Double Octave Scales with Sostenuto Counterpoint
a piano exercise

Dave Yost

Here is an interesting way to practice double octave scales. You'll need all 88 keys; well, the A-flat scale could use an extra A-flat at the bottom or C-sharp at the top.

The trick is to use the sostenuto pedal to make a countermelody. If you don't have a sostenuto pedal, hold the sustain pedal briefly instead. Have a listen.

No, that's not me playing. I wrote software that plays this exercise and saves it as a MIDI file, which I converted to audio using the fantastic Pianoteq Standard 4.6.1, using this preset.

In the first version of the software, all the notes were equal intensity, and of course, it sounded robotic and perfectly unmusical. Even an exercise has to be played with some expression to sound human and musical. It turns out that we humans subconsciously like to hear notes grouped into small units, with different intensities for each note within a group, so we know how it fits in. The MIDI note intensities in each group of 6 are
    100 60 64 66 60 66
Each in group of 4, they are
    100 60 66 60
My ears have evolved over the many years since I wrote the software to generate the midi file. The inner notes need some tweaking, but yikes, all of the notes on the beat are the same! I'll fix it someday.

Extra credit – catch just one finger at a time with the sostenuto pedal: Right pinky, right thumb, left thumb, left pinky, ...

Here it is in GarageBand:
octaves in GarageBand

David Arthur Yost,, All Rights Reserved.
Sheet music, MIDI file, Audio file, and other media realizations of these instructions are also copyrighted by this author. Permission required for republication in any form. - this page
1995-11-05 Created and posted to
1998-01-10 Modified
2000-05-13 Modified cosmetically
2009-10-07 added link to midi file
2013-08-04 new audio file, note intensities, html5
2018-10-09 html5 audio
2019-03-31 much editing, new audio file made with Pianoteq Standard 6.4.1, Steinway D, modified reverb