Teaching Piano Technique To Advanced Students

Teaching advanced students piano technique can be a challenge. You know what to teach, but you don’t know how to make it engaging and interesting.

Teaching Piano Technique To Advanced Students

Teaching advanced students piano technique can be a challenge. You know what to teach, but you don’t know how to make it engaging and interesting.

Table Of Contents:

  1. Don’t Make These Mistakes
  2. “My Transfer Students Have Terrible Technique”
  3. Incorporating Piano Technique With Transfer Students
  4. Teaching Advanced Students Piano Technique
  5. Teaching Advanced Students Course
  6. Free Download

Don’t Make These Mistakes

When it comes to teaching advanced piano techniques, you want to avoid these mistakes:

  1. Missing connection opportunities.
    Scan through your students’ repertoire and find examples to pull out to use as exercises.
    Just like with theory, when you can directly connect an idea (or in this case, technique) with a relevant example, your student will remember it far longer.

    This is an easy way to make technical work more practical. I really encourage teachers to use examples straight from their repertoire when teaching advanced technique.
  2. Doing the same thing over and over.
    You want to think about how you can mix things up. Throw in some new exercises. Demonstrate different ways to practice scales and arpeggios.

    There are lots of ways to keep things exciting – you can challenge your students to turn off autopilot in scales, and even turn a Chopin 3-against-2 into an exercise.
quote about teaching advanced piano technique

“My Transfer Students Have Terrible Technique”

Before I delve into what to do, I want to cover another mistake to avoid.

So often, when a teacher gets a transfer student, they pick them to pieces over faulty technique. This eclipses their other musical abilities.

I’m really strong on this.

When I started doing my diploma-level work here in Australia with my teacher, Caroline Almonte, I was apprehensive she would say, “Tim, your technique is rubbish, and let’s start again.” 

I had heard this happening with other teachers. I also don’t want to do that in my studio.

It’s so hard and so debilitating for students. They think, “I’ve come all this way, but I have to start again and play middle C because I haven’t learned to do it properly.” 

I don’t agree with that. I think the chances of actually losing students is far too high. 

Incorporating Piano Technique With Transfer Students

Rather than focusing on what they’re doing wrong, continue teaching your transfer student and work in technical aspects as you go. 

For example, if a student is really flat-fingered when they play, it’s not a matter of…

“We need to drop everything and fix this.”

“Let’s perform technique exercises for a month before you’re allowed to do anything else.”

work in technique as you go

No. Instead…

Find ways of strengthening those last finger joints.

Work on the student’s awareness of what they need to do and help them to do that as they’re playing.

Video them while they’re playing so they can watch it back. Or have someone sit in on the lesson and watch them as they’re playing to give feedback. 

It’s going to take time. 

But —  the last thing we want to do is sit there with a student and say, “Sorry, we can’t do anything until you have mastered your technique, and you’ve got it perfect.” 

Moving on, let’s discuss next what you should consider instead! 

Teaching Advanced Students Piano Technique

In the TopMusicPro complete technique course, I recorded a bonus video demonstrating some of the technical exercises I use with advanced students.

We’ll break down some of the examples and show you highlights from the video here:

These are a few new exercises that you might not be familiar with. I find these to be a great addition to any advancing student’s warmup routine.

They’re actually some of the exercises that I use today when I warm up!

4-Finger Exercise

  • Use fingers 1-2-3-4.
    A four-finger exercise is a bit unusual; generally, everything is five-fingers!
  • Thumbs start on C.
  • Play a pattern of four different movements, repeated four times each – see the video for the movements (1:15″)
  • You’ll then move up chromatically and repeat.

It’s a great warmup for the first four fingers, but you can do the same thing with fingers 2-3-4-5.

You can also do this descending chromatically

Here are some good goals to set with your students:

  • Make the movements seamless, so there’s no pause every time they move.
  • Keep all the notes even.

Tip: The patterns feel quite differently under the fingers. Students will take quite some time to be able to get comfortable at this exercise.

Alternate ideas:

  • Play with hands 2 octaves apart and then go up. 
  • Or, use fingers 2–5 ascending and then change to 1-4 and go down.

 You can mix it up however you want! That’s the idea of that exercise – keep your advanced piano students on their toes!

7th arpeggios

Students will play diminished arpeggios and dominant 7th arpeggios at some stage as they advance. I like to put them in a “package of arpeggios”.

They’re based around the major, the minor, the augmented, and the diminished chords in each key. Then add into the chord the

  • Major 7th
  • Dominant 7th
  • 6th
  • Flattened 6th (if you can) 

Let’s take C major as the example (demo at 3:28″)

  • Start with C major 7th arpeggios – the C chord with a major 7th.
  • Then a dominant 7th.
  • Now the 6th.
  • Then to the flattened 6th (you could call that the minor 6th)

You can then go to the minor chord and do the same thing (demo at 4:10″)

Teaching Advanced Students Course

As I mentioned before, integrating advanced piano technique with your student’s current repertoire is the ideal way to teach.

For some teachers, knowing which advanced repertoire to choose and how to approach teaching it can be difficult. We’re here to help!

Within our TopMusicPro community, we have a course from the fantastic Janna Williamson, all about Teaching Advancing Pianists.

The course covers historical context, performance practice tips, an outline of suitable pieces for your advanced students, a deeper look at how to teach specific pieces, and even more advanced piano technique tips.

Free Download

I hope you’ve found this article on teaching advanced piano technique helpful!

Here’s a free download of my exercises, as sheet music.

If you’re a TopMusicPro member, no need to enter your email, you can find this download now in your Resource Library.

For everyone else, please enter your details below:

Let me know what your favourite exercises are for advanced students!

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

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  1. Hi this is a super helpful article and I love the fun arpeggio technical exercises. I’ve tried the link to find and download them, but it doesn’t work. (Error 404 not found). Please can you direct me to the resources? I also don’t know how to find the “resource library” in TopmusicPro (I have a membership!)
    Thank you!

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