how to practice major and minor scales and arpeggios on the piano

🇫🇷 → comment pratiquer les gammes et arpèges majeurs et mineurs au piano


As recommended in the Japanese edition of the Hanon (listed under the references section below), the scales are to be practiced between 60 and 120 BPM. Start at 60 and increase incrementally (no more than 2 BPM by 2 BPM). When you get to a given tempo on a specific day, begin your practice 4 to 10 BPM slower on the next day.


The proper fingerings, provided by Alphonse Schotte (who revised and expanded the original edition of the Hanon), are listed under exercise 39 for major and (harmonic) minor scales and arpeggios, and exercise 43 for melodic minor scales in the French/Belgian edition. In the Japanese edition, major and all types of minor scales are grouped together under exercise 39, while fingerings for the arpeggios can be found under exercise 41.

The scales are listed in order following the circle of fifths in both editions. Interestingly however, the different keys ascend through the cycle (C, G, D, A…) in the French edition, whereas they descend (C, F, Bb, Eb…) in the Japanese edition.

Note that minor scales usually have the same fingerings in their harmonic and melodic versions. The only notable exceptions are in the keys of C# and F# minor. When practicing melodic minor scales, make sure to play melodic minor ascending and natural minor descending, as indicated in the Hanon. For a review of the theory behind harmonic, melodic, and natural minor scales, see this post.


All scales and arpeggios should be practiced hands separate first (right hand and left hand on their own) and then hands together, going through the following steps without interruption:

  • up and down the scale over one octave in quarter notes
  • up and down the scale over two octaves in eighth notes
  • up and down the scale over three octaves in triplets (preferably twice to build strength)
  • up and down the scale over four octaves in sixteenth notes (preferably twice to build strength)

Finally, after performing these steps, all scales can be followed with these simple harmonic progressions also provided in the Hanon: IV6-I/5-V7-I for major scales and IVmi6-Imi/5-V7-Imi for minor scales.


Hanon, Charles-Louis. Le pianiste virtuose en 60 exercices. Bruxelles, Paris : Schott Frères, 1923-1929.

Hanon. The Virtuoso Pianist. Tokyo: ZEN-ON Music Co., Ltd. 1955.

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