Exercises to get used to the piano

Martin Cohen
A free video tutorial from Martin Cohen
Teacher, musician and composer
4.6 instructor rating • 6 courses • 19,680 students

Learn more from the full course

Learn piano or keyboard from scratch - Complete piano course

Piano lessons/ keyboard lessons for beginners. Complete piano course,reading music, improvisation, music theory, chords.

19:01:20 of on-demand video • Updated October 2020

  • Complete beginners will be taken to an intermediate (or even higher) level of piano playing with a thorough understanding of music theory.
  • You will learn all the chords on the piano that will allow you to play all the songs you want.
  • You will learn to read music, so that you can play from lead sheets, chord sheets and sheet music.
  • You will start to improvise using the pentatonic and blues scales.
English Before diving into playing scales and songs, I want to show you some exercises that help you to get your hands used to the piano and that start to give you that right 'piano-feeling'. I think you all know the song “Amazing grace”. Let's say I would play the first line of “Amazing grace” like this... Doesn't sound too well, does it? Now, I will play it like this... Sounds much better. Now, what's the difference? The difference is that in the first case, I played the melody with just single notes that were not tied together. In the second case, I tied the notes nicely together. So, in the second case, I didn't play… but I played … So I tied the notes nicely together. Now, sometimes you might want this effect (I mean the fact that they are not tied together, like this…), but in most cases, you would rather play the notes in one flow, nicely linked together… So, let's practice that, first with a very simple exercise based on only 2 notes. To find the 2 notes for this exercise, look at the keys on your piano or electronic keyboard, you see groups of 2 black keys and groups of 3 black keys. Now, go to more or less the middle of your piano or electronic keyboard and look for a group of 2 black keys. The 2 notes that we are going to use for this exercise are the 2 white keys just on the left and right side of those 2 black keys. Use your thumb on the left white key and your middle finger on the right white key. Now, we're going to alternate the “thumb-note” and the middle finger-note”, in this way… Now, this is very important: they may not sound as 2 single notes, like this… But they may also not overlap, they may not sound together at the same time, like this… So, they must sound like this… You see, they're nicely tied together, but they don't overlap. I would say, pause the video for now, and try this yourself on your piano. OK, now you should be able to do the same thing also with your left hand. In this case, you use your little finger and your middle finger, so like this… Now, mostly, the left hand plays the lower notes, so let's do that also. So, from our original 2 notes, go to the left till you see again a group of 2 black keys. That's here. Now, play the 2 white keys that are around those 2 black keys. So, your little finger on this key, and your middle finger on this one… OK, try it out yourself now, pause the video, and then after that, we will try the next exercise. OK, in this next exercise, we will also use the white key in between, and we will play that key with our index. And we will play this simple melody…over and over... Be sure to link the notes nicely together, without overlap, and without playing single notes that are not tied together. Also be sure that you keep the right hand position, so not a flat hand, but put your hands up, as if you would hold a little ball in your hand. OK, again, pause the video, and try it out yourself. OK, I hope that went well for you. If it's difficult, just try it out at a lower tempo. And if it's too easy, don't worry, I've got more difficult exercises coming soon. For now, let's try to do the same melody with our left hand. So, you will not only use your little finger and middle finger, but also your ring finger on the white key in between, like this… OK, again, try it out yourself and pause the video. OK, in the next exercise, we're gonna use all the 5 fingers of the hand. The thumb, index finger and middle finger stay on the 3 white keys as before, and the ring finger and little finger are just for the 2 white keys that are next to our original 3 white keys, but on the right side. OK, first, you can try to play those 5 notes in ascending order, like this… And then in descending order… So again… and… Then after that, link them together… Try that a few times, and then play alternately the notes in ascending and descending order, like this… Again, be sure to tie the notes nicely together, without overlap… OK, time for you to try it out. And now, the same thing with your left hand. So, little finger, ring finger and middle finger as usual, then index and thumb on the next 2 white keys. So, that goes like this, first up… Then try it down… Then up and down… And when you're able to play that, continue going up and down and up and down and so on… OK, time for you to try it out. Now, I thought that it would be more fun doing this last exercise with a play-along track. So I created a play-along track, which you can find in the resources of this lecture, and you will even find it in 3 different tempos: 60 bpm, 90 bpm and 120 bpm. Let me demonstrate you how to use the play-along tracks in this exercise. First, you will hear a metronome click 4 times, and after that, you play the notes in exactly the same tempo as the metronome clicks. I will show you… And of course, you can also use it for your left hand… So, you can simply download the mp3 play-along file from the resources and play it on an mp3-player and play the exercises with it. I want to show you one last exercise, again for all the 5 fingers. We will use again the same 5 notes, but play them in another order. I will show you. Well, let me first play it for you… So, first, play with your thumb this note, then with your middle finger this one, with your little finger this note, and again with your middle finger this one. OK, you can play this a few times, just to get used. Then after this… you play… So that's with your ring finger this note, your middle finger here and with your index this note. So again… So the whole melody then becomes… So you see that the same fingers touch the same notes as in the former exercises. So, once you know how to play this melody… you can play them one after the other… Now, perhaps you noticed that I played the last note from the melody twice as long as the other notes?… Each note has one count, but only the last one has 2 counts, so: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2 You see, all the notes got one count, only the last one 2 counts. Now, to be honest, normally we don't count like that in music, because for this melody you would normally count to 4, but for the purpose of this lecture I thought it was better to count this way, to show you that the last note was twice as long. OK, pause the video for now and try it out yourself. Time for the left hand. Again, you use the same fingers on the same notes as before, so that's easy. First play… And try it out a few times. Then, play… And finally, play the whole melody… And again, you can play it again and again. Be sure to let the last note sound for 2 counts… OK, again try it out yourself now. Now, this melody can be played with the same play-along file as the former exercise. Let me show you… And the left hand. Now, when you did the exercises and you're able to play them slowly, at for example 60 bpm, then you're ready to move on. Now, even if the last exercise didn't go as smoothly as you wanted, it doesn't matter, you can still go on to the next lectures. But, if on the other hand the exercises were not challenging enough, then try to play both hands together, so like this… Or the second exercise… Or try the play-along tracks at 90 bpm or 120 bpm. But, as said, that's not needed for now. OK, you have some material to practice with to let your fingers get used to the piano. In the next lectures, you will learn the names of the notes of the white and the black keys on the piano. Also in this section, you will learn some more basic information needed to go on to section 2, where you will learn about major scales and where you will start to play your first songs on the piano.