Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

An image of piano scales from an old book

Piano Scales in exams

There are too many scales in ABRSM piano exams: far more than for other instruments - and I have sat across the table from the chief examiner and told her so. Why are there just scales and arpeggios and not technical exercises, as for other instruments?

Anyway, I can pretty much predict what students will find harder at the higher grades:

  • Diminished and Dominant Sevenths
  • Minor scales starting on black notes (especially melodic minors)
  • Scales in thirds and sixths - especially the black note minors again

Thank goodness that contrary motion scales are dropped in Grade 8 - don't get me wrong: I practise contrary motion scales - they wake me up at the start of practice sessions - they separate the swans from the geese, as it were.

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