Arpeggios – stretch your fingers!
Arpeggios are unique piano exercises designed to stretch your fingers and strengthen your wrist. An arpeggio can be described as a ‘broken chord’ or a chord played one note at a time. When playing arpeggios, you play the root, third, fifth and octave of a major scale.
Arpeggios will help a lot with short and long leaps on the piano. This is because you are skipping 1 or 2 notes in the process.
When practicing arpeggios, try not to start out too fast, but play them at a moderate pace and then go faster as you become more comfortable at a specific speed. This you will do with both hands at different times in descending and ascending order.
Below is an illustration showing how arpeggios are played on the piano in the key of C major. The C major arpeggio includes the letters C, E, G and C (octave).
5 Fun Piano Practice Warm-Up Exercises
1. Sing along with intervals
When warming up with intervals, try singing along to a familiar song. From Ascending to Descending, there are many songs that you may already know.
Singing these songs while you practice and recognizing intervals on the keys will help. Below are some examples:
- Minor 2nd Ascending: Jaws, Pink Panther, White Christmas.
- Minor 2nd Descending: Fur Elise, O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, Jurassic Park.
- Major 2nd Ascending: Happy Birthday, Silent Night, Frere Jacques.
- Major 2nd Descending: Mary Had a Little Lamb, The First Noel.
- Minor 3rd Ascending: So Long Farewell (Sound of Music), Lullaby (Brahms), The Impossible Dream (Man of La Mancha)
- Minor 3rd Descending: This Old Man, Jesus Loves Me, Misty.
- Major 3rd Ascending: Saints Go Marching In, Morning Has Broken, Kumbaya.
- Major 3rd Descending: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Summertime, Shoo Fly Don’t Bother Me.
- Perfect 4th Ascending: Here Comes the Bride, Amazing Grace, Auld lang syne
- Perfect 4th Descending: O Come All Ye Faithful, George of the Jungle, Hallelujah from the Messiah.
With a partner, practice the Chromatic scale, ascending and descending in different keys. While your partner closes his or her eyes, play the scale, skipping a note of your choosing.
Your partner will have to guess which interval/note you were playing. Do this multiple times, skipping different notes. Then switch positions and have your partner challenge you.
With a friend or your piano teacher, create your own bingo/roll the dice game. On the board game, label pictures of the major and minor scales and chords without it’s scale name.
You will then have to recognize which scale or chord it is, and play it on the piano. Challenge yourself with both major and minor scales, and then reward yourself with something fun like stickers, candy or trading cards!
Create your own rhythms first by clapping, and then playing them on a single note on the piano. For instance, “two eight notes, then a whole night, then a four sixteenth notes.”
Then grab yourself some staff paper, and divide bar lines, and transcribe what comes to your ear. Once you’ve created a short 8 bar rhythm, play the whole rhythm. Then add a specific melody, and you’ve got yourself an original song!
5. Favorite song
Pick a song you know well, perhaps a song that you’ve performed before. Some of my favorites in the past have included, Fur Elise, Prelude to the Well-Tempered Clavichord, The Entertainer, and The Piano Man.
Use this song as your mantra or meditation before and after your piano practice. Analyze the song by envisioning the chords, inversions, voicings, melodic and rhythmic patterns, scales, and modes.
Pay attention to the dynamics and tempo markings in the form of the song. Once you have analyzed your favorite piece, challenge yourself to memorize the piece measure by measure.
Then once you feel comfortable, play the entire song each practice session by memory. This will not only help you keep up with your theory, but also with your performance skills.