A few helpful tips to improve your piano fingering

Image from 'So you want to play the Piano?Fingering is a crucial element in piano playing and surprisingly it’s often overlooked even at advanced levels. Many piano students have never adhered to any at all. Fingering is necessary because it helps a pianist remember which one of their four fingers or thumb (in each hand) is required to play a particular note or notes.  It is a really useful skill to cultivate as without it piano playing will become haphazard and uneven. It’s difficult to achieve any kind of consistency or fluency without sticking to the same finger patterns in a piano piece.

Some pieces will have all the fingering written in and others will need it annotated on the music or score. A good teacher will write all the necessary fingerings on the music so when you practice you will know exactly which finger goes where. This is vital for smooth fluent playing.  Initially, your piano books will show you how the fingers are numbered (see the image of my hands above). The numbers will be then placed above different notes on your written music so that you know where to place your fingers. You need to use the same fingers each time you practice your pieces so that the fingering becomes a habit. This will help you play the piece accurately every time.

Here are a few tips:

1. When playing scale type passages (running passagework) always remember to cross your thumb under your third finger (in the right hand when ascending) in order to negotiate all the notes – this way you won’t ‘run out of fingers’. The third finger will be crossed over the thumb when descending too. It is quite normal to twist fingers over and under in order to achieve legato (or smooth) playing.

2. When you are just learning to play, try to use the middle fingers (2,3, and 4) on the black notes and keep the thumb and 5th finger for the white notes (this doesn’t really apply when you become more advanced).

3. To start with it’s always a good idea to write in your fingerings on your music as this will really help you to remember where you are going and it is worth remembering that all hands are different so fingerings may need to be adjusted accordingly.

4. Learning scales and arpeggios are crucial in developing a consistently reliable use of your fingers so it is worth practising them for this reason alone (although there are many other reasons for learning scales and arpeggios too!).

Image: So You Want To Play The Piano? published by Alfred Music


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


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5 thoughts on “A few helpful tips to improve your piano fingering

  1. Nobody told me anything about fingering. I had to learn what I learnt in library books and online. Are those hands yours, Mel??

  2. Dear Mel,

    Excellent article and great tips!

    Fingering is one of the most important aspects of piano playing and getting it correct from the start is so important to enable good technique and expression to flow naturally.

    Personally, I have found fingering pattern and progression to be an important and helpful aspect towards memorizing a piece and even more importantly, avoiding “bad habits” which might limit the ability to play a piece to its full technical and expressive potential.

  3. Pingback: 10 Top Tips for Successful Piano Practice in 2014 | The Classical Piano and Music Education Blog

  4. Pingback: Does Fingering Really Matter In Piano If You Are Playing The Right Notes? - Herman Piano Studio

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