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I’m learning piano (for now) via self-study with Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course. The lesson on right-hand fingering for D7/F♯ recommends using 1–4–5 to play F♯–C–D. As I mention in another question, I’m having a hard time playing this fingering without flexing my wrist excessively.

Several people suggested that I’m striking the keys too near the end, but the problem is more that playing F♯ with my thumb puts my hand in an awkward position for striking the white keys with my fingers. There just isn’t enough room for my fingers unless I flex my wrist too much – the C♯ key gets in my way. I’ve heard that the thumb is poorly suited for striking the black keys, so why does the Alfred course recommend it? Should I play this chord 2–4–5 instead?

Here’s where my fingers naturally fall when I play the chord 1–4–5. It feels strange, there isn’t much room for my 4–5 fingers, and the leverage is poor on this keyboard, but if I try to strike the keys much lower, my hand or my arm gets sore.

1–4–5 fingering

A couple of people recommended 1–3–4 fingering. Here’s what that looks like when I play it. This does not feel awkward at all, but it's quite a tight fit for the 3 finger on C, so I’m not sure that I’m doing it right.

1–3–4 fingering

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I found this video tremendously helpful: youtu.be/Yz7rOwuEzJE –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 19:24

4 Answers 4

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The fingers that are not playing can be elevated higher, out of the way, e.g. point your index finger upwards playing this chord, finger 3 can be extended too or relaxed. Fingers 4 & 5 need to be more clawed.

When you lift your unused fingers like that, it gives you slightly more room. Can you touch your little finger and thumb together? Yes? See how much higher your palm would have to be to play two adjacent notes with 1-5? And how you'd have to move your unused fingers out of the way to actually play it? Your fingers don't have to be horizontal or 'straight' for every chord, you can make a claw, bend your fingers more!

Without knowing what notes are coming next and without trying to play this piece myself it would be difficult to suggest 'best fingering' but the suggested fingering when given is usually justified, but is just a suggestion.

Looking at just the notes to play though, I think I would use 1-4-5, 1-3-4, or even 1-2-3, without any discomfort. Out of those 3 options though, 1-4-5 is least comfortable. I would need a good reason to use 1-4-5 in a situation.

If I was using 1-2-3-4-5 on F#-A-C-D-F#, then the fingers on F#-C-D would be 1-3-4. This feels like the best fingering to me.

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Aha, so curl 4–5 more and point with 2? That actually helps. I'm still getting a bit of tension in my upper forearm that way, but less than before. I will have to play around a bit to see what works and what doesn't, but this actually helps a lot! Thanks! –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 9:45
    
Well spotted - it looks from the pic. that Bradd's fingers are too straight, and this makes the keys get pressed with pads rather that tips, and, as you say, keeps the rest of his hand in the way. –  Tim Jun 19 at 10:52
    
I wasn't originally playing it like the picture shows. That's what I tried after the feedback from my first question. Folks were telling me to play the keys higher to make my wrists less tense. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 16:46
    
Also, if I curl my fingers enough to clear the C# key, I actually touch the keys closer to the fingernail than the fingertip. Is that too far? I might need to add another picture or two. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 16:52
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@Bradd over-bending your fingers is typical and nothing I would be concerned about, I've just observed myself doing it quite often when on autopilot, in fact the only time I've had to cut short a practice session was when I had a DIY injury right under the tip of a nail and it hurt when pressing the nail side of the finger, so I must do that quite often. If the way you play it doesn't hurt, then that's the way to go I'd say! –  Lee Kowalkowski Jun 19 at 19:38

From personal experience, I would say the problem is in using both the thumb and the fifth in such a small span. The black keys are simply thinner than white keys, but the thumb should sit pretty comfortably on one. I would not play it 2-4-5. I would play it 1-3-4, in fact.

Practice something in E-flat major, to get used to striking the black keys, if you have a problem with finger contact.

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When I play with my thumb on the F#, my fingers naturally fall very high on the white keys, and the C# key gets in my way unless I contort my fingers to avoid it. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 6:03
    
Of course it gets in the way. Don't be afraid to angle your wrist "laterally" to help the fingers, in this case up to 40 degrees. –  tackleflowers Jun 19 at 6:14
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Also try it on a REAL piano keyboard, since most "digital" piano keyboards are cheaper-built, and to me always feel funny anyway –  tackleflowers Jun 19 at 7:00
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That's fine, when you get a chance, just compare it. I mentioned it only because I feel that especially when playing white keys up high, the way that the real piano key is suspended and constructed, it feels like a "special" region of the key that is meant for playing, which I couldn't say for cheaper keyboards. I'm not saying cheaper keyboards are bad, they are even easier to play, but there is the probability of a beginner not sensing the full posibilites of the piano technique. When you're dealing with pain, you have to take that into account. –  tackleflowers Jun 19 at 7:43
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@bradd, I just wanted to reinforce the comment just above; I've always found that cheaper keyboards, without proper weighting, seem much harder to play at the "far-end" of the white keys. To my hands they seem pretty unresponsive, requiring greater pressure to press (almost as though they don't move much until a certain level of pressure is reached). I understand that there are reasons why you are using your current instrument, but I think you would find it really enlightening to play a D7/F# on a real piano. It might actually reassure you. –  Bob Broadley Jun 19 at 14:23

As you're left- handed, ( I seem to remember), your right hand isn't as dextrous as it needs to be. Practise more with stretching exercises, get a 'proper' piano, and - GET A TEACHER !!

Seriously, you will have to play this combination with R.H. thumb on F#. You could even use one finger - pinky or ring to play C and D together. Not liked by some, and usually easier to play two notes with a thumb, but it may work.The C/D will be pressed as far up the key as the C# key - so what? As I probably said previously, if you're sitting too low, your hands won't 'command' the keys as well as they should.

Always consider that suggested fingering is purely that. Everyone's physiology is different, so 'one size will not fit all'. If Django had paid attention to fingering suggestions, he'd have given up... As you're aware of different chord voicings, from bass, try out some different ones that don't appear in the tutor book, but do appeal to your fingers.

I've just managed to grab a keyboard, and find that my pinky and ring fingers are either side of the C# key, rather like in your pic.But with more bend in each. That for me must be a natural way to do it.

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Yes, I'm left-handed. A better keyboard and a teacher would be helpful, but it's simply not an option for the near future. Could you clarify where I should be striking the C and D? Beside the C# is difficult but I could possibly learn with practice. Below the C# requires me to twist my fingers or wrist unnaturally and causes the soreness I mentioned in my other question, as my fingers are much longer than my thumb. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 7:58
    
I added a picture of where my fingers want to fall on this cord. It feels weird and the leverage is bad on this keyboard, but it's not uncomfortable. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 19 at 8:09
    
+1 for getting a piano and a teacher. –  user10960 Jun 19 at 8:40
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+1 for suggestion to mash C - D with one finger. That's what I'd do. –  Austin Mullins Jun 19 at 15:04

From the pictures, it looks like your hand is going too deep. You'll get the most leverage if you strike near the end of the keys.

As for using the thumb on black keys, you're right that 1 and 5, being shorter fingers, are less suited for black keys, but sometimes the fingering pattern is such that you should use them on black keys anyway. I'd probably use either 145 or 245 for this particular chord.

As others have said: you really need a real piano (or other decently weighted keyboard) and a teacher in order to learn proper technique.

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When I played the keys less deep, my arm was getting sore; see the linked question. The pictures show my attempts to try out various things that people have suggested to avoid injury. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 24 at 18:31
    
@BraddSzonye Right, I saw that your arm was getting sore; I suspect you may have another position problem. A picture of your hand position from above (showing the whole hand and wrist) might be helpful in diagnosing the problem, but a lesson with an actual pianist will be about 100 times more helpful. :) –  Marnen Laibow-Koser Jun 24 at 21:08
    
Yeah, it would probably be helpful to show a picture of the hand position that was causing soreness, but I had trouble getting a good shot of it. I agree that lessons would be helpful, but unfortunately I simply don't have the time for regular lessons in the near future. –  Bradd Szonye Jun 24 at 21:12
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@BraddSzonye Even irregular lessons will help. Even a one-shot session of 1-2 hours with a good teacher (or at least a good pianist) will let you see and feel what proper technique is like. If you don't have time for regular lessons, at least try to arrange occasional ones. –  Marnen Laibow-Koser Jun 24 at 21:39

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