Keep Those Fingers Movin'!


My favourite exercises...

Sometimes, you need to spend time away from repertoire to work on finger independence and precision, not to mention their rapidity and comfort in various pairs and keys. Consider a sportsperson: they only perform for maybe 10-20% of their career; the rest is training, with that training not always and only doing exactly what the performance requires but efforts towards a calmer mind, a stronger, healthier body and techniques which provide general overall enhancement during training and important performances.

It's very much similar to how, in the now infamous Karate Kid film scene, Daniel is ordered to perform a "wax on, wax off" movement: he may be polishing a car, which is not a fight at all but the inherent experience of 'relevant arm time' aids in the actual performance need of 'blocking punches'.

This philosophy of 'not doing 'the thing' in order to master 'the thing'' is foundational to my Water Pianism philosophy. For a pianist, this means not only playing the repertoire to get better at the repertoire but mastering its subcomponents in order to enjoy executing pieces with greater precision and fluency. One never learns a piece by staring at the score and repeating it, just as much as one never acquires rapidity by only trying to play quickly. You must understand these unorthodox concepts if you hope to make any significant, personalised progress.

It is for these reasons that I have many technical exercise videos which should not be received as 'boring' but as 'necessary to being able to play anything I want'. You have no hope in acquiring Classical repertoire or improvising fancy Jazz lines if all you do is struggle through a score bar by bar without enhancing finger independence and precision or keep learning jazz theory and scales in an isolated fashion - you'll probably give up because your fingers can't do what is necessary and incorrectly think you're not good enough.

Herein, I present three of my favourite finger independence exercises which I propose you start doing properly, seriously and to a very fluent, comfortable level, with your eyes closed as much as possible. I also recommend doing some physical warm-ups first, every day, as I demonstrate in this video.

This first video includes many demonstrations of the things I personally used to do as part of my 'wax on, wax off' training. It includes, amongst other things: third pairs, octaves, chromatic triplets and black note-only stuff. I hope this video becomes a go-to video for you and that you will further personalise what I present to your own hands and needs.

This was a fun video to do because it shows what I would do naturally. I chose three technical exercises from Liszt's technical exercises book (free here) and altered them to my own version. The point is that any exercises you find online in a video or in a book can be personalised; it's a very important way not to get too bored with them! Often, you might add a rhythm, do it over less (or more) octaves, in a different key, use different fingering than proposed, etc. I actually just took the 'shape' of one of them and made it into my own exercise idea.

This final video is a really beneficial collection, primarily because it's the best technical exercises as proposed in my Water Pianism Syllabus, category i. No matter your path, these are the ones you really should get down. The principle is that you need to have each finger as flexible and precise as every other one! Also, don't get caught in the trap of using 'correct fingering' since fingering is always personalised when playing but forcing yourself to be able to play anything with unusual fingering is of great benefit since you give your brain the ability to use any finger, anywhere, anyhow.. and that's a nice feeling to have! Don't let anybody tell you how to Play You.

Finally, as a bonus video, here is a really useful and of course personalisable chord mastery video which also gives your fingers a good workout: