12 major scales and chord groups for piano players: free, printable download.
Scroll down the page for the free PDF download links:
As a child, I had no idea how much time the exercises must have taken for her to write -- for all of those keys, too! -- but even then, I appreciated and enjoyed playing these patterns.
There seemed something a bit magical and comforting in this routine: playing a pattern in one key, and then repeating it in another key, necessarily adjusting hand position and utilizing different fingering choices, getting the same overall sound, but with a sudden freshness.
My piano teacher wrote out all 12 major scales, chord progressions, cadences, chord inversions and arpeggios for me when I was a little girl. But she did it by hand! There were no copy machines back then... how spoiled we've become.
I always begin assigning the 12 major scales and chords with the "Key of C" sheet.
This won't be until my piano students are able to read the chord notes in the first measure (number 1) - or until they NEED to be able to play chord inversions and the octave scale, in which case I'll give them the Basic Chords & Scales sheet, with lettered notes.
We don't move in a hurry -- on their assignment sheet, I will write "Key of C sheet, #1" until they can do it quickly with no prompting.
Soon, their assignment sheet will say,
"Key of C sheet, #2, #3, #4."
Eventually, they will drop the easiest numbers off their assignment and pick up the harder techniques, such as chord inversions and arpeggios:
My students are always eager to start regular full-octave scales, perhaps because I don't introduce them early, but spend lots of time on pentatonic scales.
You may wonder why I have written the 2-octave scales in mirror fashion, with the hands moving in contrary motion instead of parallel.
Well, using matching fingering "1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, (tuck under) 1-2-3 etc." is a very easy way to learn a hands-together C scale initially. (And the page didn't look as nice with crowded fingering when I initially laid it out with parallel scales!)
With the 1-octave scale, this is how I first approach hands together, so they can have the fun of achieving speed and coordination over the "big stretch" even in the initial stages of learning where to tuck under and cross over.
Please scroll down the page for the download links.
Of course, this becomes much harder in the later scales, when black notes enter the picture!
In fact, once piano students have mastered parallel scales in one key, it becomes much easier to accomplish them in all 12 major scales, and we just go straight to parallel scales.
The concept of the I, IV and V chords seems obvious to piano teachers who've been thinking that way for years, but the connections aren't at all apparent to some young students.
I try to keep reinforcing their grasp of the theory by coming at it from different angles, such as playing "Louie Louie", but using major chords only (the real version has one minor chord)...
My favorite way to talk about "The Three Main Chords" is to play the regular scale slowly with a left-hand finger while making matching chords in the right hand.
Both hands move up the octave as I say, "The one chord, the two chord, three chord, four chord..." etc.
Then I ask them to do it. (And usually I say nothing about the chord on the seventh step of the scale and how it is different from all the rest; that would be too much information at this time!)
And my favorite way to actually drum the 3 main chords into their fingers (and brains) is to use an energetic song.
Louie Louie Wannabe is my current favorite.
I make them (with my assistance, during lesson time) figure out what the chords will be for the key of the day (we work our way slowly around a Circle of 5ths, hand-drawn by me - or by them! - on their lesson sheet each week, with their assistance).
Then we execute a quick duet, by rote, with me on a made-up-on-the-spot melody, and them "pounding" away on chords.
First they play open chords, Left Hand, Right Hand, L,R,L,R, etc.
Then I ask for a LH single bass note with a RH full triad (3 notes). Then (and this is their favorite!) they must figure out the 3-chord cadence for that key, and use those inversions in the accompaniment.
Students will move on to the other keys before they have finished the full page of C. Two-octave scales, chord inversions and arpeggios will wait until they seem appropriate.
You may not agree with every one of my arpeggio or scale fingerings. I put down the ones I personally use most.
Certainly there are times when it is advisable to choose "5, 4, 2, 1" for left-hand arpeggio fingering, but I consider it the exception to the rule.
Judith, in Canada, suggests starting with finger 2 when playing all-white note arpeggios in the right hand:
"Try starting all white note arpeggios with 2nd finger in the right hand instead of 1st finger; This eliminates reaching a 4th when turning 1st finger under and replaces it with a 3rd.
"I always allow my students to experiment to find which fingering fits their hand best.
"For me the basic rule of fingering is that it must be logical and the hand must move smoothly; as long as students follow that guideline, they can use any fingering they wish.
"Just a little note: B Major and B minor are awkward arpeggios, no matter which fingering is used."
Just cross my fingering out if you want something different.
I hope you find these 12 major scales and chords sheets useful in your music studio!
The links for the scale downloads:
And here are the enharmonic keys:
This is an absolutely wonderful site! As a voice and piano teacher looking for enrichment material for beginners, I have found your collections to be comprehensive and purposeful. It is clear that you are a wonderful musician and educator. Thank you!
Thank you so much for these resources - I have a small music studio in Johannesburg, South Africa. My kids love playing these tunes.
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