How to Play Arpeggios: The Importance of Rotation

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This is, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the importance of rotation when playing arpeggios. What makes arpeggios so difficult? Even compared to scales, which have third and fourth finger crossings, as well as thumb crossings, arpeggios can be even more difficult. This is because your thumb and your third finger have to cross so far over, it makes it difficult. The way to practice this is to have the metronome set at a slow speed. Practice preparing your thumb as early as possible, which means right when the second finger plays, the thumb tucks under.

Instead of waiting until the thumb needs to play, prepare the thumb when your second finger plays.

Right after the thumb releases, it tucks under. Train your hand to prepare the thumb early. The left hand does exactly the same thing coming down. That is an essential technique. Practice without moving your arms up and down. Work with the metronome slowly, then increase the speed. Get it to two notes, and eventually four notes to the beat. You might have to work with progressively faster metronome speeds to get it that fast.

There are countless ways to practice arpeggios, but today I’m going to show you an essential technique, which is:
The rotation of the hand.

You don’t want to have an abrupt crossing of the thumb or your fingers at the point at which they cross over. Naturally, preparing the thumb early is a great way to avoid this. But there’s more to it. No matter how much you tuck your thumb under, it’s not all the way to where it needs to be. In a C major arpeggios, the right hand thumb crossing going up from a G to C is really far! So you should rotate your hand slightly to put your thumb over the next key. It’s important that it be a smooth motion, not a jerky one. This allows for playing fluid, faster arpeggios. Practice slowly, preparing the thumb in advance. Eventually you get to the point where you’re rotating the hand slightly, in a smooth manner. That is the rotation of the hands in arpeggios.

You’ll find in scales that this technique is not necessary, because you don’t have nearly as far a reach. But there are many places in music, with broken chords of different sorts, where this rotation of the hand is really important. It is also useful in being able to delegate the weight of the hand for balance, which is a subject for another video.

If there is a subject you would like for me to cover, let me know! I have a whole list of subjects from my students and other people who contact me on a daily basis. I appreciate the support! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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6 thoughts on “How to Play Arpeggios: The Importance of Rotation”


  1. Robert,
    Unless I’m not seeing it correctly…
    It looks like you are using the 3rd finger on the right hand going up for the 3rd note of the arpeggio.
    And the 4th finger on the left hand going down.
    Thank you.

  2. Robert:
    I agree with your suggestion on how to play arpeggios taking the thumb and putting it under the second finger. However, being an old man, and having taken lessons since the third grade, putting that thumb under the second finger before you play the third finger confuses me that the thumb is coming next, and I forget to play the third finger. This may sound confusing, but it is going to be hard to change after several decades of playing the way I was taught. Thank you for your excellent suggestions on the videos. gib rogers, Lexington, South Carolina

    1. It can be a great challenge changing how you play arpeggios. If you practice slowly (60 on the metronome playing one note to the beat) and hands separately if necessary, you will be able to get comfortable with this new way of approaching arpeggios. Then you can gain speed and fluency with the benefits of having your thumbs prepared in advance of their crossings.

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