Have you ever listened to or watched a famous pianist like Lang Lang perform and wondered, how does he move his fingers so fast? Well, we often get that question from our own piano students. The answer is technique! Great pianists acquire their technique from years of practicing preparatory exercises and etudes. Here are a few of our favorite proven exercises for achieving great virtuosity on the keyboard.
Aloys Schmitt is best remembered for his Op. 16 exercises. The collection is divided into three sections. The first helps students in gaining finger independence through a variety of single and double-note patterns within the range of a fifth. The second section works on passing the thumb under fingers to prepare for scales and arpeggios. The final section provides traditional scales and arpeggios in a notated format with fingering. The exercises in the book help build not only virtuosity, but also extreme steadiness of the fingers. These exercises isolate weak fingers like 4 and 5 in both hands and slowly build up strength over time to help with a balanced and steady sound. The later part of the book focuses on the very important major and minor scales that every pianist must be familiar with.
These exercises are intended to address common problems which slow down the performance abilities of a student. Much like the Schmitt exercises, Hanon works on “crossing of the thumb”, strengthening of the fourth and fifth fingers, and quadruple- and triple-trills. The exercises are meant to be individually perfected and then played in sequence. Besides increasing technical abilities of the student, when played in groups at higher speeds, the exercises will also help to increase finger strength. These exercises are also divided into three parts: preparatory exercises, scales and arpeggios and virtuoso exercises for mastering great technical difficulties. A must for any budding pianist!
Here is something a little different from the first two. These exercises are more melodic and actually help prepare the student for the more difficult technical studies. The exercises work on maintaining proper technique, dynamics and tempo. They also focus on playing in a variety of different keys. We like to incorporate these exercises into our lessons because they are more fun to play and students have found them to be more satisfying and enjoyable to listen to.
Although all of these methods are proven effective, it is truly up to the student to practice them on a daily basis to achieve the best results. Adding these exercises into your weekly piano lessons as a warm up can also help enhance your current repertoire. Our NYC piano teachers will be happy to introduce these methods at your next lesson.