For beginner pianists, and especially younger children or players with small hands, building up the dexterity of your hands and fingers can do wonders for your playing. Just as singers need to warm up their most important muscle with vocal warm-ups, piano players need to take their fingers into consideration.
Here are 5 great exercises to improve your finger strength and dexterity, as originally published over at Piano and Synth Magazine:
The bane of every music student? Piano scales and arpeggios may be boring, but they work. Not only do they help to reinforce knowledge of the notes in each key signature, but they help develop finger strength and rhythm. Try playing major, minor and chromatic scales, and major and minor arpeggios, both single-handed and in unison in a variety of ways:
-legato (notes smooth)
-staccato (notes played shortly and sharply)
-alternative rhythm (for example: hold the first note of each octave for longer than the other six notes)
-alternative accents (for example: every third or fourth note)
-inverted (same start note, right hand plays ascending notes while left hand plays descending notes).
-Play two notes of at least an octave apart, with thumb and fifth finger.
-Play a third note somewhere in between, with another finger.
-Jump staccato from the lower to the higher note and back.
-Hold thumb down on one note and play ascending staccato notes as far as possible with one of your fingers.
3. Work your weaker hand
Many pianists have one hand that is weaker than the other. Scales (see #1) will help, as will practicing parts usually played by your stronger hand.
4. Work your weaker fingers
Generally, the little (fifth) finger is weaker than the other fingers in the hand. Significantly differing finger strengths will make it difficult to maintain even playing. To combat this, try the following:
-Practice playing scales with even volume across all fingers.
-Play two alternating notes with your weakest finger and a stronger finger. Maintain an even rhythm and volume.
-Play a run of three notes with your weakest finger and two stronger fingers. Again, maintain even rhythm and volume.
5. Key and Tempo
Try playing pieces or phrases of music you know well at different speeds and in different keys.
-Dexterity can be challenged at faster tempos.
-Steady rhythm can be challenged as tempos change.
-Different fingers can be stretched and strengthened as a piece of music is played in a new key.
If finger strength is something you need help with, run through these exercises right when you sit down to practice. With repetition, you can train your muscles, just as a bodybuilder targets certain muscles. Readers: what exercises have helped you improve your finger strength? Leave a comment below!