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Exercises – what they’re good for and how to do them right.

Exercises are good for two things: warming up and honing your technique. Here’s a quick guide on how to get the most out of them.

The Exercises tab in the learning screen.

The Exercises tab in the learning screen.

First, let’s start with a warm up.

You may think that limbering up is reserved for professional athletes, but it’s equally important for us musicians too. Your body takes time to get in the right mode, so performing exercises will help warm up your joints and muscles, and help extend your range of motion.

If you jump into playing a lesson which requires a full range of motion without first warming up, you risk hurting yourself. It’ll also be harder to play and get your fingers moving in time – especially on a cold day!

At the start of each practice session, open up Melodics and select Keys as your instrument. In the Learning screen, you’ll find the Exercises tab right in between Lessons and Courses.

Load up a couple of exercises and spend 5 minutes running through them. Combine this with some stretches, a cup of tea or whatever relaxes you. You’ll minimise any potential risk of injury, and feel more ready to take on that lesson.

Get those long-term benefits.

Exercises can have amazing long-term effects too. For this to happen, you need to make it a regular habit. By performing exercises every day, you’ll build up strength and dexterity, all while perfecting your technique and improving your speed.

Strength and dexterity – Your body is made up of fast and slow muscle fibres. Your fast muscles are used for speed and control, but get fatigued quickly. Your slow muscles are there for overall strength and endurance. Playing exercises will build on both of these muscle groups, ultimately allowing you to play harder, better, faster, and stronger.

Perfect your technique – It’s not all about pure strength, though. Performing exercises is also a great opportunity to work on your technique. Instead of focusing on the musicality of a piece, instead you can focus on keeping your hand in the right shape and your arms in the right position. Keep doing this, and eventually it will become second nature.

Playing an exercise.

Playing an exercise.

Make sure you’re doing it right.

Exercises will help improve your strength and technique, but only if you perform them correctly. Focus on correct technique while performing exercises – be careful not to develop bad habits from the beginning.

Start out slow – make sure you’re comfortable playing an exercise before speeding it up. If you start out too quickly, you risk developing bad habits which will later affect your playing. Focus on your technique first, and speed will come later.

Mix it up – try playing a mix of different exercises to make sure you work on every range of motion. Human bodies like to get complacent, so performing the same exercise over and over may not actually be beneficial in the long run. Keep throwing new challenges at your body to keep it fresh.

Use both hands – most people will find their dominant hand stronger and more cooperative than the other. This is fine, you’ll just need to work on your other hand to bring it up to speed. It’s a good idea to work on your hands separately – there’s no point forcing your left hand to do something it can’t just because your right hand can!

Rest and repeat – improvement is gained through repetition, but don’t over do it! A little bit of practice every day is better than marathon sessions once a week. If you’re feeling fatigued or sore, take a rest. No one wants an injury!

Play some tunes.

Exercises are great – but don’t forget to play some tunes! It’s quite easy to get into a robotic trance while playing exercises, but the whole point of them is to make you better at playing actual music.

Keep working on exercises and next time you load up a lesson, use your new-found technique and fluency and combine that with some musicality.

Good luck!

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