Scales are the foundation of everything we play in music. Our musical system has twelve major scales, or happy sounding scales as I like to call them. There are many other types of scales, like minor or blues, but we’ll save those are for later lessons.
1. Know the Notes
Our first scale on piano is C Major. There are no flats and sharps in this scale. A scale has eight notes, so try saying the notes for C Major first:
C D E F G A B C
You might practice saying them forward and backward. For now, stick with one octave. As you gain confidence on the scale, you can add additional octaves later.
2. See it on the Music Staff
Here’s what the C Major scale looks like on the music staff:
The top line is for the right hand, or treble clef, while the bottom line is for the left hand, or bass clef.
You’ll notice there are some numbers underneath each note. These represent the finger you should use to play each note. If you do this, you will find that playing the scale will be much easier.
Remember that piano finger numbers start with your thumbs as ones and continue outward toward the pinkies, which are fives.
3. Play the Scale
Try playing the scale now. Make sure to practice with your right hand and left hand separately at first. As you get used to the scale, then try putting both hands together.
Using your right hand, place your thumb thumb on Middle C. Use fingers two and three to play D and E. Cross your thumb under your third finger to play F. Then play with fingers two, three, four, and five on G, A, B, and C.
To go back down the scale, use the exact same finger pattern but in reverse until you get back to Middle C.
For the left hand, place your pinkie on the C below Middle C. Play C, D, E, F, and G with fingers five, four, three, two, and one. Then cross your middle finger number three over thumb to play A, then use fingers two and one to play B and C.
Then, go backward down the scale, using the same finger pattern in reverse.
Start slowly at first. There’s plenty of time to build speed after you learn the scale.
Here’s a quick glance at the C Major Scale Finger Pattern:
Learning scales can take a while so remember to practice, practice, practice! It’s better to practice for several days in a row rather than wait until the weekend and do one long cram session. Good luck and happy practicing!