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Would you like to improve your technique and feel more secure on the keyboard?  This free download will put you on the path to improvement.

(Reposted from 2011.)

Shortly after college, my teacher insisted that I work through Alfred Cortot’s “Rational Principles of Pianoforte Technique.”

It is no exaggeration to say that this book changed my playing forever.

Does this provide instant improvement?  No.  Not if you’re looking for the kind of results that come from calling the number on your television screen in informercials.  One commercial features a guy who promises pie-in-the-sky results.  Learn to play the piano in 5 minutes!  In fact, his method works so well, he demonstrates how to play with a red and white checked tablecloth thrown over the keyboard!

Cortot’s exercises, done daily for a few minutes, will have you playing so much better in 6 months, though.  That sounds worth the effort, doesn’t it?

Full disclosure:  I completed half the book in six months, opting not to continue.  I use what I learned every day, and it has been a long time since my first introduction.


Cortot’s instructions indicate that the exercises begin in C Major, 5-finger position (one finger on each key, C-G).  After that, you do the same exercise in C minor.  As soon as that’s comfortable, you move up 1/2 step.  That, of course, immediately changes one’s perception of how easy the exercise is.

After becoming comfortable at C-sharp, you will continue moving up 1/2 step at a time.

After doing several exercises in this way, you begin to think that the C-sharp 5-finger position can be just as comfortable as C Major.


Feeling in hands

Working on these exercises allowed me to feel the weight of my hands for the first time.  I had a new sense of where I was on the keyboard, and could feel intervals.

Finger independence

This book shows you how each finger can play independently of the others.  You learn that you can use combinations you never would have thought of.  And playing one part more prominently than others in the same hand is much easier.


Passing the thumb under the right hand on the way up a scale is so much more than that.  I can now proceed in the direction of the line I’m playing.  My hands are no longer square with the keyboard at all times, and I can feel my arm moving.

Fingering choices

Any fingering you need becomes available to you because you develop so much more flexibility.  The fingerings indicated in the exercises make so much sense.


Like a gymnast “sticking” the landing from a dismount, I feel like I can stick to the keys.


Because of practicing scale and arpeggio passages in 2 groups, thumbs and everything else as a block of notes, I know where I’m headed and find each new hand position quickly.

Free download!

This book was $90 (or was it $100?) when I was in college.  It is now available as a free PDF!

Also available for purchase from Amazon for $15.54

Have you come across these wonderful exercises?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

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