Robert Estrin - piano expert

Strength Building Technique

Simple exercises to improve your finger strength

In this video, Robert shows you how to build your finger strength technique.

Released on August 3, 2016

DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. Welcome to Today is the best exercise to develop strength in your piano playing. This is a really tough exercise to go through. If you go through this entire exercise, I guarantee you, you will gain strength, if you do it once a day, will be plenty on this one.

To explain what it is, it's basically broken 7th chords. I'm going to explain the theory behind it so you can easily figure it out for yourself. It starts with a Major 7th chord then the dominant, so the 7th goes down a half step. Then a Minor 7th chord, the 3rd goes down a half step. And then finally, half diminished with 5th goes down a half step. And then, the 7th goes down a half step. So once again, Major, dominant, Minor, half diminished, diminished.

But that's just the beginning of what we're doing here because you're playing in both hands, broken chords, so those are all the notes you're gonna play. But you only play every other note and then you skip. See, I'm just playing this chord but now I just played the C and the G. And in the left hand, you do exactly the opposite. You just play from the bottom, skipping the middle note. Then you play hands together in contrary motion, the Major 7th chord, then the dominant 7th chord, the Minor.

Here, you'll see how it works.

And is that the end? No, that's just the beginning because you're gonna through all 12 keys. You go right up to the half step higher doing the same exact chords transposed half step by half step. So now, we do the same thing on D-flat.

And you can see, I just went right through to D. If you go through all 12 keys like that, it is an incredible workout. Now, you can start off slowly because you might have difficulty. It's a very hard exercise to do. It's particularly hard for small hands, by the way. But it's a great strength builder for you.

So I hope that this has been helpful for you. I have exercises you can check out as well. Thanks once again for joining me. Robert Estrin, here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Marie-Therese Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on April 14, 2020 @4:24 pm PST
Thank you Robert! I learn so much from your sessions and am able to put things into practice with my piano students and personally.

Keep well.

Thanks once again.

Marie-Therese Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on April 13, 2020 @4:19 pm PST
Many thanks for this. It is greatly appreciated. Your work in invaluable!

Warmest wishes,
Robert - host, on April 14, 2020 @10:33 am PST
It gives me great pleasure to have people like you out there who have a great appreciation for piano. Thank you!
Marie-Therese Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on April 13, 2020 @3:43 am PST
Thank you for this video. Is it possible to have a copy of the exercise that Robert demonstrated?

Thank you very much.

Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 13, 2020 @10:55 am PST
Glad you liked it!

Yes, of course, there is a link right under the video above where you an download the PDF.

You can also download it from the link below directly:

Please, let me know if you have any further questions.


All the best,
Rob Mayer on April 5, 2020 @1:32 pm PST
I’m new to using the bass clef and the piano in general. It looks like to me that the sheet music has us playing the bass clef notes starting on C3. But in the video Robert is starting on C2.That’s good because then we don’t have both hands trying to play the same C4 note at the same time. But shouldn’t there be some kind of indication on the sheet music that the bass clef notes are played one octave below what is indicated? Or is that just assumed?

In any case, many thanks for these videos! I can’t get together with my piano teacher right now so this is really a big help!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 5, 2020 @3:46 pm PST
Dear Rob, thank you for your comment and question.

First of all, I am so glad you liked these videos! Robert is a great teacher indeed.

As for your question, I am not sure to have exactly understood what you are referring to. Notes written in bass clef are not "transposed" as you are guessing, They are written on the sheet music at their real pitch. You can have a C3 note (or C4 if you use that as keyboard central C) written in bass clef at the first ledger line above the staff, which is the same exact note written at the first ledger line below the staff in treble clef. The notes are exactly the same, just "shifted" graphically according to the used clef. And of course, in the music literature, you can have left and right hand playing the same exact note! You can also have the left hand playing notes written in treble clef if there are notes that would be too high if written in bass clef. And vice-versa, for the right hand, you may find notes written in bass clef if they'd be too low to be written in treble clef. In other words, clefs simply change the "reference point" on the staff to "shift" the range of notes on the staff.

You may want to read my free e-book "Basic Music Principles" to better understand what I am trying to explain here:

And its related 1st video could also help:

Please, let me know if this can help to understand a little, or if I have completely missed your question. In case, I apologize in advance.

Thank you again!

All the best,
Rob Mayer on April 5, 2020 @4:41 pm PST
Hi Fabrizio,
Thank you for your quick reply. I am still a bit confused so let me be more specific. If you look at the PDF for the video, in Exercise 2 the 3rd note is a C. I believe that, as I read it, the C we are to play with the right hand is the same C that we are to play simultaneously with the left hand. They are both written on the leger line either below the staff (Treble) or above the staff (Bass). So if, as you say, these notes are being written at their real pitch, is the PDF not saying that we have to play the same C note with the left and right hand simultaneously. However, that is not what Robert is actually doing in the video, where the left hand is being played one octave lower, and thus, the highest C on the left hand is still exactly one octave lower than he lowest C on the right hand.

This would all make sense if there had been a "8vb" notation for the bass clef. Then it would be clear that we play that left hand one octave lower, as I understand the use of that notation. Should that notation perhaps have been included?

Thanks in advance for your help,
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 6, 2020 @7:05 am PST
I have just replaced the PDF with a new one which states that the left hand can be optionally played one octave lower.

Thank you again, and please, let me know if you have any further questions.

Enjoy your day.

All the best,
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 6, 2020 @6:53 am PST
Dear Rob, thank you for clarifying what you meant! You are absolutely right, Robert is playing the left hand one octave lower from what written in the sheet music. As you said, according to the sheet music both left and right hand share the same "C." And that may work just fine for the sake of Robert's exercise. But of course, if you want to make it exactly as Robert has shown in the video, you should play the left hand one octave lower.

I'll update the included PDF to specify that and avoid further confusion. I am sorry we can't update the video itself to specify that as well though. I'll let you know when the new PDF is available.

Thank you so much again for letting me know about this discrepancy!

I'll be back soon.
Carole "Kelly" Havens * VSM MEMBER * on April 1, 2020 @7:31 am PST
Wow! That's an amazing exercise. I did a cut and paste to save it. You don't happen to have it all printed out do you?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 1, 2020 @9:34 am PST
Thank you for your inquiry Carole, I am glad you liked this vide by Robert.

Unfortunately, we don't have a "printable" version of this exercise at the moment, but we'll consider to make it. I'll let you know if we can make that happen.

Please, let me know if you have any further questions.

All the best,
Carole "Kelly" Havens * VSM MEMBER * on April 1, 2020 @2:31 pm PST
Actually, the pdf you posted early on did the trick. I just didn't read down far enough. I get that we will get a god mental exercise out of doing our own transpositions. It was great though to have the one-page pdf which I am reposting here:
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on April 1, 2020 @4:41 pm PST
This exercise reminds me of some in the book "Il Piccolo Pischna", which I never finished! Your fourth and fift fingers will hurt initially, but they gain strength.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 1, 2020 @5:31 pm PST
Oh well, my apologies to have completely forgotten about that PDF file. fortunately, we thought about that well enough when we got this video published the first time a few years ago.

Please, let me know if you have any further questions. This time I'll make sure to make good research before getting back to you.

Enjoy your stay and stay safe!

All the best,
Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on April 1, 2020 @6:55 am PST
I also practice this exercise using a mirror image of the chords, so that both hands get the same workout. It's the same five chords, just in different inversions. Incidentally, this exercise also expands your hands' reach. After playing it for a couple of years, I discovered that I could reach a tenth, the Holy Grail of pianists.
croppers * VSM MEMBER * on April 1, 2020 @2:12 am PST
This is a great strength exercise but also a great way to familiarise with 7th chord relation with diminished cords particularly going through all keys.
joyce marshall on August 13, 2016 @9:21 am PST
Wow, thats a challenge alright. Thanks for the PDF although I like to figure out the notes to play and use my printed copy to check. Great exercise.....quite a brain teaser Thanks alot.
Ken Cory on August 4, 2016 @9:34 am PST
It would be better to work these exercises out on your own, rather than read them from sheet music or even write them down. You'll learn a lot more by doing all the transposing in your head.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on August 4, 2016 @10:40 am PST
I agree with Ken, even because doing that will give you new hits and new possible exercises to "invent" based on them to improve your technique even further.

Great tip Ken!
Karen Long on August 3, 2016 @7:30 pm PST
I was about to transcribe this exercise, but it would be lovely if someone could do it for me.
Thanks for the hints etc.
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