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Scales, Chords, Cadences & Arpeggios

Preparing students for the “scale” portion of PCSPPE

Students are asked to play level appropriate scales, chords, cadences and arpeggios at the beginning of the testing session.  When preparing them, understand they will be playing 2 different keys in each area.  Other testing systems might ask students are asked to play a “block” of technical skills, ie, 1 scale with tonic chord, a cadence and perhaps an arpeggio, from the same key.  This is great, but if they student just memorizes this block, do they really internalize the key?

With PPE, the student is asked to play 2 scales (2 different keys), 2 chords (2 different keys, not the same as scales), 2 cadences (not the same as scales or chords) and 2 arpeggios (not the same as scales, chords or cadences).  I felt this was the perfect way to encourage students to study these throughout the year and internalize a sense of key.  Going a little deeper, I will share my process of teaching Level 1.

In Level 1, students are responsible for all Major white key scales (C, G, D, A, E, B & F) 1 octave, tonic chords, I-V6-I cadences and tonic chord arpeggios.  At the beginning of the year, the student begins to study each key in what I call a “block”.  I begin with the scale, ask them to write the fingering and then the student proceeds to learn the scale, hands separately.  They are also asked to add dynamics (p < f  > p).  Once they have mastered the scale, I then add the tonic chord and I-V6-I cadence, hands separately and with dynamics.  I then add the arpeggio.  As the student becomes comfortable with each portion, we move on to the next key.  I always use the Circle of Fifths, when teaching scales.

A few months before testing (usually 2), I begin asking the student to practice differently.  They play all there scales, followed by all their chords, then cadences finishing with arpeggios.  Some students will play these in the Circle of Fifths, but others like to just go up the keyboard.  It usually takes them 2-3 weeks to get comfortable playing in this manner (we are now about 6 weeks out from the test).  During the last few weeks, I begin mixing everything up.  I might ask them to play me a C Major scale, F Major tonic chord, A Major cadence and G Major arpeggio.  I always give them a few moments to process what I am asking, but with each week, they become more confident.

If you look at the critique sheet, you will notice this is the first element that is tested.  Each section, has 3 areas:  notes, fingering & dynamics, totalling 20 points (5 points per area).

I hope this has helped you in preparing YOUR students for their upcoming exams.  We have many supplemental materials that are assessable under PCS Piano Proficiency examinations, The Piano Lesson Companion Books and Piano World.  If you are unsure about which materials would benefit your studio, do not hesitate to contact me either on our Facebook Page or directly.

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