Are Piano Scales Hard? (Suprising Answer)

Though piano scales can be hard to learn in the beginning, they get much easier with practice.

Throughout this article, we explore the benefits of piano scales, how to pracgtie with them, their difficulty, and other scales tips.

The Benefit Of Piano Scales

There are various benefits of learning and applying piano scales. For starters, it allows you to familiarize yourself with the piano’s notes and keys. Acquainting yourself with piano scales is one of the basic foundations of learning the piano. 

Piano scales also help beginners develop fast and efficient fingers by allowing them to control the proper movement of their thumbs and building coordination with both hands, which is highly crucial in playing the piano. 

If you have sufficient knowledge of piano scales, they can be extremely helpful especially when improvising. Piano scales also provide you skills pertaining to scale arpeggio runs, which the majority of people perceive as difficult music. 

Piano scales strengthen your fingers for longer playing durations apart from helping you develop and improve your keyboard’s geography. If you continue to practice scales, you will eventually be able to play them without looking at which keys your fingers are playing.

There is no doubt that piano scales are important. They help beginning piano users establish a strong and passionate sense of rhythm, articulation, and speed which are all significant and fundamental in playing the piano.

How Much Should I Practice Piano Scales?

Practicing piano scales on a daily and regular basis will provide you knowledge of technique and establish muscle memory, musical ear, tones, rhythm and timing, and ability to sight-read music. All of these are vital for all pianists regardless of their piano skill levels. 

However, piano scale sessions mainly depend on the user’s age, determination, and grade level. The recommended average piano session is approximately 1 to 2 hours, and 5 to 20 minutes should be allotted for piano scales alone. 

You must also take into consideration that children might not be able to last that long without getting distracted, since they usually have shorter attention spans, which is why age and level should always be considered. The majority of piano teachers value those 3 factors and believe that the amount of time should be flexible. 

Here is a table providing the daily average practice session and time allotted for scales per age and level category.

Age and LevelDuration of sessionTime for scaleMastery
4 to 5 years old10 minutes2 to 3 minutesDaily routine
7 to 10 years old30 minutes10 minutesDaily routine
Above 10 years old (intermediate level)45 minutes to 1 hour5 to 20 minutesStart of marking time and technical skills (arpeggio, scales, and etudes)
High school students and adults45 minutes to 1 hour5 to 20 minutesDevelopment of new repertoire, skills, main technique (faster rate)
High school with music school2 to 3 hours 20 to 45 minutesSame with above, but with gradual learnings and difficult pieces.
Advanced (College age and up)3 to 6 hours45-60 minutesLearning to become a professional pianist/teacher.

Whatever the case may be, the amount of time you spend practicing each piano scale is determined by whether you find some scales more challenging than the others.

Naturally, you would devote more time learning the difficult scales than the easier ones. But with constant practice and dedication, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. 

Are Some Piano Scales Harder Than Others?

The question of whether some piano scales are harder than others is a subjective one. The answer differs from one person to another. The less familiar key signatures may force you to consider different fingering techniques, and most beginner-level compositions stick to basic key signatures to make the fingering easy. 

However, according to others, the C major scale is the most uncomfortable for both hands. But on the contrary, many might think the C major scale is a simple one because there aren’t any sharps or flats. 

Since the key of C requires all white keys, and those white keys are lined along a precisely parallel plane with no topology, the notes in C major are literally farther apart, and the black keys would’ve helped to fill in that space. But again, in the case of C major, there are no black keys. As a result, people tend to botch the placement of the fingers.

While for others, B minor might be the hardest. The double sharps and the fact that the keys are all white and your fingers are all different lengths, make it even more challenging.

As surprising as it sounds, scales that use a lot of black keys are actually easier because it doesn’t stretch out your fingers too much. Chopin, as a piano pedagogue, is said to have taught his students B major scale first and the C major last for a good reason. He’d start with the scales with the most black keys and work his way down to the scales with the fewest black keys. 

Do Piano Scales Get Easier With Practice?

Without a doubt, learning piano scales get easier as days go by. You can never go wrong with constant effort and hard work. 

It is important to go slowly but surely. Patience and a willingness to learn new things are essential while learning piano scales. Once you have slowly mastered the fundamentals, you’ll need to gradually progress with new skills, techniques, and compositions to your repertoire. 

Are There Any Finger Exercises I Can Do To Help With Piano Scales? How Can I Properly Perform Them?

There are a variety of exercises that can help you with piano scales. These exercises, when paired with consistent practice, will ensure that your hands and fingers remain strong, flexible, and controllable once they touch a piano. 

Hand exercises help boost your skills and technique, these are considered as warm-up exercises before playing the piano. The best and most effective hand exercises include practicing the correct hand position, finger drills, 5 note scale, playing chords, and playing legato and staccato notes.

Practicing The Correct Hand Position:

This exercise helps you develop muscle memory, which is when your hand instantly assumes the proper position on the keys when playing. This exercise helps build strength and muscle in your hands.

Instructions:

  1. Put your arms in front of your body, similar to a T-rex gesture. Ensure that your fingers are maintained in a relaxed position. 
  2. Spread them out straightforwardly before curling them, then begin the curl at the first knuckle. This is when the knuckle is closest to your fingertips. Do this slowly in a controlled motion. 
  3. Once you have done it repeatedly, grab a stress ball and grip it firmly while doing the same motion. This ensures that you control your fingers when bending at a first knuckle position. 
  4. Squeeze the ball. It is crucial to control and do this slowly with the motion of your fingers. After repeating it a couple of times, you may start to feel tension upon exertion, which is a normal phenomenon.
  5. Place your hands on the notes, make sure that your hand is at an elevated position, and your palms are higher than the keys. Lastly, simply apply the motion you have done with the stress ball when curling your hands. 

Finger Drills:

This exercise is highly recommended for practicing when you have no access to a piano. The only thing you’ll need is a flat surface. It simply involves tapping rhythms and finger drills repeatedly.

Instructions:

  1. Place your fingers on a flat surface in the manner in which you imagine them being placed on a piano.
  2. Play each finger in turn, concentrating on their movements. Begin with your thumb, lifting it up and then lowering it, then repeat with all of your fingers. It’s important that all other fingers remain motionless and that none of them raise up except the one that’s playing.
  3. After you’ve done this a few times, try mixing up the pattern and playing them in sequence. Assume that finger 1 is the thumb and finger 5 is the pinky. Instead of playing in a 1,2,3,4,5 pattern, you may play in a 3,4,1,5,2 pattern. Explore other pattern sequences to maximize your practice. You can do this exercise with both hands playing at the same time. Start playing sequences and patterns with the same finger as the other hand.

Five-Note Scale:

This exercise is also known as the Penta-scale and has you playing the first 5 notes of a scale using independent fingers. 

The 5 note scale trains your aural listening skills, helping you determine the sound of each key. This helps you build finger muscle and strength that enhance your controlling motion when playing. 

This exercise is highly recommended for your warm-up routine which you can later extend to involve scales and arpeggio.

Instructions:

  1. Begin this exercise with your right thumb positioned on middle C. 
  2. Place your index finger on D, middle finger at E, ring finger on F, and pinky finger on G. It is essential to maintain your right hand in position and ensure that your fingers are slightly curled, palm higher above the piano’s keyboard.
  3. You may start to play each note, focusing and observing every sound you produce. It is vital to produce uniform sounds with each note sounding at the same volume as the previous one. You can also try to make uniform tempos by pressing each note down with the same amount of time as the previous one. 
  4. Play all five notes repeatedly in both ascending and descending order. Once you’re comfortable, proceed to play the notes by suddenly increasing and decreasing speed back and forth. 
  5. Perform the same thing repeatedly, but this time with your left hand. Start by placing your pinky finger on lower C and work your way up.
  6. Play the same five notes in ascending order first, then descending order to try to coordinate both hands.

Playing Chords:

In this exercise, we will refer to “chords” as three notes or triads. This will assist you with your hand placement and positioning, as well as allowing you to use more fingers at once. 

This exercise trains your muscles to instinctively place a chord with ease, a process known as muscle memory.

Instructions:

  1. Begin with your right hand. Place your thumb on any note. 
  2. Position your hands and play every second note starting with your thumb. You should be able to play three notes with your thumb, middle finger, and pinky all together at once. 
  3. Try simultaneously pressing all three notes repeatedly. 
  4. Move your hand at random and play the chord that your hand falls on. Try playing the chords with your left hand once you’ve mastered playing them with your right.

Playing Legato And Staccato Notes:

You must be knowledgeable in reading music sheets in order to complete this exercise. You will need to play the right notes from what you read, enabling you to add emotions, touches, dynamics, and phrasing once mastered. 

Practicing staccato and legato notes will strengthen your hands and enhance your playing skills. This practice will also help you develop control over the tone color of the song you are playing. Staccato notes are loose, but legato notes are smooth.

Instructions: 

  1. To begin, place your right hand on the piano and play the Penta-scale with five fingers.
  2. Press down on each note until you reach the next. Play them together smoothly, and make sure there are no pauses on your transitions between notes.
  3. Then move to the opposite end of the range and begin playing the Penta scale with a brief finger staccato. Imagine that the notes are hot and that your fingers would burn as you touch them to acquire the proper technique. It’s critical to keep your hand firmly on the keyboard. As your fingertips come into contact with each key, apply simple light touches with them.
  4. Play using both of your hands at the same time.

Final Remarks

The only scales that are difficult are those on which you spend the least amount of time. Granted, some scales are easier to master than others, but the majority of individuals struggle with specific scales on a regular basis. That is, they avoid them when they find them challenging, making the “easy” scales easier and the “difficult” scales harder. 

When you play in every key on a regular basis, however, this is no longer the case. You’ll be far better off if you start your scale practice on the ones that cause you the most difficulties rather than “warming up” on the easy ones.

Learning piano scales is similar to driving a car. At the start of your driving sessions, you may encounter struggles. But,  with a significant amount of practice, you will master new techniques and skills that will make driving natural and effortless.