Learning Scales using Keyboard Shapes

Learning scales is one of those essential skills that many piano students hate.  Some students have no trouble.  Many are fine to start with but start to come unstuck as the number of scales to learn increases.  Others have trouble from the start.

Some teachers use scale books produced by exam boards and others, which show the score of the scale along with fingering.  Personally I can’t glance at the score and get a good enough impression of the notes and fingerings to play fluently.  I prefer to imagine how my fingers fall on the keys.

I used to just rely on letters and numbers written in my notebook.  You know the type

C D E   F G A B C
1 2 3   1 2 3 4 5

But as the number of scales increased it started to become unwieldy and still didn’t give me the visual picture I needed.  Then I discovered that some people drew pictures of keyboards to write on – and I gave it a try.  Success!!  I loved it.

I learnt the remainder of my scales easily by creating a page of A4 with blank keyboards all the way down.  A three octave keyboard is the minimum needed to be able to show all necessary fingerings.

Blank 3 Octave Keyboard 

So for each scale that needed attention I wrote in all the fingering for each hand.  So for D major it would look like this

D Major Scale Shape

There are scale shape books that show all the scales for each ABRSM grade like Scale Shapes for Piano by Frederick Stocken.  Personally I found working them out and writing them out by hand was more beneficial.

I do try this method with my own students.  It’s hit and miss to be honest.  Some of them love it, others look in horror or confusion!  However, it’s good to have lots of methods up your sleeve!

If you fancy trying it out, then here’s a full page blank version as a pdf – Blank Keyboard A4 Page

What methods do you use to help your students remember their scales?  Why not comment below?


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