Review: The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook

Sometimes a book arrives for review, and not only is it the book you wish you’d had when you were first having piano lessons, but it’s also the book you’ve been waiting years for as a teacher. I think the Piano Trainer Scales Workbook absolutely fills this criteria.

The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook is billed as an ‘all-in-one guide to scales, arpeggios and broken chords’. The thing which most appealed to me about this book, is that it’s not exam board specific. All the major and minor keys are included, with additional pages for: chromatic scales; contrary-motion scales; arpeggio and broken chord variations; diminished and dominant sevenths; ‘exotic’ scales; and scales in different intervals.

Many of you will know that I’m always appreciative of Karen Marshall’s desire to link both playing and musicianship, and this book is no exception. This isn’t just a dry manual of scales and arpeggios, it’s a complete workbook with both activity pages, and advice on learning and practising.

Piano Trainer Scales Workbook G major activity page

The keys are introduced in the sequence of C major, C minor, G major, G minor etc. rather than C major, A minor, G major, E minor etc. Whilst this perhaps misses the trick of linking relative majors and minors, the contents page of the book is designed as the circle of fifths, so quick reference can be made to that. The relative minor/major is also given at the top of each page directing the learner to the relevant place in the workbook.

Most major keys are presented over a double-page spread, with minors taking up three pages. The scales, arpeggios and broken chords are notated in full, along with keyboard representations of the finger changes and patterns. Where alternative fingerings are often taken, such as the LH of arpeggios, these are included.

Piano Trainer Scales Workbook B major scale

Perhaps what’s most useful in this book is the additional activity pages. These encourage learners to, for example, notate scales, fill in missing notes, identify chords, and identify tones and semitones. Strong connections are made here with theoretical knowledge, something which we’re seeing diminish in some theory exams themselves. Advice is also given in the form of a ‘scale coach’ giving tips for learning, practising and memorising scales. 

The book is very clearly presented as I would expect from Faber Music and to me, its huge advantage is that it is suitable for all ages. Unlike some other series, there are no illustrations which curtail a book’s use with the many adult learners out there. Whilst it is a book which can be used for exams, it is not an ‘exam book’: a huge bonus in my view as many of us seek to get back to the roots of musical learning and fulfilment. At just £9.99, it is also extremely good value.

A number of additional resources are available for download from the Faber Music website.

Overall, this is an impressive and well-conceived volume. It serves as a standalone workbook as much as it fits seamlessly into the Piano Trainer series. If you’re worried this is just another manual of scales and arpeggios, then think again. In my view, it is an essential book for both teachers and learners alike.

The Piano Trainer Scales Workbook by Karen Marshall, is published by Faber Music, ISBN 9780571541898, priced £9.99.

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

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