The pianist’s journey never ends, and even advanced pianists continue to practice technical studies and finger exercises to play faster, more evenly, more musically, and with more speed. You don’t need to alot hours each week for etudes, a few minutes every day will keep you on the path to improvement.
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Finger Exercises For Pianists That Improve Technique
Never Stop Practicing Your Scales
Practicing scales is fundamental to building finger strength, dexterity, and coordination. Advanced pianists should work on all major and minor scales, playing them in multiple octaves, and varying articulations and dynamics. Scales can be practiced with both hands together, as well as separately, and at different tempos to increase finger agility and control. In short, treat each scale as a piece of music – you shouldn’t simply play them mindlessly.
Furthermore, practice scales in every mode, not just major and melodic minor. Advanced pianists should also practice their chromatic scales, as you will need to play chromatically, especially in romantic piano literature.
Arpeggios help pianists develop a smooth and even touch across the keyboard, as they require precise control of finger movements, hand position changes, and perhaps most importantly, wrist rotation. Like scales, arpeggios should be practiced in all major and minor keys, with varied articulations and dynamics, and at a range of tempos. The most challenging part of playing arpeggios correctly is connecting notes when the thumb tucks under.
For a more challenging arpeggio workout, try the Alexander Technique book.
Practicing In Thirds, Sixths, and Octaves
Double notes, such as thirds, sixths, and octaves are essential for developing finger and hand coordination. Pianists should practice these intervals in both legato and staccato styles, working on maintaining a consistent tone and evenness between the notes. Double-note scales and arpeggios can also be practiced to further refine this skill.
Many college programs require students to demonstrate proficiency in playing scales in thirds, and you may need to play your scales in sixths (one note per hand), and octaves (an octave in each hand) as well.
Use Hanon From Time to Time
Too much Hanon can lead to tension and discomfort, but it’s an excellent tool when used sparingly. Charles-Louis Hanon’s “The Virtuoso Pianist” contains a collection of 60 exercises designed to improve finger strength, independence, and agility. These exercises focus on specific finger patterns and movements and should be practiced daily as part of a structured routine. While practicing Hanon exercises, pianists should pay attention to their hand position and maintain a relaxed, flexible wrist.
Add Some Czerny to the Mix
Carl Czerny’s vast collection of piano exercises, such as the “School of Velocity” and “The Art of Finger Dexterity,” offers pianists a wealth of material for refining their technique. Czerny’s exercises target specific aspects of piano playing, such as finger independence, agility, and articulation. Pianists should select exercises that address their particular technical challenges and practice them regularly to improve their skills.
Trills and Tremolo Motion
Trills and tremolos are essential for developing finger agility, strength, and speed. Pianists should practice trills with different finger combinations, focusing on maintaining a consistent speed and evenness between the notes. Tremolos, which involve rapidly alternating between two notes, can be practiced with both hands, working on control and stamina. This can be especially important if you feel that some of your fingers, like your ring finger and pinky, are lagging behind in regards to speed. Furthermore, you’ll need to practice playing a beautiful trill (in different dynamic ranges) if you want to play Baroque music or even Chopin.
Practice Voicing and Finger Independence
Advanced pianists must master the skill of voicing, which involves emphasizing specific notes within a chord or melodic line to bring out the musical texture. Voicing exercises can be practiced by playing chords or polyphonic passages, focusing on bringing out different voices by varying the pressure applied to each finger.
This will most often be done in the context of the music you are playing. For instance, practice playing the melody line all by itself at first. Then, add the bass line, keeping it subdued so as to highlight the melody. Then fill in the rest of the notes thereafter.
Work With a Pianist Who Plays at a High Level
Youtube, blogs, and apps can provide guidance for finger development, but you’ll always improve more quickly under the tutelage of an experienced teacher who plays the piano at a professional level. They will send you home after each lesson with a schedule of drills and exercises to practice, and they will always make sure you are using healthy technique.