Piano Technique 8

  1. Arpeggio Technique
  2. 7th Chord Qualities
  3. Arpeggio Fingerings
  4. Fluency No.4
  5. The Cartwheel Motion
  6. Fluency No.5
  7. What else to practise
  8. Practice Material

    Subject Index - Topic Index

    PIANO LAB - Intro - Songs

Lessons | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | ?? |

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KT 8.1 - Arpeggio Technique

When the notes of a chord are sounded simultaneously they form a solid chord.

When the notes of a chord are sounded one after another they form an arpeggio (also called a broken chord).

For the playing of arpeggios the wrist and arm must be flexible and supple while the fingers are held firmly on the keyboard.

As stated before, the ability to do this - keeping the fingers firm while the wrist is moving freely - is the most difficult technical accomplishment to attain. It depends, once again, totally on the fingers having their own strength (from the Interossei muscles), independent of the rest of the hand.

For the playing of scales the wrist is held reasonably in line with the level hand.
For arpeggios the wrist is held higher. It also moves up and down considerably as the hand moves across the keyboard.
The high wrist position enables the thumb to cross effortlessly under the hand.

At the same time the elbows must be held out away from the body to give the wrist and hand more room to move freely.

When playing arpeggios and arpeggiated passages the wrist and hand must lead the movement over the keyboard. The fingers then fall into position under the movement of the hand, and are simply used to direct and support the weight of the hand and forearm on the keys. (See also
Cartwheel Motion below under KT 8.5)

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KT 8.2 - The Five Chord Qualities

Below an overview of the five qualities of 7th chords.

Observe that from one quality to the next only one note (and one finger) changes.

Audio 8.1

Practise each chord quality in two ways.

  1. Arpeggios in both hands together, left hand one octave below the right.

  2. Arpeggios in the right hand with sustained chords in the left.

Practise the arpeggios slowly, steadily and evenly over three octaves.

Audio 8.2

Accent every arpeggio in groups of threes.
This way the accents fall each time on different chord tones (not just the chord tonic note).

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KT 8.3 - Arpeggio Fingerings

The basic fingering rule for playing arpeggios is very simple :

use the thumb on the first white key

This rule applies to fingering for both the right and the left hand.
On all chords with a white key tonic note start the arpeggio with the thumb of the right hand and the 5th finger for the left hand. Here the fingering for the Cmaj7 arpeggio.

Audio 8.2

For arpeggios that start on a black key use the thumb on the first white key in the arpeggio.


Use any convenient fingering to reach the first white note.
Then use sequences of 1 2 3 4 (or 4 3 2 1) so that the thumb always lands on the same note name.

The only seventh chord arpeggios with four black keys is Ebmin7.
For this chord use the thumb (or 5th finger) on the tonic note (Eb).

Fingering charts for the five chord qualities (plus two variations : the augmented 7th chord and the minorMajor 7th chord) in all keys are included in the Practice Material at the end of this lesson.

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KT 8.4 - Fluency No.4

Fluency No.4 follows (like Fluency No.3) the IIm7 - V7 - Imaj7 chord progression.

Audio 7.5

The Exercise goes through all 12 keys to reinforce your understanding and knowledge of this important progression.
Here the segment in the key of C major.

Audio 8.3

Place an accent on each downbeat (the first note of each beamed group of four).

You can play Fluency No.4 in three ways :

  1. with the right hand only.

  2. with both hands together, left hand duplicates the right 1 octave lower

  3. exercise in the right hand and chords in the left (as shown above).
    Play the chords in the left hand with a light staccato touch.

There is a Play-a-Long tracks (P-a-L) for Fluency No.4 included in this Course.
Use it after you have practised the exercise for a while and feel confident with it.

Czerny's School of Velocity Exercise No.3 is also recommended as an excellent arpeggio technique exercise.

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KT 8.5 - The Cartwheel Motion

For good arpeggio technique a flexible wrist and good wrist action are essential. The wrist must rotate so that the fingers of the hand cartwheel (like the spokes of a wheel) over the keyboard.
This keeps the hand muscles relaxed.
It also increases the arpeggio span of the hand considerably.


Playing arpeggios with a low wrist and flat fingers limits the hand span to the red line 1 - 5 (in above diagram). It stretches the fingers causing tension in the hand.

By raising the wrist the angle of the fingers to the keyboard increases. This brings the cartwheel effect into play, gradually increasing the effective hand span towards the purple line 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5.
(I have taken the above measurements from my own, rather large, hand. In percentage terms the cartwheel effect will be about the same for any size hand.)

Recapping the main points for a good arpeggio technique :

  1. wrist high above the keyboard, the fingers firm and pointing downwards

  2. elbows are held out away from the body

  3. rotate the wrist, so that the wrist and hand direct the fingers to the keys

Velocity Blues will test this aspect of your technique.
With a good rotating wrist action even a player with a relatively small hand will be able to play each arpeggio of this song with a single hand movement from thumb to little finger.

Audio 8.4

A Play-a-Long track (P-a-L) for Velocity Blues is included.

For more about Velocity Blues see the Song explanations.

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KT 8.6 - Fluency No.5

Fluency No.5 is an exercises of dominant 7th chords around the Circle of Fifths.
The chords are alternately in root position and 2nd inversion.

Practise this exercise to develop a good cartwheel rotation action of the wrist.

  1. Use the right hand thumb on the first note (regardless whether it is a white or a black key)

  2. Rotate the wrist from left to right

  3. Use the 5th finger on the highest note of the arpeggio

  4. As always : accent each beat

Audio 8.5

You can also play this exercises with both hands playing the same arpeggio, the left hand 1 octave below the right.

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KT 8.7 - What else to Practise

The four technique segments (warm up - scales & arpeggios - FHP exercises - Fluency exercises) should take up half of your practice time. (If you practise longer than two hours, do not spend more than one hour on technique.)

During the second half of your practice focus on :

  • Written pieces
    Select two or three written pieces in any style you like.
    There are seven songs included in this Course.
    'The Entertainer' or 'Palm Leaf Rag' by Scot Joplin are good Jazz pieces to go on with. There are heaps of popular music scores to choose from.

    For Classical pieces try Prelude No.1 by JS Bach - Sonatina in G by Beethoven - Preludes No.6 and 7 (Opus 28) by Chopin - Gnossiennes 1, 2 and 3 or Gymnopedies 1, 2 and 3 by Erik Satie.

  • Improvisation
    The Jazclass Email Courses on Blues Basics and Improvisation are a good start.

  • Chords & Comping (Jazz keyboard accompaniment)
    A Jazclass Keyboard Comping Course on diskettes is in preparation (available sometime in 2000).

The Digital Patterns in Lesson 9 are a very useful preparation for your improvisation.

The Chords Practice in Lesson 10 provides a good start into learning to play chords.

Practise all written pieces first slowly with an accent on each beat. Aim to play through the whole piece evenly and without interruption, no matter how slowly. Once you master that the speed may increase and finally the accents can be taken out.

Unlike the Fluency Exercises in this Course (and in Czerny's School of Velocity) which you keep working on for a long time, you can take a more relaxed approach for your written pieces.

Work on two or three pieces for a while, then select some other ones.
It is not necessary to practise each piece to absolute perfection. By working on a range of different pieces your skills improve much faster than hammering away on one piece for ages.

After 12 months you find that what was too difficult a year ago is now much easier to play.

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KT 8.8 - Practice Material

Fluency Exercise No.4 TextDemoP-a-L p.1 p.2p.3 p.4
Fluency Exercise No.5TextDemop.1 p.2 p.3
Velocity BluesTextDemoP-a-Lp.1

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© 1999 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)