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:
Let’s jump in.
Mastering your piano scales and technique goes a long way. You’ll reap benefits such as:
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:
Stretch before you play and stretch in between songs. If you’re practicing for a long time, take breaks!
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, like this:
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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!
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Learning chords is a great way to improve your piano skills without any music theory. And Lisa Witt’s “Chord Hacks” series will show you how to play the most popular chords, so you can play many of your favorite songs on the piano!
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