student is ready for irregular arpeggios. Later it should be applied to scales. The second joint staccato is made by a kind of wiping motion of the second and third joints of the fingers, scarcely any up-and-down motion from the first joint should be noticeable. (The first joint is the one at which the finger is jointed to the hand. Strength and power are not gained by practicing the second joint staccato the great speed and clearness together with a very subtle pianissimo. Such is the kind de Pachmann possesses.

Accents must also be practiced for rhythmical precision. Accents are played by the arm. At the moment and accent is desired a sudden contraction of the upper arm muscles will give a most emphatic accent to the note this pressure is brought on, backspace. Care must be used both in contracting and relaxing the upper arm. Both the contraction and relaxation should be instantaneous. If the relaxation does not occur immediately more than one tone will receive the pressure. Ability to accept with an arm touch also gives the player the power and control necessary to bring out a melody and plane accompaniment softly with the same hand.