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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 love songs

15 Piano Love Songs That’ll Melt Your Heart [Videos]

piano love songs

Do you want to learn some new romantic piano love songs? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares 15 piano love songs that’ll make anyone’s heart melt…

Are you looking to add a few piano love songs to your existing repertoire?

Today, there are many well-known pianists who are able to transform a movie theme, classical piece, jazz standard, or pop song into a solo piece for the piano.

Below, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite piano love songs from a variety of styles. Try learning these piano love songs on your own or simply create a playlist you can enjoy.

15 Piano Love Songs That’ll Melt Your Heart

1. My Heart Will Go On: Titanic


This is a heart wrenching piano love song that will surely make you shed a tear. This is a great song for practicing a wide range of dynamics and phrasing. Start simple with the melody in the right hand, then incorporate the left hand.

2. Liszt “Love Dream” Liebestraum

This classical piano piece by Liszt truly makes you feel like you’re inside a sweet dream. Appropriate to play at formal events, even children emotionally feel connected to the piece.

3. All I Ask of You: Phantom of the Opera

This romantic piano song by Andrew Lloyd Webber touches everyone’s hearts. The piano melody is stunning in the right hand, and the constant motion in the left hand keeps the piece driving. The range of notes in the low and high octaves on the piano make your emotions want to soar.

4. To a Wild Rose: Edward MacDowell


This is very simple classical song for the piano, featuring a light and airy mezzo-piano feel. It’s amazing how the chords accompany the melody to convey a romantic emotion, without even having to use words.

5. One Hand, One Heart: West Side Story

This piano love song is great to play for a loved one. Originally written for musical theater, the song can easily transition as a classical piece. Try improvising with the melody in a classical context within the solo part.

6. When a Man Loves a Woman: Percy Sledge


This 80’s love song is flirty and romantic. It’s a great song to entertain people with, as it brings back old memories for many people.

7. Endless Love: Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

This pop love ballad gives you freedom to put your own touch. For example, you can add trills, re-harmonization of chords, and play with the rhythm to make this piece sound a little more romantically spontaneous.

8. Con te Partiro: Andrea Bocelli


“Time to Say Goodbye” is a classy, Mediterranean song. The piano makes it sound very affectionate, and will leave you wanting one last kiss! It’s also a great piece to practice key changes.

9. La Boheme: Opera by Puccini

Opera has been touching audience’s hearts for hundreds of years. While the song was  initially written for full orchestra, it still provokes the same kind of emotion on the piano.

10. Corcovado: Antonio Carlos Jobim


This light jazz piano song always puts everyone into a romantic mood. Challenge yourself to see if you can come up with the most intimate chord voicing’s.

11. Sunday Kind of Love: Etta James

This 1960’s lovey-dovey tune is sure to make you want to be with your love on a Sunday. The way the song builds up in each verse, chorus, and bridge will have you on the edge of your seat.

12. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant: Billy Joel


The melody and chords in this piano love song paints a beautiful image in your mind. This song can be played either mid-tempo or as a very slow ballad. It’s also great for dramatic shaping.

13. Crazy After All These Years: Paul Simon

The lyrics in this folk song are very poetic, and you can easily sing along with the tune. This song is not too busy, so you can put in your own arpeggios and melodic phrasing to create the expression you want to convey.

14. Dreaming of You & I Could Fall in Love: Selena

These romantic piano songs from the 90’s would be a great medley put together. Perfect for background music or a performance, these songs will be very popular among young adults.

15. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell

This classic Motown song will certainly put your pop chops to the test, as you passionately play this song. Let your emotions run wild!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about these 15 piano love songs that will absolutely melt your heart!

Don’t be afraid to pour your emotions out on the piano. For more guidance on how to approach these songs, ask your piano teacher for some help!

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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5 Reasons Why Hanon Exercises are Useless

MO - 5 Reasons Why Hanon Exercises Are Useless

Are Hanon exercises really effective at teaching piano students? Below, piano teacher James F. shares five reasons why he believes Hanon exercises aren’t as useful as many think…

A lot of piano teachers swear by the old familiar Hanon exercises as a great way of teaching technique to their students. I strongly disagree.

I’m familiar with a lot of different ways of developing piano technique, and I think that Hanon is among the least efficient.

Why?

Below I’ve provided five reasons why I think Hanon exercises are useless as well as some much better alternatives.

5 Reasons Why Hanon Exercises are Useless

1. Hanon Exercises Don’t Build Strength

The fundamental component of any good piano technique is strength. Just like strength is the core component of any athlete’s development and technique.

Hanon does next to nothing for strength, because all the student is doing is playing lines over and over again.

Here is an example of an exercise that can be done for even a few minutes a day that will give students better results:

2. Hanon Exercises Don’t Build Much Agility

Hanon exercises could be classified as agility exercises, but low-grade ones. Even just plain old scales are superior to Hanon.

This is true for one simple reason; when you play scales, you’re working the thumb-under and finger-over movements that are often necessary when playing actual songs.

If you want to work on agility, try something like this:

3. Hanon Movements Don’t Translate When Playing Real Songs

In all honesty, real songs played on a keyboard are mostly solid chords. However, you also need to be able to play melody lines.

Once again, even your basic old scales are a lot closer to those melody lines than any Hanon exercise in any of their books.

Jumps do occur occasionally in melodies, but even when they do occur, they are nothing like what you practice with Hanon.

4. Hanon Exercises Are Just Too Easy

Most students breeze through Hanon exercises too easily, and then get “stuck” because they don’t know where to go afterward.

“Too easy” sounds great, but the problem is that if students aren’t properly challenged during their practice routines it’s going to take them a lot longer to get desired results.

Like me, students have very little spare time, and need to make the most of their limited practice time. Hanon, on the other hand, is guaranteed to have you spinning your wheels for a long long time.

5. Hanon Exercises Aren’t Conducive to Rhythmic Playing

Not all exercises have to be rhythmic in nature, but Hanon pretends to be, which is where the danger comes in.

This is because it is needlessly complex in a dimension (i.e. all the leaps and turns in the more advanced exercises) that has very little musical use.

I always recommend that if you want to work specifically on rhythm, one should start with basic rhythms and then move on to syncopation—the kind of syncopation that actually goes on in real songs.

Below is an example of a highly syncopated rhythm.

Don’t agree? Tell us why you think Hanon exercises are beneficial for students in the comments section below. Or check out this post from piano teacher Heather L. titled, ” 3 Reasons Pianists Should be Playing Hanon Exercises Daily.”

 

Post Author: James F.
James F. teaches piano and singing. He is currently a professor of piano, voice, and ensambles at EMMAT, a member school of the Berklee International Network. Learn more about James 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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Feeling Bored? 3 Ways to Stay Motivated at the Piano

Are you getting bored or perhaps discouraged with playing the piano? In this week’s guest post, Allysia from PianoTV.net shares three ways to stay motivated at the piano…

We all know the drill with motivation. You listen to a great recording or live performance, and are filled with energy and enthusiasm. You rush to the piano and happily practice every day for a week, a month, or even longer.

But then maybe you get bored, or hit a rough patch, and suddenly you can barely drag yourself over to the piano. Practice seems like a chore, not a joy. Waxing and waning motivation is something that all musicians struggle with.

In today’s PianoTV episode, I wanted to sit down and chat about some solutions on how to stay motivated at the piano. Below are my top three tips for staying motivated. To catch the other five, check out the video below.

1. Find Inspiration

I’m inspired to play music by many things. One of them is probably pretty obvious, but worth saying: Listening to music. There are a few key albums that always fuel me up and leave me eager to get playing.

These albums and musical inspirations are different for everyone, so it’s worth taking note of those truly amazing albums that you  love. That way, if you’re in a slump, you can pull out the album or whatever it is, and remember why you love music in the first place.

Sometimes listening to a radio station is enough to fire me up. I hear a really awesome song, and suddenly I want to run over to the piano and play awesome songs.

But for musical motivation, I think it’s essential to listen to music on the regular, in whatever format you prefer. If you’re learning music, you have to immerse yourself in music to feed the fire.

2. Keep it Fun

Staying motivated at the piano means having fun while you’re there. If you hate doing something, it doesn’t matter how much inspiration you find – you still won’t want to do it. And if practicing is dull and painful, then you have to adjust it to feel fun and rewarding.

Yes, practicing piano is hard work. It’s a lot like exercising. You have to find a way to do it that you enjoy, or else it’ll never stick. For example, I absolutely hate jogging and lifting weights, but I love yoga.

Sometimes the last thing I want to do is hop on my yoga mat, but I’m always glad I did once I do it. Practicing piano can sometimes feel like that – you’re not always going to be happy-dancing to the bench, but once you get going, it should be enjoyable.

3. Build a Daily Routine

Sometimes staying motivated at the piano is simply building it into a habit. If I don’t exercise at least every weekday, I lose steam and fall of the bandwagon completely. It’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. I can’t just do it a few times a week, I need to do it every day.

Beyond that, I need to exercise at the same general time each day (late morning). I do the same thing with piano. If you aren’t practicing daily at more or less the same time each day, you’re working against yourself.

Building specific habits make it much easier to maintain a steady stream of motivation. Without habits, getting yourself to do something challenging (like play piano) can feel like swimming upstream, and on days when you’re not feeling too strong, you’ll probably abandon it entirely.

But habits allow you to run on auto-pilot. If it’s a built-in part of your day, you don’t need a lot of momentum to practice. You just do it.

Your Turn!

Good luck with your piano practicing adventures! If you enjoyed this post/video, you might enjoy my 32-page e-book titled, “How To Practice Piano (and like it!)”. You can find that on the PianoTV website.

Guest Post Author: Allysia K.
Allysia is an experienced piano teacher and creator of PianoTV.net. She’s been teaching piano to all ages and levels since 2005. Learn more about Allysia and PianoTV.net here.

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Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

MO - Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

If you’re looking to supplement your piano lessons, then YouTube is a great option. There are tons of piano tutorials that you can browse through when you’re feeling stuck on a particular skill or simply want to learn a new song.

While these YouTube piano tutorials won’t entirely replace an experienced piano teacher, they do a great job answering any questions you may have in between lessons. Below are our favorite YouTube piano channels.

These piano YouTube channels featured high-quality videos that cover a wide range of topics, from piano fingering to piano scales and more. Check them out below!

Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

1. TakeLessons

The TakeLessons’ piano playlist is a great place to start if you’re looking for helpful exercises to add to your daily practice routine.

This channel also frequently livestreams entire piano classes, so you can watch a live instructor and even participate by asking questions in the chat box. Check out some of the previous livestreamed piano classes here.

2. Piano TV

Hosted by experienced piano teacher Allysia, pianoTV is filled with quality-produced piano tutorials.

In addition to piano tutorials, the piano YouTube channel features informational videos on different piano styles and composers.

Click on the “Popular Uploads” tab to browse through some of her most popular videos.

3. Piano Video Lessons

Do you want to learn some new pop songs? PianoVideoLessons is a great channel for beginners who want to learn popular piano songs without reading music.

The easy-to-understand piano tutorials will teach you how to play today’s biggest hits from artists like Adele, Taylor Swift, and more!

4. HDpiano

Using game-like software, HDpiano helps users learn today’s most popular songs from artists like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.

Need some practice tips? The piano YouTube channel also has a series of videos containing expert practice tips.

5. Piano in 21 Days

Developed by Jacques, Piano in 21 Days is dedicated to teaching students how to play popular songs on the piano.

In addition to piano covers, the popular YouTube piano channel features a series of piano chord videos that will help you learn both major and minor chords.

6. Living Pianos Videos

Created by concert pianist Robert Estrin, LivingPianosVideos has some great piano tutorials for all ages and skill levels.

The channel features an abundance of videos on memorizing music, mastering piano techniques, and practicing chords.

7. Hoffman Academy

If you’re a true beginner then Hoffman Academy is perfect for you.

The YouTube piano channel offers an array of videos that walk users step-by-step through different piano concepts, such as dynamics, intervals, and more.

8. Pianist Magazine

From the creators of Pianist Magazine, this piano YouTube channel has a series of videos geared toward all different levels.

If you’re a beginner, for example, the channel has a number of videos focused on the basics, such as slurs, rhythm, and sight-reading.

Check Them Out!

Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate student, these YouTube piano channels feature videos for every level.

Tell us… what’s your favorite piano YouTube channel? Or do you have a channel of your own? Sound off in the comment section below.

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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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How to Improve Your Piano Practice With a Metronome

Do you want to take your piano practice to the next level? Below, piano teacher Julie P. shares tips on how to use a piano metronome to help improve your playing…

If you’re serious about improving your piano playing, you might want to consider using a piano metronome during your practice sessions.

Metronomes are great for developing a strong internal beat and testing yourself on how accurately you play your music.

Not sure what exactly a metronome is, or how to use it? Below is a helpful guide on how to practice piano with a metronome.

What is a Piano Metronome?

A metronome is a device that emits a sound on each beat, for a set number of beats per minute. Metronomes today are mostly electronic with a sound like a click or beep for each beat.

Each metronome has a range of tempos in which it can be set, usually from about 40 beats per minute to about 240 beats per minute.

For piano, a metronome can be used several different ways; for example, it can be used as a diagnostic tool or a guide for developing a strong internal beat.

Where Can I Buy a Piano Metronome?

You can buy a basic metronome at almost any music store, usually for around $30 or less.

There are also more advanced machines, such as Dr. Beat, that have more sophisticated options like different sound options and drum machine patterns to play with.

While these are great machines, they can cost over $100 and they’re not always necessary for most piano players.

If you’re on a budget, there are a bunch of free online piano metronomes available. For example, 8notes.com has a piano metronome that you can try.

There are also tons of smartphone metronome apps. I suggest Tempo because it has tons of features including 35 different time signatures, the ability to accent or turn off beats, and programming functions for you to customize a beat pattern for a specific piece of music.

You can even create playlists of multiple songs and share them with your friends. My favorite feature is the ability to loop a section of a piano piece, which allows you to zero in on a tricky time signature or tempo change.

3 Ways to Use a Piano Metronome During Practice

Diagnostic Tool

First, play a section of a piece through without the metronome. Then set the piano metronome to the tempo you were playing at and play the section again.

You’ll probably notice that in some parts of the passage you struggle to keep up with the metronome, while in other parts you tend to rush ahead.

The sections where you have trouble staying with the piano metronome are the sections you have to work on.

For example, use a metronome while playing your scales. You’ll probably find that there are sections of the scale where the rhythm is uneven. Those are the sections you need to iron out away from the metronome.

You can’t play steadily with any beat if you have technical issues in your playing. Once you feel more solid on the passage, test yourself against the metronome again.

Guide for Developing a Strong Internal Beat

Try tapping and counting in your lap the rhythm of a piece you’re learning. Do this along with the metronome and you’ll see how securely you know the rhythm of your music.

Try to make your rhythm as crisp and accurate as possible so that it fits exactly with the metronome.

Set the metronome so that it only makes sound on the first beat of every measure. Can you play in time throughout each measure so that you end up on beat 1 when the metronome does?

An Assistant

For passages that you can play securely, but not as fast as you’d like, you can use the metronome to help you work on speed.

Set the metronome to a tempo you can play securely and then after playing it well 3 times in a row, bump up the tempo by 3-6 beats a minute.

Continue doing this until you reach your goal tempo. Sometimes it will take a few days of working this way to fully reach your goal.

If you’re having trouble figuring out a complicated rhythm with triplets or sixteenth notes, try using the subdivision setting on the metronome.

Hearing the divisions of the beat will help you find where to put each note of the rhythm.

Your Turn!

There are even more ways to practice piano with a metronome, but the exercises above are a great place to start.

You might find that it’s hard to play with the metronome at first, but the more you practice with it, the easier it will get.

Used the right way, the metronome can greatly help your piano playing.

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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