How should we play the piano

5 piano exercises to exercise your fingers

In this article, we're going to introduce you to the 5 best finger exercises that all piano players should know. We explain them step by step and you will quickly discover the benefits of incorporating them into your practice.

Have you ever wondered how pianists can master complicated passages in virtuoso piano compositions like this one?


The answer is simple: most world-class pianists have spent countless hours playing scales and many other exercises. That's why I'm often asked how long it takes to learn to play the piano. This article sums that up well.

And since you can of course not invest as much time as the star pianists, we have selected these 5 exercises for which you only need a few minutes a day.

This is why you should do finger exercises

In the video above, it was clear how important strong fingers and hands are for flexibility, dexterity and control. Therefore, if you want to play the piano really well, it is important to improve your skills with finger exercises.

If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Here at Skoove we want you to have fun learning to play the piano - from reading music to playing all of your favorite songs. We are also concerned with teaching the most suitable methods. We therefore recommend that you develop the technical components of your game as well.

You will also benefit from the many advantages of playing the piano. This article explains why piano exercises are good for your brain, for example.

You will not forget these skills again! Professional pianists also use methods that they learned at the very beginning of their musical career in almost every performance. They use trills, movements, hand translations, and other techniques that you will learn with the exercises below.

When should you do finger exercises?

You can compare your warm-up exercises before playing with the muscle stretches of 100-meter runners like Usain Bolt before a competition. And what is good for the sprint stars will of course also benefit you!

? PRO TIP 1: Practice your fingers before playing the piano.

Playing the piano with cold fingers can be risky for several reasons. I know a lot of people who are in pain from playing the piano the wrong way for years. Of course, if you don't warm your hands enough with some hand and finger exercises, the ambulance won't come right away - but playing the piano with warm fingers is just so much more pleasant. Reason enough right?

? PRO TIP 2: You can do these exercises anywhere: on the folding table on the plane, on the armrest of your sofa, or the dashboard of your car.

For some of these exercises, you don't even need a piano. You can do it almost anytime and anywhere: when you're on the bus or plane, sitting on the sofa at home, when you're bored or when you don't want to play the keyboard. You can also use it to calm your guilty conscience if you didn't really feel like practicing the piano.

This article offers you great tips for practicing on the go or when you are not at home.

?PRO TIP 3: Exercise your fingers when you need a change in your playing practice or when you just have a few minutes to spend on the piano.

Yes, of course, not every piano exercise is a big fireworks display. Who does not know that: You sit in front of the keyboard, you introduce yourself, you are preparing for the big Christmas concert in the Elbphilharmonie. But after just five minutes you are tired and distracted. Or actually you'd already feel like practicing, but then it occurs to you that you have an appointment with Aunt Elsa for a coffee party. I'm sure she'll be ringing soon ... in ten minutes. So go ahead, hit the keys!

1st exercise: the correct hand position

Repeating this exercise often enough will help you develop "muscle memory" or "finger memory". You can tell by the fact that your fingers automatically find the right position on the keys when you play. At the same time you strengthen your hand muscles!

All you need is a stress ball:

We carry out this exercise in 3 steps:

  1. First you bend your arms in front of your upper body (exactly, looks like a T-rex ...). Your fingers stay relaxed. Now you stretch out your fingers and then roll them up again. Start this movement with the outer finger joints, make it very controlled and looooeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
  2. After you've done this a few times, repeat the rolling motion with a stress ball in hand. Hold the ball firmly and try to control your fingertips to start flexing again at the first finger joint. Now slowly squeeze the ball, trying to control the movement of your fingers. After a few minutes, you will feel some tension and the effort.
  3. Now you are ready to put your hands on the keys. Imagine how your fingers wrap around the stress ball (other piano teachers take a tennis ball as an example) when you bring your hands into position on the keyboard. Make sure your palms are higher than the keys: your hands should be in an elevated position with the palms forming a small platform. Your fingers remain arched in a ball shape. Now look at your hands - that is the correct hand position. When you find this position, resolve it and try again at a different point on the piano.

One more remark about hand posture

Many teachers around the world believe that exercises like this can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. At least we know that this is the easiest way to practice correct hand posture while playing the piano. And correct hand posture is worth its weight in gold because it allows your hands the greatest possible movement and increases your dexterity and general mobility.

2nd exercise: finger exercises

Theodor Leschetizky was a well-known pianist and music professor of the 19th century. He believed that it was easier to memorize the pieces with the sheet music on your lap than to sit in front of a piano. If you hear him play, you can imagine that he had a very good idea of ​​how to practice properly:

 

We also recommend practicing away from the keyboard. So you can go through notes as often as possible, do finger exercises, tap rhythms and more.

This exercise here is good for doing without a piano.

This is how this exercise works

You can do them on any flat surface: on the living room table, at the subway window, on your desk, in short - anywhere!

With these finger exercises we train the independent movement of your fingers, but also their strength and coordination.

  1. Place your fingers on a flat surface as if you were placing them on the piano keys. Now "play" each individual finger and watch their movement. Start with your thumb (finger 1), lift it up, and then put it back down. Then take the index finger (finger 2) and so on until all five fingers were active. Make sure that all inactive fingers are resting and that no one lifts up except for the finger that is currently "playing".
  2. After a few repetitions, you can try to play any series of numbers, i.e. move your fingers in a different order: 1-5-3-2-4 or 1-4-2-5-3, etc.
  3. Finally, you play with both hands at the same time - each with the same finger. Here, too, you can change the order of the fingers as you like.

Other finger exercises

We recommend building finger exercises into your gaming practice because there are so many benefits to it. There are also numerous books, websites, and other resources devoted exclusively to hand and finger exercises for pianists.

Hannon, a popular book series with finger exercises, is one of them. According to the editor, the books have been "proven to be effective in improving technical skills, speed and precision." In my experience, students get bored of doing these exercises for hours. That's why I usually only give them up to advanced students. Some examples on the Hannon website are sure to be of interest to you.

3rd exercise: a five-note scale

We call this exercise a pentatonic scale, in which you play the first five notes of a scale with single fingers. This is not only good for ear training because you learn to recognize the tone of each key. At the same time you train your finger muscles.

Being able to play notes with controlled movements is an essential skill for versatile piano players. Because with strong fingers it is easier to enrich your game with dynamics or emotions. We therefore recommend that you include this particular exercise in your warming program. You can add more scales and arpeggios later.

This is how this exercise works

  1. First, place your right thumb on middle C (C4). The index finger goes on the D, the middle finger on E, the ring finger on F and the little finger on G. Pay attention to the correct hand position: fingers slightly curved, palms higher than the keys of the keyboard.
  2. Now play each note and listen carefully to the sound you are making. This should be even, i.e. every note should sound at the same volume. Also make sure to keep the tempo steady and keep each note as long as the previous one. Play all five notes a few times, ascending (C-D-E-F-G) and then descending (G-F-E-D-C). If you're sure, play the whole thing a lot faster and then slow down again.
  3. Now repeat everything with your left hand. At the beginning, put your little finger on the low C and off you go.
  4. Finally, try to coordinate your hands and play the five notes with both hands - first up, then down.

If all of this sounds like Spanish to you, don't panic: you can find out more about scales in this great article on the Skoove blog.

Another exercise is this pentatonic minor scale in the Skoove app:

Start exercise

4th exercise: playing chords

Chords are also known as triads because they are made up of three notes. But here we stay with the term chord for the time being.

This exercise will help you place your hand correctly and will encourage you to use more than one finger at the same time. Don't worry if your coordination doesn't work so well at first. With a little practice, your fingers should be able to play chords fluently.

So how does it work?

When you play a chord, you end up missing a note between each note. This is how the C major chord is created when you play C-E-G with fingers 1-3-5 on your right hand. And as you can see, you omit D and F.

  1. We start with the right hand. Put your thumb on any key. Then position your hand and play every other note, starting with the thumb. Now play all three notes with your thumb, middle finger and little finger (1-3-5) at the same time. Repeat this a few times.
  2. Now move your hand around and try to play a chord where you happen to land.
  3. If you can safely play the chords with your right hand, try the same exercise with your left hand as well.

The more you play this, the easier it gets - so stay tuned! And if you want to learn more about chords, you can find this helpful article on the Skoove blog.

Exercise 5: Playing legato and staccato notes

Composers often tell the performers to play legato or staccato notes. Legato notes are even, tied tones that mostly create flowing musical phrases. Staccato notes, on the other hand, are free-standing, separated, short notes.

Practicing these types of notes will help you play better while strengthening your hand. Because those who master staccatos and legatos have more control over the timbre of the music being played.

Once you can play from sight, you will want to implement this music accordingly. Playing the right notes is only the first step. Then it's about bringing emotions, different touches, dynamics and phrasing into the music. By the way, if you want to learn how to read music, this article is a great place to start.

Before we get to the actual exercise, here's an important note that there are two types of staccato notes. You play the wrist staccato with the movement of your wrist. In finger staccato, on the other hand, the tempo of your finger is responsible for the short, abrupt staccato notes. Often the interpreters determine which method they use for their performance. For the exercise here we will use finger staccato.

Graham Fitch is a popular piano teacher whose playing the New York Times once described as "untroubled pleasure". In the following video he explains the legato and staccato attack in detail:

This is how the exercise works:

  1. Place all five fingers of your right hand on the keys and play a pentatonic scale. Hold each key until you play the next, connect them and play them seamlessly one after the other. Make sure there are no rests between notes as you move up or down the keys.
  2. Then try the opposite and play the pentatonic scale with a short finger staccato. Imagine if the keys were very hot and you would burn your fingers if you touched them - this could help your technique in the beginning. Make sure that your hand does not move away from the keys and only try to touch the keys lightly with your fingers.
  3. Then try to do the exercise with both hands at the same time.

Conclusion

The Skoove app helps you develop these skills and techniques as you learn to play the piano. And when you have completed the exercises - then you could play "Dancing Queen" from ABBA with the help of our interactive instructions?

Start exercise

To get in the mood, check out the Dancing Queen version by the talented pianist Francesco Parrino.

With a little practice, you can too! Your hand is made up of bones, ligaments, and most importantly, muscles. Just as athletes train their muscles, as a piano player you should also train your muscles - i.e. the muscles of your hand. And the only way to get your hands fit ... is to PRACTICE with them.

Have fun practicing and playing!

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Author of this article:

Roelof Strydom is a copywriter whose content has been published worldwide. Born with perfect pitch, he honed his music reading skills during his time at the world-famous Drakensburg Boys Choir School. When he's not writing, he plays the piano, drinks red wine, reads good books or drives his old Benz through the vast landscapes of South Africa, where he lives. He runs a music school with currently 250 students and is a well-known piano entertainer who performs regularly in Johannesburg.