5 Minute Piano Lessons: Basic Fingering

This picture demonstrates proper rounded fingering


As a teacher of twenty five students, I highly recommend private lessons.  For those on the go, wishing to learn what they can, this is the place for you.

It takes years of study to play the piano correctly.  I will only be touching on the finer points here.  Feel free to post any questions pertaining to this lesson at the bottom.


The difference between an okay piano player and a talented pianist is often found in how they use their digits. A full piano keyboard has 88 black and white keys.  Learning how to maneuver up and down these 12 repeating notes (seven white and five black)  is not for the faint of heart.

Those who go at it blindly must reinvent the wheel.  Such people think that, for instance, square or triangle shaped wheels are easier to build and thus better for travel.  Such unhappy fellows move stiffly up the keys, not really considering what their fingers play. What starts out as innocent plucking become bad habits that limit your movement along the keyboard.  Let’s learn how to avoid them.

The goal here is to make smooth rounded wheels.  It may take longer to make but we have a rather long journey ahead of us.  Preparing correctly for that journey will make it so much more enjoyable!  We are shooting for ease of travel here, that is ease of travel up and down the keyboard.  This means doing things that feel uncomfortable at first, but later become very comfortable indeed!

 

Numbering your fingers

Place your palms against each other like you are saying a prayer.

The thumbs are henceforth christened as 1.

The pointer finger shall be named 2.

The middle finger shall be named… take a wild guess you weren’t born yesterday! (hint: its the 3 finger)

This would make the ring finger 4 and the pinky dubbed as 5.

In this fashion we name our fingers from 1 to 5.  

Name them all aloud wiggling each finger named.

Sounds simple enough.  Unfortunately the keyboard before you is not shaped as your hands are.

 

The Shape of things to come

Hold your hands out and you will find they are mirror images of each other.  The piano does not share in this. It was designed with low notes on the left and high notes on the right.  Music in turn is formed this way with such low and high notes playing off each other.  Your symmetrical digits must learn to adapt to the asymmetrical plane of piano keys!

It seems silly to mention this (I promise it isn’t) but there is a certain rule of thumb you must always remember… That being: the thumb is always the 1 finger!

A second important finger to recognize is the pinky which is always the 5 finger.


Practice

In previous lessons you learned the white notes.  Find the C in the middle of the piano.

 

Right hand

Make a loose fist with your right hand, putting the thumb on the side of the hand.  Place your right hand 1 finger (thumb) on the C. Now unravel the fist so that 2 is on D, 3 is on E, 4 is on F, and 5 is on G. Make sure that all your finger tips are lined up with each other.  This will naturally round your hands.  This is how you must always hold your hand when playing the piano (no long, open palm fingering here).

Slowly play the notes C, D, E, F, G.  Then play them backwards G, F, E, D, C.  Do this a few times.  Not too fast!  Playing slowly helps build up the finger muscles.

Don’t mind the four finger. It is always the hardest finger to play.  With daily, practice all of your fingers will get stronger and therefore easier to play.

Find the G key to the left of the middle C key.

 

Left hand

Make a fist with your left hand, putting the thumb on the side of the hand.  Place your left hand 1 finger (thumb) on the G. Now unravel the fist so that 2 is on the F, 3 is on E, 4 is on D, and 5 is on C. Make sure that all your finger tips are lined up with each other.  This will naturally round your hands (no long, open palm fingering here).

Slowly play the notes: C (this means start on the 5 finger), D, E, F, G.  Then play them backwards G, F, E, D, C.  Do this a few times.  Not too fast!  Playing slowly helps build up the finger muscles.

 

C position

This is how you find and place your hands in C position.  Practice finding this position three times.  Remember, the R.H. 1 finger is on the middle C.  The L.H. 5 finger is on the other C.

Notice that each thumb is on a different note.  In fact only the 3 fingers (middle fingers) share the same note (E).  Every other note is on a different finger.  So now you understand how confusing things can get.

Slowly play both Cs on the piano (R.H. uses the 1 finger, L.H. uses the 5 finger)

Play both Ds

Play both Es

…both Fs.

Gs…

Once this is mastered do it all backwards.

 

Remember

Keep your fingertips lined up with each other.

Do not lift any fingers up off the keys while playing a note.

It may not be easy to do this at first but I promise it will be in time.

 

Other piano lessons to peruse at your leisure

Happy piano playing

8 thoughts on “5 Minute Piano Lessons: Basic Fingering

  1. Thank you so much for this tip. I have a 3-year old who has recently begun playing on his elder brother’s keyboard.

    Now, my elder son being 15 doesn’t want to be involved in this exercise at all. He reads music and plays the euphonium well but he is after all 15, so a 3 year old doesn’t figure in his world of Xbox and gaming

    Since I don’t read or play music, I have been trolling the web trying to find out how to help my little one play the keyboard.

    Since last week, I have learned about Solfège, taped do-re-me on the keyboard and figured out the continuity of the notes. Strange how I never paid attention to the keyboard these past 11 years or so.

    Anyway, I intuitively got the little one to use his fingers as you have shown above. I got him saying do on the pinky, re on the ring finger and so on.

    I had no idea I was doing the right thing and so I was on the web again today looking for fingering techniques and came onto your webpage.

    Since he is also learning to count, I can also reinforce his memory by teaching him to count his Thumb as #1 and pinky as #5.

    What do I do about the La (A) – Ti(B)?

    Thanks once again and God bless, Will

    • Thank you for your kind words Will.

      What you are doing with your three year old is going to be very helpful for his future in music (in whatever instrument he chooses to play).

      Here is another 5-minute lesson on the C major scale that teaches how to play all eight notes (repeating the Do). https://deepwellbridge.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/797/

      A modified fingering for a three year old might be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and for la, ti, do, just use 1, 2, and 3 again. It isn’t a perfect way to handle this but it is an option. Just be sure he knows that even though la, ti, do is the sixth, seventh, and eighth note of a complete scale; he is still using the piano fingers 1, 2, and 3. If only we had eight fingers instead of five!

      In your perusing around the web you might have run across something called kinder music. This is a music style of teaching designed for kid’s that are your son’s age. It mixes music with simple ear training and dancing. There are probibly tons of wonderful stuff out there you son could have a lot of fun doing!

      But what you are doing now with your son is only going to help him when he learns an instrument. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the pointers. I did look at the RH C Major Scale and LH C Major Scale (https://deepwellbridge.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/5-minute-piano-lessons-c-major-scale-for-the-left-hand/) but thought I wait till a while. Thanks for confirming I was on the right track.

    I need to get my head around all those fingers crossing over.

    I haven’t yet come across kinder music – didn’t even know the term. Show my level of music understanding.

    Wish I had spent my youth learning some music instead of listening to heavy metal (-;

    I did learn a lot more about music from reading your posts about piano. Thanks.

    After having been through so many piano help websites, I was expecting some sort of sales pitch somewhere but was so surprised there wasn’t any. It was a pleasure reading the posts.

    BTW I read though other parts of your blog and find you travels through life interesting. Enjoy the belly dancing and maybe some Bollywood style fitness classes in future.

    Thanks you for sharing your knowledge and once again thank you especially for the piano lessons. They are invaluable. I have bookmarked them.

    Keep up the good work and God Bless, Will

    • Thanks again WIll!

      Yeah I’m not into making money… at all. Of course I could plug in my sci fi book that I wrote if you’re into that sort of thing (it’s called Void Voyage look it up on amazon for kindle, or Barnes and Noble for Nook) but that would be tacky!

      Glad you enjoyed my blog! Mostly I just write about what I feel like. It sharpens my writing skills which help in my aspirations as an author.

      5 minute piano lessons are a free way for me to help others interested in learning about music. It’s a sort of testing ground to see if I can teach others how to play piano by using words alone. A VERY hard thing to do. Thank you for being my test subject 🙂

  3. Dear one, Hello there ! Thanks for your kind childlike Guidance. I have a tendency to play Naturally by the Ear and the Right hand Naturally like my Flute. Now much on the Notes in front of my eyes above the Piano. Treble notes have been remembered and now trying the Bass too.

    • That’s awesome! You may have already heard this trick but in learning the bass clef you count from bottom up with line notes using this acronym: Good Boys Do Fine Always (so that the actual notes are G B D F A). And the space note acronym is: All Cows Eat Grass (so the notes are A C E G).

      I’ll tell you the ones for the treble as well, even through you already know them someone else might like to learn it this way. Counting line notes from bottom up: Every Good Boy Does Fine (notes are E G B D F). And for the space notes it simply spells the word: FACE. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on this someday.

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