Regardless of whether you are 3 years old or 93 years old you may get frustrated when you don’t perform to your liking. There is a certain expectation that your teacher might have or you may put on yourself that drives you to do your best. That expectation might be the need for consistency of speed, independence, and agility or just to please yourself along with friends and family.
The proper posture and technique can be learned, but everything that a pianist does is distinct to his or her nature. Eventually upon proper practice, your technique can be mastered. Just be you. These finger exercises will be detrimental to your success. If practiced properly, then you will succeed.
I’m going to break this down for you all in a few layers of onions. Wait, onions have layers? Anyway, I am going to save you the struggle of figuring it all out.
First is working on agility or the ability to play according to the time signature. The second layer is the independence of the fingers and more importantly, the hands. The third layer reveals how to achieve total evenness in the hands. The final layer holds up all the rest with its strength. This will set you on your path to becoming a virtuoso.
Importance of the Mindset
The mind is a terrible thing to waste… It determines everything that we do and ultimately controls our fingers. While we intend to build up our physical strength, we must also condition the mind.
Arthur Rubinstein, a virtuoso pianist from before many of our times, said that “the mind holds the key to our soul – something in every land, every religion.” He went down as one of the most talented pianists of his time whose inspiring words lead to the joy of others through song. He played until his dying breath despite the setbacks. Keep the mindset… don’t think too much.
Importance of Finger Exercises in Piano
The piano is a slowly evolving instrument. There once was a time when feeling and emotion meant everything, but that has sadly changed. There has never been a more important time for this, we need to work hard to bring this back!
If you tune into any piano performances and commentaries they will stress the need for finger exercises and emotion. Upon mastering your technique and finger exercises, you will be able to capitalize on more of the keyboard and slash your practice time in half – increasing productivity and effectiveness.
With respect to the virtuoso, finger exercises serve as their baseline and “simple yet complex” techniques are necessary even for the most articulate pianists. These will improve your underlying aspects that will make you into a respected virtuoso pianist!
There are 4 attributes that contribute to this:
- Ability to improvise
- Agility and independence of the fingers
- Accuracy of your jumps and trills
- Joy from music
Truly, one only needs the 4th attribute to succeed. If you wish to improve or learn the other attributes, then I HIGHLY recommend Hanon – The Virtuoso Pianist. This book is a compilation of the most effective piano finger exercises. The amount of knowledge in this book is remarkable and I personally learned so much from it. The exercises will help you if you practice!
Feel Free to read up on it! Hanon – The Virtuoso Pianist
Scales are essential exercises that will lead to more fluid playing and understanding of key signatures. These exercises are sadly overlooked by the modern pianist. Sometimes they are considered too simple. Others think that they are more complex because of the finger notations and speed required to play them. If you can master all 12 key signature scales, you will be on your way to understanding the fundamentals of the piano.
Most of you are familiar with |Do Re Me Fa So| from The Sound of Music. Now you can apply this to the piano. Taking the time to learn these exercises will help you greatly. You will cut the time it takes to learn any piece in half.
Kaedrian at Kade and Keys does a great job of showing and explaining this concept. Check out his visual approach to help your playing become more fluent!
Chords are clusters of notes that are played together in harmony. You might be intimidated when you sit down at the piano for the first time with all the keys. Do not fret because learning chords will seemingly shrink the size of your keyboard… Not literally, of course. Once you master all chords and learn your way around the keyboard, you are playing chord piano. This is a way to play harmonic tones used in virtually every music piece. This will benefit you greatly because you will learn to read and master pieces easily! It is well worth your time.
Kaedrian at Kade and Keys has your back on this one. He will explain a holistic way to understand the concept!
Improving Your Composure and “Set up”
Do not ever try to be someone else. Just be you. When I was younger, there were certain pianists that I admired most: Evgeny Kissin, Krystian Zimerman and Arthur Rubinstein. I tried to mimic not only their technique but also them. Please, learn from my mistakes. I just ended up making a fool of myself and losing the meaning of music. This hindered my progress greatly.
It is a common notion that one must practice the same way that they perform. That notion is totally true, but it takes time to get used to it. Always keep in mind you posture, but don’t let it distract you from your playing.
Keep your wrists in a comfortable position!
- Preferably, mount your hands on your knees and release tension.
- Maintain that position and slowly lift you hands back up to the keyboard.
- Make sure that you are sitting at a comfortable height for you (make sure your wrists are level.)
- Align you belly button to Middle C (The center-most C key on the keyboard.)
If you master these techniques, then you will be able to practice your finger exercises much more effectively.
Other Finger Exercises and Methods
There are many ways that you can build up your skills, but unfortunately those exercise can be the most boring and repetitive things ever. In order to tackle this beastie, we are going to have to broaden our horizon and take a comprehensive approach. There are many books out there that help teach scales, arpeggios and whatnot but we can focus solely on hand and finger dexterity. Sheet Music Plus has a lot to offer growing pianists.
I am not going to recommend to you the so called “Idiot’s Guide to Piano” because it just sounds demeaning, but it is effective. So, if you are a visual learner and feel inclined, check out Virtual Sheet Music! They offer thousands of free and paid titles of sheet music including finger exercises.
Finally, I need to stress the need for music/piano theory. I don’t wish to bore you, but the benefits that come from knowing this are valuable, but not paramount. If you wish to play Bach or Chopin, then knowing how the composer typically writes his pieces will help. You’ll learn to analyze patterns, finger markings, and technique. It can also help you find the meaning of a piece, that may not come to you as naturally. There are many apps that come in handy and most include music theory which you can stream along with other skill sets. Many of my students like to use these apps to enhance their playing.
Keep Your Head in the Game
I must warn you that practice comes with many hardships. Many of us will fail multiple times and want to give up at some point, like I did… This isn’t good at all. Let me help you by providing you with the resources that I didn’t have the luxury of. All of you can become piano virtuosos. The only stipulation is time. Don’t worry about money because if you are truly dedicated then you will triumph! Remember that most piano teachers make $50/ hour and often times they will want you to buy these books along with their lessons, then send you on your way.
Please hit me up If you ever need any advice, tips, or tricks!
If you have any ideas or practice preferences, please, SHARE IT! Your fellow pianists could learn a lot. Feel free to leave comments below.
What’s in your repertoire?