How to Achieve Speed & Lightness in Your Piano Playing

Piano Lessons / piano facts / How to Achieve Speed & Lightness in Your Piano Playing

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. Today we’re going to discuss how to achieve speed and lightness in your piano playing. These two things are related. It’s simple physics really. Moving a great deal of mass takes more work than moving a smaller amount of mass. So minimizing motion in your fast playing is really the secret. I’ve talked about this with finger work, so today the focus is going to be on the wrists. The wrists are incredibly important on the piano for so many things that the fingers just can’t do because they don’t have enough power. First I’m going to give a little refresher on how this applies to finger work. Then I’m going to show you wrist technique and how minimizing motion gives you more speed and lightness with the wrists as well.

Minimize motion of the fingers when playing fast.

A piano melody, even one that is quiet, still has to project. It takes a certain amount of arm weight supported by the fingers to achieve this. This is analogous to the breath of a wind instrument or the bow of a violin. You can get a nice warm melody that projects and creates a fluid line by utilizing the fingers and the arm weight. But you can’t use that much finger motion when you want to play at a much faster tempo. You have to stay closer to the keys. Your fingers need to be close to the keys and rounded, so there’s a minimum amount of motion necessary. It makes it much easier to play fast and light.

The wrists are necessary for articulating staccatos, phrasing, accents, and chord technique.


For an example, I’m choosing a piece that I’ve taught countless times, the Ballade by Burgmuller. Students often play the staccatos with their arms, which creates a ponderous sound because the arms are so big and heavy. It’s better to utilize the wrists instead of the arms. However, trying to get the speed faster with that much motion can be incredibly difficult. But by staying closer to the keys you can play faster and lighter. When you want speed, stay closer to the keys in your finger work and use less wrist motion. Certainly don’t use the arms! The arms have a real limit of speed. Playing fast staccatos with the arms is all but impossible. But the wrists can go very fast. The wrists have much less mass to move compared with the arms, so already that helps. To get even more speed, agility and lightness in quick playing that is not just finger work, stay closer to the keys and have a minimal amount of motion. Then you’ll be able to go much faster!

Try this technique on whatever music you’re playing!


If you’re playing rapid finger work and you find that you’ve hit a brick wall, try lightening up and staying closer to the keys. In chord technique and staccatos, use the wrists, not the arms because they are much faster and more agile. And as you get quicker, stay closer to the keys and use less motion. That’s the tip for today! I hope this is helpful for you! Thanks again for joining me! I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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One thought on “How to Achieve Speed & Lightness in Your Piano Playing”

  1. Can you comment on “finger staccato” and how this interacts with the wrists and staying closer to the keys as speed increases? I’m referring to the technique of flexing the fingers toward a more closed “fist” with each staccato note. The action requires subtly “scratching” the keys or sliding the finger pads on the keytops. This is described as feeling like “pulling the notes from the keys”. I’ve found this very valuable, but I seek more wisdom on integrating this with other techniques of speed and lightness.

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