Contrary motion scales are awesome. Not only are they fun to play and sound cool, but they’re a wonderful way to teach scale fingerings – especially when students are first learning to play scales. Students seem to love them as well.
A step up from a simple contrary motion scale is playing scales using what’s called a “formula pattern.” (I’ve always wondered why it’s called a “formula pattern” so if you know, please educate me! It’s such a boring name for such a fun scale pattern.)
I think we should call them zig-zag scales instead!
The first time I tried to teach a student the formula pattern was a struggle. I try to avoid using formal “scale books” for students to have to read every note and fingering, so I needed to find an easy way to explain the pattern.
Since I’m a visual person, I came up with this simple Formal Pattern Visual Guide for my students. Every student I’ve used this with has found it very helpful and so I realized it was time I shared it with you!
After my students finish Piano Safari Technique Level 3, which covers the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm, I’ve been moving them into the RCM technique leveling. Even though I don’t send my students to RCM, I like having a step-by-step leveling system.
Joy Morin has a free downloadable PDF of the Technical Requirements for the 2015 RCM Program we use.
As far as formula pattern goes, here are the requirements RCM has:
Level 1 = C Major
Level 2 = C, G Major
Level 3 = D Major
Level 4 = C minor
Level 5 = A Major, A minor
Level 6 = E Major, E minor
Level 7 = D Major, D minor
Level 8 = Eb Major, Eb minor
Level 9 = Db Major, F Major, C# minor, F minor
My downloadable PDF has two pages. One includes no fingerings and is the one I originally made.
Since the first seven levels all use the same fingering, however, my students found it even more helpful to have the starting and ending finger numbers written in at each octave point.
Once they hit level 7, I wouldn’t be too worried about needing a visual. Once students have used this for even just a couple of levels, they catch on and don’t really need it anymore.
I hope your students find it helpful!