Practicing the scales is the best way to improve your mechanical skill and, overall, your ability to maneuver around the instrument. Rock and blues are both technically challenging styles of music. Whether you're playing a boogie-woogie bass line (Chapter 9) or progressive rock licks (Chapter 14), you will need to have fleet fingers.
One of the surest signs of a quality pianist is clean, articulate playing at fast tempos. The best way to develop finger technique is to practice scalar exercises. Thousands of permutations can be constructed out of the scales, and you can easily make up your own exercises to develop finger strength and control. After learning the technique builders in this chapter, try putting together your own patterns. When doing so, consider your weaknesses or deficiencies. For example, if you have an uncoordinated ring finger, create an exercise designed to give this finger a workout. Be sure to give equal time to each hand.
FIGURE 4-12 shows you one common scalar exercise. This is simply the C major scale played as continuous eighth notes. Because of the number of notes found in the scale, this pattern must be written in a mixed meter to maintain the rhythm. Use this idea on all of the major scales from
FIGURE 4-12: C Major Scale as Continuous Eighth Notes
FIGURE 4-13 is an example of the scalar-based “motor” exercises described earlier. Here, the hands play in octaves up and down the keyboard. The pattern moves diatonically; in other words, it follows the C major scale and does not use “accidentals.” Be sure to try this in all major and minor keys.
FIGURE 4-13: Scalar Technique Builder #1
FIGURE 4-14 shows you a more complex scalar example. Like
FIGURE 4-14: Scalar Technique Builder #2
FIGURE 4-15 is a more stationary exercise that uses major and minor keys (alternating between C major and its parallel minor). This pattern employs thirds, and again, your hands play in octaves. Fingering remains the same as the patterns shift. Memorize these exercises and use them as warm-ups.
Add depth to the technique builders by incorporating crescendos, decrescendos, and accents (see Chapter 10). Don't play too fast — play at a fast clip, but never sacrifice articulate and expressive playing for speed. If you feel pain in your tendons, take a break.
FIGURE 4-15: Scalar Technique Builder #3
See “Arpeggios” on page 102 to find more exercises to build technique. For more scalar permutations, get the classic book