Scales: How to Study-Practice: Keyboard Awareness

The ability to see the keyboard as more than unrelated white and black levers is a huge advance in your musicianship. Mapping the melodic-harmonic functions of each note any scale to the visio-spatial layout of the keyboard greatly facilitates aural comprehension, memorization, playing by ear, transposition, and improvisation.

For any scale type, an expert musician should be able to describe the key signature and be able to identify every note by letter name, scale degree, and Solfege syllable.

Here, for example, is the keyboard layout of the Bb Major Scale over one octave with letter names and scale degrees…


and now with letter names and solfege syllables…


And here are some sample questions that illustrate what it means to see the pattern above like a real musician:

  • What is the key signature of Bb Major? Answer: 2 flats (Bb & Eb)
  • What is the scale degree of Eb in the key of Bb? Answer: 4
  • Which note is scale degree 6 in the key of Bb? Answer: G
  • What the sound name of D in the key of Bb? Answer: Mi
  • What is Re in the key of Bb? Answer: C

In addition, an expert musician should be able to see the unique pattern of white and black in their “mind’s eye”… in their visual imagination with their eyes closed. Such deep visio-spatial awareness is essential to expert performance. They should be able to “play” the scale in their head… imagining each key going down… without using their body… and without worrying about fingering. As they virtually play each key in their visual imagination, they should be able to identify each one by letter name, scale degree, and solfege syllable.

learn more… How to Study-Practice Scales: Solfege Ear Training

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