Why Practice Piano Scales (Importance of Piano Technique)

Charmaine Li  /  Practice  /  UPDATED Jan 16, 2023

The benefits of practicing technique—and how to make it fun!

Scales, triads, arpeggios…these piano technical exercises can feel boring, even useless. Why practice monotonous scales when there are so many cool songs to play?

But technical exercises do have a purpose. In fact, they’re so important that we’ve decided to release our Piano Technique Made Easy lesson pack—once exclusive to Pianote members—out to the public!

This article will include two parts:

  1. The benefits of practicing good piano technique; and
  2. How to practice piano technique in a way that doesn’t feel dull!

Let’s jump in.

Benefits of Good Piano Technique

Mastering your piano scales and technique goes a long way. You’ll reap benefits such as:

  • Staying physically comfortable at the piano
  • Improving your hand independence
  • Playing and learning faster
  • Being more confident at improv

Let’s break down these benefits.

Proper posture keeps you comfortable at the piano.

Piano can be physically demanding. Sore shoulders, aching forearms, and cramped fingers are common complaints.

But playing the piano should be comfortable and painless. The less discomfort you experience, the more motivated you’ll be at practicing and progressing. Technique and proper posture at the piano will support this.

Physical comfort is so important that we begin each level of Piano Technique Made Easy with a warm-up designed to get you familiar with good posture. Check it out:

Remember these key points:

  • Don’t slouch!
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, use a stack
  • of books or a footrest.
  • Sit close enough to the piano that your knees come just under the keyboard.
  • Relax your arms and gently bend them at the elbow.

Stretch before you play and stretch in between songs. If you’re practicing for a long time, take breaks!

Good technique improves your hand independence.

Hand independence is a fundamental part of playing the piano. But it can feel tricky and unnatural, especially for beginners.

One of the first hand independence challenges you’ll face as a new pianist is scales. Playing scales hands together is tough! You’re playing the same notes an octave apart, but not using the same fingers. You have to keep track of when to tuck under or cross over, but your hands won’t be doing so at the same time.

It’s a lot to coordinate!

So, take it step by step. In our Piano Technique Made Easy lesson pack, we’ll show you a way to practice scales with finger groupings.

You can download the sheet music here!

Soon, tucking under and crossing over will feel second-nature, and you’ll be more adept at playing scales hands together.

Once you master scales, take it to the next level with contrary motion exercises.

Good technique enables you to play and learn faster.

Obviously, when it comes to fast runs and impressive licks, having your scales down pat will improve your finger speed.

But triad and chord practice also help with learning new songs.

Practicing chords forces you to get familiar with chord shapes. And practicing chord inversions will help you quickly identify, play, and build chord progressions.

Patterns in music

Music is made up of patterns. Patterns like chord inversions, arpeggios, and scales are hiding in all your pieces. Knowing how to identify these patterns will make it easier and faster to learn to play them.

In turn, improvising becomes easier too!

Once you know chords, chord inversions, and basic chord progressions like the back of your hand, improvising gets easier too.

As pianists, we shouldn’t just practice scales and arpeggios, up and down, up and down. We need to apply our knowledge.

A solid understanding of chord progressions—and all the different ways you can play chords (inversions, broken, arpeggios, etc.)—will give you a strong foundation to learn how to improvise.

As a classically-trained pianist, I’m fairly new to improvising. But thanks to my experience with scales and chords, it wasn’t too difficult for me to pick up a chord progression and play licks on top of it.

That’s because I’ve built up mental and muscle memory for scale and chord patterns. Indeed, technical exercises go a long way!

How to Make Piano Scales and Technique FUN

Scales, arpeggios, and Hanon exercises have existed for generations, and they work, but they’re not always fun.

But even old-school classical music offers innovative alternatives. Many composers wrote études (French for “studies”): short pieces designed to develop technique. Many of these are beautiful and far from boring on their own. They may especially appeal to younger musicians.

Some of my favorite études growing up come from a collection by the composer Franz Bürgmuller: 25 Études faciles et progressives. These pieces were so charming and beautiful on their own, I didn’t even realize I was developing speed, flexibility, and coordination by playing them!

So, check out some études if you’re interested in classical music. (You can find Bürgmuller’s collection online for free.) If classical isn’t your cup of tea, spice up your practice with these ideas you can learn right here on Pianote:

  1. Improve hand independence with blues piano. With its syncopated rhythms, blues piano is a fun way to master that tricky thing that is hand independence!
  2. Make scale practice fun by adding in chord progressions.
  3. Once you master a few scales, challenge yourself with a few piano speed drills. Learn a variety of drills to keep things interesting.
  4. Practice chords by paying attention to chord shape and build chord progressions based on the keys you’re learning. Since similar chord progressions are the building blocks to many pop songs, mastering this will set you up for life.
  5. Continue learning songs while you practice technique. You’ll soon spot patterns in new songs that you’ll recognize from practicing technique.

Because as important as it is to practice your scales, enjoying piano is just as—if not more—important.

If technical exercises make you miserable, you’re less likely to practice them. The trick is to find technical exercises that work for YOU. So, take your time, explore, and remember to be kind to yourself. Technique doesn’t happen overnight!

About Piano Technique Made Easy

There are 12 major keys and 12 minor keys in Western music. If you practice scales, arpeggios, triads, and chords for each key, that’s a lot to practice!

It’s daunting and we get it! That’s why in Piano Technique Made Easy, we’ve organized technical exercises like triads, scales, and arpeggios by key from easiest (C major and A minor) to most difficult (B major and G# minor).

Give yourself the time and space to learn each key slowly and deliberately. Learn a new key each day or each week at your own pace. Try different exercises. Overall: HAVE FUN!

Charmaine Li is a Vancouver writer who has played piano for over 20 years. She holds an Associate diploma (ARCT) from the Royal Conservatory of Music and loves writing about the ways in which music—and music learning—affects the human experience. Charmaine manages The Note. Learn more about Charmaine here.

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