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An Arpeggio Practice Plan – Practising the Piano

If you’re preparing your scales and arpeggios for an exam, or if you want to include some as part of your warm-up routine or technical regime, it is a good idea to be creative about how you’re going to tackle them day by day. Recently, I gave a practice plan for scales so I thought I would also give you a possible way to organise your arpeggio practice.

Assuming you already know your arpeggios in all the inversions, and have overcome the basic technical difficulties, use this plan as a springboard for further creative ideas.

Arpeggio Bouquet

This is a useful process for self-testing, and it also helps develop mental flexibility and concentration. From a given note, generate as many different arpeggios as possible that use that note, and play all on one continuous loop without stops (the last note of each arpeggio becomes the first note of the next).

For example, if we choose the note C, our loop will consist of the following different arpeggios (aim to change only one note at a time where possible, this won’t work as neatly as you go through the dominant 7ths). I suggest changing the note each day. Keep an eagle eye on fingerings:

  • C major, root position
  • C minor, root position
  • A flat major, first inversion
  • F minor, second inversion
  • F major, second inversion
  • A minor, first inversion
  • Dominant 7th, key of F, root position
  • Dominant 7th, key of D flat, first inversion
  • Dominant 7th, key of B flat, second inversion
  • Dominant 7th, key of G, third inversion
  • Diminished 7th on C

 

arpeggio bouquet

Be creative with how you do this – you might vary the dynamics between one arpeggio and the next, play some half or double speed, or use a variety of different rhythms. You can do this over two, three or four octaves.

Russian Style

The so-called “Russian” form of scales and arpeggios combines elements of similar and contrary motion into one long example. It is good for building stamina, coordination and concentration. Apply it to major and minor arpeggios as well as dominant and diminished 7ths. If you’re new to this, begin very slowly and gradually work up to speed. Here is one possible design:

 

russian arpeggio

Different Rhythmic Patterns

Practising in a variety of different rhythms is useful for any pattern of notes in a single rhythmic value. To avoid jerkiness in the arm, I would not advocate dotted rhythms (except perhaps in dominant 7ths). For a 4-octave arpeggio, I especially like this rhythmic pattern (four notes slow and firm, four notes fast and light):

arpeggio rhythm

 

In Part 3 of my ebook series, I explore arpeggio (and scale) playing in depth. Included are many ideas for practising, as well as rhythm charts,  practice charts, other interactive features and video demonstrations. Follow this link for more details.

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If you enjoyed this blog post, then you may be interested in the following resources:

Practising the Piano eBook Series (New Revised Editions!)

There are surprisingly few books that deal with the art of practising. This multimedia eBook series contains hundreds of videos, audio clips, music examples and downloadable worksheets to show you exactly what need to do in order to get the most out of your practice time. Click here for more information.

To celebrate the launch of revised editions of the series, we’re offering a further 20% off all products in our catalogue. To take advantage of this offer, please visit our catalogue and enter the following voucher code upon check-out: 2PXGQX6XX3A9.

Alternatively, you can click here to be taken directly to the checkout page for the complete series bundle with the voucher automatically applied.

Practising the Piano Online Academy

Building on my blog posts and eBook series, the Online Academy takes my work to the next level with a comprehensive library of lessons, masterclasses and resources combined with insights from other leading experts. Aimed at piano teachers and pianists, it will transform the way you approach playing or teaching the piano!

A number of articles are available without registration and you can also register for free to view an additional five articles (no credit card required). Click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to visit the site, view free content and to subscribe.

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Fundamentals of Scale and Arpeggio Playing

Scales and arpeggios are part of the requirements of all examination boards, and every pianist will encounter them. The importance of knowing scales and arpeggios in every key cannot be exaggerated, but many players struggle with them because of poor technique.

How do we learn to play any scale at the drop of a hat? How do we play an even scale at a suitable tempo, with the correct fingering? How do we manage the thumb movements in an arpeggio accurately without bumping? How do we sit, how do we move across the keyboard without tension?

I have addressed all these questions and others in my new module in the Online Academy’s technique library. With detailed instructions in the videos, along with printed exercises and their demonstrations, I hope this material will assist you on your journey to making friends with scales and arpeggios.

Once we realise that all scales are made up of short (1, 2, 3) and long groups (1, 2, 3, 4) in alternation we are in a much better position to learn the fingerings. Not all scales begin at the start of a fingering group; to embed the fingerings, blocking practice is helpful.

How do we solve the problem of the thumb in scale playing? There are several ingredients – a smooth arm with no drops in the elbow, mobility in the thumb itself, and freedom in the wrist. This video excerpt offers some suggestions for practice.

Attention to whole-body choreography is especially important to feeling comfortable in arpeggio playing. This video demonstrates how we sit and how we move across the keyboard.

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Elementary Technique – Fundamentals of Scales & Arpeggios is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the module index if you are already a subscriber. Be sure to sign-up to our newsletter for further updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel for previews and video excerpts!

Further links & resources

  • Elementary Technique (Introduction and Basics) – The first module in the Online Academy’s technique library exploring the basics of piano technique, covering seating position, posture, whole-arm and legato touches. Click here to view.
  • Mastering Piano Technique – Part 2 of the Practising the Piano eBook series provides an overview of different schools and traditions through to an extensive listing of technical exercises. Click here for more information.
  • Piano Technique Lecture Series – Video lecture series from the Piano Teachers’ Course UK on piano technique by Graham Fitch with a particular emphasis on teaching beginners and beginner exercises. Click here for more information.
  • Online Academy technique resources – Click here to view an index of existing resources on piano technique on the Online Academy or on one of the following links:

These new resources will all be available through an Online Academy subscription for as little as £13.99 a month or £119.99 per year. Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to subscribe.