As a follow-up to my question-of-the-week on teaching arpeggios I thought I'd provide a bit more background on how I approach scales as well as provide my free scale checklists! I developed these for my own studio use just a couple of months ago. Previously I'd been printing and using a checklist from another source, but I was looking for something a bit more comprehensive, so I got creative and designed my own.
For the longest time, the hardest question for me was "WHEN do I start teaching scales?" Was there a magic moment when I should whip out my scale charts and dazzle my unsuspecting students with this exciting new concept? And, more importantly, "just how should I present scales?"
Over time I've come to believe that while there may be a magic moment, it's different for every student. Some students will be ready far sooner than others, and it's up to me to judge when each one is ready for the task.
I always begin with pentascales, and don't even consider moving on to scales until the concept of 5-finger scale patterns and tonic and dominant are well-established.
When I feel students have a firm grasp of pentascales, I introduce 1-octave scales followed by a tonic triad. The number of scales assigned each week depends on the student. Rather than using a traditional scale book, I opt for providing each student with a scale binder with printable materials. Susan Paradis' Picture Scales are part of their scale binder material and serve as a visual guide. In addition to these, I also include a blank Circle of 5ths chart found here (at the bottom of the page) as well as a blank key signature chart found here. Students fill these out as we learn each new scale/key signature.
Once students have mastered the basic scale, we gradually augment the pattern. We might add in staccato scales, or arpeggios might seem like the next logical step. In other words, while I have a definite starting place for when I feel a student is prepared to begin work on scales, the pattern after that point will look very different depending on each student.
For further reference, I've included copies of my Scale Master progress charts under my printables page. I designed these charts with three levels, each one adding more octaves, increased levels of speed, or more finely tuned skills. Please feel free to use these in your own studios- and send me any ideas you might have for making these more student-friendly.
In addition, I've love to hear from other teachers on their own scale secrets! I'm always open to new ideas!