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The 5-Finger Scales: One of the Most Important Piano Basics

Mizue Murakami

Hands on piano - top view

Knowing the 5-Finger scales on the piano (also known as “Penta-scales,” or hand-position scales, for example, “C Position Scale”) thoroughly is extremely important. This piano basic is like knowing 1 + 1 = 2 in mathematics. If you don’t know 1 + 1 = 2, you can’t start learning algebra or calculus. Some enthusiastic piano students say, “I should be learning all the 1-octave scales, right?” Yes, it’s essential to learn all 1-octave scales and multiple-octave scales in all 12 major keys, 12 harmonic minor keys, and 12 melodic minor keys. BUT WAIT!. Can you even play the 5-finger scales in all 12 major keys and minor keys with memory? If the answer is “not yet,” then, you need to completely become comfortable with them to the point where all 5-finger scales become your 2nd nature.

Think about it. If you do not know that the first 5 notes in E major scale (I am just using E major as an example) are E, F#, G#, A, & B, you will struggle to play the song in the key of E major. It is because these 5 notes appear more often than C# and D#, which are the rest of the notes in the E major octave scale. It is also useful knowing E-major hand position, which is the same as E major 5-finger scale because often, your hands may stay on E-major hand position to play E-major song. And as I pointed out earlier, there are F# and G# which are black keys in E major 5-finger scale. And the sheet music won’t show F# and G# as accidental notes. That means you have to remember that those notes have (invisible) sharps. You don’t have time to remember (mentally) them every single time you run into F and G on the sheet music. Plus, it’s too tiring to keep trying to remember them and keep forgetting them. So many beginning students get frustrated with themselves because they keep forgetting those black keys.  

Another reason why it’s important to memorize all 5-finger scales entirely is this. When you learn these, you’ll be able to hear each key properly, and your fingers will go to the appropriate notes. Your fingers remember the 5 most important notes of a full scale and the shape of the particular 5-finger scale. And your ears remember how it supposed to sound like

So, practice 5-finger scales. When you practice them, try not to practice too fast. Play reasonably slowly and try to hear the tones carefully and soak them into your fingers and ears. Once you learn 5-finger scales, you’ll be amazed how your skill can progress to the next level comfortably. 5-finger scales are one of the most crucial piano basics. So, you can NEVER take them granted! Period!

We have FREE 5-finger scale sheets below. Please download them to learn them all. And memorize them all.

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