Piano scales - overviews and instructions

grand pianoPiano scales are valuable knowledge for every person playing the piano. It is the theory behind that will help you understand things like for example chords. Playing scales can also be a great way to improving your technique.

Because of the relationship of notes in certain scales they will always sound well played together. A fact that makes scales a primary foundation for everyone who wants to improvise on the instrument. This can be done just by playing the white keys as in the C Major scale or it can be more advanced by, for example, using modus for jazz improvisation. Therefore, you shouldn't consider scales as some boring and dull stuff – it can be your step up to a new level of playing.

On this site you will learn lots of piano scales and receive tips explaining how to use them. It is boring just to memorize if you don't understand the use of it … Therefore, the idea here is always to give the musical context for the scale and not just give the tones.

In the sidebar on this site you will find different categories of piano scales and also resources like printable scales and useful tools like explanations of correct fingering. At last there are exercises and some words about the theory of piano scales.

Diminished ScaleNew scale with pictures and theory: Diminished Scale
A octatonic scale that is mostly used in jazz.

New article: Piano tones and the keyboard
An easy to comprehend article about the keys on the piano.

How to define scales

Scales are a collection of tones that belong together, they belong to a certain key being more precise. This relationship is also true about chords – but the difference between chords and scales is that a scale normally consists of more notes and they are not played simultaneously which often is the case about chords.

A scale is a collection of notes that have a musical connection and are building blocks for chords and starting-points for improvisation. By knowing and recognizing scales you will be able to place a song in a musical context and as a result be able to play it with less effort. Knowing scales on the piano will of course also assist you in composing your own music.

Attitudes toward scales

As mentioned above, this part of your piano education is sometimes given negative connotations: scales are intruding on your freedom of creativity and things like that. The truth is that scales aren't some strict rules, but more like a background in your practice. (As a footnote atonal music could be mentioned here, that is a reaction against the tonal music).

Exactly which scales you should focus upon will depend on the musical styles that interest you. But generally it is a good advice to learn the common major scales considering how common they are in piano music. Further on you should study the minor scales which exist in three different versions – the natural, the harmonic and the melodic. Don't worry, they are almost similar but the distinctions will give you new possibilities. The pentatonic scales are also common and in some styles the modal scales are frequently used.

The keyboard

A piano has 88 keys that are put together on a keyboard. As shown in the picture below the keyboard on a piano is symmetrical arranged in twelve - seven white and five black - keys that are repeated (some exceptions are shown in the left and right ends). These keys are also ordered in octaves that makes eight notes. Every interval between two notes of the same tone, like a C to a higher C, is an octave.
keyboard of a piano

The notes

Playing piano is often made by reading notes. Below you can see an illustration of notes on a staff - this time as the scale of D major.
Piano notes
On this site you will find exercises with scales written in notes.


The pictures that illustrate scales on this site are protected by copyright and are not allowed to be used or published without permission.