Elissa Milne

Why do we require our students to learn scales?

It’s heresy, really, to suggest giving piano lessons without teaching students the full range of major, harmonic and melodic minor patterns. Not teaching scales would be seen as gross negligence, in fact; a kind of failure to innoculate, or a musical malnourishment that would only happen in the worst of circumstances; a pedagogical incompetence, perhaps, or a breathtaking breach of duty of care.

But why? What is it that scales (and arpeggios) deliver that simply cannot be gained any other way?

Teachers respond quite naturally with issues such as finger strength and velocity. And scales do focus on these two important skills of execution. But scales are certainly not the sole means available to piano teachers to develop a student’s finger power and speed.

Some teachers might add that scales allow students to develop tonal control and evenness of touch, and…

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