How to Build Strong Fingers for Playing the Piano in Three Easy Steps
Developing Strong, Flexible Fingers for Fast Piano Passages
To play piano with skill, the fingers require flexibility exercises. Proper hand technique is not only important for a smooth and even sound—it is mandatory. The fingers must be flexible and strong enough to handle fast and difficult passages and scales. The weight and balance of the finger as it strikes the key affects the volume, evenness, and ease of playing.
We can all Improve our piano playing. A combination of how often we practice and how we practice is the secret to developing strong, flexible fingers for better playing.
As a piano instructor for 40 years, as well as a professional pianist, I'm sharing my expertise with you so listen up!
Proper Hand Technique for Pianists
Curve Your Fingers and Trim Your Nails
Playing with the fingers curved keeps them all the same length when playing the piano. Beginners tend to collapse the knuckles when first learning how to play. This is not to be encouraged as the speed needed for flexible fingers will not be attained. You need strong fingers for good dexterity and speed.
You'll need to keep your nails short enough so that the pad of the fingers rest on the piano keys. Long nails are a hindrance and the clicking sound of nails on the piano keys can be annoying. Short nails allow you to play expressively and play with speed. So keep those nails trimmed!
Strong Fingers Give You Flexibility and Strength
Step 1. Building Strong Fingers for Piano With This Table Exercise
For beginners, the following exercise will help you to remember to strike each key with the fingers in a curved position.
- Sit down in a straight-backed chair, facing a kitchen or dining room table. Your forearms will be resting on the table with your wrists and hands positioned as though you are playing the piano.
- Make sure your fingertips touch the table so that your hands are rounded as though you have a golf ball under the palm of each hand. Don't tense the hands too much as you continue through the rest of the exercises.
- With the fingertips and wrist resting on the table, lift both thumbs up while keeping all of the remaining fingers in a curved position. The wrist must always be touching the table top. The idea is to avoid collapsing the knuckles of the other fingers as you concentrate on lifting one finger at a time. After lifting the finger bring it back down while holding it in a curved position until it rests on the table top.
- Next, you will lift the "pointer" finger (finger 2), while keeping the other fingers in a curved position resting on the table. Continue this exercise with the middle finger(finger 3), the ring finger (finger 4) and the pinky finger (finger 5). Repeat the whole exercise several times.
Continue to do this several times every day making sure the knuckles are not collapsing. This is a great way to build strong fingers for piano performance.
- When you feel that you have mastered this exercise, go to the piano and play a scale or five finger pattern making sure you use strong knuckles. This is an exercise for anyone to practice, especially beginning piano students and children.
- You will soon be able to play piano music with a lovely legato (smooth and connected) touch. This is how you make beautiful music.
Fun Exercise for Keeping the Hands Balanced When Playing Piano
Step 2. Try the Quarter Test as You Play the Piano
A good test to see if the hand is in proper alignment is to place a quarter on the back of each hand and play a few keys, balancing the quarter. The quarter should remain balanced on the hand and not fall off as you play (slowly).
- Keep the wrist level with the hand and do not bob it up and down.
- It is the function of the forearm to move the hand when striking the piano keys.
Once you master this exercise, you will be surprised at the difference in both sound, improved flexibility and speed.
- When seated at the piano, do not pull the piano bench too close to the keyboard. Allow enough room between you and the instrument to give you the freedom to move from the lowest to highest area of the keyboard. Sitting too close inhibits your space. Maintain proper posture and keep the spine straight by sitting tall.
Audrey Hunt at the Piano
Step 3. Using the Metronome
A metronome may be used when practicing in order to maintain a constant tempo. Tempo is measured in beats per minute (BPM); metronomes can be set to variable tempi, usually ranging from 40 to 208 BPM; another marking denoting metronome tempi is M.M. or Mälzel's Metronome.
To increase speed for scales and other exercises set the metronome at a slow tempo. Continue practicing slowly until the scale is perfectly mastered, then gradually increase the tempo until a faster speed is reached and easy to play.
Tips For Practicing Scales
By far, the best way to build strong fingers for flexibility and speed is to practice scales. The following tips will bring great results when playing scales:
- Keep the fingers in a curved position.
- Use correct fingering for all scales.
- Begin with one octave increasing to two octaves then three octaves.
- As soon as you're advanced enough, play hands together.
- Play in different rhythms for variety.
- Using a metronome can be helpful. Begin slowly. Set the metronome to 72 and gradually increase your speed.
- Practice all major and minor scales.
Practicing With a Metronome—a Good Habit
Do You Practice Piano?
How Often Do You Practice Piano?
Using a Metronome
Why Study Classical Music First?
Studying classical music such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin requires constant dedication and superb technique. Much of the worlds most beautiful music was introduced by these great composers. Regardless of which musical genre you prefer, studying these masters (and a great many others) provides the pianist with a challenge that can take months to reach.
Once the pianist is secure in playing classical music, the bar is set for all other genres. Because great skill is required, it makes all other music easier to understand and play.
The piano is the most enticing of instruments. Even though the process involves persistence and hard work, the rewards bring a lifetime of joy and fulfillment. Only you, the pianist, can unlock the piano's potential.
A Stunning Pianist
Love is like playing the piano, first you must learn to play by the rules, then you forget the rules and play from your heart.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Audrey Hunt