How To Play the B Flat Major Scale on a Piano Keyboard


Structure

A one octave Bb Major scale is made up from the eight notes Bb, C, D, E, Eb, F, G, A and Bb. This can be extended across the keyboard as required for two, three or four octave scales.

Here are the notes of one octave depicted on a piano keyboard diagram.

Bb Major Keyboard Diagram

Fingering

Number the fingers on both left and right hands as follows:

  • Thumb: 1
  • Index: 2
  • Middle: 3
  • Ring: 4
  • Little: 5

Here’s a diagram of how to number the fingers:

Left and right hands fingering for musical scales
Left and right hands fingering for Bb Major scale

Right Hand Playing

The ascending one octave Bb Major scale is most easily played by the right hand with the fingering 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4

Should you wish to play more than one octave, simply continue with a ‘1’, continuing the sequence from the first ‘1’ in the sequence, thus: 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4…

To play the descending one octave Bb Major scale, reverse the sequence thus: 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 2

Should you be playing more than one octave, repeat the sequence from finger ‘4’, thus: 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3… and always finishing on a 2 for the final note.

This fingering is different from scales on white keys because of the position of the black keys making the standard 1,2,3,1,2,3,4 fingering cumbersome.

Left Hand Playing

The ascending one octave Bb Major scale is most easily played by the left hand with the fingering 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3

Should you wish to play more than one octave, repeat the sequence from the last finger ‘3’, thus: 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3…

To play the descending one octave Bb Major scale, reverse the sequence thus: 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3.

Should you be playing more than one octave, continue the sequence thus: 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1… and finishing on a final 3.

Playing Both Hands Together

Once you’ve practiced both hands separately, it’s time to play the two hands simultaneously. There’s no particular trick to this — it just takes time to get used to it.

Scales are generally played with the hands one octave — that is, eight white notes — apart.

Start slowly, concentrating on fingering and playing each pair of notes at the same time, and gradually build up the speed. Ensure the scale maintains a regular rhythm.

Accenting

Sometimes scales are played with a slight accent on every fourth note. This works well for two and four octave scales.

Music Score

Here is the music score for two octaves of the Bb Major scale, with the right hand starting on the Bb below Middle C and the left hand starting on the Bb an octave below that. The audio is available beneath the score. Note that some browsers including the desktop version of Safari will not play this, so please see the MP3 audio below. If you are playing on a mobile device, you may need to ensure the ringer is set to on.

Audio

The following is a four octave Bb Major scale played both ascending and descending.

Video

Here is a video showing a piano keyboard and the four octave Bb Major scale being played ascending and descending.