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I just started learning piano a few months ago and I'm getting along well, but the one issue I'm having is I can't seem to "find" certain notes. For example, on Für Elise, while looking up I sometimes play a D instead of an E since I'm not sure how far to move my fingers. Are there any exercises that can help with this since it's really frustrating and it doesn't seem to be getting better.

  • Can you reach an octave between your first and fifth finger in your right hand? – JimM Jul 31 at 11:49
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Yes, there are exercises to help, but I really think is just fingering exercises.

imslp.org has several piano methods that should be useful. Look for those the scale and arpeggio books by Cooke and Knott, and Touch and Technic by Mason and School of Technic by Philipp.

In my mind the basis of fingering is knowing five-finger position and octave chord positions and then change position.

Finding the piano keys then becomes a matter of placing fingers in a new position relative to some finger already in position.

In terms of spacing, there are three basic positioning categories:

  • a "unison", a repeated note or silent finger change to get your hand re-positioned, the piano key doesn't change but the finger upon it changes
  • a step-wise change, conjunct or scale movement, you just place fingers side by side on adjacent keys, 'passing the thumb under' to play scales in an example
  • intervals larger than a step, intervals up to a fifth can be play from five-finger position like a third played with fingers 1 and 3, or a fith with fingers 1 and 5, or you can work from the position for octave chords where an octave is play with fingers 1 and 5 or a sixth might be played with fingers 2 and 5

...while looking up I sometimes play a D instead of an E since I'm not sure how far to move my fingers.

That sounds like you need to look at your hands to know where to move. Of course that is natural, but good fingering technique should make it mostly unnecessary. My guess is this E is the concern...

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Making that octave leap is the movement from my third bullet point. Probably the most direct way to "lock in" that space of an octave is by playing octave chords or scales in octaves...

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...from Cooke.

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...from Mason.

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...from Knott.

Do drills like that in both hands, all 12 roots, for a few weeks and your hands should really get the feel of the octave distance as well the other intervals of the triad. Don't over do it in the beginning. If your hands get tired let them rest. You shouldn't need to do it for hour and hours. If you do all major and minor chords, 12 roots each, all three inversions it should take about 20 minutes depending on the exact pattern and number of repetitions. Do it daily. Two ways to really start challenging your sense of placement on the keyboard is to do the drills with your eyes closed, and to play a pattern in one octave and then lift your hands off the keyboard completely and move up/down to the next octave.

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The "spacing" between notes is called the "interval", and over time your hands and fingers will become more accustomed to various distances. Here are a few suggestions to help yourself along.

To begin, the most important elements are the note before the one you're having trouble with, and the note that is giving you trouble.

  1. Play the two notes in three different octaves up and down the keyboard. Do this both playing the notes together and separately. Right hand goes up and down; left hand goes down and up.
  2. Play the interval up and down the keyboard in a scale pattern. For example, if the two notes are C and G for your right hand, you would play C G, D A, E B, ... and back down again. As above, play the notes both together and separately. Same right and left hand up/down patterns as above.
  3. Play the first note staccato, "leaping" off the note in an exaggerated way. (That is to say, allow your hand to rise well above the keyboard. You want more vertical movement than horizontal for this exercise.) Create a smooth arc toward the second note, and "parachute" gently down. The most important aspect of this it to make a smooth curve up and back down, with no lateral hard or arm "adjustments" to the curve, and no finger adjustments as you approach the target note. When you can do this cleanly, your muscle memory will have a better feel for the distance. (Note: the main point of this exercise is to disrupt the natural "reach" from one note to another. It requires your whole arm to understand the distance, as opposed to just your fingers.)

There are many other factors that can affect accuracy. A few to watch out for:

  • Playing faster than your mind and/or body can fully process what you're doing.
  • One hand can influence the other. For example, a large interval in one hand can pull the other along, even though the second hand actually has a small interval. For this, you can use the exercises above, but two-handed, with each hand playing its respective interval.
  • FINGERING! This is a core issue for pianists. You want to be sure that the fingers you're using for the passage are as efficient and comfortable as possible. This takes experience to develop, so as a beginner, this is an area where a teacher can be indespensible.
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It might be you're not preparing enough for the skip.
Could try touch lightly with fingers 3 and 4 on c# and d# when playing lower e.
I.e. touch lightly with fingers where x notehead is below.
If can't reach d#, at least touch lightly c# with finger 3.
Fur Elise, Beethoven skip

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play the triad a-c-e with the fingers 135 in all octaves

  1. play the triad a-c-e as block chords with the fingers 1-3-5 in all octaves with the r.h.

  2. the same exercise with the l.h. (5-3-1)

  3. both hands together (optional)

  4. Ex. 1-3 as arpeggios (sing along the noten names in the same pitch and octave)

  5. notate the triads as block chords and arpeggios in the grand staff, just writing the letters A-C-E, mind that all 3 tones of the triad are either on the lines (neighbours) or between the lines. This will help you reading the chords!

  6. Ex. 1-5 in 1st inversion (c-e-a, fingers 1-2-5)

  7. Ex. 1-5 in 2nd inversion (e-a-c, fingers 1-3-5)

  8. Ex. 1-7 in from all degrees of the actual key (für Elise = a - minor) especially the dominant E, and the subdominant dm

later you can transfer and apply Ex. 1-9 to all pieces in all keys as warming ups, and also when practicing the tetrads like dominant seventh E7, A7 and all other 7th chords.

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