Piano Exercises – Tips and Advice for Beginner Pianists

What are piano exercises and how can they help you develop strength and flexibility at the piano?

When you begin playing piano, simply the act of pressing down the keys and synchronizing your fingers is more than enough!

You will also be busy with:

  • Learning music theory
  • Learning how to read notes
  • Sitting with correct posture
  • Keeping you hand position right.

But after a while it is a good idea to start working with separate piano technique exercises to help you to build up flexibility, strength, awareness and security in your playing.

One more plus (of many) when working with special technical exercises is that you become more aware of the many different movement patterns used when playing the piano. To recognize a pattern of notes as a movement instead of a “bunch of notes” helps you to both read and perform music better, as well as to play more beautifully without unnecessary tension.

I know there are pianists and teachers who consider technical exercises unnecessary and that by studying lots of repertoire and making your own exercises from the “real” piano pieces, you will learn all you need. Even though I personally do not agree with this, I believe it is a great way of learning a piece to actually work on passages – called “passage work”- in the music itself and to make up your own exercises from it.

However, this rarely applies to beginner pianists, as you need to be a really good player to begin with, to be able to make such choices and know what you need to work on!

Piano technique is studied in different parts:

1. Finger exercises:

Exercises as opposed to Etudes, are technical exercises that introduce you to movement patterns for your hands, arms and whole body; not only finger drills, introducing one difficulty at a time. (Not really very pretty to listen to!). One of the most known examples of piano exercises is Charles-Louis Hanon, who wrote the famous “The Virtuoso Pianist. “

2. Scales, chords and arpeggios:

Scales, chords and arpeggios serve several purposes:

Firstly, they get you acquainted with the basic tools or elements that music is built from, which helps you understand music theory and also to read music better.

Secondly, they exercise common movement patterns you will meet as you play pieces, and it makes a huge difference when you learn a new piece to quickly know what fingering to use, since you by then will know what works with what scale or chord, etc.

3. Etudes:

Piano etudes are actually exercises, but more like real pieces. They involve a few different aspects of technical work, for example broken chords and scale work at the same time.

Some of these etudes are so lovely that they are used as performance repertoire, Chopin’s Etudes for example, and some are more…. boring. But the point with the etude is to practice technique in a more musical context, involving phrasing and musical thought, not just drills.

It is a good habit to try to work- if not every day- at least a few times a week with some form of technical exercises.

Happy playing!

Exercises to Increase Muscular Strength

Why Do I Need The Power Exercises?
There are exercises that cause the body to grow, then there are these Power Exercises that cause the body to GROW!!! Many beginners and even some intermediate weight lifters often get caught up in the isolation exercises. For example, many people starting out spend full workouts focusing on their biceps and don’t put legs into their workout routines at all. Then a couple months down the road, they get discouraged because they are not getting the results they want.

Don’t Let This Happen To You
Instead You should be focusing on getting strong at the fundamental power building exercises of squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press and dips. These need to be incorporated into your strength training routine. Especially when you are just starting out, and you need to build that strong base.

When they build skyscrapers, they don’t build the outside first but rather the inner core columns and work their way out. This holds true to weight training. Trying to build strength and size in a single body part without first having a great strength base, will get you spinning your wheels and not getting the results you want.

Ok, lets have a look at those Power Exercises… But please remember you need to be stretching because these will push your body to the extreme. Your workout routine and your body will thank you.

Power Exercise – Squats
These are the most important exercise you can do. The leg muscles are the largest group in the body. Exercising these muscles will give you the best bang for your buck, and the squat is the best leg exercise there is.

Remember, the following when doing a squat. Feet are shoulder width apart, back is straight and chest out for the entire exercise. Focus your eyes directly in front of you. Wrists need to stay tight and firm, and in line with your forearms. Elbows need to be back for the entire exercise, if they stray forward you could cause serious injury to them. Remember to focus on keeping the weight on your heels, your natural tendency is to put the weight on your toes, but don’t…. Squat down to almost 45 degrees, then using power from your heels push back up.

Don’t be a hero right out of the box. Start with a small weight and work up from there, this is the number one key to safety when squatting.

Power Exercise – Deadlift
Be very careful with this one, you can easily injure yourself. You need to start with great technique and low weight, until you get the forum down. The deadift will strengthen your lower back, hamstrings, glutes and forearms. You will also learn proper lifting techniques for your time in and out of the gym.

Remember to pick the right weight for the deadlift, start low and work your way up. The bar should be over your feet and mid level on your shin (if you aren’t using a 45lb plate you may need to prop the bar up a bit). Feet shoulder width apart, lean back to your heels, feet at a 30 degree angle. Knees in the same position as your feet. It is very important to keep your back firm and straight, don’t round your back.

Grip the bar with your dominant hand over and your other hand under the bar. Bring your hips down and chest and head up. Begin the lift keeping the bar close to your body, but not hitting the shins. Your quads should do the work keeping the strain off your back, while your knees begin to straighten. Once the lift is completed, drive your hips forward.

Setting it down is exactly the opposite, hips will lower the weight to knee level. Then the knees will bend bringing the weight down to the floor. Keep the bar close to your body while lowering.

Power Exercise – Overhead Press
Many experts believe the overhead press is the most useful upper body workout you can do. It is the squat of the upper body so to speak. It is also very practical for most sports, you could be tackling in football of swinging a club or racquet it will assist the power in those movements.

Remember the following when doing the overhead press. Start with the bar on the rack at the middle of your chest. Grip the bar with both hands at a few inches wider than shoulder width. Wrap your thumbs around the bar. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart as well. Head is level eyes looking straight ahead.

Lift the bar and rest it high on your chest under your chin. Push straight upwards above your head, raising your chest and pushing your shoulders back. When the bar reaches a position over your ears, lock out your elbows. Return the bar and repeat.

Don’t lean to far back, you will hurt your back with the weight over your head.

Power Exercise – Bench Press
Here we go, the bench press. It is one of the most popular exercises at the gym. The bench is also one of the most effective, but practise good forum or you will end up not seeing the results you desire.

To bench properly you need to keep a tight upper back with a big chest. Keep your grip so your forearms are perpendicular to the floor when the bar is at your chest. Lift the bar up off the bench, now slowly lower the bar to your chest while keeping your elbows at right angles. Once it reaches your chest push it back up to starting position and repeat… Simple, right. Just remember keep breathing through the exercise.

Remember keep your thumbs wrapped around the bar, and you don’t always have to lift your max for the bench. Be safe, that’s the most important tip.

Power Exercise – Dips
Dips are sometimes not added to the Power list, but they should be. Dips are a great exercise to build your chest shoulders and triceps while working your core stabilization muscles.

The dip move is very simple. You start with two even bars balancing with elbows locked in the middle. Lower yourself until your shoulder are in line with your elbows, then raise yourself back up until your arms are fully extended. Your arms are always going to be moving but ensure that you lock them out at the top of the exercise. Keep your chest back throughout the exercise, this will keep the exercise focused on both chest shoulders and triceps and not strain your chest.

You should add dips into your workout routines right away, and remember if you can do more than 10 of these unassisted you can try to add weight to increase the resistance.

Remember the Essentials
The power exercise routine is something that can really help your muscle gains in both size and strength. These exercises should be added to your current strength training routine, these will generate the best results for both beginners and experienced alike. Check out some great workout routines to increase strength.