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I'm a piano beginner and trying to practice scales correctly. What confuses me is that all guides mention how important it is to practice scales, but none are explaining the difference in fingering when one aims to practice only one octave, or multiple.

E.g. the D major scale for the left hand. Guide happily recommends to start with the 5th on D, the pinky finger. Yes great, that is easy until I want to go over more than one octave, because then I get confused - when I reach D again and I want to go on, the fingering doesn't fit.

I figured out that actually I have to start with my index finger on D, then thumb on E, fourth on F#, third on G, index on A, thumb on B, third on C# so I land again on D with my index finger.

I'm afraid if I learn the "easy" fingering for only one octave, I will teach my muscle memory incorrect stuff.

So my question is: Shouldn't I practice - even if I do only one octave - the (in my opinion correct) fingering for being prepared to go beyond an octave?

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  • What are your piano goals? If you want to get a university degree in music, which country are you in? Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 13:06
  • Hey Todd, my goals are not to get a degree, I am just a hobbyist
    – flo
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

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You're fine practising the way you do for one octave.

Then for multiple octaves, you need to use thumb on the D, and 'move over' so that your ring finger is on the adjacent E, just like it was in the 1st octave. That can (and does) carry on for as many octaves as you wish. Always playing D with the thumb.

While there is actually 'recommended' fingering published by the various exam boards, in an exam, the candidate can use whatever fingering they like, as long as the audible end product is good - the actual fingering is never judged or marked. Just as playing pieces, we're all different in our physical size, stretch etc, so whatever suits best is what should be used.

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  • Many thanks, that helps. Is there a good free resource online you can recommend for scale fingering?
    – flo
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 12:04
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    There's bound to be - just Google. But it's not what happens on this site.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 12:37
  • In universities in the US, we are judged on scale fingerings. For D major, we must start finger 1 on right hand and finger 5 on left hand and cross with the third finger for the first crossing and then fourth finger at the end of the first octave to play the second octave. We must play two octaves up and down simultaneously on both hands to pass keyboard skills classes. We may also be required to play all scales with correct fingering for graduate school. Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 13:04
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    @ToddWilcox - that's interesting. In UK, the examiner will most often not even sit where s/he can see the keys themselves. Seems incredibly harsh that fingering needs to be adjudicated too. Wonder what the reasoning is behind that. Are facial expressions given marks too..? In my opinion there are lots of Stack questions where location would be a helpful addition, don't you think. Easy to add.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 13:09
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    @ToddWilcox - actually I was being flippant...
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 13:26
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The use of finger 5 in scales is just a matter of convenience/convention when starting (left hand) or ending (right hand).

For both hands imagine a continuous, infinite scale. Each octave would start (left hand) or end (right hand) with the thumb rather than the pinkie. It's a bit awkward in practice to start or end a scale that way, but try it a few times, and it will be clear how to play multi-octave scales. You can then put finger 5 back in for the first or last note.

In terms of traditional fingerings, this only applies to major and minor for C, D, E, G, A, plus F (left hand) and B (right hand). All other scales avoid finger 5 entirely: C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab, A#/Bb, plus F (right hand) and B (left hand).

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