3 Methods to Warm Up Fingers at the Piano

by Lars Nelissen  - September 4, 2023

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Mastering Piano Technique: Essential Warm-Up Finger Exercises for Agile Fingers

In this VIDEO POST, I'll go into how to warm up fingers at the piano before starting to play the piano. This may be in the morning or later in the day, yet it is crucial for a productive practicing session at the piano, and it will improve piano technique. 

Not only will warmed-up fingers at the piano absorb information better and facilitate quicker learning, but they also enhance the quality of your piano sound and reduce the risk of injury. Overall important for enhancing piano technique.

I share with you three ways that add up. Depending on the shape you’re in, you might need to do all three of them. So make sure to watch all to the end to know what you need to add if you are really out of shape.

At the end of this video, I’ll share with you 5 of my favorite warming-up finger exercises.

DOWNLOAD my book with piano exercises, 'Super Fingers.' This method will certainly boost your piano technique.

Method 1: Piano Finger Exercises

The first step in our warm-up routine involves specific piano technique finger exercises. Begin by practicing with separate hands to isolate the muscle groups in your fingers. Focus on the muscles located here, in the core of your fingers.

If you're feeling particularly cold or haven't played in a while, you might experience some initial fatigue, similar to a fitness workout. Take moments to pause and let your muscles relax. Remember, fingers have muscles too!

Method 2: Combining Finger Exercises with Stretching

If you find that finger exercises alone aren't enough, especially after a period of inactivity or physical strain, it's time to incorporate stretching into your piano technique routine.

Gently bend your hand down to feel a stretch in your lower arm. This promotes better blood circulation and increases suppleness, preparing your muscles for the demands of playing. Remember to maintain gentle pressure and repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

Another effective stretching exercise involves mimicking the motion of wringing out a towel. This movement, also used for tennis elbow relief, helps in further warming up your muscles, which is crucial for optimal piano technique.

Method 3: The Skin Stretching Technique

Follow Joseph Hoffman's advice by immersing your hands in warm water and performing skin stretches to amplify blood circulation and ensure maximum flexibility of the hands.

Be cautious and focus on stretching the skin and avoid straining the joints. This gentle technique will leave your hands feeling soft and agile, primed for playing and refining your piano technique. 

Don't forget to massage the lower arm muscles, the powerhouse of finger movement. 

Incorporating Warm-Up Exercises

Following these warm-up techniques, you'll find your fingers ready to tackle the keys with newfound vigor, thanks to enhanced piano technique. Remember, these methods complement one another and can be tailored to your specific needs. In colder climates, they serve as an invaluable tool to jumpstart your practice routine and optimize your piano technique.

Effective Piano Exercises for Finger Warm-Up

  1. 1
    Brahms Number 9: Begin by playing legato, paying special attention to the sensation in your fingers, a crucial aspect of piano technique.
  2. 2
    Brahms Number 19: Focus on maintaining the thumb position while engaging both hands. This exercise targets the smaller hand muscles and is pivotal in refining your piano technique.
  3. 3
    Brahms Number 21: This exercise combines finger movements with stretching, enhancing warm-up effectiveness and supporting your piano technique.
  4. 4
    Octave Exercises: Strengthen both fingers and lower arm muscles by increasing the octave range gradually, a technique essential for advanced piano playing.
  5. 5
    Hanon Exercises: Employ Hanon exercises, emphasizing separate hand practice, to further enhance finger dexterity and elevate your overall piano technique.

Conclusion on Warming Up Fingers at the Piano

Experiment with these warm-up exercises to discover what best suits your needs, and always remember the importance of proper piano technique. The key lies in activating the muscles you intend to engage during your practice session.

For more in-depth guidance on piano technique, explore my book: Super Fingers

Watch Below the Video on Tutorial: 3 METHODS for WARMING UP the Fingers Before Piano Playing
► Read Video Script Having difficulties at times are often so to get started when practicing the piano, because you feel all cold or stiff in the hands? Then this video is for you, because I will share with you three methods of warming up your fingers to ensure a good and pleasant practice session. Fingers that are warmed up will take information better, they will program better, and you will learn faster. And the second reason is: when you are warmed up, your piano sound will become better. And the third reason is that when you're warmed up, the chance of injury is reduced. I'll share with you three ways that add up. Depending on the shape you are in you might need all three of them. They add up, they don't replace each other. So the first way might be sufficient, maybe you need to add step number two and step number three. So make sure you watch all the steps. And then the end of the video I will also share with you the five exercises I use frequently, and they will help you warm up quickly. I will show you those finger exercises and explain to you why they're so effective. So the first way is just... it's just simply finger exercises. What I do is... is to play in the first phase. So first the hands separate, so that they can focus on the muscle group that you want to warm up. The muscles here. Here are the muscles located of your fingers. Make this kind of exercises. If you're really cold or you or you didn't play for a while... then probably you will start to feel tiredness here in the muscles like you're doing a fitness exercise. You also feel the moment that you have to stop and let your muscles relax for a minute. And the same with the fingers, because it's just also muscles there. So method number one: finger exercises. Then if finger exercises are not enough? And often that's so when you didn't play for a while, for several days, or after a holiday. Or you work the day in the garden, that's really, you will feel that in your muscles. And when you try to work in the garden or carry some things or doing some hand work with screwdrivers and so on, and then you're going to play the piano... You will really feel that! So again: finger exercises, but we add to that some stretchings. Bend here your hand down and you feel here stretch. You can do this a little bit... push very gently... and then stretch the arm... and now you feel here a stretch... in the lower arm. Keep it a little bit. And then you do the opposite; you do it like this... And if it's good you'll feel here stretch. And that's very good! It helps, it enhances the warming up. Because a good blood circulation in your muscles will increase your suppleness. And another nice, by the way, a nice stretching exercise is also like you're squeezing the water out of the towel. Slowly... Feel it! You'll feel it here. And like this... Fists, like you're squeezing the towel. This is by the way also a stretching exercise they do with the tennis elbow. When you have a tennis elbow, then when you do this... It's a very good exercise for that. You still feel cold? For example, you're living in a very wintry environment. Then you can do, and that's something that Glenn gold used to do, and that's put your arms in a hot water top. Make sure that the lower arms are all in. And you can nicely relax... You can take a chair or something and nicely relax for five minutes or 15 minutes. Whatever you like, what feels comfortable. And you can help to speed up a little bit the warming up... You need to massage the lower arm muscles because that's the motor of the fingers. That's here, so... And then, as Joseph Hoffman suggests in his book, you take a tub of hot water and you do some stretchings here from the skin in hot water. And make sure there's only the skin that you stretch and not that you feel it in the joints when you stretch. Because that can be painful and it's not going to help you. Especially this is very safe to stretch like that. And you feel here the skin between the fingers stretch. Like this, that's a little bit dangerous! I would rather not pulling, uh, this kind of stretching, but using exercises doing that. And that helps you also to speed up the blood circulation. And you will notice that after doing this, your hands become... your hands become soft and mellow. And it can help to do now some real activation of the muscle exercises at the piano. And you'll see that your fingers do a much better job. And after the exercises you really feel now you're in good form to play. Do this when it's really cold... your muscles are really cold when it's cold weather. Here in the Netherlands, we don't have such a harsh Winters anymore nowadays. It was freezing last week, but now it's just again 12 degrees and raining. But when you're living in a cold climate? This can be very helpful to speed up your starting the piano every day! So these are the three ways, and as you see they will add up to each other. So they don't replace each other. The most important is the piano exercises. Then now I will share with you my five piano warm-up exercises that I do. The first one is Brahms number nine. But first I do like this and make... Nicely legato. And you really feel it here... And then you can do... This with the rotation, but that's more difficult. First do it in that first way, like broken chords. Then we have exercise number 19. The thumb stays here on the G and same here. And with two hands... See, and all this time the thumb stays there. This really feels also a little bit in the hand, in the little muscles in the hand. And it will really help you to warm up fast. And then I have exercise number 21. I do this always first like this... And later will be just like... Etc... The other exercises are also excellent. And I not always play the same exercises. But these are really exercises that, because of the stretching, combination of fingers and stretchings, this really opens up these muscles and makes sure that you activate them maximum. If these are difficult for you, you can do Hanon exercises. But then you do also the hands separated. And make sure you raise the fingers! You can do that in C major but I recommend you to use black keys. You can take any exercise of Hanon, by the way for this. Another exercise, number five, and that is an octave exercise. I will show you two ways: The first way you can do just with one-five... And you add one... And now you add one more... You increase every time the distance with one extra note until you reach two octaves. You can later do that with, uh, also with the four. With one-four. You can do it later chromatically: Five on the white keys, and the four on the black keys. And you could even do one-three. By doing that you stretch but you should feel the stretching of these octaves always in the lower arm. Not in the wrist, in the lower arm, the wrist must be free of tension. See... You can play with this. It will warm up your fingers fast, plus you will improve your octaves. So I hope you will benefit a little bit from these exercises. Try out and see what works best for you. You don't have to use the same exercises that I use, but you should focus on the muscles that you want to warm up. If you like this video, boop that like button! You'll let other people know that this is a good video, they watch it too and they will have benefit from it as well! If you didn't subscribe yet? Then consider subscribing. Every week I put one or two videos out there about piano playing to help people like you to learn the piano better. By the way, if you like to really improve your piano technique and really want to learn how to use your fingers and your arm, how this combination works? Because there's always a combination of working together of arm and fingers. Check the link in the description. You'll find there a link to my book 'Super Fingers'. You can check it out and see you in the next video!

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