Here at The New School for Music Study, we have a leveled system for teaching warmups, as well as a plethora of warm up ideas. All of our students participate in an annual in-house examination called Piano Progressions. This helps our students to know and understand a logical progression or warmups. In a series of posts through the year we will look at various warmups our students play as part of their curriculum. A special thanks for NSMS faculty member, Charl Louw, for assistance in creating the videos featured in this post.
All of our students have warmups as part of their weekly assignment from the beginning of the lesson. Beginning students might have warm up assignment that says:
“Play 2 3 2 in each hand on a group of three black keys in three different places on the keyboard.”
A few months later they might see:
“Play 1 5 2 3 4 3 2 in each hand beginning with your thumb on C. Play this pattern in three different places on the keyboard.”
In doing these exercises we are focusing on the proper hand position, making sure the hand is dropping to the bottom of the key in a way that is relaxed and natural.
By the beginning of the second year of study, most students have the finger facility and control to work on more traditional five finger patterns. They also understand the theory of whole and half steps needed to comprise the five finger patterns.
Students begin with the keys of C, G, D, and F. They play first hands separate, and later hands together, starting with a major pattern and adding a minor pattern.
Often, we add to this as students gain comfort. We added accompaniment of 5ths and 6ths.
Or we might add a pattern that uses both triad and non triad tones to outline the triad.
Later, students develop facility of moving through all 12 keys with ease, and add the diminished pattern.
Once students are comfortable, they add a 2×1 pattern as they move through the pattern.
Older students may perform a variety of rotation patterns as they practice their five finger patterns. These help to develop the wrist rotation that is so important in so much advanced repertoire.
Finally, students learn a pattern that we affectionately call, “The Jane Allen” pattern. In this pattern, students hold the first and fifth fingers, while the others play legato.
The playing of five finger patterns is a great way to start the day of practice. Students gain finger facility, theory knowledge, coordination and rotation practice, and can move around the keyboard with ease. Starting the practice session off with a five finger pattern is a great way to approach the piano—a little like a cup of morning coffee. Once one has played five finger patterns, we are ready to tackle more difficult music!