5 piano exercises for speed (PDF + tutorial)
In today’s video, we’re going to look at 5 specific piano exercises for speed that you can get working on right away.
A while ago we did a video called “5 piano exercises for hand independence”, but we haven’t done anything like that in a while – I figured it was time!
All 5 of these exercises can be found in a PDF linked here. For the most part, they’re simple enough that you could play them as a beginner (with at least a few months under your belt).
Let’s get started!
Piano exercises for speed
I think the best way to do this is to go through each exercise one by one, and I’ll explain to you why I put them on here.
These exercises are all based on scales, chords and arpeggios. There are infinite variations and different types of technique we could look at, but this felt like the best starting point, since most people are familiar with scales.
Piano exercise for speed #1
This first piano exercise is the simplest – it’s a good ol’ cross-hand arpeggios. I start teaching these to kids within their first year or two of lessons, and sooner for adults. They’re very simple to understand, but take a little bit of coordination and keyboard geography to execute.
Hopefully now you can see why we call it a “cross-hand” arpeggio – because the left hand crosses over the right, and then has to return to its original starting point.
An arpeggio is simply a chord repeated over and over again. In this case, we’re using the notes of a C major chord. But I could just as easily play an Eb and make it a C minor arpeggio.
Explore these with a variety of chords – it’ll help you become more adept at fast hand movements at the piano, especially the oft-slower left hand.
Be sure to keep the tempo really steady, and when you’re ready, speed it up! These sound especially cool with the damper pedal.
Piano exercise for speed #2
This exercise is simply a step up from the first one. It’s a longer arpeggio that covers more ground on the keyboard. We’re still playing it cross-hand style, but we’re adding a few extra octaves to the process.
So you can see how I’m alternating a left hand chord with a right hand chord, and while I’m playing the right hand chord, my left hand is preparing. And so on. When you play this style of arpeggio, both hands will be constantly moving, despite which one is actively playing.
In theory, you could play this one as many octaves as you like. I provided sheet music as a guide, but be encouraged to ad lib.
And like the easier version of this arpeggio, explore it in a wide variety of different keys and chords – that’s where you’ll really start to get some value out of it.
Also like the other arpeggio, this one sounds really fancy when you play it quickly and with the damper pedal. It’s really not too difficult, but it sounds sophisticated. People will think you’re really good at the piano if you can do a flourish like this.
Piano exercise for speed #3
The remaining three exercises are all scale-based, and they’re all by Czerny. Carl Czerny is a wonderful resource for all kinds of etudes and exercises. If you enjoy these ones, I urge you to go explore the complete collections.
This one is also the most difficult. The entire etude is actually quite a bit longer, but I shortened it here for our purposes.
You can see that the whole etude is a series of scales – first descending, then ascending. These are two-octave scales, so if you haven’t learned how to do that yet, definitely check out a previous video on playing 2-octave scales to get the finger patterns worked out.
What makes this a challenge is playing it with left hand chords, huge hand leaps, and speed (of course).
I encourage you to try this one out hands separately first, so you can learn the patterns. You’ll notice that the right hand scales are simply stepping up note by note. What makes this so tricky is you only have the span of a 16th rest to jump up 2 octaves on the keyboard. This is a great exercise in accuracy as well as speed!
The left hand chords are very basic – they’re all variations of C and G7 chord, with an F chord thrown in there for fun.
|Czerny — School of Velocity, Op. 299 (Complete)
Composed by Carl Czerny (1791-1857). Edited by Willard A. Palmer. Masterworks; Piano Collection. Alfred Masterwork Edition. Classical; Masterwork; Romantic. Book. 112 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.612).
Piano exercise for speed #4
These last two exercises are almost identical. The difference is that #4 focuses on a fast right hand, and #5 focuses on a fast left hand.
These exercises are meant to be played on repeat to increase your coordination and speed. Loop them as many times as you feel comfortable, until your fingers start loosening up and becoming more comfortable with the patterns.
The patterns here are very simple. With the exception of the final scale at the end, everything sits comfortably in a C 5-finger position. This is great because you don’t have to focus on jumping or leaping – you just plunk your hands in one spot and work on getting the velocity.
I’ll play it through so you can see it.
You’ll notice the left hand literally just alternates two different chords the whole time. Again, this is so that you can put your entire focus on getting the right hand fast and loose.
Czerny — 125 Exercises for Passage Playing, Op. 261
Composed by Carl Czerny (1791-1857). Edited by Maurice Hinson. Masterworks; Piano Collection. Alfred Masterwork Edition. Classical; Masterwork; Romantic. Book. 64 pages. Published by Alfred Music (AP.4838).
Piano exercise for speed #5
The final exercise, as mentioned, is basically the reverse of #4. This time the left hand is playing the fast 5-finger pattern, and the right hand is alternating the two simple chords.
I’ll play this one through on the keyboard.
Again, these are designed to be played in a loop. The main value of this exercise can be gleaned once you’re really comfortable with the patterns and no longer have to focus on the notes themselves. I’d suggest memorizing this pattern so you can further push your speed.
I hope you enjoy these exercises, friends!