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 chords and other concepts in music. Playing scales is a great way for improving your technique and can serve as building blocks for creating melodies.

Because of the relationship of notes in specific scales, they will always sound well played together. This make scales a primary foundation for everyone who wants to improvise on the instrument. It 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. In addition, training at scales will make your fingers stronger. This in combination with your increasing knowledge about how the tones relates will make you capable to play faster.

On this site you can 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 is to always provide the musical context for the scale and not just hand over the notes.

In the menu, you will find different categories of piano scales as well as resources including printable scales and explanations of correct fingering. There are more areas to explore, including exercises and an introduction to the theory of piano scales.

A Iberian scale diagramNew scale with pictures and theory: Iberian
A hexatonic exotic scale.

New content: How to structure your piano practice?
Various tips for practicing on the piano.

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How to define scales

Scales are collections of notes that belong together. They can also belong to a certain key. This relationship is also true about chords – but the difference between chords and scales is that a scale normally consists of more notes, which are not played simultaneously as often is the case with chords.

A scale consists of notes that have a musical connection and are building blocks for chords and schemes 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 can, 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 about strict rules, but more like a background in your practice. (As a footnote, atonal music can 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, a good advice is to learn the Major Scale considering how common it is in piano music. Important to study is also the Minor Scale 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

The 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, as a C to a higher C, is an octave.

Keyboard of a piano

The notes

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


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