Bored with Scales? 5 Variations to Keep You Motivated

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Scales are the biggest proving ground of your technique and musicianship. While you may have been playing scales since you first started playing music, that doesn’t mean that scales are only for beginners.

Well-played scales demonstrate:

A thorough understanding of keys.
Technical facility and agility.
A repertoire of articulation and dynamics.

For us harpists, scales can seem rather dull to practice because all our scales have the same fingering, and we can preset our sharps and flats.  (I think I hear other instrumentalists sighing with envy.)  But that is no excuse for ignoring this important daily routine.

So in case you’re in need of some motivation, here are 5 ways to spice up your scales.


1. Try different rhythms. You can use almost any rhythm to play scales. For the traditionalist, there is long-short, or triplets, or short-short-long, or any
combination of these. If you’re more creative, think calypso, or a boogie woogie beat. Pick up the tempo and make your fingers fly.

2. Start with a different finger. Why always start with 4? Start with 2, 3, or even your thumb. The difference will make your technique more even and it will make you think!

3. Try a crazy, mixed-up fingering. You could finger a scale in groups of 3 (3,2,1,3,2,1…) or groups of 2 (2,1,2,1…). Or you could mix them up. One of my favorites is 3,2,1,4,1,3,2,1,2,1,4,1,3,2,1. Reverse it on the way down. Its great for practicing crossing under or over and a brain teaser all in one!

4. Play one scale 10 ways. Be creative. Change the tempo, dynamic, articulation, rhythm, mood. Once you unleash your imagination, you may not want to stop.

5. Contrary motion. Play a scale hands together, but start your hands at opposite ends of the harp. Play down from the top with your right hand, and up from the bottom with your left hand. Play either a one or two octave scale, then turn around and go back. The two octave scale in contrary motion is definitely challenging.

There is nothing boring about these scales!

What is your favorite scale routine?

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