Chops Workout: Two Hands in Contrary Motion

Five exercises that build coordination and finger strength to improve your playing
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Let’s face it, scales and arpeggios can be boring. But as an improviser, I use the skills I learn from them to come up with ways to make things interesting, as well as to improve coordination and to build the necessary finger strength it takes to play my ideas.

LEVEL 1: FINGER WARMUP

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In this exercise, basic independence-of-the-finger ideas combine with contrary motion to get you in the mood and warmed up. Take your time and don’t wimp out on giving each finger some energy.

LEVEL 2: PENTATONIC CONTRARY MOTION

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This nice little C pentatonic exercise is somewhat straight-ahead but just confusing enough to sizzle your brain cells pleasantly. It does a little rhythmic twist on the way down and changes the accent at measure 3. Remember to shake out your hands by your side when you feel a build-up of tension. Here are five contrary-motion exercises I’ve developed that will definitely get your brain fired up and your hands in gear.

LEVEL 3: C AND Db ARPEGGIOS

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This exercise is one of my personal favorites. It’s awesome when your hands start feeling like they have a mind of their own. Can you get to that stage? Get practicing and it will happen! All the inversions of these two chords are happening in contrary motion. Of course, you need to do this exercise in all keys!

LEVEL 4: AUGMENTED ARPEGGIOS

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This one features augmented chords, and I love the way they sound each step of the way. It’s cool how, when using augmented chords, this harmony magic happens.

Try starting your left hand on G# and it will also work well!

LEVEL 5: BROKEN AUGMENTED ARPEGGIOS

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Your fingers will start looking like a crawling spider when you master this one. It has a unique feel to it, but be sure to pay close attention to the fingering.

Check out Jordan’s Online Conservatory at www.jroc.us to find these and other original exercises in all keys, as well as video, MIDI files, audio and tons more great stuff for keyboardists. (Transcriptions by Eren Basbug.)