If you’re new to piano and very motivated, you probably want to do some practicing outside of your typical lessons or online course. And if you just search for piano exercises, you may find exercises that are too advanced to be helpful. In this article, we’ll be focusing on piano exercises for beginners.
Great Piano Exercises For Beginners
1. The Five-Finger Exercise
This is a pretty simple exercise, but it’s a good way for beginners to develop good piano techniques. The five-finger exercise can be done one hand at a time to start, but you can do it with both hands to increase the challenge. This video demo gives you an idea of how to do it.
This is one of those exercises that you can do much faster as you get comfortable. It’s a good idea to practice with a metronome to make sure you’re playing in time.
If you want more helpful piano exercises as you learn to play the piano, check out Piano Marvel. This is one of the most thorough piano sites we’ve found. Piano Marvel takes you through in-depth lessons and supplements them with additional flashcards and exercises. And if you want to learn to sight-read, this site offers the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading, a free test that scores your sight-reading ability. Plus, you can take Piano Marvel’s level one piano lessons for beginners for free.
2. Practicing Scales
You might think of practicing scales as being dull, repetitive, and ultimately pointless. However, practicing scales is one of the most important piano exercises for new players. If you aim to be able to play the piano successfully, you’ll need to be fairly familiar with the keyboard itself. Scales help you get comfortable with the keyboard and with playing in different keys.
Because there are many scales in many different keys, it’s a good idea to start working on scales soon after you start piano lessons.
Scales can be a little intimidating to get started with, so it’s a good idea to have a guide. If you’re fairly new to piano playing, this helpful video will help you get started. It’s fairly long, but it’s a great introduction to scales for the new piano player.
3. The Contrary Motion Scale
We already mentioned that scales are good for those new to piano playing. But the contrary motion scale is an outstanding exercise for hand independence. the scale is a lot what it sounds like– the right hand and the left hand will move in different directions.
To do this scale, start with both thumbs on middle C. From there, your right-hand plays one octave ascending, while the left-hand plays an octave descending. If you haven’t yet fully developed hand independence, this might sound overwhelming. However, it’s a great way to start, since the fingering for each hand is essentially the same.
Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, you can use it to help your piano playing dynamics. Practice playing loudly with one hand and softly with the other. This is something that even experienced pianists have trouble with, so don’t be discouraged if you have trouble with it. But it’s a good thing to start working on early.
If you’d like a demonstration, check out this helpful video. The video also shows you some more advanced variants of the exercise, so you may be able to use them as your piano playing develops.
If you want some guidance through your beginner piano studies, you might want to check out Flowkey. This is a great site for beginners and intermediate players. From your first exercise to your first song, Flowkey offers a wealth of practice modes that can help you develop good piano techniques and valuable skills.
One of our favorite features is Flowkey’s practice mode that allows you to play the right-hand and left-hand parts of a song separately. Once you’re comfortable with them, you can put them together and play the whole piece. Flowkey also lets you take their course for beginners for free, so you can evaluate the site before you commit.
4. Hanon Exercises
The composer Charles Louis Hanon is well known for his massive catalog of exercises for beginners. Hanon exercises can help you develop good technique, and many focus on cultivating hand independence. Plenty of piano teachers use Hanon exercises in their lesson plans. But if you’re teaching yourself or taking an online course, the good news is that you can find the sheet music for Hanon exercises for free online.
If you do happen to get stuck, lots of pianists offer free tutorials covering how to play Hanon exercises. This useful video shows you how to play the #2 Hanon exercise for beginners. Like most two-hand playing exercises, it’s good to do this Hanon exercise progressively faster over time. And remember to use a metronome — while the clicking sound might be annoying, it’s a good way to make sure that you are playing in time.
5. Articulation Exercises
Playing notes in different articulations might seem like something better left for more intermediate players — after all, if you’re like most beginners, you’re probably busy enough just making sure you hit the correct note.
However, developing the right technique to play different articulations of notes is important, and it’s a good idea to start developing this skill early. Learning articulations is crucial when it comes to playing piano expressively.
A helpful and relatively simple way to start practicing articulations is to choose a piece you’ve been working on and play some notes legato and others staccato. Staccato notes have a sharper attack and aren’t held as long. Legato notes are essentially the opposite — there’s less time between them, and they almost seem connected together. If you want to see what legato and staccato notes look like in sheet music and hear how they sound when played, check out this helpful video tutorial.
6. Playing Music Backwards
This might sound like an especially odd practice technique, but it has its merits. Practicing a portion of a piece of music backward, forwards, and backward again is a great way to clean up your technique. It also means you aren’t relying purely on muscle memory when playing. Playing piano backward also offers a definite mental challenge, and it will train your mind and your fingers to read and play music effectively.
If you’re aiming to memorize a piece of music, playing it backward is a great way to learn it and commit it to memory, too. This method might be a little too advanced for very new beginners, but once you feel fairly comfortable, it’s an excellent way to train your mind and your fingers alike. If you want to hear what it sounds like in practice, check out this interesting video.
7. Clapping And Tapping Rhythms
Experienced players will tell you that understanding rhythm is vital to your success as a pianist. Clapping or tapping the rhythm of a piece before you play it will help you hear what it’s supposed to sound like. Clapping out a rhythm is a little like sight-reading, and the fact that it helps you internalize the rhythm of a piece will help your piano playing develop immensely. If you want an introduction to this exercise and the concept of rhythm and general, this video is a great place to start.
If you want to learn rhythm and have a solid foundation as a player, it may be worthwhile to sign up for an online course. If you want to have fun as you learn piano, Playground Sessions is an excellent place to start. This site teaches piano concepts largely by using excerpts from popular songs. You can also help train your fingers thanks to the site’s instant feedback — the notes will light up in different colors depending on if you’ve played them correctly or not.
8. Sight Reading
Sight-reading is a scary prospect for some new pianists, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sight-reading tests your knowledge of the keys and of reading music, and it lets you practice notes you’ve already learned. You can select a simple, short piece like a Hanon exercise, practice it, and then check your progress by listening to a clip of the piece being played.
This video offers a useful introduction to sight reading for the very new beginner. But if sight-reading is something you really want to work on, you might want to check out Piano Marvel, one of the sites we mentioned earlier. Its use of the Standard Assessment of Sight Reading makes it an excellent choice for people who want to develop this important skill.
Did you enjoy our list? Hopefully, we’ve been able to find some piano exercises that will be useful for you. Did we leave any out? What finger exercises have worked for you? Let us know in the comments, and please don’t forget to share if you found this article useful!