Quick Tips

Piano Exercises for Beginners: Warming Up & Practicing Effectively

By Claire Robertson
Piano Exercises for Beginners.

In this article, we’ll share some daily piano exercises for beginners! These simple piano exercises include a warm up to help you focus and easy stretches and scale exercises to help you grow as a pianist. Stretches for the shoulders, wrists, and hands will help gently encourage you to play with excellent posture and technique. Our video exercises include finger skips, junior Hanon exercises, and other tips that will help you master scales and chords and develop strength. 

Ready to take your piano playing to the next level? Try Hoffman Academy Premium today!

Piano exercises for warming up

Before sitting down at the piano bench, take a moment and stretch your arms wide and take up as much space as possible. Reach up to the sky as high as you can, and then reach down and touch your toes. Roll your shoulders back and forward a few times, and draw some circles in the air with your nose to loosen up your neck and shoulders. For a challenge that will get out the wiggles and stretch your shoulders, you can even make chicken wings and flap them a few times.

Next, let’s take care of our wrists. Reach up and pretend you are screwing in a lightbulb, first with your right wrist and then your left wrist. Next, line the tips of your fingers up together and place your palms together, like prayer hands. Try to gently raise your elbows up as you stretch your wrists.

Next, let’s address the fingers. First, start with your hand in a gently closed fist, and then gradually let your fingers unbend at the first joint at the top of your hand to make almost a kitty paw shape. From there, extend the second joint of your fingers, so you’ve made a little table with the top of your hands. Then, reach your fingers all the way out to create a flat palm. Now, reverse the motion: With your fingers flat in front of you, bend them from the first joint to make the ‘hat’ or ‘table’, curl them gently a little more to make the kitty paw, and then end with a gently closed fist. 

Now, warm your fingers up for playing. This exercise also helps to develop independent finger motion. First, wiggle your thumb by itself, then your pointer finger, middle finger, ring finger, pinky, and then work backwards. How fast can you go?

What should I practice first as a beginner in piano?

One of the first and best piano exercises for beginners is playing pentascales! These are the building blocks that form the foundation for scale exercises, chord progressions, and more. You can follow along with Mr. Hoffman as he explains how to play our first exercise, stepping and skipping, in both the right and left hand in the video below. 

As you practice the first finger exercises in the Hoffman Academy curriculum, have patience with yourself. Take time to notice if your hands are relaxed and if your fingers are curved gently like you are holding an orange. Many students find it helpful to sing the finger numbers as they play. As you get more confident, you can practice both hands together in similar motion (or hands playing the scale starting on “do” and moving in the same direction) and contrary motion (where both hands play the scale, but start on different notes and move in opposite directions)! 

Some basic piano exercises for beginners

Once you catch on to the basics of stepping and skipping, you’ll be ready for the Finger Power exercises! At Hoffman Academy, we start with 1-2 and 3-4 finger skips as part of a pianist’s development. Mr. Hoffman adapted the classic daily piano exercises to be fun for early intermediate students. 

Ready for a super challenge? As you become more familiar and comfortable with the pentascales, you can move on to Hanon exercises! Charles-Louis Hanon was a famous piano pedagogue (or teacher) from France. Even though he was born in 1819, his exercises are still used today by many teachers and students all over the world. Mr. Hoffman introduces these exercises in Unit 16 for intermediate pianists. 

What should be avoided when practicing piano exercises for beginners?

Although daily piano practice can help us become our best, it is possible to get too much of a good thing! When practicing piano or warming up to play, it is important to avoid either practicing bad habits or in a way that causes you pain.

Here’s a list of things to avoid:

  • Poor posture at the piano 
  • Tension in your hands and fingers
  • Only playing through pieces from start to finish
  • Practicing to the point of pain or frustration

Instead, focus on:

  • Sitting up tall at a comfortable distance from the piano with your feet flat on the floor
  • Keeping a relaxed hand shape with strong fingertips, as if you are “holding a grapefruit”, and relaxing your shoulders, elbows, and wrists
  • Working in small focused bursts of effort to isolate and practice the difficult sections of a piece
  • Taking a break whenever it becomes challenging to focus

Taking time to warm up and play scales might seem less exciting than working on a song, but incorporating these tips into your practice can help speed up your learning. We hope these simple warm ups and piano exercises for beginners lead you to easier playing!

Ready for more tips and tricks for beginner piano players? Try Hoffman Academy Premium today!

Read Next