Teaching One Octave Scales on the PianoThe transition from pentascales to one octave scales is a big leap that is more successfully taught with some preparatory activities.
Piano Scale Technique
I introduce the thumb tuck motion early on to beginning piano students using the Caterpillar Crawl
later challenge them to the Thumb Tuck Challenge to demonstrate mastery of the motion.
Piano Scale FingeringThe Picture Scales Printouts by Susan Paradis make it easier for visual learners to remember the correct fingering or they can use blank "write your own fingering printouts" to solidify their knowledge. The adjustment from 5 finger scales to one octave scales can be tricky, but I love this great tip from "Teach Piano Today" to have students use fingering with pentascales that prepares them for one octave scales. I still begin with the traditional RH 1-2-3-4-5 fingering for a C pentascale, because students will find plenty of shorter scales in the music they play that don't require finger crossing, but once students have done the Thumb Tuck Challenge they can apply the thumb tuck and play a RH C pentascale with fingers 1-2-3-1-2 before jumping in to the full 1 octave scale.
Piano Scale Patterns
Susan Paradis's Whole Step Half Step game is a fun way to teach the pattern of whole and half steps in the major scale to students in an unforgettable way. Later I introduce the sound and pattern of the minor scales using this Scale Sisters Video and this Speedy Scales Game can help you assess if your students really understand the pattern in a kinesthetic way.
But just understanding the pattern does not equate to fluency of finding the keys quickly.
Piano Scale Improvisation
Bradley Sowash's Scaling the Chords Approach really solidifies student's ability to navigate the scales in a fun way. During lessons and lab I give students the opportunity to improvise using notes from their scale and the musiclock app.
Making Chord Fluency Familiar and FunPlaying just the I-V-I Chord Progression alone can get boring pretty quickly, but when students experience the application of chords as they play duets, accompany their own singing and improvise the chords come to life. I love teaching chords with pop songs, familiar children's songs, or primary songs or hymns that my students are familiar with. Even if they aren't quite ready for the coordination of one hand playing the melody and the other playing chords, they can sing along as they accompany with just the chords and then gradually gain the confidence to play chords and a melody with a simple "Hot Cross Buns" rote teaching piece.
Pairing Chords with ComposingAnother great way to really motivates students to start practice their chords and gain fluency is allowing them to choose appropriate chords to go along with melodies they have composed. The Do-Re-Mi Ice Cream Improv Activity and Good Better Best Composing are a couple of tools that are simple enough for students to select only I and V chords to go with their melody and squeeze in some extra chord practice.
Do you have some other favorite ways to get piano students to learn their scales and chords in a fun or memorable way? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
TPT Where to Start with Scales
MM Speedy Scales Game
HPN Collect a Chord Game
HPN Technique Pattern Bingo'
HPN Incredible Scales Game
Using Tune Train App in Piano Lessons
AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 1
AIM Piano Keyboard Skills Video Level 2