Let say you have 2 notes C and E:

When your thumb is pressing C, then see next note is E, do you memorize the pattern that C and E is skipping one finger and in this case the middle finger to press E? Or do you look at the key E and press it?

Either way, how do I practice this? I am struggling to press the correct subsequent keys.

  • 2
    I think most people start off by playing pieces in educational editions that have suggested fingerings written in. Also teachers very often write in fingerings. With enough time and practice, players start to develop their own fingerings. For sight reading, part of the skill is predicting the best fingers to use and also how to recover if you make a fingering mistake in the middle of a passage. Nov 17, 2020 at 14:54
  • @ToddWilcox - you're right. But the danger is that students then start t 'play by numbers', which doesn't really help much.
    – Tim
    Nov 17, 2020 at 15:49
  • 4
    I understand this problem: when I was 5 years I wanted to play a tune 1234 555-, 6666 5— 6666 5— 4444 3-3-, 4444 3-3-, 2222 1—-. But I had no 6th finger and nobody could tell me what to do. I wasn’t sure whether it was “allowed” to change the finger position. Nov 17, 2020 at 17:29
  • Whether I use my 2nd or 3rd finger to play E would probably depend on what will be played after E. I might play C-E-G with 1-3-5, but C-E-A with 1-2-5 or even 1-2-4, and C-E-G-C with 1-2-3-5. It's the transitions you want to focus on, not the absolute fingering.
    – chepner
    Nov 17, 2020 at 21:46

5 Answers 5


When particular notes are literally under your fingers, there's no need to look. It's not like they've moved or disappeared!

As a beginner, you can keep your hand over the five notes, and get used to the idea that one key is for one note.

Later, you'll need to change that idea, as you will be stretching out your fingers, and moving your whole hand up or down, to reach notes that are out of that first comfy span. But for now (I assume you're a complete newbie), hover over the five keys, but don't consider that that will always be the way.

  • Hi @tim, I am pretty good at the 5 notes CDEFG with 5 fingers, but problem is when I my thumb is not on C anymore, I have created a new question which is more related to what I was after music.stackexchange.com/questions/107636/…
    – James Lin
    Nov 17, 2020 at 20:00

There are standard finger patterns for specific scales, but you won't always be playing just the scale/key - you could be playing notes in any pattern. So you need to change the position of your hand in a way that the progression of the fingers stay (more or less) the same but is just transposed.

As an example: Consider the general finger pattern (right hand) for the A major scale:

1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5/1 2 3 1 ...

A B C# D E F# G# A B C# D ...

where 1 = thumb & 5 = little finger.

Now, consider the following line (an excerpt of Rondo Alla Turca by W.A. Mozart)


enter image description here

Note that the key signature suggests this part to be in the key of A Major. Therefore, according to the standard rule, the first note (in the bar where the numbering starts), which is an E, should be played with your 2nd finger (index finger). However, the score suggests to use your 5th finger. Here, however, you could do either - use your 2nd or 5th finger but using the given finger pattern makes it a bit convenient. Obviously it's not in accordance with the finger pattern rule of playing the complete A major scale, but we may make this change since there is provision for it in this situation: we can save ourselves the trouble of switching from the thumb to the middle finger (while moving from D to C#) since that isn't necessary - owing to the notes that follow.

Moving further, you'll see that the 5th bar suggests using your 4th finger (right hand ring finger) to play the next higher A# followed by your little finger playing the B. This is neither in accordance with the finger pattern rule for the chromatic scale nor the A major scale. However, shifting our hand across the octave to use the thumb (1st finger) instead of the 5th wouldn't be very efficient as we have to come down again in the next bar, so it's more efficient to just extend the hand a little bit and use the fingers which are closer to the notes, as we'll easily be able to position our hand to play the next pattern - which begins with the 5th finger on E. In fact, WillRoss1’s second comment contains an even better technique for this segment.

If you follow the score on a keyboard, you'll be able to make better sense of the answer.

This is NOT THE ONLY acceptable and definitely not the most efficient finger pattern. A more experienced pianist would be able to come up with something better. My aim here is just to help you get a rough idea of how the process of determining the finger pattern works.

In practice, you follow the standard patterns as and where they work and make judicious transitions and modifications to fit a certain finger pattern over a certain segment of notes in a way that “makes sense”.

  • 1
    That 4 5 4 5 5 4 fingering in measures 6-7 seems really awkward and inefficient to me. Crossing 4 over 5 shouldn't be necessary until tackling some Chopin (or similar) and repeated pinky jumping a 5th is...just no. This, to me, is actually a good counter-example of what happens when you try too hard to stick with the standard scale fingering (i.e. 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5): you run out of fingers and it becomes choppy and uncomfortable to force in more notes. I would probably play (from the start of 6) 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 3 4 5 1 4 3 2 1.
    – WillRoss1
    Nov 17, 2020 at 19:09
  • 1
    @WillRoss1 - surely you don't want to put the thumb on the black note G#. Nov 18, 2020 at 1:04
  • 1
    @AlexanderWoo Ah, good catch, I most certainly do not want to do that! How about 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 4 5 1 4 3 2?
    – WillRoss1
    Nov 18, 2020 at 17:53
  • A differing opinion: I play measures 5 and 9 with the fingering 5 4 3 2 5 4 3 2 so that the fingering helps emphasize the slurs. My measure 10 fingering is 3 5 1 4 3 5 2 3, mainly to avoid thumb on the black note G# (though it's not that bad in this case). Nov 18, 2020 at 18:29

You can start off by placing your hands in a fixed position. Lets take the Right hand for example. Place the thumb on C, Index finger on D, Middle finger on E, 4th Finger on F, 5th finger on G..

If you have a notation, then you may first practice slowly with this hand position. It's totally okay to look at the keys! With time, you will get used to playing notes without looking at them. Relax your hands, read the notes and play. Later on you can practice more complicated movements that include keys across the keyboard.


It’s like everything in the whole live:

There are children - and students and adults - who always go the same way they have been taught: they want to follow the steps of a master like a disciple.

There are are others who want to search their own way, may be they struggle more, but they will keep their solutions better in mind, the way they’ve found by trial and error, like explorers and inventors.

As a beginner it may make sense to use always the same finger for the same key and even the same note.

I was teaching 100reds of children in small groups - actually the purpose was not to teach them keyboard, my goal was that they could understand the basics of music (scale, note names intervals and chords through learning by doing).

There were children who played all notes only with the index (like a xylophone or on a tablet. This technique isn’t benefiting for Piano playing, of course. There were others who play a triad like c,e,g with fingers 1,2,3 or 2,3,4.

Probably you won’t find these fingerings in any keyboard book. But what I want to say:

Actually every fingersettings is possible as long as you are at ease and feel comfortable. The danger to get bad habits is smaller than to feel inhibited by wrong sorrows about uncertainty and doing wrong.

M. Feldenkrais was “teacher” of Yehudi Menuhin, Moshe Dayan and the president of the WHO.

He has written down his philosophy of learning in his book the “the elusive obvious”. This means we have to recover what is natural.


This is a fantastic question. Let me tell you - it's all about context. There is actually no clear-cut answer to your question, because it depends on what comes after. The purpose of fingering is to make your job of playing easier and more logical. What that means is that you should look at the notes afterwards.

For example, let's assume that you have a song that goes:

In this song, you would have your 2nd finger play E because you can see you want to ascend up to a higher C, and it would make sense to stretch out your hand to reach all the notes with one position. Later on, we have a switch from 1 to 3 from F to E because we run out of fingers (also because this is a very important finger pattern in scales).

Alternatively, if we have a song that looks like this:

We could avoid stretching our hand because we can foresee that all the notes would comfortably be in a pentascale position (in this case, C D E F and G).

As you practice, this will become more and more natural, though guidance from your pedagogue will be crucial.

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