Everyone learns the scale and key of C major first on the piano, it conveniently starts on middle C and it has only white notes with no sharps or flats. The right hand is all ready to start in the beginners hand position, so it feels familiar. If you are just starting out, do visit our other posts in the First Piano Series which are intended to introduce the piano to young beginners in a fun and approachable way.
Introducing The C Major Scale For Beginners
1. When introducing the scale of C major for beginners, explain that a scale (or ‘ladder’ in Italian) is made up of 8 notes, starting and finishing on the same note, so C – C, or D – D etc. Ask your pupil, if they can guess how to play 8 notes with only 5 fingers, and then explain that there is a sneaky little way to get around the problem. Suggest that it’s like a magic trick that they can impress people with!
2. Right hand. Starting with 1 (thumb) on middle C, and fingers in a cupped, curved position, play 1 2 3 on C,D,E, then pass the thumb underneath and play 1 2 3 4 5 on F, G, A ,B, C.
3. When the thumb passes underneath, it should sneak under secretly (like going through a tunnel), so no one notices. Try not to lift the hand, and keep the fingers in a curved position. Explain that fingering is there to help you not to run out of fingers, and to make the playing feel comfortable and secure.
3. When you reach the top, you then do it in reverse, without repeating the top note 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, on C, B, A, G, F, pass the 3 over 3, 2, 1 on E, D, C. The 3 should pass over smoothly, without lifting or tilting the hand.
4. Emphasise that scales should always sound smooth and even. Make sure they play them very slowly at first as this is the only way to achieve a good and secure technique.
5. Left Hand. The left hand is the same fingering as the for the right, but in reverse. Start on middle C but travel down the keys, in the opposite direction, down to the C one octave below and back again. Pass the thumb under, and the third over in the same way.
6. Practise the C major scale hands separately, until the pupil finds it easy, and has mastered passing the 1 and 3 fingers under and over smoothly.
7. Hands Together. Once the pupil is ready to play hands together, starting with both 1s (thumbs) on middle C play the scale in contrary motion or in opposite directions. See Up and Down the Escalator as a good preparation for this. This is surprisingly (and satisfyingly) easier than the pupil thinks, because it uses the same fingers at the same time.
8. The next step is to play the scale hands together one octave apart, with the left hand starting with 5 on the C below middle C . Practice the left hand first a couple of times, to get used to playing the scale round the other way and in the lower position.
9. Now they can attempt both hands together, moving in the same direction at the same time. Emphasise that they are playing the same notes in unison together (although the fingers are different) This is tricky at first, but as with so many things practice makes perfect.
10. Scales should be played regularly and are an ideal warm up before practicing other pieces. The aim is to be able to play them automatically in a controlled and relaxed way, thus achieving strength and dexterity in piano technique. Try to vary the approach when practicing scales using little games and achievement stickers to make it more fun and then your pupils will always happy to play them.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my First Piano Lesson eBook and musical lesson plans which are full of musical games and activities to make music lessons fun!
Do you need help with learning to read the notes? Check out our How To Read Music Made Easy Theory Bundle It’s packed with fun and engaging support and resources for learning music theory.