Let’s talk about arpeggios today.

I want to make it brief and clear this time.

When we talk about the problems in playing the arpeggios, it’s always about the so-called “turn of thumb”, and it occurs when the right hand is going up and the left hand going down. So, let’s focus on these two shifts, and here are a few main points and further elaboration underneath:

1. SWING the finger BEFORE the shift of thumb

People pay too much attention to the thumb. It’s not about the thumb, it’s about the FINGER BEFORE THE THUMB.

You have to put the weight on the finger before the thumb rather than on the thumb, so that the thumb is light when it’s being shifted to the next position.

And, listen up. You should TURN THE FINGER BEFORE THE THUMB ON THE KEY in order to bring over the thumb to its next position efficiently.

What does that mean?

Let me show you in this video here:


So it’s not a dead attack for the middle finger. Rather, the middle finger attacks and then SWINGS CONTINUOUSLY TO THE SIDE when holding on to the key so that it makes space for the thumb to land on the next note smoothly.

2. It’s not a “turn” of Thumb. It’s a SHIFT of position

And it’s CONTINUOUS, SMOOTH movement. Not a abrupt, sharp, sudden turn.

3.It’s not picking up the palm to facilitate “the turn of thumb”

It would be even more time-consuming and make the transition even more difficult.

The thumb is originally positioned at a lower plane than the other fingers so it is unnecessary to bring the palm up in order to create space for the thumb to “turn”. KEEP THE THUMB LIGHT, PUT THE WEIGHT ON THE FINGER BEFORE THE SHIFT OF THUMB rather than on the thumb so that the shift of thumb can be done effortlessly and lightly.

Keep the palm calm and steady. Try to move it along the keyboard as parallel to it as possible. Move to the SIDE not up and down. When the right hand is coming down playing the descending line, the palm would be slightly angled facing a bit towards the left side (lower register).

Again, the shift of thumb is continuous. It’s about the PREPARATION before the attack of thumb. It is already moving along gradually underneath the index and middle finger when they are executing the respective notes. So when it’s the thumb’s turn to play it’s ready right on the key BEFORE THE ATTACK. And the attack of thumb is LIGHT. Don’t try to facilitate the thumb and drag it down into the key. That only makes it even harder to play the whole arpeggio smoothly and give a harsh attack on the notwhen the thumb lands.

4. DON’T ELBOW your way in and out

Don’t lift your elbow up. Instead, move it to the SIDE, smoothly and continuously.

Watch the illustration here:


5. Use your SHOULDER and UPPER ARM to LEAD the way

Instead of focusing on moving the elbow out, try to focus on bringing the upper arm out and opening up the the armpit in a continuous motion. Such movement brings the elbow gradually (instead of abruptly) to the side and leads the fingers and palm going up and down the keyboard.

6. Keep the WRIST CALM

One main problem that makes the arpeggio playing difficult is that there is too much movement at the wrist, all this wiggling to the left and right does not help at all.

Try to move the WHOLE ARM, and do the shifting twisting and turning at the wrist as little as possible. Smooth arpeggio playing (or any smooth phrasing for that matter) is all about the ARM MOVEMENT. Fingers are to execute the notes only. Connection is done by the palm and the arm.

7. SQUEEZE the PALM MUSCLE that is connected to the thumb IN

When you shift the thumb under the other fingers, SQUEEZE THE MUSCLE UNDER THE THUMB INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE PALM. This would help make the shift much easier. Just try this little trick.


Have fun trying! (And let me know how it goes)

Teresa Wong

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