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When I play piano chords with sharps or flats, should my longer finger on the black key be straight or curved? I have tried both approaches, but I can't see any difference.

Also, should my fingers on those chords inside the black keys be straight or curved?

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This depends on many factors: which hand, hand size, hand span, finger length, the specific number and arrangement of notes in the chord, fingering, articulation, and what else is happening in the music all can influence whether and how flat or curved each finger might be.

However, given an individual chord, there is a general approach that can be taken in determining the appropriate amount of flatness or curved-ness for each finger.

  • Place your hand, as relaxed as possible, so that the fingers to play the outer (highest and lowest) notes of the chord are resting gently on those notes.
  • Of the remaining fingers, look to see which finger is closest to which remaining chord tone, if any, and gently adjust that finger's position, including any flattening or curling, to that note.

This process will generally given the most comfortable hand/finger position for a chord.

For chords in which the highest and/or lowest note is a black key, remember to move your entire hand toward the fall board in order to bring your fingers closer to the keys. Twisting or stretching to reach them is back for your hand and arm health as well as maintaining ease of execution. Of course, the closer your hand is to the fall board, the more one might need to curve the longer fingers.

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TLDR: As long as you touch all the keys on the right part of your finger tips (having the natural angle of around 30-60 degrees: not close to 90 degrees that your nail touch the keys or close to 0 degree that it's no longer your finger tips that touch the keys), your wrists are in the straight & natural position, your press the keys optimally (not too inside, and not at the tip of the key), you direct the energy from the arm (rather than from your wrist / fingers), and your hand maintains a stable curve during the key press (i.e. fingers remain stiff during key down and key up), it doesn't matter how straight/curvy your middle finger is because it depends on how spread-out the chords are and the combination of black / white keys in the chord. The longer section below has more details.


This YouTube playlist from "Piano From Scratch" is one of many good video introductions on how to have a good hand placement. I suggest first reviewing the first video showing how you can naturally move your hand across the keyboard controlled by your arm while the finger tips stay softly in contact with the white keys, and your wrist and natural finger curves stay in formation. Follow the 2nd warm up exercise for the natural lifting of the hand and the spreading of fingers to form chords. Don't be tense, gripping, or digging in. The third section shows how to remold the finger curves for different inversions of chords or for another chord. Around minute 8:00 he shows how to move the hand further in when the thumb needs to hit a black key.

In the second video he goes through more good hand placement techniques. One of them addresses your concern: playing a chord where your middle finger needs to play the black key while the rest on white keys such as the D major chord (root position). He covers this starting minute 4:12 (Basic Chord Positions & Tips):

  • First, note that the curve stays natural, and make sure to place the fingers forward enough so that the thumb doesn't dangle.
  • Second, when there is a mixture of black and white keys (starting minute 5:05), you need to move the hand slightly more forward, so you can press all keys comfortably while maintaining the curve (for example, you shouldn't play the black keys on the tip). Picture of him playing the D major chord in minute 5:19.
  • Third all fingers need to come down together, so make sure the hand is in position before you press the keys.

Good luck!

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  • @Aaron I (hopefully) improved the description to avoid misunderstanding. I agree that the curve is the least important compared to other factors I mentioned. May 27, 2023 at 0:32
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I don't think it's a particularly important issue to dwell on. It will depend on the relative length of each finger (and thumb) on your hand, and that's a factor that won't be the same for everyone, by any means. There's also the amount of articulation available for those fingers. So how can there be any hard and fast rule?

It will also vary with how one is playing - gently or firmly. That will necessitate a difference in curvature/straightness - or at least it does in my playing! Watching world class players, some will play with lower wrists, straighter fingers, others the opposite. True, with fast runs, curved fingers are the menu for the day, but that's not what you ask.

The best way is what suits you best! At least you've addressed the 'problem', and come up with some alternatives. An excellent thing to do, when playing any instrument. As time goes on, your fingers will naturally find their best position - and that will vary with what's being played, and how it's played. It's similar to 'which fingering should I use?', and the answer there is the same. Whatever suits you and the piece in question best. I don't believe there's a one-fits-all answer.

Dvers - please explain why!!

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