Piano Scales for Beginners: 7 Jump-Start Tips

Learning piano, the first thing you start with is the piano scales. Piano scales for beginners are the major scales and we have 7 tips to get you a jump-start.

There are several types of scales, however, the two main types are major scales and minor scales. For more details, please check out our article on piano scales.

While you can learn to play some simple songs on piano without knowing the musical scales, still, it is important to learn the scales in order to continually advance your piano learning and have a solid foundation in music theory. Our Music Fundamental series provides a lot of useful information for beginners.

In this article, we are delving deeper into the best piano scales for beginners and seven tips to get you a jump-start.

What are Piano Scales?

A scale is a series of eight successive notes with the eighth note duplicating the first. The notes in a piano scale are arranged in a systematic way and played after each other. For instance, start from C, then D -> E -> F -> G -> A -> B, to C in next higher octave. We also call the eight-note scale Diatonic Scale.

The diatonic scale has two types: Major Scale, and Minor Scale.

piano scale for beginners

Before we talk about the major or minor scale, we need to refer to the term “step.” On a piano:

  • Whole Step – from a white key to the next white key with a black key in the middle. For example, C->D is a whole step.
  • Half Step – from a white key to the next white key without a black key or from a white key to the next black key and vice versa. The examples are E->F, B->C, and F->F♯.

Major Scale

A major scale is a series of eight notes arranged in a specific pattern of whole steps and half steps in the below order:

  • Whole Step
  • Whole Step
  • Half Step
  • Whole Step
  • Whole Step
  • Whole Step
  • Half Step

Using this rule, you know the major scale by any key. For example, a D major on piano keys:

d major on keyboard

Minor Scale

There are three forms of the minor scale:

  • Pure or Natural
  • Harmonic
  • Melodic

Plus there are Chromatic Scales that consist entirely of half steps.

Once you mastered the major scales, you will learn the minor scales. Since minor scales are more advanced, they are not the focus of this article. Review our Piano Scales article for more details.

Why is it Important to Learn Piano Scales?

Any piece of music or song is defined by a key signature which is the indication of which scale the piece is based on. The scale helps to build the chords in the song and indicates where the melody line is going.

The more you understand the piano scales, the easier to learn to play songs on a piano. After enough practice with the scales, they will become second nature to you, and have your fingers, ears, and mind immersed in these scales. Learning and practicing piano scales is to build your techniques which allows you to play advanced pieces.

Piano Scales for Beginners

c major on keyboard

Generally, the major scales are easier to learn and play, hence they are best for beginners to start with.

The easiest piano scale to play is the C Major. It consists of white keys only which will condition your fingers to get used to the standard piano keys, especially learning the technique of moving your hands smoothly over multiple octaves.

When you master the C Major, move on to the G major which involves only one black key F#.

g major scale

Then you move on to F major which has two black keys F# and C#.

d major piano scale for beginners

There are 15 major scales that are listed in the below table. Traditionally you start learning and practicing from the top and gradually go down the list.

It is worth noting there are 3 overlaps between B and C♭, G♭ and F♯, or D♭ and C♯ because these are the same piano key using different music notations. We call them enharmonic tones. Basically, the B and C major scales are using the same keys on a piano keyboard.

Scale# of Accidentals1234567
C0
G1 sharpF♯
D2 sharpsF♯C♯
A3 sharpsF♯C♯G♯
E4 sharpsF♯C♯G♯D♯
B5 sharpsF♯C♯G♯D♯A♯
F♯6 sharpsF♯C♯G♯D♯A♯E♯
C♯7 sharpsF♯C♯G♯D♯A♯E♯B♯
F1 flatB♭
B♭2 flatsB♭E♭
E♭3 flatsB♭E♭A♭
A♭4 flatsB♭E♭A♭D♭
D♭5 flatsB♭E♭A♭D♭G♭
G♭6 flatsB♭E♭A♭D♭G♭C♭
C♭7 flatsB♭E♭A♭D♭G♭C♭F♭

7 Jump-Start Tips for Beginners

Practicing piano scales could be perceived as boring and tedious. However, it does not need to be. We have some tips here to help you advance quickly while having fun.

#1. Practice with Separate Hands

For example, you can start with a right hand and a left hand individually, then combine them. This is a very fundamental method. When you start learning songs, it is also a best practice to learn right and left separately, then combine them.

#2. Incorporate Practicing Scales with Song Learning

In your daily routine, incorporate practicing scale with your song learning. In reality, developing your ability to play some simple songs is a really rewarding experience. It makes you feel better and want to practice more.

#3. Use a Metronome

Use a metronome to regulate your scale speed. It is not only a very effective way to develop your tempo but also can be fun when you play at various speeds. Most digital pianos offer built-in metronomes, hence it is just a matter of pushing a button to turn it on. However, if your piano does not have a built-in metronome, you may find a free online metronome, get a traditional metronome, or get a digital one.

#4. Alternate Scales with Different Keys

For example, you practice C major scale for a week, then practice C♯ major for another week, or any combinations you like. Varieties make the practice more fun.

#5. Extend Scales over Multiple Octaves

Extend your scale over two, three, or four octaves. When you master scales over multiple octaves, it improves your posture of piano playing and adjusts your optimal sitting position. Because if you sit too close or too far from the piano, you will not be able to play over three or four octaves.

#6. Mirror Hand Practicing

Both your hand start from the middle C, then move outwards followed by moving inwards. Your hand positions are mirrored to each other. This practice will prepare you to more hands in different directions, instead of the same direction like most scale practices.

#7. Change the Rhythm

Change the rhythm while playing the scale. For instance, practice with a 4/4 time signature or a 3/4 time signature. From this, you’ll learn where to play the emphasized note. Or you can play the rhythm pattern like the below example. There are many ways to alter the rhythm to make the scale practice more interesting.

scale practice rhythm changes

Summary

Now we know that the piano scales for beginners are the major scales. Even though practicing piano scales is an important part of learning piano, it is not always fun or engaging. I hope these 7 tips will make your scale practice more interesting and rewarding while you develop your playing skills.

Learning to play piano is like learning a new language and playing a sport. Practicing consistently is the key. Setting a time to practice daily and creating a scale playing routine will help you reach your goal much faster. Keep it up!

Check out the Donner DEP-20 digital piano which is a decent beginner piano with great affordability. On the other hand, if you would like information about more sophisticated digital pianos, take a look at our 10 Best Digital Pianos reviews.

Please do not hesitate to leave comments if you have any questions.

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