In today’s video, we’ll be looking at 5 exercises for finger independence, designed for players at an early intermediate level. These might be a little too tricky for beginners, but if you’ve been playing for a year or three, these should be quite helpful.
Last year we did a video called “5 exercises for hand independence”, and I wanted to make a video in a similar vein, this time focusing on the fingers.
Definitely check that one out if you haven’t already, especially if you’re more on the beginner side of things.
Just like that video, I’ve created a PDF for you to download in order to practice these exercises.
Let’s get started!
Finger exercises for hand independence
These exercises have been pulled and modified by guys like Czerny and Henselt. They vary in difficulty from easy to fairly challenging for an intermediate student – so don’t feel like you have to master them all (although you’re welcome to).
What we’re going to do with this video is play through each of the videos and talk about how it’s going to benefit your playing and your finger independence.
The first two exercises are from Carl Czerny, who wrote endless amounts of exercises for players at all levels – he’s a great resource.
I put these exercises at the beginning because they’re a little simpler. Note that they’re meant to be played hands in unison, each hand playing the same notes, but you’d still get a lot of benefit from playing them hands separately if that’s where you’re at.
You’ll notice that there are some whole notes running on top of, and below, the sixteenth notes. This means that one finger will be held down the entire time you’re playing the sixteenth notes. We call this finger pedaling.
For the first right hand notes, your thumb will be pressing down on C while your other fingers play. In the left hand, your pinky will be holding down the C.
Whenever my students start learning how to hold individual fingers down like this, there’s going to be strong resistance – your held finger is going to want to pop up. Start with this exercise, one hand at a time if necessary, and nice and slow, to get the hang of this technique.
This type of finger technique is used constantly in Classical, Baroque, Romantic music and beyond. It’s important in Baroque and Classical pieces where you aren’t using pedal, since it gives some illusion of pedal (with the notes hanging on).
It also serves a function in music with pedal, since it creates a different sound than if you weren’t to hold the note. The pedal hangs onto all notes equally, whereas holding a note or two while you continue to play adds more depth of sound, and more weight.
This second Czerny exercise is similar to the first, but a little more challenging. You’re still holding on to Cs and Gs, but the sixteenth notes have a skip in the pattern.
I highly encourage you to check out the full page of exercises from Czerny’s op. 802 no. 10 – what I’ve chosen here are just a couple of many. Sheet music can be found for free at imslp.org.
The next exercise is from Henselt’s preparatory exercises. This one features held notes as well (like all of today’s exercises) – except instead of whole notes, this time they’re at a half note beat.
You’ll notice that each bar has a pattern of steps and skips that repeat – hence the etc. at the end of the line. You could keep going as far as you’d like with these exercises once you have the pattern memorized.
Though this one is hands separate, I consider it a more challenging pattern than the Czerny ones, since there are more notes involved in the pattern.
Another added challenge is alternating the fingers which must hold – 5, then 1, 5, then 1.
One issue you might run into with this exercise is holding your other fingers down, too. Make sure when you’re playing through it for the first time, you go nice and slow in order to train only finger 5/1 to stay held down, and that the other fingers are releasing as soon as they’ve moved on to the next note.
This is another exercise with “etc.” written at the end of the idea – once you get the drift of the pattern, you can just keep going on indefinitely. I would recommend going up the octave, and then for an added challenge, go back down – like a scale.
I like this one because you have to constantly switch which fingers are holding down, and you also have to constantly move your position on the piano. Every bar, I reset the fingering to what it is at the start (1/3, 2/4, 3/5) – and doing this smoothly adds another layer.
Again, feel free to play this one hand at a time. This is a good exercise for strengthening the independence of all five fingers, not just the outer ones.
The fifth and final exercise is also from Philipp’s School of Technic, and it’s the most hideous-sounding. If you’ve ever played Hanon exercises, you’ll know that finger exercises aren’t always about sounding pretty – this one is a good example.
Even though this one doesn’t sound nice, there are a few things I like about it. First, you have to hold down three fingers at once (1, 4 and 5 in the right hand, and 5, 2 and 1 in the left hand). While you’re holding these down, the inner fingers (2/3, 3/4) have to do a lot of work.
They move up and down in increments, getting your fingers in a variety of strange acrobatic shapes.
Now head on over to the website, download the PDF and give these finger exercises a try! Next time you come across individually held notes in your music, you’ll be much more competent and prepared.
Until next time!