Sometimes, 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
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.
Second, 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
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.
The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use.
Although every attempt has been made to make information as accurate as possible, we are not responsible for
any errors that may appear.