Jazz piano, Music Theory, Piano Technique, Tutorials

Jazz Piano – Finger Exercises

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 The Small Muscles
Pianists are sometimes referred to as “athletes of the small muscles”.
One of the secrets to good piano playing lies here, in the small muscles of the hand – the “intrinsic muscles”.
They are naturally weak but unlike the stronger muscles in the forearm, the fingers can be moved completely independently. 

It’s important to remember that all technique starts in the mind, not in the fingers, BUT your muscles must be in good condition and “fit” to play the piano.

This does not mean that you should develop strength in your hands like a body builder – it means that you should develop careful control and awareness of the intricate sets of muscles involved in piano playing and keep them fit and in condition, more like a yoga or Tai Chi instructor. The aim is to develop efficient control with freedom.

The aim with the following exercises is to develop control, not strength in itself. Slow movements are beneficial as this teaches mental clarity and physical control far more effectively.

Note! Aim to build finger independence and flexibility, not strength.
Finger Exercise Introduction
Try the simple exercise below. Each hand is mirroring the other.
  • Hold the hand at a constant level, with NO stiffness.
  • Smoothly pick up ONLY the playing finger.
  • Feel the key resistance and "biting point" of the note.
  • Think legato - hear the full note to the end and feel the connection in the finger.
  • Slightly overlap the two notes
  • Hold the key GENTLY at the bottom using ONLY the individual finger (no stiffness).
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Finger Exercise 1
Practise this exercise with a metronome – it’s designed to tax your mind as well as exercise your fingers.
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James Treweek

James trained classically in Piano & Clarinet and studied Jazz at University. He has worked as an MD & pianist at Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express Jazz club Dean Street, The Hippodrome, Leicester Sq Theatre, London Palladium, & was MD for the “Rat Pack” band for David Beckham (with Elton John as support!)