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How to Use Apps to Supplement Your Piano Lessons

How to Use Apps to Supplement Your Piano Lessons | 7 Ideas

How to Use Apps to Supplement Your Piano Lessons

Want to really improve your piano skills? Making the most of your practice time is key! Learn how to use piano apps as you practice in this guest post by Aravind Abraham from OnlinePianist

 

Piano students, you probably know by now that regular practice is essential to your progress and overall success. And luckily, practicing doesn’t have to be boring! Music apps provide a fun way to spice up your practice routine, and are a great way to supplement your piano lessons

Let’s take a look at seven ways you can use piano apps to improve your skills, sharpen your technique, and make the most of your time in between lessons.

  1. Use Apps to Practice Scales

Scales are fundamental to every pianist regardless of level. From beginner to virtuoso, pianists need to constantly tickle the ivories to stay sharp. A great app to use for this is Musiclock. If you’re interested in making scale practice fun, try this one. It has the grooviest set of backing tracks that you can use for scales and general improvising.

  1. Use Apps to Practice Reading Sheet Music

Reading sheet music is an important part of being a good pianist. The age-old language has been passed from generation to generation and withstood the test of time. While not specifically an app, the best new software for sight reading has to be Sight Reading Academy, a website that you can access from any device. You’ll get daily sight reading exercises and training to help you improve your skills. 

MTA SightReadPlus is another good option — this piano app shows you a note to play on the staff and then listens as you play it on your piano. It can be tuned to your instrument, so it works even if your piano is older and down-tuned.

  1. Use Apps to Master Chords and Notes

The ability to quickly recognize chords and notes is an important skill for any musician, but especially pianists. Piano Notes Pro is an awesome app to master this skill. You can choose the clef, range, accidentals, number of notes to quiz, etc. and then you play the notes on the piano on the screen. It’s extremely customizable and easy to use. It can also be used with MIDI input so that you can play the notes that come up on the screen. 

  1. Use Apps for Aural Training On-The-Go

How often do you work on ear training? Tenuto is a good aural training app for recognizing chords, intervals, and so on. It also shows you how everything looks on the keyboard.

Another good option for ear training practice is Right Note, a great app to learn about intervals, pitch, and melody.

  1. Use Apps to Practice Performing 

Ready for your debut on stage? You can practice playing concertos with Play Mozart, which features high-quality orchestral recordings with an on-screen score. You set the tempo and the music (and orchestra) scrolls and plays. It’s a great option if you want to get a feel for working with a real orchestra, and the sound quality is excellent.

Also in this category is Home Concert Xtreme, which lets you load in any MIDI score. 

  1. Use Apps to Review Musical Notation

While there are a few options for hand-written notation on the iPad, one of the best is Touch Notation by Kawai. If you want to play your piece into the iPad with MIDI, then check out Notion.

  1. Use Apps to Play Your Favorite Songs

If you want to practice playing songs with a piano app, try OnlinePianist. This online piano app contains an interactive library of songs, chords, and animated notes. It has over a dozen features, including a metronome, tempo adjustment, a sustain indicator, and built-in lessons. 

 

Outside of the recommendations above, there are plenty of other helpful apps for musicians. Ultimately, the goal is the same whether you use one app or another — to maximize your piano potential. Have fun exploring, practicing, and playing! 

Aravind Abraham lives in Tel Aviv, Israel and has been involved with the piano since he was a kid. Having first taken piano lessons in school, he then spent a few years performing as a keyboardist for bands in Auckland, New Zealand. He now manages OnlinePianist’s marketing, emphasizing their vision of helping today’s technologically savvy society learn the piano online.

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left hand piano exercises

Videos: 4 Super-Effective Left-Hand Piano Exercises

left hand piano exercises

Struggling with your left-hand piano technique? Don’t worry — it’s a common challenge for beginners. Follow along with the videos in this post as teacher Liz T. shares a few helpful exercises… 

 

One of the hardest parts about playing the piano is coordinating your two hands. Often your left hand and your right hand will be playing different notes and rhythms, and it can be really frustrating for beginners!

You might also find you have one hand that is stronger than the other, which makes it even harder when you need to play difficult or fast patterns with your non-dominant hand.

Luckily, with time (and practice, of course), it gets easier. The trick is to isolate each hand, and spend extra time and practice with whichever hand is your weakest. For many, that’s the left-hand piano technique.

Since the left hand usually highlights the bass line and drives the song forward, it’s important not to neglect it! If you are having trouble, I’ll show you a few exercises that will help. Follow along with the videos and let’s strengthen that left hand!

4 Left-Handed Piano Exercises

 

1) Simple Blues Pattern

This pattern is often heard in blues progressions, and it’s great for practicing arpeggios and scales with your left hand. For this exercise, start in the key of C and play 1-3-5-6-b7 (C, E, G, A, Bflat). Once you’ve got that down, try out different keys and work your way to a blues progression. For instance, try the chords of I-IV-V-IV-I (C-F-G-F-C). Once you’ve mastered this exercise, you will feel much more confident improvising!

2) Simple Blues Chords

Use the same I-IV-V-IV-I structure from the first exercise, but this time you will be playing triads. Let’s look at the key of C: first start out in root position, then 1-4-6, then last 1-5-flat 7. This is a common chord progression found in blues, jazz, musical theater, and country music. This is great for practicing navigating your way around chords and strengthening your little fingers!

3) Easy Classical Pattern

This bright, uplifting pattern is a great warm-up for the left hand, and it’s also fantastic for strengthening your pinky finger. You will often come across this style and accompaniment in the left hand in classical music. Let’s start with the key of C: start your pinky on C, then play the chord EG (1, 5), then move to the low G with the pinky. You can use the same fingering as you move through other keys, too.

4) Easy Blues Pattern

Now use a 1-3-5-6-5 pattern with the left hand with a bit of a swing feel! This is a common pattern you’ll hear in blues and jazz, and even some early rock (omitting the flat 7). As with the other left-hand exercises, try this in all keys that you’re comfortable with.

I recommend incorporating these four exercises into your daily practice. If you take time each day, and little by little, you will start to see major improvements in your left-hand piano playing!

And of course, if you’d like to learn even more piano exercises and really improve your skills, working with a private piano teacher is key. I’m available for online piano lessons, or you can search for a local teacher with TakeLessons!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches piano, singing, and other music subjects online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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piano lessons

10 Things That’ll Happen When Your Child Begins Piano Lessons

piano lessons

Are you considering enrolling your child in piano lessons? In this week’s guest post, our friend Doreen Hall from Piano Parents lists 10 reasons why your child should start piano lessons…

I have taught hundreds of piano students over the course of my 30-year teaching career. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the positive impact that piano lessons have on kids.

If you’re considering piano lessons for your child, here are 10 great things that you can expect to see as your child moves forward on his or her musical journey.

Research shows that children who study music do better on standardized testing and in school overall. After all, music and math are very much intertwined.

2

Practicing every day teaches kids discipline as well as patience. Oftentimes, the disciple it takes to learn the piano spills over into other areas like school and other extracurricular activities.

3

Learning to accept constructive criticism will help your child build self-confidence. What’s more, being able to do something special, like playing the piano, helps kids feel good about themselves.

4

Of course, participating in piano recitals and concerts helps kids feel less self-conscious. However, talking one-on-one with a teacher also helps children feel better about speaking with others.

5

A great deal of my students make friends with one another. Your child will also make friends with other music students by playing in groups, accompanying other music students, or just having fun singing with friends.

6

Studying music makes kids into musicians. This applies to all areas of music, not just the piano. Almost all of my piano students participate in band, orchestra, chorus, or musical theater.

7

Reading music is a skill most people don’t have. People who can read the treble and bass clefs required for piano playing can read music for almost any instrument.

8

TV and video games are fun for kids, but playing the piano is much better for young minds.

9

Concentration is something one must build. At first, your child may only be able to concentrate for 10 minutes, but as he or she advances and the music becomes more difficult he or she will learn to concentrate for an hour or more at a time.

10

It is a well-known fact that playing music reduces stress. What a great positive way to deal with life’s difficult moments.

Piano lessons are great for children. There are so many benefits to learning the piano from developing life skills to creating a lifetime of memories. If you’re a piano parent congratulations, you are giving your child a wonderful gift!

Photo by Miki Yoshihito

Guest Post Author: Doreen Hall
Doreen Hall is the creator of Piano Parents, a website that provides support and encouragement to the parents of piano students. Doreen lives in West Palm Beach, Florida where she is a piano teacher, composer, and freelance musician. She is also the creator of Paloma Piano, a website featuring reproducible piano music for students. 

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learning piano as an adult

8 Practical Tips for Learning Piano as an Adult

learning piano as an adult

You’re never too old to learn how to play the piano. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares eight practical tips for successfully learning piano as an adult…

Learning a new instrument is no easy feat, especially as an adult. I’m always amazed by how many people think that learning to play the piano is out of their reach simply because they aren’t kids anymore.

Well, frankly, I believe they are wrong in their beliefs! It’s my belief that everyone can learn to play the piano, regardless of their age.

Furthermore, I didn’t start playing until I was an adult, so I know first-hand that anyone of any-age can learn to play the piano!

You may be wondering, “Where do I even begin?” Well, let’s address that right now. Below are some practical tips for learning piano as an adult.

8 Practical Tips for Learning Piano as an Adult

1. Find a Piano Genre You Enjoy

Are you an avid jazz listener, classical enthusiast, or pop pianist?

Narrowing down what piano style you like best is a critical first step, as it will help you find a teacher who specializes in that style.

Not only that, but it will also keep you interested. If you’re learning music that you don’t even like, it’s hard to stay motivated.

If you’re not sure what piano style you like, check out this article “Ultimate Guide to the 5 Most Popular Piano Styles.

2. Find the Right Teacher

A great teacher will not only inspire you to become better than you ever thought you could be, but he or she will also expose you to new ways of learning, practicing, and refining your skills.

When choosing a piano teacher, don’t just pick the cheapest individual or one closest to you. Take time to evaluate the teacher’s credentials and ask questions.

For example, has he or she taught adults before? What teaching methods do they typically use? These types of questions will ensure that you’re choosing the right teacher.

3. Choose Between a Piano and Keyboard

Determine whether you want to invest in an acoustic piano or a keyboard, as both have their benefits and drawbacks.

For example, an acoustic piano is typically much more expensive than a keyboard, but can be financed with no interest under rent-to-own programs offered at most piano dealers.

In addition, acoustic pianos are very loud, so they aren’t appreciated very much in apartments. Digital keyboards, while less expensive, lack the ‘feel’ of a real piano.

In other words, the keys don’t feel as heavy or as responsive as a real piano, though many keyboard manufacturers claim that they do.

Keyboards, however, do have several benefits such as the ability to use headphones, play with multiple backtracks, change your instrumentation, and so on.

I think that either option works. Though based on the nature of my work, I personal prefer an acoustic piano to a keyboard.

4. Become Familiar with the Musical Alphabet

Learning to read music is very important when learning piano as an adult. If you don’t already know how to read music, there’s no better time than now.

There’s a great app I use with all of my students, called Tenuto, that lets you customize your note reading to make it as easy or hard as you like.

Begin with a few notes on each clef and gradually work your way to reading (and memorizing) more and more notes.

5. Join Ensembles of Any Kind

Ensemble playing is fantastically beneficial in developing your musical ear as a pianist (or any other type of musician for that matter). However, pianists can sometimes struggle to find suitable ensembles.

I recommend checking your local community college to see if they have a non-audition orchestra that you could sit in on or play keyboard-percussion.

I also suggest looking at local studios to see if they have piano bands or groups of keyboardists playing together simultaneously in a band-type setting. Chamber music is also wildly fun for you classical music enthusiasts!

6. Be Patient and Confident

It can be hard to not criticize yourself when you’re learning something new. I find this to be very true when it comes to learning piano as an adult.

Additionally, you may feel that you aren’t necessarily able to do something as quickly as you might have thought.

Speaking from experience, learning to play any instrument, especially the piano, is very time consuming. If you’re aware of this, you’ll likely be less self-loathing throughout the learning process.

Make sure that you mentally acknowledge your accomplishments–however small you may think they are–so you don’t become frustrated throughout the process of learning.

Remember, learning piano as an adult is a process.

7. Establish a Practice Routine and Stick to It

Learning to play an instrument is like being on a diet. You have to carefully watch your progress, keep track of what you’re practicing (and when), and maintain your practice discipline daily.

I highly recommend keeping a practice log where you write down what you’ve worked on, for how long, and on what day. Many people are under the false impression that you can cram piano practice.

When in reality, all you need to succeed at learning to play at a non-professional level is 30 minutes to an hour of focused, effective practicing a day.

Practicing in this manner yields results much faster than trying to do 3 hours a day for only one day a week. Check out the sample practice log below.

Date 5/3/2016
Scales C & D Major – 2 hands, two octaves. Practiced for 10 minutes.
Sight-Reading Examples #1-2 in Book 1.

Practiced 10 Minutes

Piece #1 Measures 34-52

Hands Separate for 5 minute blocks, hands together for 15 min.

Practiced 30 Minutes.

Piece #2 Measures 12-40

Hands Together – Making rhythms less choppy.

Practiced for 30 Minutes

8. Learn Melodies by Ear

Playing by ear may not necessarily be super important in a classical setting, but it is absolutely necessary in the jazz world.

If you can “hear” what you want to do in your head before you play it, you’re well on your way to being an impressive soloist.

Practice some of your favorite songs by ear and try to figure out the melody to the best of your ability. If that’s easy for you, try figuring out the accompaniment too!

Learning piano as an adult can be intimidating. Don’t let your fear, however, deter you from learning a fun new hobby. Follow the tips above and you’ll be on your way to success!

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

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piano technique

5 Piano Technique Mistakes You’re Probably Making

piano technique

Let’s face it, even the most experienced pianists make mistakes. Below, piano teacher Julie P. shares the 5 most common piano technique mistakes that both beginner and experienced pianists often make…

As a piano player, you’re always looking for easy ways to improve your playing. While there are no fast-tracks to becoming a great piano player, there are simple things you can do to better your skills.

In fact, you’re probably making some simple piano technique mistakes that are holding you back from reaching your full potential.

Below are the five most common piano technique mistakes. If you work on fixing these mistakes not only will you improve your piano technique, but you’ll also open up your ability to make greater improvements in the future.

5 Most Common Piano Technique Mistakes

1. Flat fingers

Many students play with flat or collapsed fingers when they’re first learning the piano. This means that either their finger is extending from their hand in a flat manner and/or their first knuckle is collapsing.

Flat and collapsed fingers slow down finger technique and usually cause tension. Play with your fingers in a curved position, as shown in the video below.

2. Sitting too close to the piano

If you sit too close to the piano, your arms won’t have enough room to extend in front of you. This limits the range of motion for your arms, which causes your wrists to contort in an effort to reach the right notes.

Sit on the edge of the piano bench and move it back until your elbows are extended slightly forward from your shoulders. Check out the video below for some additional tips.

3. Wrists too low

Your wrists should extend straight from your arms and shouldn’t collapse down. If your palms get close to the front of the piano, your wrists will likely collapse.

Wrists that are too low cause tension and strain in your arms and fingers, and also reduce the speed at which you can play.

If your wrists are low, your fingers are probably also collapsing, as discussed above. The picture below shows the right and wrong way to hold your wrists.

piano techniqueImage courtesy of Casio Music.

4. Not using your arm weight

The points mentioned above about arm position are important because we want to use the weight of our arms and torso when playing the piano.

Even though our fingers control the piano keys, students who push down the keys with only the strength of their fingers will not produce a very good tone.

Channeling our arm and body weight efficiently through our arms allows you to produce a wide range of sounds and tone colors. It also reduces the strain on your fingers.

5. Not establishing efficient fingerings

One of the best ways to learn a song quickly and reliably is to decide ahead of time the best fingering pattern.

Students who play with random fingerings that change every time they practice often get into a fingering jam, or have to search for the key they want.

If you know which fingers are playing which notes, and use the same fingerings every time you practice, you’ll know the song more securely and won’t be searching for the keys anymore.

If you can correct these five piano technique mistakes, you’ll be a much better piano player. Your piano teacher can also help you correct these mistakes as well as any other technique issues you may have in your playing.

Photo via Shalbs

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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piano exercises off bench

5 Off-Bench Piano Exercises That Will Transform Your Playing

piano exercises off bench

You don’t have to be sitting at the piano to sharpen your skills. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares five off-bench piano exercises that will help transform your piano playing for the better…

Playing the piano is a very physical activity, and like any physical activity, stretching plays an important role in keeping your muscles flexible and at their prime.

Not only this, but as any practiced pianist knows, the intense mental focus required for a good practice tends to make your body feel tired after a while.

In the article below, I’ll be outlining a few off-bench piano exercises and stretches that will help increase your flexibility and activate your muscles prior to playing.

Some of them are good for your full-body and mental health. Throughout all of these piano exercises, be sure not to over-stretch. Instead, only do as much as feels comfortable without strain.

5 Off-Bench Piano Exercises to Try

1. Arms Out, Palms Up

Simply put your arms out horizontally to your sides and slowly pull your fingers down toward the ground. You should feel this immediately in the muscles surrounding your elbow.

If you don’t feel it, try slowly lifting your arms up and stretching your fingers downwards. I love this piano exercise and do it fairly consistently. It also looks hilarious to anyone watching because it doesn’t look like you’re actually doing anything.

2. Extend Arm Forward, Pull Back on Finger Tips

Place one arm in front of your body with your palm down, take your other hand and grab the fingertips of the extended hand, then slowly stretch your fingers toward the sky.

This stretch helps increase flexibility of the forearm below the wrist on the palm-side. Repeat for both hands.

This piano exercise is similar to the “Arms Out, Palms Up,” but works different muscles. Rather than stretching the elbow and lower forearm, this exercise stretches the upper forearm.

3. Go Swimming

Seriously, this is probably one of the best exercises a pianist can do. Not everyone has access to a pool, but if you do, (and have a few extra dollars laying around), pick up a buoy.

You can use the buoy to make your legs float and focus solely on swimming with your arms. This is excellent for stretching your arms out before or after some intense piano playing.

Swimming works nearly all upper-body muscles, which makes it ideal for pianists. Additionally, a great workout may substantially increase your ability to learn faster. Check out this article for some insight.

4. Try Rock Climbing (Every Once in a While)

Rock climbing is really great for building strong hands and fingers. This is especially important for composers, like Brahms, who often composed music with big chords, octaves, and so on.

A few of my friends at school rock climb consistently and have incredibly strong fingers, which works great for some of the pieces they’re playing. However, rock climbing does cause your forearms and hands to get really tight for about a day afterwards.

If you’re going to start rock climbing to try to build your finger strength, I recommend you only go once, maybe twice per week at most. Anything beyond that becomes counter-productive and results in tight and fatigued forearm and hand muscles.

5. Finger Tips of Both Hands Together

Curve your hands and connect them fingertip to fingertip around an imaginary grapefruit (or softball, baseball, etc.) depending on your hand size. Apply very slight pressure to each fingertip and force your first knuckle to remain firm and not collapse.

Slowly lift one fingertip at a time (for instance, lift both your 2nd fingers off each other) then reconnect them to each other. Feel the pressure on each fingertip.

Repeat this process for every finger on your hand, and eventually start doing two non-consecutive fingers at a time.

This piano exercise is tricky and takes some practice, but the main goal here is to activate the muscles of the hand prior to playing. It’s actually a really great warm up too!

Your Turn!

These piano exercises and stretches are designed to help you warm up or recover from some serious piano practicing. I hope that they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions / comments, please feel free to post them below and I’ll respond as soon as I see them!

Photo via Pawel Loj

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

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MO - The Ultimate Piano Playlist for Spring

The Ultimate Piano Playlist for Spring [Audio]

MO - The Ultimate Piano Playlist for Spring

Do you have spring fever? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares her favorite piano playlist that will get you in the mood for springtime…

Spring is a great time to get inspired after a long, cold winter and learn some new piano songs. The piano is a beautiful instrument that does a great job of capturing spring’s musical elements.

Whether you’re looking for some fresh piano songs to add to your repertoire or you simply want to kick back and relax, this springtime piano playlist will surely inspire you.

Springtime’s Ultimate Piano Playlist

1. It Might as Well be Spring: Composed by (Oscar Hammerstein II – Richard Rodgers)

2. Spring is Here: Bill Evans

3.  Younger Than Springtime: Composed by (Oscar Hammerstein II – Richard Rodgers)

4. Waters of March:  Antonio Carlos Jobim

5. Someday My Prince Will Come:  Snow White

6. April in Paris: Bill Evans

7. Edelweiss:  The Sound of Music

8. Sunshine on My shoulders: John Denver

9. Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Pete Seger

10. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

11. Sibelius’s Spring Song

12. Walking on Sunshine: Katrina and the Waves

13. If You Steal My Sunshine: Len

14. Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Harold Arlen

15. Rainbow Connection: The Muppet Movie

All of the songs featured on this piano playlist incorporate springtime lyrics and joyous melodies that are appropriate to play at any springtime occasion. These songs can also be made into piano arrangements and accompaniment.

If you would like to further develop your piano repertoire for spring, speak with your piano teacher!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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MO - 5 New (and Fun) Piano Practice Warm-Up Routines

5 New (and Fun) Piano Practice Warm-Up Routines

MO - 5 New (and Fun) Piano Practice Warm-Up Routines

Are you in search of some new piano practice warm-up routines? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares some fun piano practice warm-ups you can try before your next practice…

You wouldn’t go for an hour-long run before properly warming up. So, why wouldn’t you warm-up before an hour-long piano practice session or lesson?

No matter what instrument you play,  it’s extremely important that you go through a series of warm-ups before you start playing.

In this post, we will discuss why you should take the time to warm-up before your piano lesson, as well as some fun warm-up exercises you can try.

Why is it Important to Warm-Up Before Piano Practice?

  •  Prevents harmful injuries

Just like an athlete stretches before practice, pianists must also stretch their fingers, wrists, hands, arms, shoulders, and elbows before playing extensively.

If you forget to warm-up your muscles, you could end up with a painful injury (i.e. carpal tunnel, tendinitis, arthritis, etc) that could take you out of the game for weeks, or worse, months!

  • Repetitive muscle memory

Your fingers, wrists, and hands must be accustomed to the different motions you use while playing. If you haven’t practiced the piano for some time, the motions may feel very strange and awkward.

Warming up will help get your muscles accustomed to playing fast and slow tempos, long and short phrases, and challenging melodic patterns, or chord changes/inversions.

  • Improves ear training and harmony

As a pianist, you must be aware of music theory and be able to analyze what you’re playing. Warming up with scales and chord progressions are a great way to start training your ear.

The more you warm-up with different scales and chords on a regular basis, the better your knowledge of music theory will become.

5 Fun Piano Practice Warm-Up Exercises

1. Sing along with intervals

When warming up with intervals, try singing along to a familiar song. From Ascending to Descending, there are many songs that you may already know.

Singing these songs while you practice and recognizing intervals on the keys will help. Below are some examples:

  • Minor 2nd Ascending: Jaws, Pink Panther, White Christmas.
  • Minor 2nd Descending: Fur Elise, O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, Jurassic Park.
  • Major 2nd Ascending: Happy Birthday, Silent Night, Frere Jacques.
  • Major 2nd Descending: Mary Had a Little Lamb, The First Noel.
  • Minor 3rd Ascending: So Long Farewell (Sound of Music), Lullaby (Brahms), The Impossible Dream (Man of La Mancha)
  • Minor 3rd Descending: This Old Man, Jesus Loves Me, Misty.
  • Major 3rd Ascending: Saints Go Marching In, Morning Has Broken, Kumbaya.
  • Major 3rd Descending: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Summertime, Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me.
  • Perfect 4th Ascending: Here Comes the Bride, Amazing Grace, Auld lang syne
  • Perfect 4th Descending: O Come All Ye Faithful, George of the Jungle, Hallelujah from the Messiah.

2.  Chromatics

With a partner,  practice the Chromatic scale, ascending and descending in different keys. While your partner closes his or her eyes, play the scale, skipping a note of your choosing.

Your partner will  have to guess which interval/note you were playing. Do this multiple times, skipping different notes. Then switch positions and have your partner challenge you.

3. Major/Minor

With a friend or your piano teacher, create  your own bingo/roll the dice game. On the board game, label pictures of the major and minor scales and chords without it’s scale name.

You will then have to recognize which scale or chord it is, and play it on the piano. Challenge yourself with both major and minor scales, and then reward yourself with something fun like stickers, candy or trading cards!

4. Rhythmic

Create your own rhythms first by clapping, and then playing them on a single note on the piano. For instance, “two eight notes, then a whole night, then a four sixteenth notes.”

Then grab yourself some staff paper, and divide bar lines, and transcribe what comes to your ear. Once you’ve created a short 8 bar rhythm, play the whole rhythm. Then add a specific melody, and you’ve got yourself an original song!

5. Favorite song

Pick a song you know well, perhaps a song that you’ve performed before. Some of my favorites in the past have included, Fur Elise, Prelude to the Well-Tempered Clavichord, The Entertainer, and The Piano Man.

Use this song as your mantra or meditation before and after your piano practice. Analyze the song by envisioning the chords, inversions, voicings, melodic and rhythmic patterns, scales, and modes.

Pay attention to the dynamics and tempo markings in the form of the song. Once you have analyzed your favorite piece, challenge yourself to memorize the piece measure by measure.

Then once you feel comfortable, play the entire song each practice session by memory. This will not only help you keep up with your theory, but also with your performance skills.

Now It’s Your Turn!

I hope you will find these piano practice warm-up exercises fun and useful! Next time you have a few minutes before your practice session, try one of these exercises.

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Photo by Tulane Public Relations

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piano finger exercises

Need for Speed: 5 Piano Finger Exercises to Increase Speed

piano finger exercises

Do you have a need for speed? Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares some piano finger exercises that will help you increase speed when playing the piano…

What makes a great pianist fun to watch? Is it his or her sense of musicality and his or her ability to play gorgeous music with apparent ease? I think both.

However, there is another skill that really makes a pianist great…speed!

Have you ever watched an amazing pianist play ridiculously fast and wondered to yourself: “How in the world does he or she do that?”

I’m here to give you some insight into how pianists are capable of playing at such fast speeds. The remainder of this article will give you a few piano finger exercises that will substantially improve your piano playing speed.

As always, remember that tone quality should be your primary focus when you’re learning and that too much speed too soon can oftentimes be detrimental to learning.

Here are some piano finger exercises you can do to increase your speed when learning to play the piano.

Note: If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video where I walk you through each exercise. 

5 Piano Finger Exercises to Increase Speed

1. Be Aware of Your Thumbs

I’ve noticed in my own playing and my students playing that sometimes our thumbs tend to be lazy.

Specifically, when doing scales, the thumbs should cross under the hand and prepare the next note as soon as they are able to do so.

For example, if you were playing a D Major ascending scale with your right hand, you would want to play the note D with your thumb, and E with your index finger.

Immediately after you play the note E, cross your thumb under your hand and prepare near the note G.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be sitting on the key G, but it should be moving up the keys so that it will be prepared when you need to play it next.

Likewise, if you were playing the same scale in a descending pattern with your left hand, you would perform the same task, but simply would be playing the scale in reverse.

Practice the motion of playing your thumbs, then index fingers, then preparing your thumbs again multiple times each day.

I can’t emphasize enough how well this piano finger exercise works. It may seem superfluous, but it absolutely makes a difference.

2. Play with Finger Staccato

This is a great piano finger exercise that actually takes a little time to figure out.

In essence, you’ll play notes of your passage or notes of a scale in a staccato that comes primarily from your finger.

You will want to avoid using your arm or any unnecessary muscles when doing this.

When doing this exercise, try to mentally challenge yourself to use as few muscles as possible. See just how much force it takes to push down the key.

You’ll be surprised to find that it actually takes very little force at all. Be aware of what your hand is doing and try to play only from your fingertip.

3. Block Scales-Chords-Passages

This is an awesome exercise for improving both scale speed and chord recognition. Suppose you have a section of music that looked similar to the section of a Mozart sonata below.

piano finger exercises

Rather than playing the left-hand as separate notes, play each measure (and each chord change) as a blocked chord.

Not only will you be able to identify the notes you’ll need to play with greater ease, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the harmony of the piece.

This same technique can also be applied to scales, but it takes slightly more practice to do so. When doing so with scales, you’ll want to play every finger simultaneously except for your thumbs, which will act as pivot notes and should be prepared early like we were doing in the first exercise.

4. Play with Alternating Rhythms

This exercise is very simple, but provides great results. If we look at the left hand in the Mozart piece from the previous example, we’ll see that it’s playing an Alberti bass pattern (alternating bottom – top – middle – top) and also has even eighth notes.

Rather than actually playing the notes as even, instead change the rhythmic values of the left hand to variations of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes like the ones below.

piano finger exercises

5. Practice Your Scales and Arpeggios Every Day

It seems rudimentary, but it really makes a difference. My students who practice their scales every day can not only play faster than my students who don’t, but can also play with more musicality because they aren’t struggling to figure out notes.

Now It’s Your Turn!

I hope that these piano finger exercises will help you increase your playing speed. I do these piano finger exercises every day and I have seen substantial improvement in my playing speed from before I started them.

Please comment below if this article helped you in any way. I’m always excited to hear feedback!

Photo by Brian Richardson

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

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Unlocking the Essentials of Music Exam Preparation

girl playing piano

Need help preparing your students for their piano exams? Learn how to set your students up for success in this guest post from our friend Darlene Irwin from The Student Music Organizer

As piano teachers, successful exam preparation is a HUGE part of what we do. I often tell my students that passing an exam is like opening a musical door.

When your student completes an exam, they pass through that door and enter a whole new level of music.

Below are some important keys to help prepare your students for success.

1. Be Prepared: Are You Ready for the Next Level?

Don’t move forward too quickly. Students need to develop their technical facility and sight reading skills before trying an exam.

Exams aren’t for everyone. Some students enjoy doing recitals or master classes, while others prefer competitions.

The most important thing is that students learn to love music. Find out what they like. Encourage them to try many different styles of music, including duets and trios.

2. Give it Enough Time: Long-term Exam Planning is Critical

Getting ready for any practical exam takes time. Everything depends on how hard they work, how quickly they learn and how busy they are with family, school, and other activities.

Last-minute preparation leads to frustration for both the student and the teacher. Have your students learn and memorize their exam pieces early in the year and then put them away. As the exam approaches, they can revisit and continue to perfect them.

Technique, sight reading and ear training are worth quite a few marks on a practical exam. Work consistently on these areas throughout the year.

3. Take Care of Choosing Pieces: Strategic Piece Selection

Pick songs that are on the syllabus but not in the current books. My students love doing something unique.

It’s also refreshing for an examiner to hear something totally different. Choose pieces that highlight your piano student’s strengths.

Here’s a list of some of the interesting pieces that my students have worked on for exams.

4. Try Memorizing in Sections: Don’t Practice Until You Get it Right, Practice Until You Can’t Get it Wrong

Divide pieces into logical sections according to form and phrasing and label them A, B, C etc. Be sure to compare similar sections. This is especially important for a Sonatina.

It’s important to learn and memorize pieces hands separately and hands together in sections.

Your student should be able to start from any section. This gives them safely nets throughout the piece.

Tell them to keep going in a performance. Go to the next section if you must, but NEVER go back.

Practice ‘jumping’. Have your student start their piece, then call out a section. The student must jump to that section and keep going!

My theory is that there are three levels of memory:

  1. You can play it at home, but it’s still shaky at your lesson
  2. You can play it at your lesson, but it’s not ready for performance.
  3. You can play it for anyone anywhere at any time!

Note: You can find more helpful pedagogical blog posts on The Student Music Organizer website.

A practical piano exam is made up of many different components…. technique, studies, pieces, ear training, and sight reading. Using these keys will help your students unlock their maximum potential. Good luck preparing your students for their music exams.

Photo by Ann

Guest Post Author: Darlene Irwin
Darlene Irwin is a registered music teacher in Ontario, Canada. She blogs about creative ways to teach music and is very successful in sharing the love of music with her students. She is also the creator of The Student Music Organizer, a super organized music dictation and resource book for students of all ages and disciplines.

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