Get Faster Fingers

Cassi Falk  /  Play Faster / Jul 12

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Finger tension can be a real problem for many pianists.

You might have experienced it yourself. You’re practicing, and suddenly your fingers ache. It’s not good.

Finger tension can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most common causes are playing the piano too fast and trying to play chords and intervals that are too much of a stretch.

That’s why it is so important to progress in the correct way. It’s why I say time and time again that the best way to play fast is to start slow. We need to build up the strength, dexterity, and accuracy in our fingers, and also make sure we don’t cause injury.

Cassi has four exercises that will not only help you remove finger tension, but they will help your fingers get stronger and help you play faster. And the best thing is that you can practice some of these away from the piano!

The Warmup

This is something you can do anywhere. If you’re at the piano you can use the fallboard. If your piano doesn’t have one, then a desk is fine.

All you have to do is balance your hands on each finger, hands together. This is getting us used to curving our fingers and using the tips of our fingers to be the contact point with the piano.

Go slowly, and pay attention to finger 4 (the ring finger). This is often a weaker finger.

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Take It To The Keys

Now we are going to do the exact same exercise, but playing the piano. Start on a note (middle C is always good) and then play a slow contrary motion five-finger scale.

Remember to balance on the tips and keep the pressure on each finger even. Don’t rush this — it’s not about speed just yet. This is about strength and control. Speed comes next.

Work On Speed

Pick a scale that you are comfortable with. In the example, Cassi is using the D major scale, but you can pick anyone you like.

We’ll start by playing only the first FOUR notes of the scale. So we will have to tuck our thumb but only play the four notes.

We are going to work on playing a bit faster, by adding a note as we go along. So once you are comfortable playing the first four notes (The Addams Family Theme) then add the fifth note. Then the sixth, then the seventh, up until we’re playing the full octave.

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Work On The Left Hand

Up until now, we have really only focused on the right hand for speed. But often we’ll want to play fast patterns with our left hand. A common one is arpeggios or broken triads. Playing the three notes of a triad quickly can really tire out the fingers. So we need to find a way to help.

That’s where the wrist comes in. By using our wrist we can take a lot of the strain off of the fingers, allowing us to play faster, and longer.

To do this we need to create little circles with our wrist, behind the fingers. This engages our forearm and allows our fingers to be in a better position to play the notes. As we get faster the circles will get smaller.

Final Thoughts

Cassi ends the lesson with three fantastic takeaways.

  1. Practice away from the piano to build strength. The first exercise is so good because it can be done anywhere. Got a few minutes spare at work? Practice finger strength!
  2. Make sure to give your fingers rest between exercises. These exercises can be a workout! So make sure to rest and relax your fingers after each one.
  3. Don’t be afraid to write notes on your music or exercise workbooks. These could be fingering patterns, highlighting parts that need attention. It’s ok to write on your sheet music!

So I hope you’ll try these out and find them useful!

Happy Practicing!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 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.

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