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I've been playing the piano long enough now that I thought it might be helpful to learn a few exercises for improving dexterity and/or "warming up" when one first sits down at the piano. My level is what might be classified as "upper beginner". (I have completed the first three grades set out in the classic John Thompson books as well as a few pieces on the side. My technique is pretty solid for the most part, I've been told.)

Currently I am only familiar with one Hanon exercise, which I was taught, but a (small) range of fairly basic ones, I think would be helpful. Hanon and Czerny are, from what I've heard, the two classics when it comes to piano exercises. Could anyone recommend any specific exercises that would benefit my playing at my current level?

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Multi-octave arpeggios are a great way to warm up. They do require good technique and dexterity as well, so practising them will help you in a lot of ways.

(A good method my teacher recommend to improve arpeggio-playing technique is to play them staccato and focus carefully on your timing, then go back to playing them normally).

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    Cheers, I'll have to try them. I tend to do a range of white & black notes two-octave scales in parallel/contrary motion to warm up presently, so that would complement things nicely I suppose. – Noldorin May 6 '11 at 17:22
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    I've also been taught to play "short arpeggios". A typical set in C major would go (C E G C' E G C' E' G C' E' G') and repeat (where the prime indicates a higher octave). If this isn't clear, it's essentially the right hand's opening in Moonlight Sonata movement 3. – Babu May 7 '11 at 16:25
  • @Babu I had to play those as well, they're also good training. – Matthew Read Sep 3 '11 at 0:55
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In addition to Hanon, arpeggios and scales, I'd also suggest Mikrokosmos by Béla Bartók for improving sight reading. It is by far the most widely used exercise book for sight reading, as Bartók's pieces are extremely hard to memorize (they don't really follow musical patterns).

  • Thanks! It seems these pieces vary greatly in level, and a good few would be suitable/playable for me. Will definitely check them out. – Noldorin May 9 '11 at 0:29
  • OMG, I listened to some of these pieces on YT and now I'll have to crawl into some hole and listen to Wohltemperierte Klavier for 3 hours straight just to get my sanity back :O I suppose it may be actually great music, but somehow I couldn't make myself play it... – neuviemeporte Jun 8 '11 at 21:25
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I typically do not play exercises for warm up. Whether this is good or bad I don't know. I am self taught since I lost interest around the age of 14 and gained back the interest later.

What I start off with is usually one of

  • Play whatever fast song I am working on very slowly focusing on perfection. Then later I play at correct speed and practice like I normally would.
  • Play whatever slow or normal song I am either working on or is not quite up to practice. Again focusing on perfection and even slowing down these songs.
  • Forget about warm up (this is not as profitable but I do it anyway for fun)
  • I will sometimes practice scales or for fun do play chords around the circle of fifths or chords around some other circle. But I don't usually start off with this, I just do it when I feel like it.

+1 for Matthew. I think his idea of arpeggios is a great idea.

  • This sounds like a "fun" way to warm up. I actually kind of like your idea of warming up by playing a known piece very slowly; I may well try it. Saying that, I might do it after more formal exercises... I know much more accomplished pianists than me who use them to warm up. – Noldorin May 7 '11 at 0:22
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Many amateur pianists I've spoken to swear by good old scales. I'm playing them now. In my case, I'm finding that playing them is improving my ear for keys, quite aside from the benefits for dexterity and plain old warmup.

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