Piano Exercises: Develop Your Technique

Piano exercises provide tools for developing finger, hand, and arm techniques for playing the piano. Technique develops while working on actual pieces, but sometimes a few exercises come in handy, especially for beginners.

Piano exercises are generally not terribly complex. Simple patterns allow the piano student to focus on the feel, technique, steadiness and evenness.

Here, you will find a listing of exercises in progressive order for developing finger ability and technique from the beginning. The order is effective, but is not set in stone.

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The Piano Exercises Plan:

The piano student should start with the following eight exercises, mastering each one and practicing it with a metronome for at least a week before moving on to the next one.

Of course one could learn them all simultaneously, but I assume the piano student would prefer to work on other things (music reading, music learning, etc...) as well.

Peanut Butter Etude

This exercise should be played slowly (72-96 bpm) at first. It is for learning how to drop one's arm weight into each finger.

Each note is repeated four times (say "peanut butter", for added excitement), giving the pianist a chance to focus on keeping each finger tall, firm, curved, and use the weight of the arm. The last note of each group of four should be connected to the first of the next. On the last five notes play legato (say "peanut butter pie" for more fun).

Stepping and Skipping 

This exercise works the fingers on the two most basic moves on the keys. Play it slow at first, then work your way up to faster tempos (72-144 bpm, for beginners)

M and W exercise 

This exercise is about changing directions. Play it smoothly. As usual, start slowly and work up (72-144 bpm, for beginners).

3rds Etude 

This exercise should be mastered with 3 different fingering combinations: 1&3, 2&4, 3&5. Use the same combination in both hands at the same time (1&3 in right hand goes with 3&1 in left).

4ths Etude

This exercise should be mastered with 2 different fingering combinations: 1&4, 2&5. Use the same combination in both hands at the same time (1&4 with right hand goes with 4&1 in the left).

5ths Etude

Master this exercise with a 1&5 fingering combination.

6ths Etude

Master this exercise with a 1&5 fingering combination.

Intervall Fun exercise 

This study combines intervals up to a 5th. Pianist could say (or sing), "Up a 2nd, up a 3rd, up a 4th, up a 5th, intervals are so much fun". (Descending, substitute the word "up" with the word "down".) 

Next: Scales, Arpeggios, & Chords

Once you have made it through these exercises, capable of playing each one confidently, comfortably, smoothly- flowing, and musically... you are ready to move on to scales & arpeggios, and chords.

Wikipedia's Information on piano exercises 

For more about some other keyboard studies, click here.

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