Studies have shown that speed is the second most difficult skill to acquire, after musicality. And if you’re an avid piano player, then you’re well aware how tired and cramped your fingers will become when you play long pieces. This is especially true when you are stuck on a fast piece. The most common misunderstanding is that you need to practice playing fast in order to increase your playing speed.
Unfortunately, doing this can actually slow down your learning process. The trick to making your fingers faster lies in starting off slow and perfecting your technique first. The aim of this article will be to give you insights into how to increase your playing speed by sticking to the 5 most common piano finger exercises guaranteed to help you play faster. Alternatively, if you just want to improve your overall piano skills, this article should also help you:
1. Stretch Your Fingers
Most people won’t consider this as a piano finger exercise, but there is no denying the importance of stretching as a part of any exercise regime.
Stretching your fingers will warm up the muscles in your hand, so they are more limber and quick when you start to play. Just like the rest of your body, your fingers become stiff if you don’t warm them up.
You can begin your warm-up by closing your fingers into tight fists and holding it for three seconds before releasing. Repeat this stretch several times. Then you should bend each finger individually to improve your finger independence. After completing this, end your warm-up by rubbing your hands together and you’re ready to start.
2. Build Your Finger Strength
Every piano player should practice scales as part of their piano finger exercises. Doing this will not only help you in master your skills but also help you maintain it.
To start with, practice the scale in the Legato-style. This means you play all the notes without pausing between each note. It should sound smooth and connected. If you haven’t practiced scales this way before, start with the most simple tonalities of C Major and a minor.
It’s important that you practice your hands separately at first, and as you continue with this technique you will gradually improve the strength of your finger muscles. As a result, you will be able to play faster.
3. Improve Your Wrist Form
When you practice arpeggios, it makes your fingers stronger and faster, as well as improve your wrists’ ability to be more relaxed at the same time.
Just like practicing scales, you must practice each hand separately in the beginning, while remembering to keep your wrists loose and free. So, while you’re practicing your arpeggios, you should use the weight of your hands to press the keys instead of banging.
As your skills improve and you’re able to play well with each hand at slow or normal tempos, you can attempt to play faster. Once you have succeeded in this, you can try some piano finger exercises both hands.
Remember, it’s always important you start your piano finger exercises slowly and gradually increase your speed as you perfect your technique.
4. Work On Your Finger Independence
Another important component of increasing your playing speed is learning finger independence through your piano finger exercises. And once again, working with scales will help your fingers to work independently from one another.
Start your practice session by laying your hands on the keys, with your right thumb on middle C. Then try to play the scale with your right hand while holding down three notes of your choice with your left hand.
After you have completed several of these scales, switch to playing the scales with your left hand while holding down three notes with your right hand.
Practicing your scales and arpeggios on a regular basis will not only increase your speed and improve your technique, but it will also improve your musicality. So, as boring as it may be, it’s crucial for mastering your skills and playing speed.
5. Play Alternating Rhythms
A simple piano finger exercise that will help improve your speed is alternating between the rhythms. This type of exercise has an excellent track record in providing great results. For example, when you are playing a piece that has an Alberti bass pattern with even eighth notes, you can change the rhythmic values to a variation of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes.
The truth is, this is where the fun part comes in. Play around and see what interesting rhythms you can come up with. And let us not forget one of the greatest assets a piano player can have is your metronome.
Whether you’re practicing scales or a new song, let your metronome be your guide. Select the appropriate time you want to play and listen. But don’t attempt to play the first time round. Just listen.
Should the song or exercise require a faster beat, set the metronome to a slower speed in the beginning. Once you can play comfortably at that speed, gradually increase the metronome’s speed until you can play with confidence using the correct timing.
The Key To Increasing Your Speed
The key to speed is starting slow. In order for you to play anything at a fast tempo, you need to know the exercise or song that you’re playing like the back of your hand. It’s important to master the piece before attempting to play it fast.
If you learn the music at a fast tempo, you risk practicing your mistakes and the results will leave you feeling discouraged. In this case, practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice does.
About the Author: Julie Adams
I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.