Unit C11 – Technical Exercises

Starting in Stage C the demands of unit 11 start to increase bit by bit until they have discovered scales in all major and minor keys by Stage H. In this unit, students should learn:

how to play scales in the following keys 2 octave scales, hands separately and 1 octave scales, hands together:

  • C major
  • G major
  • D major
  • what the tonic note of a scale is (specifically of C major, but potentially able to work it out for other keys).
  • what the dominant note of a scale is (specifically of C major, but potentially able to work it out for other keys).

Students should play scales with an even tone and a steady pace, and aim to play from memory if appropriate.

Once learned students can use scales to practice other techniques, such as new rhythm patterns, dynamics, and articulations.


  • Students can learn scales away from the page, meaning that scales can be taught before students have learned what the notes look like. This is a great way to add an extra challenge for students who perhaps find notation more difficult than other areas of learning the piano.
    • Demonstrate the scale and finger patterns clearly and slowly first.
    • Once your student has uncovered the pattern of tones and semitones in a major scale encourage them to work out scales in other keys for themselves.
  • C major is a good place to start for many students because they can learn the basic finger technique before thinking about sharps or flats. Some students benefit from starting with a pattern on the first four notes (C, D, E, F, E, D, C) so they can practice the thumb under technique.
  • Introducing the notation is also useful because students will then be able to spot scale patterns in their pieces. You can do this by:
    • using a scale book and discussing the shape of the scale on the page
    • getting the student to write/draw the scale on manuscript paper
    • encouraging the student to spot scale patterns in their pieces (these need not be entire scales).
  • To help students learn the pattern of tones and semitones in a major scale ask them to use temporary markers on the piano (e.g. Iwako erasers, or similar, or sticky indexing tabs) and mark out the scale on the keyboard. Then translate this to other scale patterns. This is a good way to introduce a new scale and to get the student to work out the accidentals required for themselves. Make sure you have introduced the terms and concepts of tones and semitones first!

Study for Five

  • Use the Fun Scales Tools in the Free Music Pack for interesting and engaging ways to work on scales.


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Stage C – Scales and Key Signatures Pack

This pack contains four worksheets that introduce the concept of key signatures, major scales, and tonic and dominant notes. 

  • Tones and Semitones in a Major Scale: introducing the pattern of tones and semitones in a major scale. Students are asked to write the major scales of C, G, and D, and identify where the tones or semitones are. 
  • Key Signatures Quiz: An introduction to the key signatures of C, G, D, and F majors. 
  • Tonic and Dominant: An introduction to tonic and dominant notes in C, G, D, and F majors
  • Tonic, Dominant, and Key Signatures: Further exploration of key sigantures, and the tonic and dominant of the above keys.