Should You Practice Scales in Contrary Motion?

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This is Robert Estrin at The question today is, “Should You Practice Scales in Contrary Motion?” What does that even mean? Contrary motion is where your hands play in opposite directions from one another. How can you play in contrary motion? Wouldn’t your hands overlap? I’ll explain the value and we’ll talk about whether this is something important for you to practice on the piano. You can go through your scales up and down as you normally would in four octaves. Then, the hands go in opposite directions! Now, why would you ever want to do that? Is this written in music? Not very often.

The reason for this is to hear the independence of the hands more clearly.

When you’re playing hands together, whether the hands are precisely together or not is hard for you to hear because you’re playing the same notes in both hands. But when they start going in opposite directions, you can really hear better. Not only that, but your hands can then develop the ability to play independently from one another. You can really hone in your scale technique this way. So, of course learning all your major and minor scales and arpeggios is a very important skillset to have in your back pocket, particularly if you’re a classical pianist. But for any type of pianist, I think it’s incredibly valuable. Once you can do that, as well as scales in intervals of thirds, sixths and tenths, there’s no end to what can be done with scales.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the end all is scales, arpeggios and exercises.

Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s important to remember that the whole reason for exercises is in service of the music so that you can play repertoire on a high level. So spend only the time necessary playing scales to hone in your technique and devote most of your practice time to music. It’s more enjoyable and rewarding and you’ll get more out of it. At the end of the day, you’ll have music you can play! So put a fraction of your time into scales, arpeggios and exercises, but the majority of your time into learning and refining music. You will be richly rewarded!

I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Store.
Please feel free to contact me with any piano related questions for future videos.