Wisdom of the Hand

A Guide to the Jazz Pentatonic Scales

by Marius Nordal

Jazz pianists have been trained to use one-octave, “thumb-under” fingerings, based on the Western classical tradition. But this system falls short when dealing with the wider intervals of the pentatonic scales. So pianist, composer and educator Marius “Butch” Nordal has come up with a system of “positional playing” that will allow the pianists new vistas of freedom and ease of playing on these crucial elements of jazz.

Wisdom of the Hand is a thorough exposition of a new way to approach playing piano:

  • Has two-octave fingerings in all 12 keys for the four most commonly used versions of the pentatonic scale.
  • Has two-octave fingerings for all 12 blues scales
  • Introduces the concept of “piano drumming” to have the reader conceive music rhythmically instead of just as monotonous streams of pitches.
  • Weans the student away from playing scale patterns by having the improviser conceive ideas in terms of the infinite variety of little 3 and 4 note chord shapes to be found in the pentatonic scales.
  • Introduces the concept of positional playing to enable transcending the clumsy “thumb under” moves that plague keyboard players.
  • Introduces the “88 Note Scale” concept have the player understand that each register of the keyboard speaks a different language. This breaks the habit of thinking of the piano as merely a single octave of twelve notes repeated across the keyboard.
  • Provides 200 practice examples covering rhythm, bending notes, positional playing and creativity.
  • Spiral-bound, 219 pages!

Sample Pages


This enlightening and entertaining book takes you deeper than most musicians even dream into the possibilities inherent in pentatonic scales. Marius Nordal explores the far reaches of what can be done with this very familiar concept. It is like learning a new dialect of a familiar language; a very fun adventure, sure to expand your musical horizons. The playing techniques presented are somewhat non traditional, but ultimately very rewarding.”
— Larry Dunlap

Marius Nordal, also known as "Butch," is a multi-faceted musician known for his big band compositions like "Suncatchers" and "Liferaft Earth." He's also a journalist who has interviewed jazz greats like Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. As a jazz pianist, his recent releases have garnered international acclaim. In addition, Nordal has a 25-year teaching career and has produced over 40 educational YouTube videos on specialized jazz topics.