3 Ways to Practice Arpeggios on the Piano

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Arpeggios are simply broken chords. Scales and arpeggios form the foundation of technique, not just for the piano, but for virtually all musical instruments. I’ve talked about how to practice scales and arpeggios in the past. Today, I’m going to give you three ways of practicing arpeggios specifically. If you like this, I could probably give you 10 more ways of practicing them because there are many ways of practicing arpeggios.

Here are three good starters for you:

Let’s start with a basic C major chord which forms the foundation of a C major arpeggio. Since you’re going all the way up and down the keyboard with both hands, you have to deal with finger crossings. I suggest you reference Hanon60 Selected Studies for the Virtuoso Pianist. This is a resource for all the fingerings of all major and minor scales and arpeggios as well as exercises and additional materials. The first way to practice arpeggios is perhaps the most fundamental. I’ve talked about this before in videos and I’m going to recap this because it’s essential.

You must practice slowly first to develop independence of the fingers.

As you get faster, place the fingers closer to the keys to get speed and lightness. You want to use the metronome when practicing arpeggios and scales because the whole idea is to measure your playing because you want to achieve precision. You must strive for evenness in tone, touch and timing.

Of course you can practice arpeggios with different phrasing and dynamics. For now, I’m going to suggest you play them at a strong level always from the fingers. It won’t do any good to practice arpeggios or scales using your arms or wrists because as you go faster, they’re not going to be able to keep up. The whole idea is to develop the strength of your fingers. So, watch how you can approach arpeggios slowly. If you’re a beginner studying arpeggios, I recommend putting the metronome at 60 and going one note to the beat, then two notes to the beat, and finally playing at four notes to the beat. You can even do gradual metronome speeds raising a notch or two at a time if you run into difficulties going faster. There is a brief demonstration on the accompanying video on how to practice this way with the metronome.

Notice a couple of things. First of all, you want to avoid any up and down motion with the arms. Use only your fingers. Notice how you raise your fingers to achieve independence and strength. You get the feel of exactly where each key is. It provides an opportunity to dig into each note gaining security. Once you’re comfortable, you should do that at least four times before moving on any faster. Then you can go to two notes to the beat. Notice, as you get faster, the fingers must be closer to the keys. When transitioning to four notes to the beat, you want to have your arms almost floating in air just above the keys because they don’t have the strength to support the arms at great speed. At four notes to the beat there’s less motion of your fingers as well. They are kept very close to the keys. You must spend sufficient time at each speed. At one note to the beat, you might spend around five minutes mastering it. If you’re playing only an arpeggio at one note to the beat at 60, five minutes is a pretty long time! This helps you gain great strength and independence of the fingers.

So we’ve covered one way of practicing arpeggios which is essential. It think it’s probably one of the best ways to practice arpeggios. You may get to a stumbling block and get to a point where you know you can do one note, but getting to two notes or four notes to the beat proves to be very difficult. You’re wondering how you can get it any faster. Are there any shortcuts? I’m going to show you a couple!

One shortcut is to practice in chords. Here is how to do this: Delineate where the thumb crossings are and play two notes together, then play the thumbs. You can watch how to achieve this on the accompanying video. Once you are comfortable, you can do that at two notes to the beat. Doing four notes is probably too fast for this practice technique depending upon the tempo you choose You want to get it fluent so you get the sense of the thumb crossings which are essential for smooth transition of registers. Instead, of trying to go faster, try breaking up the inner notes quickly and land on the thumbs securely holding them longer so that you gain security of the thumb crossings in both hands. This helps you get the sense of how the thumbs anchor you versus the finger which hover over the other two notes of the chord. You must strive for evenness playing the inner notes cleanly.

So, those are three ways to practice arpeggios. You may be able to invent other ways of practicing them as well. There are always more piano lessons and videos coming from LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store info@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729 Robert Estrin