We all want to play the piano faster and be stronger in what we play. However, we also need accuracy, dexterity, fluidity, dynamics and most of all musicality. In this article and lesson, I will show you how to achieve these characteristics in your playing through some simple exercises of both your fingers…and your mind!
Clearing Your Mind
Let’s start with the mind first. Playing fast is a job for the brain. Your fingers can play fast, but often our minds get in the way. Left on their own, your fingers can move pretty darned fast…but what about accuracy? This is where the brain comes in. Our dexterity is linked to our brain. The brain tells the fingers when to move and where to go. It also sends signals to our fingers that control dynamics, pressure, speed and hundreds of other signals. Now, the problem is, when we play, we often overload our fingers with too much information. We are trying to focus on playing fast while also focusing on rhythm, dynamics, flow and a thousand other things.
Let’s clear our mind and focus the fingers on a specific target. This target can be a note that we are trying to hit or a focus on dynamics. The point is that by focusing the mind…we focus the fingers too. Remember, the fingers listen to what we tell them to listen to.
Targeting For Piano Speed
Targets are a way to focus your mind/fingers for speed. As I said earlier, when you focus on too much, your playing and speed will suffer. So, how do we create and assign targets?
Well, if you are looking to gain speed, one way is to target a specific note and try to get to that note as fast as possible. Take the 5-finger scale for instance. Normally, we would play that scale up and down. Try only going one direction and see just how fast you can reach your target note. If you make mistakes in the middle, that is O.K. for now as long as you play that target note strong.
Another target might be playing all of the notes as light as you can. Remember, the lighter you play, the faster you can play! Try not to push at the notes. Instead, grab at the notes and let your fingers produce a full tone…not your arms.
Try coming up with your own target ideas. Dynamics can be a target as well. Try playing notes as soft as you can. You can even try combining targets together. So, play the 5-finger scale as fast as you can and as soft as you can.
Great piano players know how to use their hands together for accompaniment, soloing, grooving and more. Have you ever wondered how a pianist can move so easily between the hands? Well, here is an exercise that will help you achieve more fluidity between your hands.
In example 1 we are taking a typical C minor 5-finger scale but instead of playing it in tandem with both hands, we are playing it consecutively one hand after the other. Starting first with the left hand, we play the scale but at the end of the scale (G note) we then switch to the right hand and start the scale on C and move up to G. We can also think of this as playing the C minor 5-finger scale two-octaves…only with two-hands.
Here is an excerpt from our new Faster Fingers lesson which explains how to do this:
In December’s article, we will cover some more techniques from our Faster Fingers series that will help loosen up your fingers and get you playing faster and more accurate at the piano!