How to play repeated notes on the piano

By Robert Estrin


This really is a great topic to cover and there is a lot of information for you. There are two distinctly different types of repeated notes: slow repeated notes and fast repeated notes. I’m going to cover both of these techniques for you.


Fast Repeated Notes

Let’s start with fast repeated notes. The easiest way to handle a fast note played over and over again would be to use two hands. However, for most music this is not an option. Most of the time, you will have to learn how to handle fast repeated notes with one hand, and the only way to achieve this is by changing fingers. You MUST change fingers in order to play the notes fast enough.


The most important thing is finding a fingering that works for you. Typically, 3-2-1 is a very good fingering for playing fast repeated notes. This can be demonstrated well with one of Scarlatti’s Sonatas such as the famous D minor Sonata which has many repeated notes throughout. You can see a demonstration of this in the accompanying video: 



Another thing to keep in mind when approaching fast repeated notes is that upright pianos will not be able to handle the speed of grand pianos. Not all grand or baby grand pianos can handle the high level of repetition needed unless the piano is regulated well and the action has no worn out parts.


So, what are the techniques involved in playing rapid repeated notes with one hand? It is absolutely essential to keep your fingers right over the keys. There isn’t time for any excess motion. So, keep your fingers hovering very close over the keys. Also, keep your hand relatively stable, keep your fingers rounded, and try to hit the middle of the key. It’s best to practice slowly, with a metronome, and work your way up to speed with progressively faster metronome speeds.


When it comes to slow repeated notes, there are different schools of thought on how to approach them

I am going to share with you a technique which is utilised by many great pianists. In the video, I demonstrate these techniques on the second movement of the Mozart Sonata in C major K330. You want to be able to play slow, repeated notes as smoothly as possible. The big problem with the piano is that no matter how hard you try to connect the same note, when it repeats, the notes will always be slightly detached. This is because the dampers mute the strings whenever a key is released.


The secret is to change fingers on repeated notes. Just like playing fast repeated notes, if you play with a finger pattern, (like 3-2-1) you will be able to get a much smoother legato. The one problem with this is that if you try to play the notes slowly with different fingers, you may find that some notes don't play. This is because the weight of your arm may be too great to allow for repetition. The trick is to keep the hand floating above the key utilizing minimal arm weight. Having a high release of each finger allows each finger to play the key again. If you do this, you will produce a stunning legato.


Make sure to practice the above technique without the pedal and try to achieve the smoothest legato you possibly can. Then, you can utilize the pedal to add tonal colors to your playing.


Thanks for joining me!

Robert Estrin


[email protected]