What exercises or techniques are there to make the thumb stronger and faster? I have developed good speed and strength of all the other fingers but the thumb keeps slowing me down.

I'm starting to understand that it is the slowest and weakest finger and the most difficult one to develop.


One of the many purposes for learning/practising scales is to increase dexterity. In two and three octave scales, and ordinary majors in all keys will do this, the thumb must move from one hand position to the next twice in each octave (except the last going up r.h. and last going down l.h!) so playing scales is a very good excercise. Another scale that works well is the chromatic - where every black key gets a middle finger, and thumb gets to play D,F,G and A (r.h.) and C,A,G and F (l.h.).

Arpeggios do the same sort of job in getting the thumb to be quicker and smoother.

Also, try playing all of these in different rhythms. For example, chromatics in 2s, 3s, 4s, etc, so the emphasised notes differ each time with different fingers taking the emphasis.

  • Yeh, I do those. Except that I play the chromatic scale another way (right hand): 1-C, 3-C#, 1-D, 3-D#, 1-E, 2-F, 3-F#, 1-G, 3-G#, 1-A, 3-A#, 1-B, 2-C, 3-C# and so on. I do 3-note arpeggios and 4-note arpeggios mostly. And I also do a lot of Major and Minor 6 and Major and Minor 7 arpeggios. – SovereignSun Mar 2 '17 at 9:14
  • Your chromatic only differs in the first C played, but what if you start on B? And you need to play these starting on any note. Same with arps - play 1st, 2nd, 3rd inversins too. You may find that different fingering works better than using the same for root and 2nd, for example, in some keys. – Tim Mar 2 '17 at 9:27
  • I play C major 3-note arpeggio like this: 1-C, 2-E, 4-G, 1-E, 2-G, 5-C, 1-G, 3-C, 5-E. – SovereignSun Mar 2 '17 at 11:05

Great answer by @Tim, but I'll just add another exercise that I have done and recommended quite a bit, and that is what I call the Thumb-finger-thumb exercise.

Basically, you position your right thumb on the middle C and the left thumb on the C below. Then hit the D with your second finger in both hands and the E with the thumb. Turn around and go down - second on D, then thumb on C. Then mix it up: use the third finger instead of the second, and even the fourth or fifth.

Practice for evenness: a metronome can be a useful tool.

Obviously, the levels are easy to build up: do a C major scale this way. Add in a ♩. ♪ pattern. Do it in triplet. Play 1-2-1-3-1-2-1-3. Offset the left and right hands.

Bottom line:

Get creative.

  • That's interesting. Does trilling thumb-finger help increase thumb dexterity? – SovereignSun Mar 2 '17 at 16:39
  • 1
    @SovereignSun I have found it helps me, because the tendency is to become uneven. Therefore, it requires a greater amount of control to be able to do the exercise correctly, hence the patterns. – anonymous2 Mar 2 '17 at 17:46

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