• What Charles Barkley Could Teach You About Playing Major Scales Flawlessly

    in Exercises,Piano,Scales

    major scales

    Beyond the complexities of learning the notes of a given scale lies the challenge of fingering.

    Fingering is the principle that regulates the execution of an idea on the piano, the choice of fingers to use, and how they are ordered.

    I’m going to show you in this post, how the number Charles Barkley wore can help you play 50% of the major scales on the piano.

    But before we do so, let’s review the major scale.

    Review of Major Scales

    Before we get into the the fingering for major scales, let’s review the major scale by considering its formation, direction and formula.

    Formation

    The C major scale can be formed naturally on the piano by playing notes from C to C, step by step (in alphabetical order):

    …with no alphabet letters repeated or omitted.

    Direction

    The notes of the major scale can be played in ascending or descending order. In ascending order, the notes will be played from this C:

    …to this C (aka – “an octave”):

    In descending order, the notes will be played from this C:

    …to this C:

    …its lower octave.

    No notes are omitted or repeated, irrespective of the direction – ascending or descending.

    Formula

    Beyond the arrangement of the notes alphabetically in ascending or descending order, one thing that is noteworthy is the distance between the notes.

    In between most tones of the C major scale, are whole steps.

    C-D:

    …is a whole step because it encompasses two half steps:

    C-Db (the first half step):

    …and Db-D (the second half step):

    There are only two occurrences of the half step (aka – “semitone progression”) in the major scale.

    One half step between E and F:

    …and another half step in between B and C:

    E and F are the third and fourth degrees of the major scale while B and C are the seventh and eighth (aka – “the first”) degrees of the major scale.

    The distances between scale tones can be formularized with W and H.

    W represents whole steps while H represents half steps.

    Scale Steps

    Distance

    Symbol

    C-D

    Whole Step

    W

    D-E

    Whole Step

    W

    E-F

    Half Step

    H

    F-G

    Whole Step

    W

    G-A

    Whole Step

    W

    A-B

    Whole Step

    W

    B-C

    Half Step

    H

    Below are the symbols that represent the distance between the scale tones of the major triad:

    W W H W W W H

    Now that we have a formula, let me give you (or remind you of) an easy way to recall the distances between the tones of the major scale.

    “Why Won’t He Wear White When Hot?

    It may take sometime before you you’ll master the W W H W W W H formula.

    But using this mnemonic “Why Won’t He Wear White When Hot”, the formula will only get more memorable and easy to apply. Here’s what I mean:

    For every given major scale, you can determine the distance between scale tones by applying the “why won’t he wear white when hot” mnemonic :

    1st and 2nd scale steps – Why – whole step

    2nd and 3rd scale steps – Won’t – whole step

    3rd and 4th scale steps – He – half step

    4th and 5th scale step – Wear –whole step

    5th and 6th scale steps – White – whole step

    6th and 7th scale step – When whole step

    7th and 8th scale steps – Hot – half step

    For your reference, here are the major scales in every key.

    C major scale:

    Db major scale:

    …C# major scale is also played using the same notes, just spelled differently.

    D major scale:

    Eb major scale:

    …D# major scale is also played using the same notes, just spelled differently.

    E major scale:

    F major scale:

    Gb major scale:

    …F# major scale is also played using the same notes, just spelled differently.

    G major scale:

    Ab major scale:

    …G# major scale is also played using the same notes, just spelled differently.

    A major scale:

    Bb major scale:

    …A# major scale is also played using the same notes, just spelled differently.

    B major scale:

    There are 12 major scales on the piano, realizing that there could be more than that if we chose to see C# and Db major as two different scales.

    In this post, we’ll be having fun and exploring how to play 50% of these scales using the number Charles Barkley wore (if you’re not a basketball fan, indulge me please).

    “Let’s Explore the Hand”

    Fingering is challenging until you understand the relationship between your body and hands.

    The human hand has five digits – one thumb and four fingers. Below are the names of the four fingers:

    Index finger (closest to the thumb)

    Middle finger (I needn’t say its position)

    Ring finger (closest to the pinky)

    Pinky finger (aka – “little finger”)

    These digits are numbered 1 to 5, with the thumb being 1.

    Digit Number
    Thumb 1
    Index finger 2
    Middle finger 3
    Ring finger 4
    Pinky finger 5

    The use of these numbers to suggest fingering may not be familiar to all ear musicians, however, classically trained musicians are very familiar with this.

    Charles Barkley

    barkleySeveral months ago, my monthly mentorship audio disc arrived in the mail and the title was:

    “What you could learn from the number Charles Barkley wore on his NBA jersey and how you can apply it to playing REAL songs!”

    …by our founder and president – Jermaine Griggs. That course not only gave me more insight on progressions, but also inspired what I’m about to share with you.

    A few days back, I asked him to “tell me more about Charles Barkley.” He smiled and replied “Charles Barkley? He’s a past NBA player, lol, who wore the number 34.”

    (I’m busted now. Lol!)

    Let me tell you exactly what I was told about Charles Barkley…

    Point #1…..He’s a past NBA player.

    Point #2….He wore the number 34.

    Our main interest in this post is in point #2 – “He wore number 34.”

    “How Can ’34’ Help Me Play 50% of All Major Scales?”

    Here’s some simple arithmetic for you:

    3 + 4 = _______?

    The answer is 7.

    The answer to this arithmetic represents the number of notes in the major scale, while the arithmetic, itself, is the fingering guide to the way notes should be played.

    There are seven notes in the major scale and five digits on the hand.

    It’s not possible to play each note of the major scale with different digits. That would have only been possible if our creator gave us seven fingers.

    To play seven notes with five digits, you’ll have to break things up. Here are some ideas:

    2 + 5 = 7. Using this method, the first two notes are played, followed by the last five notes.

    3 + 4 = 7. This has to do with playing the first three notes and then the last four notes.

    4 + 3 = 7. This is simply playing the first four notes before the last three notes.

    5 + 2 = 7. For this one, you’ll play the first five notes, followed by the last two notes.

    All of these combinations help us play seven notes with five digits.

    Between the four of them, the most practical one is:

    3 + 4 = 7

    …that which takes us back to Charles Barkley’s Jersey – 34.

    There are 12 major scales on the piano and 50% of them is 6. You can play these 6 major scales if you remember the number Charles Barkley wore – 34.

    Fingering for 6 Major Scales

    For six major scales on the piano, in the keys of C, D, E, G, A and B, the most convenient fingering is:

    1.2.3 | 1.2.3.4

    1.2.3 represents the thumb, index and middle finger (a set of 3 digits).

    1.2.3.4 represents the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers (a set of 4 digits).

    This means a set of three digits, followed by a set of four digits. 

    Screenshot 2016-01-12 21.41.27After playing the first 3 notes of the scale, the thumb literally crosses under and prepares to play the fourth note, freeing up your second, third, and fourth digits to play the remaining notes.

    Let’s put it to work.

    C major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by the set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

     

    D major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

    E major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

    G major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

     

    A major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

    B major scale

    Set of 3 – played by thumb, index and middle fingers:

    …followed by set of 4 – played by thumb, index, middle and ring fingers:

     

    Hope this helps.

    Until next time.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 John Trotta

    I’m surprised you did not point out that you can finger any scale if you know where to put your fourth finger.

    The fourth finger is used only once in every scale. Get its placement correct, and the rest of the fingering follows logically.

    In the keys of C, D, E, G, A and B, the right hand fourth finger goes on the 7th degree (TEE) and the left hand fourth finger goes on the second degree (RAY).

    In the key of F, the right hand fourth finger goes on the Bb, the left hand goes on G.

    In the keys of Db and Gb, the right hand fourth finger goes on Bb, the lef hand fourth finger goes on Gb.

    Eb – RH 4th finger on Bb, LH 4th finger on Ab (FAH).
    Ab – RH 4th finger on Bb, LH 4th finger on Db (FAH)
    Bb – RH 4th finger on Bb, LH 4th finger on Eb (FAH) I think the Bb scale is the hardest one to play.

    Reply

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