Piano Technique 3

  1. Vertical Finger movement
  2. Hand Position
  3. Warm Up Exercise
  4. Points to Remember

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KT 3.1 - Vertical Finger movement

The first objective in piano technique is to :

  1. strengthen each finger (through strengthening the interossei muscles),

  2. develop its independence, and to

  3. establish the upper and lower levels of the finger movement.

kbt0301.gif As a first exercise push one key of the keyboard down very slowly.

About halfway down you can feel the resistance of the action mechanism.

Push beyond this point to the bed of the keyboard.

It is necessary in the beginning of training to play always to the bed of the keyboard, so that the hand and fingers get used to playing past the resistance of the action. A pianist who is not physically aware of the feel of the keyboard and not used to playing to the bottom of the keyboard is invariably insecure in his playing.

Having established the lower limit of the finger movement it is equally important to establish the upper limit.
To do this lift each finger up off the key immediately after playing the note until the first finger joint (the one nearest the knuckle) is at least level with the knuckle.
In all slow practice as soon as the next note is played the preceding finger is lifted immediately off the keyboard.

Exaggerate the upward movement of each finger in all the technique exercises.
After playing a note immediately lift the finger as high as possible above the keyboard.

Over emphasising this action in practice will ensure that you have a nice clean action when playing a piece of music.

Practising this consistently in slow motion will ensure that in fast playing each note is clear and not interfered with because another finger has been left lying on the keyboard. All of this movement occurs from the knuckle joints.

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KT 3.2 - Hand Position

The quality and ease of piano performance rests on establishing the correct hand position on the keyboard.
It is therefore important, before beginning the practice, to place the hand correctly on the keyboard.

Always sit erect but relaxed at the piano, head high, shoulders down.
Before you start to play

  • first let the arm and hand hang loosely and relaxed alongside the body,

  • then raise the hand above the keyboard at about the level of the head, and

  • let it rest there in a position as if it were holding a large orange.

  • Now lower the hand to the keyboard maintaining that position.

Both the fingers and wrist are now in the correct position for controlled, relaxed piano playing.

kbt0302.gif A good hand position is of extreme importance.

In a good hand position :

  1. the knuckle joints are slightly flexed,

  2. the wrist is above the keyboard level, reasonably in line with the level hand, and

  3. the thumb is pointing downwards towards the keys.

This ensures three important playing conditions.

  1. The Interossei can act as starter muscles for the knuckle action.

  2. The weight of the hand is supported by the fingers rather than held up by the wrist.

  3. There is sufficient room for the thumb to cross under the hand.

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KT 3.3 - Warm Up Exercise

The warm up has two functions.

  1. To establish a good hand position, and

  2. to help develop interossei muscle strength.

Assume correct playing and hand position.

Now lower the right hand onto the keyboard so that the right thumb (finger No.1) rests on Middle C and the other fingers (2, 3, 4, and the little finger 5) rest on D, E, F and G.

Lower the left hand onto the keyboard so that the left thumb (finger No.1) rests on G below 'Middle C' and the other fingers (2, 3, 4, and the little finger 5) rest on F, E, D and C below 'Middle C'.


Press all ten fingers down onto the keys until you feel the bed of the keyboard.

Make sure your wrists are above the keyboard and the thumbs remain pointing downwards.

While holding all the other notes down silently, play each semiquaver in turn 16 times with the two thumbs, firmly and evenly.
Accent every first of each group of four semiquavers.

Audio 3.1

Play in this fashion with each finger in turn, going from the two thumbs to the two 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th and finally little fingers of each hand.

After the first 4 weeks practice : repeat the exercise in the opposite direction from little finger to thumb.

Keep all eight non playing fingers pressed down onto the bed of the keyboard throughout the entire exercise.

During the first week of practice do the warm up for each hand separately.
This enables you to monitor your hand position and finger action carefully for each hand. Once you have settled in do the warm up with both hands together.

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KT 3.4 - Points to Remember

Here a few important points to remember when doing the warm up.

  1. Never do this exercise longer than 2 minutes per day ! !
    kb004.gif It is a very potent exercise and you may feel some tension in your arms. That is quite normal, but always stay within the time limit.

  2. At first you may wish to do this exercise with one hand at a time.
    Once you are comfortable with it do both hands together.

  3. Maintain your hand position : wrist up, thumbs down, all keys pressed down to the bed of the keyboard.

  4. Play with your fingers only.
    Play all notes firmly and evenly always to the bed of the keyboard.
    Avoid rotating your wrists when playing with the thumb and little finger.

  5. Maintain a slight forward pressure with your hands. Never pull backwards.

Print out this Hand Position Diagram and hang it on the front of your piano as a constant reminder.

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© 1999 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)