Review: The Key to Scales and Arpeggios

I own many, many books seeking to dispel the mystery of learning scales and arpeggios for the piano. There are scale books, scale manuals, books to improve your scales and scale training books. They all take a slightly different approach, and Jane Mann’s The Key to Scales & Arpeggios is no exception. The books aim to make playing scales hands together ‘simple’, ‘effortless and secure’.

Scales and arpeggios are great!

The main premise of the book is that using traditional fingering patterns, scales and arpeggios can be mastered easily by recognising when RH and LH play the same fingers simultaneously. Jane has grouped the various scales, arpeggios and broken chords, according to this structure, and therefore, these books don’t follow the traditional circle of 5ths pattern.

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The book opens with a brief explanation of the how major and minor scales are constructed, before introducing the circle of fifths and how her own groupings relate (or not) to these. Each scale is then presented both in notation and in graphic form, indicating where the same fingers play simultaneously. As well as scales and arpeggios, broken chords, chromatic scales, contrary motion scales, and dominant and diminished 7ths are included.

Scales and arpeggios grouped by simultaneous finger use

There are three books in the series, covering: Grades 1 and 2; Grades 3 and 4; and Grade 5. The books state that they have been revised for the 2020 syllabus updates. The books don’t state which which exam board this applies too (see edit below), and I’m not 100% sure how the books line up with the scale requirements of the various boards. For example, all the scales which appear on ABRSM Grades 1 and 2 appear in book one, but it also includes E major which no longer appears. I would therefore use these books as standalone ones rather than seeking to line them up with any particular exam syllabus.

The Key to Scales and Arpeggios

In essence, the books do what they say ‘on the tin’. They are perhaps at the pricey end of the spectrum when compared to other similar publications such as the The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook. They layout is basic, but clear. Whilst they are probably not going the become piano teachers’ predominant way of teaching scales and arpeggios, I can see that they may be useful for those students struggling with particular scales and patterns. It’s an innovative approach, and many teachers may value exploring it.

Edit (3.8.22): the author has asked me to make it clear that the books have amalgamated both ARBSM and Trinity, and that Bm has been added as an addendum.

The Key to Scales and Arpeggios by Jane Mann, is published by Alfred Music and available in three volumes: Grades 1-2 ISBN 9781470612191 RRP £6.95; Grades 3-4 ISBN 9781470612207 RRP £7.95; and Grade 5 ISBN 9781470612214 RRP £9.95.

I was sent a review copy of these books free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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