Making sense of Piano exercise

I have been learning the piano for about 18 months, using the Alfred & Faber Adult learning books. I have just bought the IFR book and am struggling with the piano exercises. They are “Discovery & Staircase”. I am struggling with the fingering as I am playing with eyes closed. I can work out where the next half step is, but I am having to wedge my fingers in between black keys so as to progress up or down the piano. Does it get better, or is there a possibility that I have not understood the exercise? Any help or encouragement would be much appreciated.

Welcome to the forum @Aledo.

It may seem like an odd suggestion since you’ve been learning piano for 18 months, but you might still find it useful to look at the IFR ‘Piano for Non-Pianists’ videos? Very early in the first video, David Reed (@ImproviseForReal ) explains how they are useful for pianists too.

They have been very helpfully gathered together by @Dave in a forum topic here.

I hope that helps.

Hi @Aledo, welcome to the forum! @DavidW’s suggestion is certainly a good one but I just have to interject here because you’re joining IFR at a very special moment. In two weeks we are going to begin a 12-week workshop called IFR Deep Foundations that would be perfect for you!

This workshop will be a deep dive into IFR Exercises 1 and 2, with video lessons for each instrument family. The video lessons for piano are much, much better than anything I was able to do myself in that informal tutorial series on Piano for Non-Pianists. We now have a real piano instructor with deep experience in teaching, performance, improvisation and composition, and the amount of love and care that he has put into the piano lessons is just awesome.

If there is any way you can join us for this workshop, that would be my strong recommendation. I believe that it will be worth many times the price. You’ll get to interact directly with 5 different IFR instructors, ask questions, and even upload videos of your practicing for personal coaching and feedback. And you’ll get to keep all of the lesson materials forever, so in the end this workshop will also serve you as an introductory IFR video course for piano that you can keep coming back to for reference.

Please take a moment and check out this page that explains more:

And if you’re not able to join us for the workshop, then here is a direct link to my own tutorial series that I created a few years ago. As @DavidW explained, the series was originally intended for non-pianists but it has also been helpful for new IFR piano students who are asking some of the same questions you’re asking. Here’s the link to these:

If you have any questions at all about the workshop, please send me an e-mail directly to We are never going to offer this particular workshop again, so we’re trying to really get the word out to everyone to take advantage of this opportunity now if you would enjoy exploring this material more deeply.

Thanks and welcome to our student forum!


Thank you David, I will have a look at the videos. I do not want to fall at the first hurdle because I misunderstood the instructions.

@Aledo I also play piano. I think the thing about improvisation is that specific fingering is not as important as in classical music. The other thing is that one of the big goals of IFR is to get you to connect your brain to your instrument, so that you could go (for instance) from A to C chromatically without thinking. Or from G to C# by whole steps. But you’re not thinking in terms of the note names, you’re thinking of the sounds that that just comes out on your instrument as you think of them.

So. The landscape exercise for me is this… Play any note on the keyboard. Think of a note in your head above or below it, but not too far away. Then move to the new note on the keyboard. Move in different ways. Maybe start this slow, by moving to the next chromatic note, or to a note a whole step away at first.

I think the whole point of the landscape exercise is to get familiar with the entire keyboard by sound, so you can move between any two notes. The fingering doesn’t matter. Use classical fingering. Use your own variation. Or even… try moving between 2 notes with a couple of different fingerings.

Another way to say that is that you should be aiming to “sing on the piano keyboard” in the same way you can sing Happy Birthday with your voice, hitting the right notes without even thinking. Just start small, and slow. Over time, it will work out.

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I love that description of yours @hender99 :smiley:

Thank you for your reply, it pretty much sums up the problem I was having. I was getting to hung up on the right or wrong way to do the exercise instead of just doing it. I am going to concentrate on what I am hearing and less on how it should be played from now on. Thank you for your advice.