Scale practice is a great opportunity to enforce positive physical habits at the piano. Here are ten tips to strengthen your physical technique while practicing scales:
1 Seated Position - Before starting your scales make sure you’re properly seated on the front half of the piano bench. As your scales move up and down the piano, you need flexibility and mobility in your torso and hips in order to move laterally.
2 Feet - Feet should remain flat on the floor, shoulder width apart, squarely in front of your body. Try to avoid placing your right foot on the sustain petal or tapping your foot while playing.
3 Back/Posture - Pianists spend hours sitting at the keyboard, so it’s important that you always maintain an awareness of posture. Think of creating a single, strong line that runs from your belly button through the top of your head. The line shouldn’t be taut and full of tension. Instead, it should be strong, sturdy, and relaxed.
4 Shoulders - Don’t let your shoulders become tense and rise up to your ears as your play. Always check that your shoulders are relaxed and down towards the floor.
5 Head/Neck - Your head should be balanced in between your shoulders and part of the “single line that runs from your belly button” (see #3). Avoid craning your neck downwards to look at the keys and instead face forward towards the bottom of the music stand of the piano.
6 Elbows/Arms - Elbows should always be a few inches away from, and just in front of, your torso. Your arms should then be at a slight angle to the keyboard, as if you were holding onto the handlebars of a bike.
7 Hands – Hands should remain relaxed at all times no matter what the difficulty of the scale is. There’s a simple trick to reset your hand position to its most relaxed form. First, drop your arms and hands to the sides of your body and relax all the muscles. Notice the natural way the fingers curl towards the palm of your hand in this hanging position. Without manipulating your hand or fingers in any way, place your hand back onto keyboard.
8 Thumbs - Thumbs need to remain the most fluid and relaxed during scales. They’re the pivotal fingers that allow you to play legato as you move along the keyboard. During the scale itself, have the thumb always return to a resting position that’s slightly tucked under the pointer finger.
9 Torso - As your scales move further from the center of the piano, it’s important that you engage your core muscles to maintain a healthy angle in relationship to the keyboard. Refrain from twisting or uncomfortably contorting your torso in any way to reach the extreme registers.
10 Eyes - As you advance as a student, try to keep your eyes facing forward and not looking at the keyboard as you play your scales.
Now just try to keep good posture so that you can focus on sound production.
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