this is something i've never diligently practiced.  i've always assumed that it just comes as you get better.  but i've noticed that unless i practice speed specifically, i never automatically get the skill over the course of practicing other stuff.

so, what can i do to play scales and arpeggios fast?  and not just in a technical way (going up and down like a practice) but also doing it in a musical.  you know, snaking your way around a keyboard, up a few notes, down some, quickly arpeggiate up, slip in a little melody, etc.

scot mentioned recently that you just have to practice scales and arpeggios a lot so you're fingers won't get tangled up.  any other suggestions, or specific practice routines?

i'm doing this for an upcoming gene harris tribute project.  and although he did it less in his latter years, on his otter crest album, he does a lot of fast runs.  he uses them in transitioning between ideas for a measure or two.  like a way to tie things together.
There are 21 comments, leave a comment.
try doing this. play a cmaj7 arpeggio up, then play an fmaj7 arpeggio down.  or c7 up, fm7 down.  then bb7 up, ebm7 down, etc.  this particular exercise is good because it follows the circle of fifths, something that you see in chord progressions all the time.

same with scales- go up in a form of a c scale, come back down in an f scale.

look for target notes.  take a c arpeggio, simple triad style.  you play c e g then you have to cross to get to the next c  (always play at least two octaves of course, i practice three).  target that c and make sure you hit it. if you miss everything else, hit the special target notes and usually the target notes are the ones where you have to cross over your fingers some  how.

that's my 2 cents!
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
thanks scot.  i will try that.  so when you use arpeggios in songs, do you more often use 3 notes of the chords or 4?  of course, 4 notes defines the chord better.
the two things that helped me grab the concept of playing fast were to use fewer clicks on the metronome and play lighter as you go faster. chopin etudes helped a lot too :)
i should say chopin etudes help (not past tense)
it also helped me to realize that playing fast and playing slow are two different techniques - just as running and walking are.  it's common to think that playing fast is harder than playing slow, so if you practice fast, playing slow should be easy.  i found that was not the case.  after obsessing about learning to play fast (i was really into oscar), i found that i couldn't play slow and in time...

likewise, practicing slow will not help you to play fast.  it will help you to learn what to play, but if you want to play quick, ya gotta practice with the metronome and move the tempo up a notch or two at a time after you've master each notch.  as you go faster switch to two clicks per measure instead of four.  before you know it, you'll be smokin!
a few years ago i went to the batting cages with my son.  he was teeing of the 80mph pitches.  it looked easy so i decided to give it a try. (now i quit playing baseball when i was about 10 so i hadn't seen a pitch since a 10 year old pitched to me)

the first few pitches hit the backstop before i even  saw them.  after about 8-10 pitches i was actually fouling them off a bit.  i don't think spending time in the 40 mph cage would have helped me to see the 80mph pitches.  

it all depends on your mindset
it sounds as if there are two problems here: a technical limitation, and also that you just don't "hear" fast lines, so they don't come out in your playing. if you don't know what to play, your fingers will get tangled up when you try to improvise. it's like you're just firing up your car and hitting the gas with no destination in mind. in order to properly draw on your technique, you have to know what to do.

rather than thinking about things like whether or not to use 3 or 4 notes, try transcribing some fast lines of a player you admire (sounds like gene harris would be good for this). how does he use fast passages? the more you transcibe, the more readily you'll know the right ideas and language to play. if you're playing lines that you're hearing, you're much more likely to do something musical than some meaningless, artificial construction. after absorbing the style and language of the masters, the times to use the fast material, and what to actually play, becomes clear. i would recommend, actually, instead of transcribing gene harris for this, transcribing wynton kelly.

now we come to the technical aspect, and i feel that playing slowly and controlled is the best way to learn to play fast. yes, try playing fast as well, but play it one note at a time, completely legato, doing all sustain with the fingers, with a minimum of tension and effort. to play fast, you must play very close to the keys, completely relaxed in very curved, fluid motions.

using proper piano technique, use wrist rotations to help you pull the keys with little effort and put your hands in the right place. chopin is great training for this, especially the f minor etude (forget which number).

good luck!
the cool thing is, once you feel comfortable playing fast, you won't always feel the need to do it.
but using the batting speed/metronome analogy...wouldn't you want to master the 40 mph pitch, then get into the 60 mph cage and master that, then get into the 80 mph cage?

playing slow would be the equivilent to getting in the softball cage where the arc of the pitch is different and it's a somewhat different skill set to hit a softball.

but then again, being as old as you are, i'm surprised you were able to foul off 80 mph pitches!  :-)
yes dr. larryc.  your analogy is synonymous with  easing the tempo up with the metronome, as  skill sets analogy is synonomous with my run-walk analogy.  

and yes, i too was impressed that i could connect with the 80mph pitches, as i was when i first realized i could actually play fast as long as i did not imprison myself with the notion that i wasn't ready. (nevermind my age - you're not far behind me:)

i'm not saying do not practice slow. ya just don't need to stay there as long as you might think
thanks dr. whack!  lots of helpful information there.  i will work on your suggestions.

hepcatmonk, thanks also.  i listen to gene harris a lot, probably too much.  from everything that i hear, gene uses fast lines sporadically to tie together his more deliberate phrases (or slower phrases).  he's not like oscar where he'll play fast for a long time.  that's what i'm aiming at right now also.  i just want to use a measure or two of fast notes as a transition.

gene in his later years rarely played fast for too long.  he's a very groove based player and playing fast is not what he's about.  but on the otter crest album, he's a little more raw and he's whipping out the fast lines a lot.

i'm in the same situation.  i have no desire to show off or play fast, i could care less.  i just want to be able to do it as a useful tool to vary things up a bit.
thank you dr. superboy. it's always nice to know when something helps.
it appears that art tatum had a scale technique of a slow glissando, something like 250 bpm. tiger rag provides proof of this.

i want to ask a question relevent to dexterity:

suppose you were just starting out as a beginner on the piano and could only play scales around 60 bpm. if you worked on nothing but scales 10 hours each day for a month, how much would your technique improve?
if you put your fingers over a group of four or five keys and practice playing them quickly and cleanly, that's how fast you can play.  the fact that you can only play your scales at 60 ( and you didn't say how many notes per click)is because your hands don't know them well enough - which of course is the reason to practice them slow.  try taking one or two that you know well and push the tempo up on those a bit.  sometimes that jump starts the mindset to play the others quicker.

there's a lot more to technique than playing scales, so if you spent 10 hours a day doing  that, you probably would not be able to play anything else.  for that matter, i'm not sure your scales would be any better than if you would practice them 15-30 minutes a day.

technique is about learning how to play (execute) effortlessly.
you see, whenever i descend the piano in my left hand, my 3rd and 4th fingers sometimes rub against each other, 3 4 5 fingers are so curved that they play on the nails, and my thumb tenses up and contracts(squeezes) toward my index finger. sometimes my fingers even slip off the white keys! i know this is really bad technique, but i have been trying to improve it for quite some time. when you first started playing piano, were your 3rd and 4th fingers rubbing against each other? i don't remember about when i first started to play the piano, but that was about four or five years ago. i do know that when you first start to play the piano, your 3 4 5 fingers are very weak. however, i'm not sure if the rubbing of 3 4 fingers are a result of being weak. i'm not a pianoologist!

this kind of technique makes it almost impossible to play runs; barely even to play. should probably check out some good piano teachers in your area.  this is not the kind of thing we can really work on here - since we can't see what you're talking about.

you may want to check out some exercise books like hanon, pischna, schmitt, czerny...but you would get more out of those if you had a good teacher to help you
loveforjazz: get a teacher asap, this is not proper technique and the longer you play with such tension the less fun playing the piano will be.
you should not be playing with the nails, you're actually playing with the pads on your fingers and pulling, not pushing with the nails.if you let your fingers just extend relaxed over the keys, with your knuckles high, this is how proper technique looks.

check out a teacher to fix this, and work on incredibly slow (say like 15 notes a minute) practicing of scales note by note, just pulling the keys relaxed. check out the "leszetycki method" -- it's a great book, and work on it with a teacher.

some pianists are aqainst hanon exercises(like horowitz; he said that they were counterproductive) and say that you can only acquire technique from playing music from many composers and practicing everything that pops up in the music you play(scales, arpeggios, trills, double trills, jumps, and other techniques that may pop in the music).  

is it really about exercising your finger muscles or is it more about playing music?
for what it's worth i don't think it helps to compare your situation to horowitz or anyone else.  obviously the goal is to play music, but if your technique is jumbled up the way you describe you definitely need a teacher.  whether you use exercise books or more musical compositions to address your problems is really a matter of preference, and one that is probably better guided by an experienced teacher.

good luck & groove on:)
well - strike that first sentence....i don't think you were comparing yourself to horowitz - i apologize...

i don't think technical development is about exercising your finger muscles as much as it is freeing the line of communication between your musical mind, fingers and the keyboard - hence playing music
wait a minute, i think i understand technique now. the secret of technique(in my opinion) is simple:

although i don't practice scales and arpeggios as much as i should, you should practice scales and arpeggios musically with a metronome. that is,to play them with different accents and rhythms. i found the best way for me to increase dexterity is to actually swing the notes of a scale. in my right hand, i'm swinging the scale notes at 217 bpm. my left hand is way behind, like 150 bmp.
Please sign in to post.

Jazz Piano Notebook Series
Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 1 - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version - videos

Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 2 - jazz piano tricks of the trade you can use today

Volume 2 has 14 jazz piano exercises and tricks of the trade, and quite a bit of it is Calypso jazz piano related material, including some Monty Alexander and Michel Camilo style grooves. Jazz piano education is through the ears, but books like this can help.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Tim Richards' Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.

Tim wrote the well known "Exploring Jazz Piano" and "Improvising Blues Piano" books and has several others to his name.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 4 is by Jeff Brent, a jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author of "Modalogy" and other acclaimed jazz theory and education books. In this book Jeff shares detailed analysis of transcriptions of live performances. He covers everything from the shape of the songs to the tricks and licks he uses in improvised lines to the ideas behind his lush chord voicings.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Most Recent Discussions
Volume 5 of Scot Ranney's "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is up and running!
How to Develop Your Improvisation from Beginner to Advanced
Big Chief
How to Play Bossa Nova
Best Pianos for Beginners
How to Reharmonise a song

Volume 5 of the "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is Available! File Downloads News
One Hour of Relaxing Piano Music
Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook
Fundamentos Físicos del Sonido
Aprendiendo a tocar PIANO gratis con partitura

Top Sheetmusic Picks

Jazzy Christmas Arrangements
Cocktail Piano
Best Songs Ever, 6th Edition
Christmas Medley
Moana Songbook
Late Night Jazz Piano

Jazz piano education is cool.

be the main character in your own story

Rock on. Follow your passion.

Sign In

privacy policyterms of serviceabout • 50,656 messages 63,069 accounts 53,776 logins Copyright © 1995-2019 by Scot Ranney • website software and design by scot's scripts is For Sale - Serious Inquiries Only