Piano Technique 9

  1. Scale Segments
  2. Diad Patterns
  3. Triad Patterns
  4. Circle of 5ths Patterns
  5. Practice Material

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KT 9.1 - Scale Segments

Digital patterns are note patterns (usually of two, three or four notes) that are repeated up or down a scale, or through a succession of different keys.

kb006.gif Practice of digital patterns will :

  • help to improve your technique

  • create greater fluency in all keys

  • is very useful for Jazz improvisation.

Once you start to recognise digital patterns by ear, you will hear most great Jazz stars using them, especially over passages with two or more different chords within one bar (such as in turnarounds).

Digital patterns will help you navigate through complicated chord changes, and also can help to breath new life into a solo when you start running out of ideas.

Wait with the practice of digital patterns until your major and harmonic minor scales playing is well established, and you have worked through all Fluency exercises of this Course. Then include the Digital Patterns in your Fluency practice segment.

Digital Pattern No.1 is a very simple but commonly used pattern.
Expressed in numbers that represent the notes of a major scale the pattern goes :

1 2 3 1 - 2 3 4 2 - 3 4 5 3 - 4 5 6 4 - 5 6 7 5 - 6 7 1 6 - etc.

Below the pattern for the C major scale.
Practise this and all other digital patterns first with one hand only, then use a simple accompaniment in the left hand as shown.

Audio 9.1

Basic Rule
Repeat the same fingering for a pattern as progresses through the scale (or around the keys). The finger pattern usually moves between the thumb and the 4th or 5th finger.
(The thumb is used both on the white and on the black keys.)

Keep the hand over the keyboard and let the wrist do most of the movement.

Here a variation on the first pattern, it goes :

1 2 3 4 - 2 3 4 5 - 3 4 5 6 - 4 5 6 7 - 5 6 7 1 - 6 7 1 2 - etc.
Audio 9.2

Digital Pattern No.2 also consists of scale segments, this time of three notes only.

Audio 9.3

Over shorter passages use :

  • finger pattern 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 - etc., or

  • finger pattern 1 2 3 - 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 - 2 3 4 - etc.

Over longer runs use the finger pattern as shown on the music.
It is based on the Classical fingerings for diad patterns (see below).

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KT 9.2 - Diad Patterns

A diad is a combination of two notes, spaced the interval of a third apart. The notes can be sounded simultaneously or one after the other.

Below the scale-tone diads of the C major scale with the Classical fingering patterns for both the right and the left hand.

Audio 9.4

The Classical fingering patterns for diads are especially useful over long runs.
They are designed so that :

  1. fingering patterns over successive octaves are identical

  2. the 5th finger is always used on the same note

Here a Table of the note played with the 5th finger in each of the twelve major scales for both the right hand (RH) and the left hand (LH).

Scale5th Finger
C majorRH = G LH = C
F majorRH = G LH = F
Bb majorRH = G LH = G
Eb majorRH = G LH = C
Ab majorRH = G LH = F
Db majorRH = Gb LH = Bb
F# majorRH = F#LH = A#
B majorRH = F# LH = A#
E majorRH = B LH = A
A majorRH = E LH = A
D majorRH = A LH = A
G majorRH = D LH = D

Digital Pattern No.3 are scale-tone diads where the notes are played on after the other.
The fingerings shown on the music follow the Classical design. Each 5th finger position is shown by a 5 within a small box for easy identification.

Audio 9.5

For short passage of this pattern choose any fingering that is convenient.

Following the fingerings shown in this course in general will instil very good fingering habits in your keyboard playing. Eventually this will lead to a subconscious approach to good fingering, which will rarely let you down.

Digital Pattern No.4 is a very popular diad pattern often used in Jazz improvisation.
It is similar to the previous one except that in every pattern of two diads the second one is played in reverse order.
This creates a unique four-note pattern : 1 3 4 2 - 3 5 6 4 - etc.

Audio 9.6

This pattern is best played by repeating the same fingerings for each one : 2 4 5 1 (or 2 3 4 1), rather than using the Classical fingering used for diads (as in Digital Pattern No.3).

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KT 9.3 - Triad Patterns

Triads are three note chords. The three notes are spaced at intervals of a 3rd.
When the chord is in root position the notes occur either on successive lines or in successive spaces on the staff.
When the three notes are sounded simultaneously they form a solid chord, when they are played one after the other they form a broken chord or arpeggio.

Digital Pattern No.5 consists of scale-tone triads (all chord tones are derived from the same scale) of the Mixolydian mode.
(The Mixolydian mode is most commonly used for improvisation over dominant 7th chords.)

Audio : Mixolydian mode

The triads are played as arpeggios and in ascending or descending order through the mode.

This forms the pattern : 1 3 5 - 2 4 6 - 3 5 b7 - etc.

Digital Pattern No.5 uses these 3-note segments in a 4-note rhythm pattern of semiquavers.
This creates an interesting rhythmic effect, useful in Jazz improvisation over dominant chords. (You can apply the same idea of course to any other scale.)

Use only the fingers 1, 3 and 5 for this pattern and rotate the wrist from left to right and back.

Audio 9.7

Digital Pattern No.6 is a triad pattern over the major scale. For every group of two triads the second triad is played in reverse order.

This creates the pattern : 1 3 5 - 6 4 2 - 3 5 7 - 8 6 4 - etc.

This time the exercise is in quaver triplets rhythm, where 3 notes are played in the time of one beat.
Use all five fingers for this pattern like this : 2 3 4 5 3 1 - 2 3 4 5 3 1

Audio 9.8

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KT 9.4 - Circle of 5ths Patterns

Besides moving a pattern through an entire mode or scale, you can also play a single pattern through a sequence of all twelve keys.
Chord progressions in Jazz commonly follow passages along the Circle of Fifths. It is therefore very useful to play various digital patterns in Circle of Fifths order.

Play each pattern in the right hand using the same fingering consistently.

Play single tones in the left hand using fingers 4 and 1 only. (You can also play appropriate chords in the left hand.)


The Circle of 5ths Patterns provided include six different patterns. You can also make up some patterns yourself and put them through all keys.
Use the same fingering for a pattern as you move it through all keys.

Audio 9.9

This Course includes two Play-a-Long tracks (P-a-L) for practice of Circle of 5ths patterns.
One track can be used for major and dominant chord and scale patterns, and one track for minor key patterns (2 beats in each key).

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KT 9.5 - Practice Material

Digital Pattern No.1TextDemo p.1 p.2 p.3 p.4
Digital Pattern No.2TextDemo p.1 p.2
Digital Pattern No.3TextDemo p.1 p.2 p.3 p.4
Digital Pattern No.4TextDemo p.1 p.2 p.3 p.4
Digital Pattern No.5TextDemo p.1 p.2
Digital Pattern No.6TextDemo p.1 p.2 p.3 p.4
Circle of 5ths PatternsTextDemo p.1
Circle of 5ths PatternsP-a-L (major & dominant)
Circle of 5ths PatternsP-a-L (minor)

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© 1999 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)