A Complete Practice Routine in D Minor

Lisa Witt  /  Practice  /  UPDATED Jan 13, 2023

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Sometimes, it’s nice to branch out from C Major. Because while C Major is great for learning new concepts, ideally, piano players should learn scales, arpeggios, chords, and more in all twelve keys.

But don’t worry, we won’t jump into something crazy like F-Sharp Major today! Instead, we’ll look at a key with just one flat: D Minor. And we’ll do a complete practice routine based on this key:

  1. Scales
  2. Chords
  3. Arpeggios
  4. Creative Exercises
  5. BONUS! Concerto No. 3 (Adagio) in D Minor
  6. More Practice Routines

Make sure to download the practice routine resources before you begin.


D Minor Scale

First things first: let’s play the D Minor scale. D Minor is the relative minor key of F Major, so they both have just the one flat (B♭).

D Minor Natural Scale

Start by playing the scale in its simplest, natural form for one octave, D to D. Remember your tucks and cross-overs! If playing the scale hands together is too challenging, practice it hands separate first.

D Minor Harmonic Scale

If the D Minor natural scale sounds a little funny, you’re not alone. One way to make a minor scale “resolve” nicer is by raising the seventh note. In our case, we’ll add a sharp to C.

Spice Up Your Scales

Eventually, playing scales up and down will feel easy. And you might feel tempted to zone out… 😴

Time to refocus! Try playing the scale with a specific articulation in your right hand. Then do the same with your left. You can try staccato practice on one hand while the other plays legato. Like this:

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D Minor Chord Progressions

Next, it’s time for chord practice. You may have heard of the legendary four chords that unlock hundreds of pop songs. The original Fantastic Four are C, G, F, and Am. They all belong in C Major as the I, V, IV, and vi diatonic chords, respectively.

But there’s a version of these four chords in all keys. In D Minor, your magical four chords are Dm, B♭, Gm, and A.

Dm (i)

Gm (iv)

B♭ (VI)

A (V)

Basic Chord Progression Practice

Let’s start with something simple. Play the Fantastic Four with your right hand and a simple fifth outlining the chord with your left.

Once that feels good, try playing the chords in both hands.

Chord Inversions Practice

If you’ve been playing piano for a while, you know just how useful inversions can be.

Inversions are when you play the notes of a triad in a different order. Knowing inversion shapes can help you quickly transition from chord to chord. It’s a useful shortcut.

Traditionally, students learned inversions by playing them over and over. This can sound bland, so we encourage you to practice them as part of a chord progression. Like this:

Arpeggios in D Minor

Everyone loves arpeggios. They look impressive and sound beautiful…but minor arpeggios? Minor arpeggios are on another level!

Again, you can make your arpeggio practice more songlike by playing them as part of a chord progression.

Creative Exploration in D Minor

Now that you’ve gotten your scales, chords, and arpeggios out of the way, it’s time for a creative treat!

Keep that progression going on in your left hand—we suggest rocking fifths as an easy rhythm to start with. Then…just play whatever you want with your right hand.

Keep to notes found within D Minor and you’ll sound good. Drop a C# here and there too.

BONUS! Concerto No. 3 (Adagio) in D Minor

Scales and chords are great and useful, but the point of playing piano is to play songs. And since we’re in such a D Minor-y mood, let’s play a piece in D Minor.


This is Bach’s Concerto No. 3 (BMV 974) in D Minor. It was originally an oboe concerto by Alessandro Marcello, but Bach arranged it for keyboard. It’s often called the Adagio in D Minor. If you want to learn more about this piece, here’s a short and delightful documentary by the Netherlands Bach Society.

Meanwhile, here are some tips for sight-reading a piece like this:

  • Look for patterns. Patterns are shortcuts. Right off the bat, we see that the piece opens with a series of repeating notes. That’s an easy first measure!
  • Learn it hand by hand. Play the right hand part by itself first, and then the left. Get to know how the song feels in each hand, individually, before combining things.
  • Use your bass and treble parts to line up your rhythm. The handy thing about sheet music is the left and right hand parts match up, so you can visualize hand independence this way.
  • Go slow. Be patient! Speed comes with time. For a piece like the Adagio (which literally means “slow”), you shouldn’t rush anyway 🙂
Alessandro Marcello

More Practice Routines

We hope you enjoyed this practice routine in D Minor! Getting better at piano is all about practice. But we get it: practice can get boring. So, we’re all about finding practice routines that mix technical skill-building and song-like fun. Here are more Pianote practice routines to keep you progressing instead of falling asleep:

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Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

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