Learn Piano

How to practice scales on the piano

Practising a scale means learning to play all the notes in that particular scale. In this post we take the example of the simplest scale of C major and how to play it in both left and the right hand on the piano. Practising scales is a great exercise for speed, dexterity, gaining knowledge of notes and eventually improvising and playing by ear.

We have discussed how to find out the notes of any major scale on the piano in the previous post. Now you need to learn the right way to practice it.

Practicing scales on the piano improves the knowledge of the notes, the speed of playing as well as the skills to improvise and play piano by the ear.

In order to understand how to practice various scales on the piano you first need to know how the fingers on the hand are numbered for the purpose of playing the keys on the piano keyboard. For your right hand your thumb is number one and the subsequent fingers are two, three, four and five with your little finger being number five.

For your left hand the opposite is true. Your little finger is number one and the subsequent fingers are two, three, four and five with your left thumb being the fifth finger.

Look at it like this. In order to progress from a lower note on the keyboard to a higher note you go from left to right. Similarly when you put your hands on the keyboard any finger towards the left will be number one and the subsequent fingers will be higher up in the order.

For the purpose of demonstrating how to practice a scale on the piano we will take the example of the C major scale. It is perhaps the simplest scale to play since it has all white keys. However, the same method can be applied to any other scale as well.

How to play C major scale in the right-hand

The following are the names followed by the finger number that is used to play them.

C – 1

D – 2

Get the course that is the fastest way to learn piano online. Proven and used by thousands all over the world. Get 60 days risk free access.


E – 3

F – 1

G – 2

A – 3

B – 4

C – 5

This is simple enough to understand isn’t it? The only thing that you need to remember is that the thumb slips under the right hand to play the note F. Then you can play the remaining notes of the scale with your fingers two, three, four and five.

When you practice a particular scale, you need to practice it going forward and backward. Therefore coming back on the C major scale will be something like this. C – 5, B – 4, A – 3, G – 2, F – 1 , E – 3, D – 2, C – 1.

It is the same as going forward with the same fingers playing the same notes. The only difference is that instead of the thumb, your third finger slips under the hand and plays the remaining notes in the backward order.

Practicing the C major scale in the left-hand

You need to practice the skills in both hands in order to improve dexterity as well as the ability to play the piano with both hands. The notes to be played as well as the number of the finger being used is exactly the same as the right-hand.

C – 1, D – 2, E – 3, F – 1, G – 2, A – 3, B – 4, C – 5.

The only difference here is that whereas in the case of the right hand finger finger 1 was your thumb, for the left hand its your little finger.

How to practice a piano scale in both left and right hands

Once you have mastered playing a piano scales in each hand you need to practice playing both the hands together. This exercise develops enormous control and coordination between both hands which is essential to clever and efficient playing.

The idea is to play the same note together in both hands and go forward and backward just the way you did when you were playing them one at a time. So when the right hand plays the notes C with the thumb the left-hand plays the note C with the little finger simultaneously.

The rest of the exercise remains the same. Go forward and backwards with the notes of the scale playing each note simultaneously in both hands.

Practise till you can maintain a smooth rhythm without any jerks and breaks in the movement.

Needless to say you will choose different octaves in both the left hand and the right hand. The left hand will play the note C 8 notes to the left of the C in the right hand, i.e. one octave lower. Similarly for all other notes.

Do comment if you have any questions or observations.