Double Note Scales

The following was originally divided between seven posts.  I’ve combined them for better fluency.

– – – –

Fingering is your key to control. If you’ve found the best fingering-solution to a particular passage, you’ll have better precision and consistency. And with precision and consistency, you can focus on balance and tone.

I thought it’d be interesting to post some fingering exercises for pianists interested in exploring double-note scales. Posts will deal with things that I’ve worked on over that last two years. The exercises are derived from experimenting with Moszkowski’s book Scales & Double Notes Book II. Thanks to Gary Williamson for introducing me to this book!

Side Note: If anybody comes across Book III or Book IV, PLEASE let me know! I’m seriously interested in checking them out. I haven’t been able to find them.

Most important with double note scales is strengthening your third, fourth and fifth fingers. This is especially important because more often than not, these fingers will be playing melodies. Check out this exercise:

Fingering Single Chromatic

You can use the same fingering descending. Of course, there are many variations. So I would encourage pianists to practice ascending and descending with fingering alternating 3-4, 3-5, 4-5 and 3-4-5. This should prepare you for all of them! Example:

Fingering Single Chromatic Variations

I should also mention that you shouldn’t limit yourself to the chromatic scale. Be sure to apply this to major scales, minor scales (melodic & harmonic), bop scales, diminished scales and any other scales you can think of. The above fingering variations will hopefully prepare you for the problems faced in these scales, but be sure to put them to the test!

(Part 2)

This should be pretty easy if you work on the fingering from the previous post, especially the first example. The third, fourth and fifth fingers in the right-hand use the exact same fingering.

Fingering Minor Thirds

What about descending? The trick: Your right-hand descending uses the same fingering as left-hand ascending. And your left-hand descending uses the same fingering and right-hand ascending! This trick utilizes keyboard symmetry. Example:

Fingering Symmetry

The notes D and G# are points of keyboard symmetry. If you ascend chromatically from these notes, you will see an exact mirror image if youdescend chromatically. This is you how you can figure out difficult fingering solutions for say, your left-hand: figure out how to play it symmetrically in your right-hand!

All my examples will only show ascending passages. I’ll assume you can figure out descending passages using keyboard symmetry.

(Part 3)

Chromatic major thirds are tricky. If you’ve worked on minor thirds, you’ll have to turn up the focus. Or else you’ll suddenly find yourself playing minor thirds instead of major thirds!

I’ve experimented with a few fingerings:

Fingering Major Thirds

This may work as well, it opens the hand up a bit more:

Fingering Major Thirds Variation

Here’s a variation that I use sometimes (Right-hand ascending or left-hand descending). It can useful if my fifth-fingers need a break or if I’m only playing a section of the scale:
Fingering Major Thirds Variation2

(Part 4)

Chromatic fourths and easy and fun:

Fingering Fourths

And of course, this is one reason why you practice chromatic fourths:

Fingering Fourths Compunded

You’ll notice that in certain spots you have to slide your second-finger from a black key to a white key. Try this exercise that alternates ascending with descending passages and isolates this occurrence:

Fingering Fourths Exercise

I would imagine that Moszkowski’s Book III and IV would contain exercises similar to this. Exercises that focus on isolating spots with troubling fingering/hand positions. I would encourage you to experiment with similar exercises with all intervals. To start simply, practice switching directions! An example using minor thirds:

Fingering Minor Thirds Exercise

(Part 5)

Fourths are easy and fun, but in my opinion, major seconds are the hippest!

Fingering Major Seconds

The 5-3, 3-1 transfers can be tricky, but if you can get comfortable with it, it’s well worth the reward!

(Part 6)

If you work on all these exercises, hopefully by this time your fingering-intuition is getting better. Your muscles just know where your fingers go even though you haven’t worked out anything specific. They just feel it. That’s great. That’s where you want to be.

The next two posts deal with some interesting exercises that make double-note scales more practical. First, is using the fingering from double-note scales to create interesting single-note patterns. For example, minor thirds:

Fingering Minor Thirds Broken

And major seconds:

Fingering Major Seconds Broken

Be sure to check out the other intervals too! You’ll find patters like these are easier and easier to learn and apply to your playing:

A bop scale:

Fingering Bop Scale Broken

A diminished scale pattern:

Fingering Diminished Scale Broken

Another diminished scale pattern:

Fingering Diminished Scale Broken Variation

There are countless others, but hopefully this gives you some ideas! And if you check out all these chromatic fingerings, you’ll be playing these like they’re nothing. Trust me!

(Part 7)

There is no shortage of things you can do with double-note scales. Here are some that I’ve worked on over the last few years. I guess they’re quadruple-note scales!

Major seconds over minor thirds:

Fingering Major Seconds Stacked

You can stack minor thirds:

Fingering Minor Thirds Stacked

I already showed you this one from Part 4:

Fingering Fourths Compunded

If you’ve check out major scales:

Fingering Major Scale Stacked

Here’s one of my favourites. I used to play drop-two voices like this:

Fingering Drop-Two Scale

But with lots of practice, you can play them like this, with much more control:

Fingering Drop-Two Scale Variation

Again, there are many things you can do with double-note scales (and quadruple-note scales!). There are many alternative-fingerings too. These are just some of the things I’ve checked out.

Hope you enjoyed, thanks for reading!

(Chris’ posts appear every other day at www.chrisdonnellymusic.com. If you enjoyed this post, please share using the buttons below! Sign up for free email updates or RSS updates.  Thanks!)

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