Many students ask me why scales are so important. It’s always hard to know where to begin when I answer because there are SO many reasons why scales should be your best friend!
Some of the best performers in the world have dedicated thousands of hours of practice working on scales alone. So why are scales so good for us? Let’s do a quick run-down:
- Playing scales strengthens our fingers, which helps all aspects of our playing, including tone, dynamics and ability to play chords etc.
- Scales help us to develop fast and agile fingers, so that we can play quickly.
- Scales help us to develop co-ordination between the two hands.
- Scales help us to understand tonality, keys and related harmonies, which in turn makes sight reading a lot easier.
- Scales are good for learning fingering and positioning on the piano.
- Scales help us to develop an understanding of the geography of the keyboard (i.e. being able to locate jumps between notes, such as an octave, without looking at the keys).
- We develop a strong sense of pulse, rhythm and articulation when we practise scales.
Some of the most showy pieces in musical repertoire feature technical passages, such as scales or broken chords played at terrific speed. The piece that I’m sharing today is no different, and it’s based upon a chromatic scale!
Flight of the Bumblebee was written as an orchestral interlude for an opera by the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and has since become a popular virtuoso showpiece, arranged for most instruments!
Rachmaninov arranged the piece for piano. Let’s take a listen…
You can also follow along with the sheet music here.
Flight of the Bumblebee
The Flight of the Bumblebee is supposed to evoke the image of a bumblebee, flying here, there and everywhere. Rimsky-Korsakov brings to life the buzzing sound of the bee through uninterrupted runs of chromatic scales.
Who was Rimsky-Korsakov?
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was a Russian composer. He is most notably famous for his orchestral works and is revered as a master of orchestration. He was one of the key figures in curating a nationalistic style of music in Russia.
Who was Rachmaninov?
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was a Russian composer, virtuoso pianist and conductor. He was a leading composer in the late Romantic period, and his musical works were influenced by other Russian composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.
Who is Evgeny Kissin?
Evgeny Kissin (b. 1971) is a Russian concert pianist. He was born in Moscow, and very quickly rose to fame as a child prodigy by the age of six. He is most noted for his interpretations of musical works from the Romantic era.
What is a chromatic scale?
A chromatic scale has 12 pitches in it, each a semitone apart.
Since gaining a distinction in her Grade 2 exam in Spring, Jess has been working hard to expand her repertoire. She’s been enjoying playing everything from Bach to Scott Joplin! Here she is playing Melody from Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young. Great playing Jess!