How to Practice Piano Scales: 3 Tips

Lisa Witt  /  Practice  /  UPDATED Jun 30, 2023

promo banner

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to practice piano scales in a way that won’t put you to sleep.

Practicing your scales is an essential part of learning how to play piano. But playing scales over and over, up and down, can get very boring very fast! Traditional scale practice can kill your motivation, which makes you practice less, which isn’t great for technique and progress!

Which is why we love coming up with ways to make piano scale practice more interesting. In this lesson, we’ll share three big tips on how to best practice your scales on the piano.

🎹 Your Go-To Place for All Things Piano

Subscribe to The Note for exclusive interviews, fascinating articles, and inspiring lessons delivered straight to your inbox. Unsubscribe at any time.

Why Practice Piano Scales?

But why practice scales anyway? There are several reasons (and it’s not just to play fast!):

Scales improve technique. Practicing scales up and down and hands together will improve your finger dexterity and hand independence.

Scales teach you theory. Scales, chords, and keys are closely related. By practicing scales, you also practice recognizing keys and chords.

Scales help you read music faster. Music is made up of patterns and scales are a common pattern. Being familiar with scales will help you recognize more patterns in sheet music.

Tip #1: Use a backing track instead of a metronome

Keeping tempo is an important part of practicing scales. Metronomes are a popular tool for this, but many people find the sound of a metronome monotonous, boring, or even annoying!

So consider using a backing track instead. Backing tracks contain real music, not just a beep. Your practice session will feel more like a song and less like an exercise.

You can download free backing tracks online. Or use this one we’ve created for our video lesson:


Tip #2: Play with different articulations (staccato, legato, etc.)

A fun way to challenge yourself and keep things interesting is to practice scales using different articulations. Try these:

  • Staccato: Play the notes of your scales short and detached.
  • Legato: Play smoothly, connecting all the notes together.
  • Tenuto: Play each note for its full length, with emphasis and intention.
  • Mix and match: Practice with an alternating pattern of articulations! This is more of a mind-bender, but will definitely make things less boring.

Tip #3: Practice with a chord progression

This is one of our favorite tips. By pairing your scale with a chord progression in your other hand, you’ll not only end up with an exercise that sounds musical, but you’ll also practice your chord progressions in every key.

In our video lesson, we use a I-vi-IV-V progression. Here’s what that looks like in every major key, along with scales in every key:

KeyChord ProgressionScale

> Piano Scales: Types & How to Apply Them

How to Practice Piano Scales: More Tips

  • If your mind starts to wander, do something different. Switch from right hand to left hand, or do staccato instead of legato.
  • Relax once in a while. Breathe, shake out your hands, and double-check your posture!
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. A good rule of thumb is to focus on one key per day for 5-10 minutes.
  • Be patient. Mastering scales takes time, so take it slow and don’t rush.

Stick with it and you’ll get there. Happy practicing!

🎹 Learn Piano With Real Teachers

The best way to learn piano is with real teachers, but not everyone has the time and money for a private instructor. At Pianote, you can get real feedback from real experts…all from the comfort of your own home. Explore our Method and community yourself with a free 7-day trial.


Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

Headshot of woman with short platinum hair against a studio background.

The easiest way to learn beautiful piano chords.
Sign up for 5 FREE play-along lessons

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.