Piano Warm-up Exercises

Lisa Witt  /  Practice  /  UPDATED Jan 12, 2023

These piano warm-up exercises will help get your fingers limbered up and ready to play!


Why bother warming-up at all?

Having a proper warm-up is a SUPER important part of piano practice. Just like exercise, warming-up helps prevent injury to our fingers.

It also makes it easier to learn new songs because your fingers will just feel better. They’ll be moving more freely and faster.

And finally, warming-up helps you arrive mentally at the piano.

It tells your brain, ”Hey! Now’s the time to concentrate on the piano.”

And when your mind and body are cooperating, you can make amazing music.

So let’s dive in!

You gotta stretch!

Playing the piano is a physical experience. We use our muscles and tendons to play those keys, so it helps to spend a few seconds stretching.

I LOVE stretching out my forearm before every practice session.

Over the years, I’ve had some trouble with carpal tunnel syndrome, so this stretch feels incredible and I can’t go without it now.

For more information and examples of some good warm-up stretches, watch this lesson.

Say “hello” to the piano

Once you’ve stretched, take a moment to appreciate where you are. You’re sitting at your piano about to make beautiful music.

Take a deep breath, and say “hello” to your piano.

Ok, you don’t actually have to say the word, but my point is that you should make an effort to be present at the keys.

That means letting the past and future distractions go for just a few minutes and turn all your attention to your practice.

Don’t worry, those distractions will still be there once you’ve finished your practice, and there’s nothing you can do about them right now anyway.

Warm-up exercise #1 – the Finger Pattern

This is my favorite finger pattern to get started.

Now, it might look a little intimidating, but it’s quite simple and you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

Here it is:


What does that mean?

That is the finger pattern you’ll use to play a five-finger scale. So it’ll look like this:

Take it slow, and see how each number represents a finger playing a key.

Start on C, and the notes will be:


Once you’re done with C, move up to D. We’re in the key of C, so we’ll only be playing white keys.

Keep moving up through the C scale with your right-hand. This helps warms your fingers up and get them nice and loose. It also helps build dexterity.

Don’t rush this. It’s not about speed, it’s a piano warm-up exercise.

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The left-hand pattern

Once you’ve gone up the scale with your right-hand, it’s time to move to the left-hand.

Because our right and left hands are different, the finger pattern will change. So it will now be:


The notes are exactly the same, but the fingering changes.

Again, work your way up through the scale to warm-up those fingers.

Playing it with both hands

Once you’ve gone through the pattern with each hand, it’s time to add the hands together.

You could just play the pattern with both hands, but I like to stagger it. So you’ll play and hold the C note with your left hand while playing the pattern with your right.

And then once you’ve played the pattern with your right hand, hold the C with your right thumb and play the pattern with your left.

Keep alternating. It’s like an echo, and it forces your brain to think a bit harder.

Warm-up exercise #2 – Staccato Arpeggio

Arpeggios are an amazing exercise and technique that can really make your playing sound beautiful.

Here we’ll be practicing playing arpeggios staccato, which means play them super short and bouncy.

Play an arpeggio with your right hand first, then the left hand, and then play them with both hands at the same time.

I also like to use a chord progression to make this more musical.

So, in the key of C, I’ll start by playing the arpeggios on C.

Then I’ll move down to A, F, and finally G.

These 4 chords represent the most common chords in pop music, and just sound nice!

Warm-up exercise #3 – Octave Scales

This is the final exercise of the warm-up.

We’ll be playing and bouncing up and down the scale using octaves.

This can be a big stretch for some people, so make sure you’re not feeling any discomfort or tension while you’re playing. (For tips on reducing tension, watch this lesson.)

One hand will play the octave with the notes together, while the other will bounce between the notes.

Here’s what it looks like:

Then switch roles. Hold the octave with your right hand and play the separate notes with your left!

Final thoughts

I hope you enjoyed these piano warm-up exercises.

This warmup will only take about 10 minutes. But…

I know there will be days when that might be all you have to practice.

And that’s ok.

Pick one (or two) of these exercises and just try to do them. If you’re running super short on time, try this 10-minute practice routine.

I want to leave you with one challenge…

Try this.

Seriously, commit to using these piano warm-up exercises for a week and see for yourself what a difference it makes.

Your fingers will be warm, limber, and faster.

It’s worth it. Trust me.

Happy practicing!

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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