My music teacher has always told me to use only pinky, middle finger and thumb (5-3-1) while practicing the triad chords. Though I am trying to use it, it becomes difficult on the black keys. Personally, I find playing the triads with left hand using 4-2-1 much simpler than 5-3-1. but since the teacher keeps telling me to use the 5-3-1 (even on black keys) because (as per him) it is recommended by the music examination bodies, I am really wondering if that is really true. Do the music examination bodies like trinity mandate playing the triads with with only (5-3-1) in Left Hand and (1-3-5) in Right Hand? If yes, why? If I find it really comfortable playing it with 4-2-1, why should I use 5-3-1?

Related question: In the above context, what fingering to use for triads on black keys?

Note: There is one question already on the forum with the title "Is it right to play a triad left hand chord with fingers 4-2-1 on a piano?", but that did not satisfy my question correctly.

  • Unusual - I was taught to use 1-2-5 for first-inversion triads and 5-2-1 for second-inversion triads, and I was never taught to use 4-2-1.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 12:08
  • You should get a manual of chord/scale fingerings for reference. Your teacher may have mentioned examinations, but it isn't the only reason to do what they say. If you can't play that fingering, it seems a problem. Instead of trying to win an argument, learn standard fingerings, and how to be flexible with alternate fingerings. Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 13:03
  • 1
    Hi Michael... No I don't want to win any argument. Just that I found using 531 very uncomfortable wherever black keys were involved. Instead, I can position and shift my LH on chords very naturally and comfortably using 421. So before arguing with my teacher I want to check / confirm if the examination bodies Mandate using 531/135.. And if they do, what is the logical reason... May be what I am doing naturally using 421 is not right, but it may turn out that 531 is also not compulsory and I can use what is more natural to my hands.. Need confirmation from somewhere
    – Bodhi
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 15:01
  • @Bodhi - Very unusual - I find 1-3-5 and 5-3-1 to be quite comfortable no matter how many black keys are involved (i.e. regardless of whether I'm playing C major, B major, B flat major, B flat minor, A flat major, A major, F sharp major, or B minor chords). Maybe our hand sizes are quite different? My hands can only span an octave each before I start hitting inner notes - how big are your hands?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 12:18
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci.....Ohhh I see...is that why I find playing with 135 and 531 complicated. My hands are really big and span allmost one and a half octave.....eeeeesss.....should I reduce myself....didn't know that the hand size would make me pay here.....OR...is it just a matter of practice?
    – Bodhi
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


As far as my experience goes, no examiner will be looking at your hands anyway! Often, the piano keyboard itself is physically out of sight for the examiner. Their job, in an exam, is to listen to what you play. There is no good reason to always use 1-3-5/5-3-1 at all. Some triads are unplayable that way, by some players. It would be unfair to penalise them, due to their physical restrictions.

You need to use whatever combinations you find best. It's the same with fingerings for scales and pieces. Just because teacher may prefer to use certain fingering doesn't mean it's best for you. If your teacher is insisting you use the printed fingerings (they're there purely for guidance), maybe it's time to level with them, or change teacher. Especially if they insist. (Some are 'dyed in the wool'!)

I'd be inclined to contact Trinity (or whatever board), and get written clarification to back this up.

In fact - part of the fun in practising is to work out (for yourself) the optimum fingerings for what you're playing - be it triads, scales, arpeggios or pieces.

  • That's precisely I was advocating to my teacher but I need to be sure to say what I am suggesting... Thank you for your inputs
    – Bodhi
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 14:53

Do all examination bodies require 5-3-1 / 1-3-5?


The ABRSM does not require any specific fingering for scales and arpeggios.

From the 2021–2022 syllabus section on "Scales and Arpeggios":

Fingering: Candidates may use any fingering that produces a successful musical outcome.

Why do any examination bodies require specific fingerings?

Because triads and their inversions are so common and follow canonical intervallic patterns, it is (read: "can be") useful to learn all of them according to a fixed fingering. This allows the hand to easily recognize and execute such patterns.

What fingering to use for triads on black keys?

When practicing triads as a technical exercise, I was taught and use 5-3-1 / 1-3-5 in root position. However, in the context of a piece of music, I often use 4-2-1 / 1-2-4 — for both black keys and white keys — when it facilitates a particular passage.

  • thanks @Aaron. That helps. I can go back to teacher and tell that there is no such rule with trinity or other bodies. and I can practice the triads using 421 more easily and confidently. Infact, I can play all triads using 145 including the black keys. thanks again
    – Bodhi
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 7:09
  • @Bodhi All you can tell your teacher is that there is at least one body that doesn't require it. My answer says nothing about Trinity or any organization other than ABRSM. (Also, 1-4-5 is a very strange fingering for triads. Is that what you meant?)
    – Aaron
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 11:27

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