One of the greatest challenges to us piano players is playing our 3, 4 and 5 fingers consecutively. Because of the way tendons are connected in our hands, it’s difficult to play fingers 3 and 4 or fingers 4 and 5 one after another. It can be so frustrating, sometimes we find ourselves avoiding playing with our 4-fingers altogether 😆. These Exercises in Thirds can help you gain more finger agility, if you practice them like this:
Using the PENTASCALES chart, practice Exercise #1 Parallel Motion (Parallel Motion means that your hands are playing the same notes and moving in the same direction) in the C pentascale (a pentascale is the first 5 notes of a major scale), then G, playing through all the rest of the 12 pentascales. Once you can play the Exercise #1 Parallel Motion in all 12 pentascales fairly well, move on to Exercise #1 in Contrary Motion in all 12 pentascales. Contrary Motion means that your hands are playing different notes, moving in opposite directions, but using the same fingering (i.e. both hands are playing fingers 1 – 3, 2 – 4, and 3 – 5 at the same time, but your hands are playing different notes.)
Next, move on to Exercise #2 Parallel Motion in all 12 pentascales. After playing all 12 in parallel motion fairly well, play Exercise #2 in Contrary Motion in all 12. You will have better and deeper brain retention and small motor skill development if you do each part of each exercise in all 12 pentascales (i.e. Exercise #3 in Parallel Motion) before moving on to the next part (i.e. Exercise #3 in Contrary Motion.) Students sometimes like to play all of the exercises in each key at once, but trust me 🙋🏻♀️, you will gain greater flexibility if you play each exercise part in all 12 keys before moving on to the next part. Here is Exercise #1 Parallel Motion in C and Db:
Click to Print Exercises in Thirds and the Pentascales chart:
I hope you find these exercises helpful. I like to have my students go back and review these exercises yearly or at least every other year; each time you review them you increase dexterity and finger independence.
How is your spring going so far? Here in Los Angeles it has been an uncharacteristically spring. We haven’t gotten much rain, but I am nevertheless enjoying watching my few vegetables grow in my garden (artichokes, corn, tomatoes and collards). What are you growing in your garden? Or are you planting seeds for new ideas or new summer projects? Please leave a comment and tell us what you are playing on the piano, what you are composing, or what seeds you are planting for new growth in your life. I do hope that you have been vaccinated and are enjoying increased in-person connections with loved ones.
With love and music, Gaili
Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul