Playing the piano is almost a little like going to the gym...Warm up is crucial to your performance!
Whilst we may not be lifting heavy weights, when playing the piano, we are still utilising muscles that often get neglected or are used in different ways so it’s important to get them nicely warmed up before using them.
Today we’ll be running through some incredibly quick and easy exercises you can do to nicely activate your hands and place your body in the most relaxed state possible before you begin playing, enhancing your learning experience and all in all, making playing the piano more fun!
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
The first step to any successful piano practice is comfort! We’ve written an article on how important piano posture is before and some great tips to allow for more expression in your play, however it goes without saying that if you are not sitting comfortably, you will likely find that you are in more discomfort and won’t enjoy playing as much.
A good place to start here is to begin by releasing any tension you may be carrying from work in the shoulders, neck and upper back. Start off with some incredibly simple neck rolls, slowly rolling the head forwards and all the way around to help alleviate some of the tension you may be carrying from the rest of your day.
Warming Up The Hands
Unsurprisingly, all of your fingers need to be active in order to get the most from your piano experience (although even those with conditions such as arthritis can still play!). So to begin with, we are going to start by waking up each finger using a fun exercise that utilises all of the black keys on the piano.
Start by placing your left hand pinky on the lowest C# note on the keyboard, then your ring finger on the D#, middle on the F#, index on the G# and the thumb on the A#. From here, you’ll place your right hand on the next set of black notes with one finger on the same notes listed above.
From here, slowly walk your way up the keyboard with each finger. When you reach your right hand, place the left hand over the top and continue the sequence all the way up and then down the keyboard. To add more flare to the exercise, when your hands move over one another, bring them up high away from the keyboard, activating your arms and shoulders too.
With your fingers now nicely warmed up, it’s time to move onto the wrists and elbows. One exercise we really enjoy here is not only great for memorising scales, but also activating some of those muscles in the forearms and wrists.
Pick any scale you like (many new players often find the C scale the easiest to begin with as it only uses white notes). From here, play the scale as you normally would with your right hand. However with every note, we want to do a small anti-clockwise circular movement with the wrist and hand whilst still pressing down the key. Repeat this for each of the notes. Once you are comfortable with this, repeat the same exercise with the left hand, however this time, use clockwise movements.
To level this exercise up, then use both hands together, running through each note, and circling anticlockwise with the right hand and clockwise with the left.
Stretching The Fingers
The ability to stretch over octaves and beyond is a real talent within music and it’s a skill that many want to continue improving, much like you only get good at Yoga by stretching more and more, the same can be said for piano!
Fun fact: The iconic pianist Rachmaninoff is believed to have had a finger range of over 12 white keys with one hand - how far can you stretch?
In this exercise, we’re looking to improve our finger range and will be doing so by gradually rocking back and forth between the thumb and pinky fingers. To begin with, place your fingers 6 white notes apart from one another. With your right hand thumb on middle c, place your right hand pinky then on G and slowly rock between the two.
If this is incredibly comfortable, try extending your range to 7 notes, then 8 and see how far you can comfortably get.
The key to this exercise however is not to overstretch yourself, remember this is a warm up after all and if you strain a muscle or overwork something before you actually begin playing, you’ll likely just ruin your practice experience! Only stretch to a level that is comfortable to you, nothing should cause pain or discomfort.
So there you have it, three incredibly simple exercises to do for just a few minutes before you begin your piano practice to help get you nicely warmed up! Just starting your piano journey? Explore our blog for more piano tips and tricks, or if you are looking to either upgrade or purchase your first piano, contact our experts today!