The Most Important Piano Exercises

Lisa Witt  /  Hand Independence / May 7

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I’m going to show you three piano exercises that are perfect for beginner and intermediate piano players alike. If you want to take your piano skills to the next level, this lesson is for you!

Each exercise is designed to level up a core skill:

  1. Speed
  2. Hand independence
  3. Control

Ready to level up your piano playing? Let’s get started!

Exercise #1: Hanon No. 10

<<Download Hanon No.10 here>>

This exercise not only improves speed; it works your fourth and fifth fingers, which are often our weakest fingers. You’ll gain speed and better finger control from Hanon No. 10.

Hanon exercises are also useful because many of them are can be transposed. This means your fingers will naturally play the same pattern of notes going up or down.


It may help to tap out the downbeat to stay on track and consistent.

…And don’t forget your left hand!


📜 HISTORY BITE! Hanon exercises have been around for nearly 150 years. They were developed by a French piano teacher, Charles-Louis Hanon, in 1874 and compiled in a collection called The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 exercises.

Remember: if your speed is inconsistent, it doesn’t count! So get out that metronome. Start slow. Once you’re comfortable with the speed you’re at, then — and only then! — increase your speed by 3-5 bpm.

If you want to ramp up your speed, you can also check out our lesson on speed exercises.

Exercise #2: Hand Independence

<<Download sheet music for this exercise here>>

You need a sense of humor when working on hand independence 🙂 (Because trust me, you won’t get it right away!)

For this exercise, we’ll be playing fifths on our left hand in a syncopated rhythm pattern. Spend some time getting used to this pattern first.

Then, we’ll add quarter notes on our right hand. This means the rhythms in each hand won’t align perfectly with each other.

It’ll feel weird, which is totally normal. Slow it down if you need to, tap out the beat, or write out the counting in your sheet music.

Sheet music for piano exercise no. 2 with mark-up. Counting is added and matched to respective notes.

Be patient. Mastering this exercise takes time!

Once you feel comfortable with it, however, you can take it to the next level by playing a five-finger scale in your right hand. This will require even more focus and control!

To make it even harder, you can play the syncopated pattern on your right hand and the scale on your left. Switch it up!

Exercise #3: Control

<<Download the sheet music for this exercise here>>

What’s the difference between a good pianist and an awesome pianist? Control.

Experienced pianists have incredible control over not only fingers, speed, and technique, but expression.

If you can be in control of your hands and those little tiny nuances, that’s going to be what takes your playing from good to great and gives you want you need to be a very impactful player.

In the last of our piano exercises, we’ll play a very simple piece. Then, we’ll add dynamics, articulation, and other ornaments that make the piece sound more like, well, music.

This may seem straightforward, but it can be a lot to focus on when you first start. Again, feel free to mark up your sheet music with colorful reminders.

In music, we have a lot of different terms and symbols to describe how a piece should be played. Here are a few:

  • Piano: play softly.
  • Staccato: play in a very detached manner, almost like a hop.
  • Crescendo: gradually play louder. (The opposite of crescendo is decrescendo.)
  • Mezzo forte: play medium-loud.
  • Mezzo piano: play medium-soft.
  • Phrasing: connect notes into a continuous phrase, like one breath of singing.

This may feel like a lot to memorize, but as you continue on your piano journey, you’ll learn to recognize these terms very quickly!

🔥🎹 HOT TIP! There’s an art to playing crescendos and decrescendos. Learn how the masters do it here.

We hope these piano exercises help you take your playing to the next level. 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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