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Whether you’re just starting out at the piano or are a vetted pro, you need to understand the importance of warming up before you get into the bulk of your practicing. A good piano warmup will ensure that you can practice without the threat of injury, plus you’ll be a lot more accurate and expressive too!
This first thing most pianists do to warm up is play scales. But if you don’t have a game plan, you might just end up running the same scales over and over as part of your practice routine. Sounds pretty boring, right? Well, luckily there’s an easier, more practical way to incorporate simple scales into your warmup practice.
It’s always important to remember why you’re practicing something. Even if it’s a major scale, think about what similar keys that scale would work with. A good start is to run a C major scale followed by an F major scale and then a G major scale. That way you’re working on familiarizing yourself further with the I, IV, and V of a given key.
You can take this same concept and apply it to chords as well. If you’ve been playing for a while, you probably already know about the benefit of running chord inversions up and down the keyboard. It helps build accuracy and muscle memory on the keyboard. So rather than practicing chord inversions in one key, play them as part of a fluid I, IV, V progression! Remember to play them in both solid (all chord notes played at once) and broken (notes played sequentially) forms.
The last warmup exercise I like to do is arpeggios. I think of arpeggios like a super big broken triad with an octave root note on top. They are a great way of reinforcing a very important concept that piano players need to learn: motion and momentum in their playing.
You see, to play a larger pattern like an arpeggio your hands need to always be in motion. You can’t play them with your hand stationary, especially if you want to play one that spans beyond a single octave. Taking an arpeggio practice and applying it to a I, IV, V progression will really nail this point home. Your playing for this exercise will feel like one perpetual motion.
...Ok, so you’ve got both hands working together running each of these exercises in unison. Your scales are looking great, your chord inversions are building that internal knowledge of the spacing of the keyboard that you need to play, and your arpeggios are really nailing home the concept that piano playing is always in motion. The final step is a simple exercise that separates the roles of the left and right hands.
All you have to do for this exercise is pulse a fifth interval in your left hand in time with a major scale in the right. It might seem hard at first, but the idea is to think of both your hands as being in rhythm with each other.
Take a metronome and try pulsing your left hand along with it, and then try playing a scale along with it. Try to zone into each hand motion, so you aren’t thinking about it with your head so much. In time, patterns like this will become second nature. Joining left and right hands together is more about learning how to not think so hard about it. It might seem counter-intuitive but it really works!
So there you have it. A couple practice warmups that I use to get myself ready to play or write music. Give it a shot!