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Adult Piano Student Practice Routine: Warming Up

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

(Includes 10 Easy Scale Variations for Beginners)

How do you practice your scales?

Do you regularly opt out of warming up, or you use a song you know already as warm up? This is the one practice element many adults omit which is so vitally important. Scales, chords and arpeggios provide you with the technical facility necessary for playing piano. Before practicing a piece of music, it’s always appropriate to use them as warm up for the key in which the piece is written.

Properly warming up helps you:

  • settle/focus your mind for your practice session.

  • develop technical facility and ease at the piano

  • develop your tactile sense of the unique “topography” of the various keys

Beginner level students should start with pentascales, root position triads and cross hand arpeggios. The next step would be one octave scales. Primary chords (cadences) are appropriate at this point, along with one octave arpeggios. I don’t advise adult students to practice scales with hands together. You’ll frankly play them better with separate hands. Anyway, it’s not practical to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on coordinating the hands, often at the expense of playing well. If you are a self-learner, I definitely recommend choosing a book to help guide your introduction to the various keys. Bastien’s MultiKey Reading is an example of an early level book you might find helpful.

How do you practice your scales? Do you just “go through the motions” or do you bring in some creativity? Remember, how you play your scales, chords and arpeggios will directly affect how you play your music! It's beyond the scope of this short blog to explain how to properly play scales and arpeggios, but if you are working independently, I do recommend referring to video tutorials from reliable sources to ensure you're playing with good form.

10 Easy Scale Variations for Beginners


  1. Legato

  2. Staccato

  3. Semi-Staccato

Dynamic Variation

  1. Soft

  2. Loud

  3. Crescendo Ascending / Diminuendo Descending

Rhythmic Variation

  1. Evenly in quarters then 8ths

  2. Long-Short

  3. Short-Long

What about Hanon? Czerny? Burgmuller? Various other etudes or exercises? I’ll be writing a separate blog about Hanon in the near future, as I do feel some Hanon can be useful for adult students. However, generally speaking, I don’t think you need these supplementary exercises. You’re better served with what we’ve just discussed coupled with creating your own exercises using the music you’re working on. We’ll discuss how to do this soon, too. Stay tuned!

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