5 Stride Piano Exercise Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

The piano is among the most popular musical instruments that most people are aiming to learn. When it comes to learning how to play the piano, there are various styles to practice, and one of those is the stride piano style.

Stride piano is a jazz piano style with origins in American ragtime piano music. This method of playing the piano requires a left-hand technique wherein the pianist plays a four-beat pulse alternating between a bass note on beats one and three and a chord on beats two and four. Doing this produces a rhythmic “oom-pah” sound. The left hands of stride players need to jump or stride long distances across the piano, freeing up the right hand to perform fast, exciting riffs and improvisations. For those who wish to learn stride piano playing, there are stride piano exercises that you can do. More information about the stride piano exercises can be found at the Piano Groove website.

If stride piano is quite new for you and you wish to learn more information about it, you’re in the right place. In this post, we are giving you 5 stride piano exercise facts you probably didn’t know about.

1. Why is it called Stride Piano?

The term “stride piano” came from the look of the striding motion of the left hand of the pianist, with its continuous alternation of bass notes on beats one and three and mid-range chords on beats two and four. It is commonly called stride piano, but it is actually Harlem stride piano. It is because it was in Harlem where this musical style was invented and first developed, particularly at rent parties where pianists competed with one another and tried to outplay their competitors. Attendees paid to watch the contests, which was the way musicians raised rent money back then.

2. Stride piano exercise has four characteristics

The stride technique is a highly rhythmic style of playing the piano with an alternating bass note and chord action. Some of its characteristics include:

  • Left-hand jumping or “stride” wherein the left hand of the pianist leaps across the piano keys.
  • Four-beat pulse – this has alternating bass notes and chords. The left-hand plays a single bass note, octave, or tenth on the first and third beats of the 4/4 measure and a chord on the second and fourth beats. The right hand, in contrast, plays syncopated melodic lines with fill-in patterns, harmonies, and riffs.
  • Solo playing requires no rhythmic or harmonic accompaniment, making it used almost exclusively for piano solos.
  • Improvisation – It is common for stride players to improvise as they play, even if ragtime music is traditionally composed.

3. There are great benefits that you can get from stride piano exercises

Some people may never want to play a stride piano song, but it is actually a skill worth learning. When you practice stride piano, you can enhance the following skills:

  • Keyboard familiarity: When you do stride piano exercises, you will have a better understanding of where the notes on the piano are.
  • Accuracy: Stride piano exercises will also help you play notes with more precision.
  • Understanding of chords: Stride piano exercises will also help you better understand chord shapes, how they are made, as well as how to play them properly. This way, you will be able to see chords in a new light.

This means that learning even just some basic stride piano exercises will help improve all of the key skills that are needed to become a great piano player.

4. James P. Johnson is the father of the stride piano style

playing the piano

According to jazz historians, Harlem, New York, is the birthplace of stride piano, and James P. Johnson is the father of this style. He was born in New York in 1894 and was influenced by ragtime great Scott Joplin. James, being an innovator, wanted to take the Joplin style in a new light. With this, he incorporated the stride technique into his ragtime compositions, pushing the boundaries of the style into freshwaters. In addition to him, here are other notable names in the world of stride piano playing:

  • Fats Waller – he studied under James Johnson. He was so gifted that they soon became peers. He was considered among the most prolific and talented jazz pianists and songwriters. His songs today are jazz standards played around the world, and one of those is “Ain’t Misbehavin’.
  • Duke Ellington –was a master of all things jazz piano. He was a powerful influence on his piano style. Instead of remaining a stride pianist, he continually evolved and emerged as a big band leader, songwriter, and inspiration to young jazz musicians.
  • Art Tatum – if James Johnson was the father of the stride style, Art Tatum was the royal heir. He has effortless but blinding fast technique, which sets him on a different level compared to other pianists. In fact, today, only a few pianists can emulate his technique and musical skills.

5. Stride piano playing can be varied

When you are doing stride piano exercises, it can get a bit boring to listen to after a while due to its repetitive characteristics. But no worries, as you can vary it up by doing various things. For example, you can do a reverse stride, which goes chord-bass-chord-bass. You can also mix it with a walking bassline or play two bass notes or chords in a row to vary the rhythm a bit. You can also anticipate bass notes or chords.


When you hear songs with fast tempos, quick chord changes, and intricate melodies, you will see why stride piano playing sends many budding pianists running for the hills. Stride piano playing is one of the challenging methods or styles of playing the piano, but it is worth it to learn as it can enhance your skills as a good pianist. We hope this post helped you learn more facts about stride piano exercise.