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Practice Tracks: C Major Scale

Barron Ryan

Drag me around…   by Daniel Staemmler

Drag me around… by Daniel Staemmler

It's time to answer the challenge. Earlier this week in my Book Sm{art}: Practice Perfect post, I bragged that my C Major scale had never been faster. So a certain someone (ahem … Rebecca Egger) called me out on my Facebook page to prove it. No big deal, I was going to do that anyway.

Thus I introduce Practice Tracks, the new blog series featuring the inside scoop from my practice room. You'll hear how I practice technique, excerpts from tunes, and entire pieces, plus I'll explain what I'm doing. Kinda cool, no?

Of course, this week's post features the aforementioned C major scale. My goal is to make my left hand (LH) as good at it as my right (RH), which can play up and down four octaves in four seconds. At this point, I can play up or down the four octaves with my LH, but I can't comfortably do both.

So I start by playing the scale downward, repeating the note at the bottom (an indispensable practice technique I call 'Repeat & Prepare'), then play upward again. In the track above, I play it at half speed first so that you can hear it clearly. (If you're viewing this on a computer, click one of the nine little boxes in the song image to see what strategies I'm using.)

Then I add another technique called 'Carousel', in which I shift the section I practice to start one note before (like moving back a horse when you're riding a carousel). I then do 'Carousel' again by going back yet another note, and keep doing so through the entire scale (I've spared you having to listen to all that).

A caveat before we continue. While you hear me play each of these excerpts once or twice, that's far fewer than the number of times I play them in my actual practice. If you were listening to that, you'd hear each passage at least seven times in a row, correctly. That ensures that I'm capable of reproducing success instead of merely stumbling upon it.

Then I give you an idea of how good my RH is playing up and down the four octaves, followed by the LH doing the same. Notice how much smoother my RH is, especially on the way down? That's the standard I'm striving for.

I finish by playing the scale hands together an octave apart, and honestly it sounds pretty good. But that's partly because the smoothness of my RH is masking the LH's choppiness. That's fine, I'm ready to go again next week.