What is Paws & Claws?

Many of us have been taught, and teach, the scales using the fingers as so many tiny pistons or hammers and work the thumb as a little trickster that smoothly “passes under” the other fingers without breaking the flow of the ascending or descending scale.

There is another approach, a different paradigm, that treats the fingers of the hand as just that; as part of the hand, which is part of the arm, which is part of the body.

Most, but not all, scales can be most efficiently played by organizing hand-finger activity into groups of four fingers playing a tetrachord up or down; or three fingers playing a trichord up or down. In order to simplify the fingering to be played, the scales are notated with color coded markings. Each four note series (tetrachord) is grouped under a purple arc, each three note series (trichord) is grouped under a green arc; and exceptions are signified by yellow. The player is encouraged not to think “finger by finger” but as the whole hand rolling four or three fingers across, over and into the keys of the piano. Let’s call the three-note group a “Claw” and the four- note group a “Paw”. The concept is called “Paws and Claws”.

Paws & Claws Introduction

In this book, standard scales are presented in contrary motion, i.e. mirror fashion. Readers will be guided through a process in which each scale is to be played simultaneously in opposing directions; as one hand plays the scale ascending, the other hand “mirrors” it, descending in a symmetrical pattern.

The practice of performing scales in symmetrical contrary motion splits the scale into two voices, in contrast to the typical practice of playing scales in parallel motion, or one voice. In other words, when played in contrary motion, the scale is heard in “polyphony” instead of “monophony”. The ear-mind works harder, more acutely, as it perceives the two lines of the same scale, going different directions; it unconsciously measures differing intervals between matching notes as the melodic lines open and close against each other.

In short, playing scales in Bilateral Symmetry is a new and instructive form of ear training in which one not only trains the hands and fingers to behave in a certain way, but at the same time becomes aware of the consonances, dissonances and tensions, pulling the notes of the scale in this way and that; ways that are not always harmonious, but infinitely variable, surprising and mysterious. Remember: “tones have tendencies”.