June 12, 2024

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert manages the London Piano Institute, a premier destination for adult piano learners seeking individualised instruction and progress towards their musical goals. He believes anyone can learn to play regardless of age or ability!

As a pianist, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned professional, it’s essential to revisit the fundamental skills and techniques that underpin your playing.

Take a step back and get back to basics with your piano playing—it’s the perfect way to revitalise your practice and take your playing to new heights!

Lady hands playing piano

Why Go Back to Basics?

Even experienced pianists can benefit from going back to basics. Revisiting fundamental skills and techniques offers a multitude of advantages, ensuring continuous growth and development as a musician:

Refine Your Technique and Eliminate Bad Habits

Over time, even seasoned pianists can develop subtle bad habits that may hinder their performance.

Returning to the basics allows you to identify and correct these issues, resulting in a cleaner and more efficient technique.

Focusing on proper hand position, finger placement, and posture can help you play more comfortably and avoid strain or injury.

Enhancing Your Musicality and Expression

Focusing on phrasing, dynamics, and articulation nuances is crucial for expressive playing.

By revisiting these foundational elements, you can deepen your understanding of how to shape a musical line, create contrast, and convey emotion through your playing.

This attention to detail enriches your performance, making it more compelling and engaging for your audience.

Expand Your Knowledge and Understanding of Music Theory

A solid grasp of music theory is essential for interpreting and performing music effectively.

Revisiting basic theory concepts can help you see familiar pieces in a new light, allowing you to uncover deeper structural elements and relationships within the music.

This expanded knowledge aids in memorisation, sight-reading, and improvisation, making you a more versatile and informed musician.

Improve Your Creativity and Improvisational Skills

Developing a deeper understanding of harmony and form can significantly enhance your ability to improvise and compose.

By revisiting fundamental theory and practising improvisation within simple harmonic structures, you build a toolkit of creative resources.

This foundation enables you to experiment more freely and confidently, fostering originality and innovation in your music-making.

Rekindle Your Passion for Playing the Piano

Returning to basics can reignite the excitement and curiosity that you felt as a beginner.

Exploring new techniques, pieces, and concepts can bring a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm for the instrument.

This sense of discovery keeps your practice sessions enjoyable and motivates you to continue growing as a pianist.

By going back to basics, you reinforce the essential skills that support advanced playing. This approach not only helps to maintain high standards of performance but also inspires ongoing learning and exploration in your musical journey.

Woman playing piano

Exercises to refresh and rejuvenate your piano skills

Finger Independence

Begin by positioning your hand relaxed on the keyboard, ensuring your fingers are gently curled over the keys. To start the exercise, lift each finger one at a time while keeping the other fingers stationary.

Focus on moving each finger individually, which will help isolate the movement and enhance your control.

Repeat this action multiple times for each finger. This exercise is beneficial for loosening up your fingers and improving their flexibility.

It also aids in increasing dexterity and can be particularly useful in preventing stiffness or strain, especially for those who spend prolonged periods typing.

As a pianist, I find it essential to have excellent finger independence.

Numerous useful exercises are also available, such as pressing down CDEFG and then playing combinations of notes randomly while holding the other fingers down. This will certainly assist with finger independence.

Take care never to overdo anything that can result in injuries.

Make sure to stay loose throughout with just enough tension for the sound to be created!

Practice Scales and Arpeggios in all Twelve Keys

Practising scales and arpeggios throughout the circle of fifths is an ideal way to reconnect with the piano and ensure the basics are well covered. It will give you a sense of the key and an amazing feel for the geographical areas of the various keys on the piano keyboard.

I would advise practising majors and minors (inc. natural, melodic and harmonic) throughout all twelve keys.

On the arpeggios side, I recommend working out major, minor, diminished, and augmented arpeggios throughout all twelve keys.

You will be surprised at how your power of musical understanding increases as you develop a more keen feel for the sound and geographical locations of theses various scales and arpeggios throughout the keys!

It really reconnects you both melodically and harmonically to the instrument!

Rhythm Exercises

Engage in rhythm exercises by playing along with a metronome, using various time signatures such as 3/4 and 4/4. Begin by setting the metronome to a slow tempo, ensuring that you maintain accuracy and control.

Focus on keeping a steady beat and synchronising your playing with the metronome’s ticks. To establish a solid foundation, start with simple rhythms, such as quarter notes or half notes.

As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the tempo in small increments. Introduce more complex rhythms, including eighth notes, triplets, and syncopations, to challenge your sense of timing and coordination. Experiment with different time signatures to broaden your rhythmic skills and adaptability.

Practising with a metronome improves your timing and enhances your ability to play in ensemble settings, where precise rhythm is crucial.

Ear Training Exercises

Improve your ear training by listening to recordings of famous pianists and attempting to mimic their playing by singing or humming along with the music.

This practice helps you internalise the nuances of their performances and develop a keen sense of pitch and rhythm.

Focus on capturing the subtleties of their phrasing, dynamics, and articulation, as these elements contribute significantly to their unique sound.

Additionally, try singing popular songs or classical pieces to enhance your ear-training skills.

This exercise encourages you to recognise melodies, harmonies, and chord progressions, essential for developing a well-rounded musical ear.

You can, of course, also practice recognising intervals.

An ideal way to do this is to use your smartphone to record a bunch of intervals and see if you can recognise them.

So record a set of major and minor thirds both melodically and harmonically and see if you can actually answer them correctly.

You can play the interval, leave a space and then say the interval. During the space, when you play it back, you can then say what the interval is, and then you will hear from the recording whether you are correct or not.

This is far better than any app as you connect directly with the piano and also make a recording by yourself. All this will help you get the basics and fundamentals of music-making rock solid!

Practise Slowly

When practising, start by playing slowly and deliberately, paying close attention to accurate finger placement, hand position, and overall relaxation.

This methodical approach allows you to build a solid foundation and correct any technical issues before they become habits.

Focus on playing each note clearly and maintaining a consistent tone, ensuring that your movements are precise and controlled.

As you become more comfortable with the piece, gradually increase the tempo in small increments. This gradual progression helps you maintain accuracy and control as you speed up, preventing tension and mistakes.

Hands playing piano

Additional Tips

Practise Pedalling Techniques

Pedalling techniques are essential for achieving nuanced dynamics and expression in your playing.

Practise using different pedalling techniques, such as sustain, sostenuto, and una corda. These techniques allow you to manipulate the sound and resonance of the piano, adding depth and richness to your performance.

By refining your pedalling skills, you can master the art of blending notes smoothly and creating a seamless legato or achieving crisp staccato effects when needed.

Work on Your Sight-Reading Skills

Sight-reading is an indispensable skill for all pianists.

Practise sight-reading exercises to enhance your ability to read music quickly and accurately.

Set aside dedicated time in your practice sessions to work on sight-reading pieces of varying difficulty levels.

This practice not only improves your sight-reading proficiency but also expands your repertoire by enabling you to learn new pieces more efficiently.

Additionally, sight-reading exercises challenge your musical interpretation and strengthen your overall musicianship.

Record Yourself

Recording yourself playing can be a valuable tool for identifying areas of improvement in your technique. Listen back to your recordings and make notes on what you need to work on.

Pay attention to aspects such as dynamics, timing, and phrasing. This self-assessment allows you to track your progress over time and tailor your practice sessions to address specific areas that require attention.

Recording yourself regularly can significantly enhance your self-awareness as a pianist and accelerate your overall improvement.

Woman playing piano


Going back to basics is essential for pianists of all levels to maintain and improve their skills.

By revisiting the fundamental skills and techniques that underpin our playing, we can refine our technique, enhance our musicality, and reignite our passion for playing the piano.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to build a strong foundation or an advanced player seeking to refine your skills, going back to basics can help you achieve your goals.

So take a step back, revisit the fundamentals, and discover a new level of passion and enjoyment for playing the piano!

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