David Hicken ~ Pianist & Composer

Advice For Pianists

Correct fingering is crucial for a fluent and effortless performance, but many piano students are only focused on playing the right notes and ignore fingering suggestions completely.

Incorrect fingering causes gaps or breaks in melodies as well as general discomfort as the hand moves from one area of the keyboard to another.  Many wrong notes can often be attributed to bad fingering as well as questionable timing and sloppy rhythms.

When your fingering is correct, everything become easier while playing a piece of music.  Many good editions of piano music have suggested fingerings that were painstakingly worked out by an expert who knew exactly where students would encounter problems.  Sadly, these are very often ignored by the majority of piano students.

Correct fingering is quite logical and often makes sense for most  of the music that you will encounter.  However, it is necessary to stop and think about it for a moment, rather than just forging ahead with the notes.  

There are only a handful of general rules regarding fingering which can be summarized here:

  • The only finger that ever goes under another is the thumb
  • The most common fingers to go over the thumb are the third and fourth
  • The second finger can sometimes go over the thumb
  • The fourth finger can sometimes go over the fifth in order to achieve a legato melody

Adjacent notes should use adjacent fingers whenever possible.  If you run out of fingers in a given passage, work your way backwards to see where the thumb can either go under, or perhaps another finger can go over the thumb which will then allow more fingers to be used later in the passage.

The melody is the most important part of your music, and often it will be indicated to be played smoothly.  Listen carefully for any breaks in the melody, and revise your fingering if you hear any.

If you have particular difficulty in certain passages, and regularly hit wrong notes, revise your fingering.

The longer you play the piano and the more music you play, the easier fingering becomes.  You will get to the point where the correct fingers naturally find their own way.

The very best way to ensure that you are using correct fingering is to play scales every day.  See my other post regarding the importance of scales here.

Scales cover a wide range of the keyboard allowing you to practice passing the thumb under the third and fourth fingers, as well as using the third and fourth fingers to pass over the thumb.   The better you know all of your scales, the better your fingering.

Be very careful when first learning a piece of music that you use the correct fingers on the first attempt.  Incorrect fingering "sticks" very quickly and is often very difficult to undo.  It is much easier to correct a wrong note than it is to correct a wrong finger, so get them right on the first pass.

I should point out that certain passages of music can have more than one set of fingering - all of which may work well, however, a set of fingering that works for one student may not work so well for another. This is why it is so important to have a teacher to ask.

Play scales, follow suggested fingering, listen to your teacher and ask questions.  

Use correct fingers and your playing will be all the better.

Happy Practicing!

David Hicken


All of the concepts that I write about here are detailed in my eBook "Secrets To Better Piano Playing" . Click the image below to find out more.