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.


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.


Technical Fundamentals Collection – Practising the Piano

The Online Academy’s content library continues to grow with almost 100 videos added in the last few months alone! We’ve also recently added a new “collections” feature to provide another way of navigating and finding content. These collections provide guided pathways through selections of content based subjects and themes not directly covered with existing browse and search features.

The first collection featured highlights from the main content categories within the Online Academy. We have now added another collection offering a selection of resources on technical fundamentals. This selection is aimed at pianists at an elementary level and their teachers. It will also be useful to returning pianists as a technical “refresher” or “health check”, or indeed any pianist looking for tips to improve their technique.

technical fundamentals collection

Collection contents

The collection covers the following topics with a combination of articles, video lectures and demonstrations:

  • A brief treatise on the history of technique and some perspectives on the subject from Graham Fitch
  • A tried-and-tested warm-up sequence from healthy playing expert, Penelope Roskell
  • Tips on developing good pianistic habits from the start from Ilga Pitkevica, including posture, positioning of hands and fundamental movements
  • And finally some suggestions on finger exercises and ideas for using the ubiquitous excercises of Hanon effectively from Graham

How to access it?

The technique collection can be viewed here, or from the collections listing here. Scrolling to the bottom of the page, “START” button and then navigate backwards and forwards. You can also jump

start technical fundamentals collection

A few of the resources within this collection are freely available to view, whereas most require an Online Academy subscription or can be purchased individually (please see further links below).

Other technique resources

The full listing of resources in the Online Academy’s technique library can be searched here. Recent updates include a video series on developing a holistic, balanced technique by Ilga Pitkevica and a set of demonstrations and lectures on the unique exercises of Peter Feuchtwanger.

More resources are currently in the pipeline, including Ilga’s recommendations on using Hanon, resources on popular studies and exercises plus a detailed module on “getting to grips with octaves” by Graham Fitch.

Further links & resources


Fundamentals of Piano Practice – Practising the Piano

Tuesday 29th of March was Piano Day 2022 and we celebrated by running a free online event featuring a revised version of one of our most popular online workshops. We’re also offering various specials on a selection of our resources which run until 3rd April.

Free Online Workshop

In our free online workshop, Graham Fitch demonstrated his tried and tested methods and strategies for learning pieces and practising more effectively. Topics explored included analysis, choosing fingering, essential practice tools such as the “Three S’s” and other deep-learning techniques.

The following video features some excerpts from the event recording:

If you missed the workshop, you can still obtain access to the recording and resources by signing-up to our mailing list here. You can also view details of our previous workshops here.

Other Offers

The following are a few selected offers available as part of our Piano Day promotion (please sign-up to our mailing list here for additional offers!):

  • Practising the Piano eBook series – Click here to purchase all four parts of Graham Fitch’s acclaimed eBook series for £24 (standard price: £40).
  • From the Ground Up – Ken Johansen’s From the Ground Up series uses outlines and reduced scores to help you to learn pieces more effectively. Click here to purchase the complete bundle of editions which includes works by Schumann, Bach, Beethoven, Grieg, Mozart and Chopin for £12 (Standard price: £20)!  
  • Guide to the Trinity College Syllabus – Click here to purchase our resources for the Trinity College London 2021-2023 piano syllabus for £48 (Standard price: £80). This collection includes 50+ video walkthroughs of selected repertoire plus a set of videos on preparing for an examination and three workshop recordings. 
  • Teaching Healthy Expressive Piano Technique – Click here to purchase Parts 1 & 2 of Penelope Roskell’s online course, Teaching Healthy Expressive Piano Technique for £24 (Standard price £40). Part 1 comprises four introductory videos and Part 2 features 120 videos (2.5hrs of footage) showing how to use different kinds of finger touch to achieve a wide range of sounds at the piano.
  • Getting Your Pieces up to Speed (Online workshop) – Practical workshop in which Graham Fitch demonstrates effective practice methods for developing speed while retaining coordination. Click here to get £10 off when purchasing access to the workshop recording and resources
  • Creating a Beautiful Piano Sound (Online workshop) – Online workshop in which Penelope Roskell explains the principles behind producing a beautiful tone quality for pianists and teachers. Click here to get £10 off when purchasing access to the workshop recording and resources.
  • The Four Skills of Successful Sight-Reading (Online workshop) – Ken Johansen shows how to develop four skills for successful sight-reading, including planning, eye training, reading ahead and maintaining a pulse. Click here to get £10 off when purchasing access to the workshop recording and resources!