Piano scales: Not just a warmup

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the advice, “practice your scales to warm up” at the beginning of a piano practice session.

It sounds logical, but it this in fact good advice?

From my experience, it’s not.

Scales are a pretty complex technical challenge: they make very specific and complex demands on our fingers. They’re like calisthenics. Jumping jacks, pushups, and plank pose. For a good warmup, our finger need something gentle to limber up, like light stretching for athletes. On piano, this is far better accomplished by simply playing through an easy piece that you know well. A piece of classical music that you learned last year. Or a pop or jazz tune. Just 5 minutes of enjoying your playing while your fingers get used to moving.

Then, when you get to scales, vary the times when you practice them. Try working on them right after your light warmup. At other times, play them at the end of your session, or in the middle. Experiment with this and see how they feel at different times. It’s like taking a shower in the evening as opposed to the morning. Same activity, but it feels very different.

Have fun and also check out my blog post on How To Get The Most Out Of Practicing Scales for some fun and creative ways to play your scales.

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