Mirror Image Piano Exercises – Piano Drill for Dexterity Used by Chick Corea


Mirror Image Piano Exercises – Piano Drill for Dexterity Used by Chick Corea

Chick Corea: It’s an old tango. “Anna’s Tango.” I thought that would be a nice intro to this. We’re going to talk about as a basis for our chat, this book that we published ourselves, many many years ago, called “A Work in Progress.” What the book was, when I put it together, was an attempt to just write down the way I do things. People ask questions. Musicians ask questions. “How do you did this?” “How do you write?” “How do you put a band together?” So forth, and what ever.

The thing that I want to get across is, in music everyone does it the way they do it. It’s a subjective thing. It’s an art form. So I thought the best that I could offer, in terms of answers, is the way I do things. So this is the way I do things. I call it my hat write up. My musician’s hat. So we have the new version of the musician hat, “A Work in Progress,” by the time we do this in March. The new revisions.

That’s what it’s going to be about. There’s all this stuff in here. We can talk about whatever we want to talk about. Let’s see. You know personal policies as a musician, playing the piano, comping, accompaniment, making time, talking about tempo and rhythm, composing. That’s some things that are in the book.

I thought it would be interesting to take up this one thing. I put a revision in the book under, I call it the “Basics.” Playing the piano. This is in the chapter, “Playing the Piano.” I came across an interesting thing many years ago, that I find is not commonly known, but it’s a way of looking at the keyboard, because the keyboard — there’s the keyboard. You’ve got all these white notes, [Plays notes.]

Then all these black notes [Plays notes.]

If you see how they’re arranged [Plays notes.]

There’s an octave. From C to C. [Plays notes.]

That’s an octave. It’s kind of unevenly arranged, if you look at it. There’s 5 notes there, 6 notes there. There’s another bunch of notes here. It’s a little — it’s not like this. But there is a way to view the keyboard in a mirror image. Where it gets divided exactly in half. And all you have to do is look at the A flat [Plays note] or the D [Plays notes.]

And all of a sudden you have a mirror image, a complete mirror image. If you look this way from the A flat, and this way, from the A flat, you’ll see a mirror image. [Plays notes.]

Graphically, that is. And it’s a great reference point because — I don’t know if this was thought of when this construction of the keyboard was put together, or whenever it was, but if you think about it, most living things, especially the human body, is a mirror image. Make a line down the middle, there’s the two hands.

It’s a mirror image. Divide the mirror in half. It’s a mirror image. The hands fit on the keyboard exactly as a mirror image. You know how you — when you do exercises, you might exercise one side, but then you balance it out by exercising the other size because it’s a mirror image. You do exercises like that. ‘Cause you have to balance the body. With the piano, it’s the same thing. you want to keep both hands going. Usually we’re brought up where one hand is stronger than the other. Usually the right hand. This exercise and using this principle is a way to strengthen any phrase that you want to strengthen by turning it into a mirror image. Let me show you what I mean. There’s a D [Plays note.]

One of the exercises that I wrote, simple exercise, with the five fingers.

You put [Play note] this note here, [Play note] that note there.

See, it’s a mirror image. That’s a D [Plays note]. The hands fit on it like this, the five fingers. That’s a mirror image sound. You see that? So you’ve got five fingers and there’s a book that I used to- that my piano teacher, when I was 8 years old, Salvatore Sullo, from Boston. Classical pianist. Wonderful guy. He used to laugh at jazz. When I went and auditioned for Sulo, I played [Plays song]

He sat there snickering, “Haha that’s that Dizzy Gillespie music!” But anyway, he was a cool guy, he introduced me to these Italian books called the “Rossomandi.” I don’t even know if they make them anymore. I have this tattered copy. They have these mirror image exercises in there. This was the first one. It was [Plays notes.]

You know, [taps fingers.] That’s all it is [Plays Notes.] But the shape of the keyboard, shapes the exact shape of the hand. It’s a mirror image. You can do all sorts of things with that, you can go [Plays notes.] …

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18 thoughts on “Mirror Image Piano Exercises – Piano Drill for Dexterity Used by Chick Corea

  1. Mikao Kavako (Kidmann) November 2, 2015 at 12:58 am - Reply

    This is so precious.. I don't have words to express my gratitude to Chick Corea. I feel his Music is in me since I was born!
    Isto é tão precioso.. Não tenho palavras para expressar a minha gratidão a Chick Corea. Sinto que sua Música está dentro de mim desde que nasci!
    (Lisbon – Portugal)

  2. Great!  I've used these five-finger mirror-image drills for decades and find them really efficient for building and maintaining dexterity, strength and independence in all five fingers–and especially for strengthening the fourth finger.

    A friend who had studied at Julliard  in the late 1960's initially showed them to me–at that time, they were used heavily there (maybe still are, for all I know).

    (If interested, see my earlier comment for more details on specific drills.)

  3. Is this really Chick Corea's You Tube channel? If it is, all I can say is thank you very much for your contribution to Jazz. You, Herbie (not the VW Beetle :-)), McCoy, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Andrew Hill and Horace Silver are my all time favourite jazz pianists. I will practise this dexterity exercise daily, as I do have a strength problem with the 3rd/4th /5th fingers of my left hand. Any additional exercises to strengthen those particular fingers would also be great. It's not very often that I have a conversation with a jazz icon, so please excuse any gushing, on my part :-). I wish you salubrious health and sincerely thank you, as you guys are the musical inspiration to millions of aspiring jazz pianists around the world. Back to Earth now, as I've just been in Jazz heaven :-)

  4. This is priceless!
    Thank you so much, Chick! You're a master and it's a treat to see how such an inspiring player goes about the piano. 🙂
    I'm definitely going to buy you're book. 

  5. when he told the story about his teacher i was wondering how he sounded as a child.. or when he was around 12 years old.

  6. I know cat videos are more up everybody's alley but If you have a few minutes, I'd love to get your thoughts on my songs/videos. I'm always trying to improve. I know how busy we all are and truly appreciate you taking a moment to watch.



  7. Chick looks like he's doing the "Hands up—Don't Shoot" stance (smile).  On the serious side, I used to ask Chick a lot of questions when I was a student and he would give very good answers.  For example, I asked him, "How many hours a day do you practice?" and Chick answered, I don't know, I don't count the time…….."  To me that was so deep! (at the time)  Look for his Re-vision…..this book or any book, CD, DVD, album, etc. by Chick!

    These points that he's giving may sound funny to some but they really help you if you apply them.  And, by the way, anyone could tell by how disciplined Chick was/is as a Keyboardist, that he did very many hours per day of practice, PLUS, Chick plays more Musical Instruments than Piano.  God bless!


  9. An Amazing Artist……….Mirror Image exercises are found in an old book called "Exercises de Tenues" by Isador Philipp & a book that Herbie Hancock uses called "Daily Technical Studies by Oscar Beringer. I find that the Philipp's book work directly into voicings ….

  10. Something I noticed years ago: when I practise one hand, the other hand learns also. Not to the same degree as the practised hand but there is measurable improvement. I notice this particularly with scales. If I learn a new scale in my R/H, my L/H behaves as if it has practised also.

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