As I was growing up, I had many piano teachers (we moved quite often). None of my teachers insisted scales be a part of my curriculum, and I was perfectly fine with that! Scales were boring, you had to use specific fingering and quite frankly, I didn’t understand the importance. As I went off to college and was accepted into the school of music, I learned that my previous teachers had done me a great disservice. I was going to have to play catch-up and this was not going to be fun.
Learning scales is an intricate part of music education. The process allows a student to understand the composition of a key and how best to finger passages. Although students can learn to play the piano without this knowledge, it is an uphill battle as they become more advanced.
Because of my background, all of my students begin learning scales within the first 3 months of lessons. We begin with 5-finger major scales. They learn the proper name of each pattern, along with the respective sharps and flats. I have found that as they progress, expanding their knowledge, they can easily decipher scale patterns in their pieces, playing them with ease.
So “why scales”? If you put it into the context of the English language (because music is a language), scales are similar to learning how to spell (words). Once you learn how to read the words, you can understand what the story is all about.