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Can you learn the piano if you don’t have a piano?

No.

Sorry.

But you CAN practice some techniques to help you improve so that when you DO return to the keys, your fingers will be a little stronger, more independent, and under control.

Here’s how to practice piano WITHOUT a piano.

Dexterity Exercises

One of the exercises you can do will help build dexterity and independence in your fingers.

All you need is a desk or flat surface.

You’ll be creating random patterns for your fingers and then “playing” those patterns on the desk. You have 5 fingers (if we include the thumb as a finger) so write out the numbers 1-5 in a random order.

Practice piano without a piano - dexterity exercise

Then play that pattern on your desk with each hand. Try it with your right hand first, then your left, then try it with both at the same time.

Mix the order around to challenge yourself. Personally I always find the 4 finger (the ring finger) to be a struggle. That little guy hates doing anything on his own.

When you do get back to the keys, you can take the Finger Independence Challenge to see how your desk work has helped your playing.

Rhythm & Dynamic Practice

A quick warning on this one. Don’t do this in your office or around others, because you might drive them crazy!

That’s because you will need a metronome for this (and NOBODY likes listening to a metronome).

You can use an analog metronome, or a metronome app, or even Google has a built-in metronome.

Set your metronome to a tempo that’s good for you and then practice “playing” a scale on your forearm.

Why your forearm? Because you can feel exactly how hard each finger is pressing. When we play scales we want EVEN pressure from all fingers, so this exercise will show you which fingers are pushing harder than others.

Tapping Rhythms

Another fun (but potentially annoying) exercise is to tap different rhythms between your hands.

You could try tapping eighth notes with your right hand and quarter notes with your left. Try tapping some dotted-rhythms or triplets.

For some ideas of different rhythms to try, see what Dave from Drumeo suggests.

Study Sheet Music

Time away from the piano is a golden opportunity to read and study your sheet music. By studying it away from the keys you’ll be able to pay careful attention to all the notes and markings.

A really powerful technique is to play the song in your mind and use the desk as your keyboard. Try to imagine every note that you’re playing and make sure you’re using the correct fingering.

This is called “visualization” and it’s an incredibly powerful tool that’s used by athletes all the time.

Picture yourself playing the song perfectly. No mistakes. It feels easy.

Plus it’s an effective way to learn the music better so that when you are sitting at the piano you already know the music because you’ve studied it.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to practicing the piano, nothing beats spending time at the keys.

But as you’ve seen, there are things you can do to practice piano without a piano. And if you do them, they can have a measurable and significant impact on your playing.

Happy practicing, wherever you’re doing it.


Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 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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