Piano Player World

Learn to Play Piano Arpeggios

arpeggiosSometimes, it can sound like certain pianists have the same delicacy playing a chord that they have while swatting at a fly.

As their fingers crash, occasionally inaccurately, onto the keys, it for some reason reminds you of that time you saw a train wreck in a movie. Playing chords, playing scales, playing all techniques on piano, requires a certain degree of control.

While many talented pianists enthusiastically practice their scales and chord progressions, and while many others rigorously study and apply the essentials of piano theory, it is common that a particular performance technique gets overlooked.

If you are one of the piano players who up until this point has overlooked the arpeggio, then it’s time you began paying special attention to this highly significant, fundamental skill of piano playing performance.

Playing arpeggios on piano is simply playing a broken chord. Not broken in the sense that it has to be fixed, but broken down in the same way you can break down the word “box” into its letters B-O-X. This is a simple piano technique that you can learn and yet produce great sounds from the instrument.

An arpeggios lets each note of a chord be played separately, so instead of hearing one chord with multiple notes being sounded at the same time, we hear each individual note of that chord played distinctly. Instead of hearing a C major chord with notes C, E, G, and C played simultaneously, a player would first strike C, then E, then G, then C.

Arpeggios have significance to piano performance for two primary reasons. First, since notes are played separately, this allows players to extend the broken chords across multiple octaves; a chord can only be played in the narrow range that a performer’s fingers can stretch.

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fun with learningSecond, arpeggio playing demands a certain degree of control and confidence on the keyboard that other skills like chords and scales cannot provide. Because an arpeggio’s notes are separated from one another usually by two whole steps, fingers need to be highly familiar with the feel and distances between notes to accurately press each key and seamlessly glide up or down the octaves.

The best place to begin learning arpeggios is to follow the same pattern used for learning scales. Start learning each arpeggio’ss associated with each major scale. This will help reinforce the sharps or flat each scale requires, but will also mandate that your fingers become accustomed to moving in previously unfamiliar ways.

In scales, fingers need to cross over or under one another to progress to the next octave; the same is true with arpeggios, but the way these crossovers happen is different. Practicing arpeggios requires strict attention to fingerings, since only certain fingers will be available to play certain keys as the hand is more stretched out than in other skills.

Since arpeggios are really broken chords on piano, they can literally be applied to any chord that can be played. So don’t stop perfecting arpeggios related to the major scales. Study the minor scales. Study arpeggios with 7th or 2nd tone. Study diminished or augmented chords. Study progression and inversions.

Arpeggios require a great degree of technicality, so the more that you find ways to practice arpeggios and relate them to the other piano performance techniques, the more control and expertise your fingers will aptly demonstrate. Playing piano arpeggios appears first to students like a daunting, or even sometimes an unnecessary task; however, besides scales, nothing is more fundamental to piano performance.


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