Pentascales and Scales
My students rarely play pentascales. Sometimes they stare at me blankly when I ask them to do so. That’s because I rarely call them pentascales. I have nothing against the name — it’s just that years ago I borrowed the words we sang in chorus as a vocal warmup, modified them slightly, and turned them into a piano warmup. If you ever sang in choruses, you may have come across the warmup “Mommy Made Me Mash My M&M’s; I cried”. My students learn to play (and sing!) that ditty early in their piano studies (line 1 of this complete version). They learn to transpose it, how to make triads and arpeggios based upon those shapes, all the things you probably do as well.
But at some point I realized I wanted a version that would give my students the relative minor, the parallel minor, and the complete major scale. This is what I came up with.
I teach this song entirely by rote, and I don’t teach it all at once. Rather, students begin with line one. We play and sing. We transpose it to a few different keys. Eventually we add line two, and if the student is ready, we talk about how each major scale has a minor scale “cousin”. If they’re not ready for that explanation, I don’t worry about it, they just learn how to play the longer version (lines 1 and 2) in a few keys, and they have to figure out where to move their hand to make line two “sound right”. Eventually we add the parallel minor (line 3); finally, the student is ready to play the entire song!
You can use this in many different ways — learn one line at a time, transpose, play hands separate or hands together, finish with arpeggios and/or cadences… I’ve just found that for the very young students, playing and singing “Mommy Made Me Mash My Candy Bars” is much more fun than playing pentascales and scales!
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