What is the best technique for chromatic scales?

Melanie Spanswick answers your questions every Tuesday.

Welcome to Q&A Tuesday with Melanie Spanswick! This is a brand-new series in which pianist, author, teacher and composer Melanie will tackle all your burning questions every Tuesday.

Our eighth question comes from Twitter. @garrett__lyon asks:


What is the best technique for chromatic scales?


To practice chromatic scales so that they can be played easily and evenly, both rhythmically and tonally, it's prudent to work on finger agility. I encourage my students to keep relaxed, flexible wrists, hands and arms when playing any scales or arpeggios. To make sure you are loose, drop your arm down by your side and let it swing from your shoulder. You should now feel free and the arm should ideally be 'heavy 'as your muscles relax. Aim to keep this loose feeling as you sit in the playing position, this will help you come to terms with the feeling of relaxation.

As you play chromatic scales, moving from white to black keys using the third finger and thumb (and sometimes the second finger, too), aim to use a slight rotational motion within the wrist and hand. The movement might be described as akin to turning a doorknob! Keep the thumb and third finger closely connected to the keys and ensure a deep touch when practising slowly. The slow and deeper you play into the keybed, the easier it will be to play at speed. Once secure with the note patterns, lighten your touch and rotate the hand and wrist quickly between the fingers. This will gradually feel easier and speed won't be an issue. Touch should be more even as well.

Check out our masterclass below on more scales


Head over to our Professional Advice page to see more advice from Melanie.

Join us next Tuesday for question 9.

Have you got a question you’d like to ask? Contact Ellie at ellie.palmer@warnersgroup.co.uk.