Book Review
by Abe Cytrynowski

Pictorial Patterns for Keyboard Scales & Chords - by Margaret Brandman

Some years ago, I entertained a pipe dream of cosmic proportions. Having already taught piano for a number of years, I was well aware that Scales & Arpeggios were literally brimming with truckloads of fingering and notation patterns. Slippery things they were, and a daunting job to organise them into an accessible, intelligible system. But I would unlock the mystery behind these hidden patterns and take my place in pedagogical history...

I never quite got there - Margaret Brandman beat me to it!

Pictorial Patterns does much more than I ever dreamed I could. Brandman has turned every scale and arpeggio inside out, given them all a good hard shake and collected a booty of fascinating and instructive patterns. Her insights should provide students with a springboard to Scale Nirvana. In place of mystery and confusion, Pictorial Patterns presents a neat little package of relatively simple recipes. For example on p.11, Brandman introduces the concept of photographic negatives, ie. there are some pairs of scales where every white or black note in a given scale, is reversed in its partner scale. This becomes quite obvious when we examine the blue-print of the following two scales:

A major white white black white white black black white
Ab major black black white black black white white black

The same photographic negatives work for the scales of Db & D major, Eb & E major, and Bb & B major. This is but one example of many fascinating patterns that Brandman makes available for us.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section provides teachers and students with some general guidelines concerning all scales and chords. This section is full of very helpful and concise teaching tips - eg. thinking of two types of hand signs (the Peace sign and the Scout & Guide Salute) as prompts for employing fingers 2 & 3 or 2, 3 & 4 when playing groups of black notes. Section two presents pictorial patterns for all major scales, their relative minors in similar and contrary motion, and all the major and minor arpeggios. Section three provides the student with a really practical hands-on guide to daily practice.

Despite the apparent visual complexity of some of these patterns on the printed page, it is well worth the effort to persevere and probe, because the end result is quite revelatory. The initial sense of complexity evaporates quite quickly as the patterns are examined. Congratulations are certainly due - Pictorial Patterns promises to be a real eye-opener for students and teachers alike.

- Abe Cytrynowski

Abe is a private piano teacher based in Melbourne (Australia) and examiner for ANZCA. He offers a series of scale-practice workshops to teachers and students throughout metropolitan and regional areas in Australia He has also taught and examined for the Australian Catholic University. He designed and compiled the highly successful Modern Pianoforte syllabus for ANZCA in 1983, and in 1996 wrote "From Blues to Bop and Beyond", a textbook introducing the various genres of modern pianoforte music to the secondary music student.

In an endeavor to improve the learning of scales, Abe designed and developed the Scalecard System™ which was launched in July 2000. The system is especially designed to facilitate the learning and revision of scales for examination purposes. It comprises sets of cards which illustrate in clear musical notation (with fingering included), all the examination requirements for each grade of the AMEB and ANZCA syllabi, including Touch, Tempo etc. A custom made box is used to help students organise and monitor their progress as they move the cards through the 3 compartments in the box: Unknown, OK, and Perfect.

For all inquiries regarding either the Scalecard System™ or to organise scale workshops for teachers and/or students, please contact Abe on: Ph: (03) 93708870 Fax: (03) 93709700 or email Abe at: cyt@ ozramp.net.au