# Can I safely customize fingering of arpeggios?

I am beginner and by "safely" I mean no surprise, that I learn arpeggios my way, and after N months/years I discover there is some technique based on arpeggios which would require standard fingering so I have to unlearn and learn given arpeggio again.

One can think of analogy (somewhat) between minor natural scale. I could customize fingering, but I would have to know in advance there are other scales than natural so it would be much desired to re-use the same fingering or with minor changes. Or using 1-octave custom fingering to discover it is not workable for multiple octaves.

So, the question is... can I practice arpeggios using my fingerings? Safely.

For curious souls, for example I can see RH standard for A or E is 1, 2, 3 which for me creates awkward tension between 2 and 3 fingers. I found 2, 4, 1 is more smooth for wrist and fingers.

• Your italicised paragraph makes no sense to me.
– Tim
Commented May 9 at 11:40
• What kind of problems do you expect if you use different fingering for an arpeggio? Your teacher yelling at you, someone on the internet saying you're using the wrong fingering, or actual injury?
– ojs
Commented May 9 at 12:29
• @Tim What doesn't make sense about it? I read it as "I see that the standard fingering for the right hand, for A (major) or E (or D—any arpeggio that, in root position, goes white-black-white) is 1, 2, 3 (and repeats across octaves), and I find that the stretch of a third, even a minor 3rd, between two neighboring fingers creates awkward tension. I prefer to start with the A being 2nd finger, C# as 4, and E as 1 and repeat, so that the only 'neighboring fingers' are thumb and index." Commented May 9 at 13:58
• @Tim See wheaton.edu/media/migrated-images-amp-files/media/files/… . It seems to be presented without question or option. I'm leaving the answers to the pianists, but yes, I would feel cramped with the 4-1 part. Commented May 9 at 14:05
• @greenoldman in that case the sad truth is that the A arpeggio is a foundation for XXX, YYY, ZZZ, etc schemes and one fingering really doesn't work for all of them. Hands also come in different sizes so same fingerings don't work for everyone.
– ojs
Commented May 9 at 14:41

Learning your own fingering will not hamper you. In practice, arpeggios (and scales, for example) show up in many different contexts and often require variations from "standard" fingerings.1 When one is familiar enough with the arpeggios themselves, and experienced enough with applying them, changing the fingering for a specific instance is not a big deal. At first this process can be a challenge, but that's indicative of being a beginner, not of practicing the "wrong" fingering.

The primary purposes for studying arpeggios and scales is to become familiar with the major and minor keys and common patterns of notes within those keys. They also provide a useful basis for practicing other technical elements like smooth (de)crescendos or various rhythms. Fingering can be secondary to those larger goals.

The one place when practicing exercises that fingering really matters is in exercises specifically designed for developing specific fingering patters or exercising particular (combinations of) fingers. Hanon (IMSLP) is a typical example where sticking to the fingering is an integral part of each exercise.2

1 For a variety of examples of fingering adjustments for particular situations, this search will provide some relevant posts on this site.

2 This is not a recommendation to practice or not practice Hanon exercises.

• Thank you, so I will continue with my own fingering being assured I am not wrong-doing anything :-). Commented May 9 at 20:02

For starters, everyone's hands, and the way they articulate, are subtly different, so there's no answer that will necessarily fit the fingering of arpeggios for your hands.

However, several simple fingerings come to mind, because they all use the same spacing, and white/black keys. R.H is addressed in this answer.

C major, F major and G major, A minor, D minor and E minor, for example. Whatever fingering is best for you, that's the one same pattern for all.

Then we have those with a single black key on the 3rd. A, D and E major. You may want to bundle in C, F and G minors with the same fingerings, but they may be seen as a separate pattern.

E♭, A♭, D♭ (C♯) majors will also have the same pattern as each other, with just the 3rd as the white key, most likely played with thumb.

For others, you need to work out a comfortable fingering for each, and just as trying different ideas for a piece of music (part of the practice regime), only you can come up with a decent pattern. All this, if I understood the question!

Let's address this from two different angles.

If by safely, you mean to describe a situation wherein you wish to avoid damaging the tendons and tender muscles in your fingers, hands, and wrists, then I would say that your personal comfort needs to be your guide.

Steve Vai, virtuoso guitar player and student of Joe Satriani, famously damaged the tendons in his left (fretting) hand recently. He put undue strain on his hand by trying to achieve something that was ultimately not safe. He ended up having surgery.

So, you should play the arpeggios in whatever manner allows you comfortable delivery of the piece, without damaging your body. Even if it isn't precisely the way the sheet music displays the correct execution.

Now, if by safely you mean "I'm going to play this piece incorrectly by the strict guidance of the sheet music, and I don't want the band master and my fellow musicians go get mad at me for winging it," that is a matter for you to discuss with them.

If you hit the correct notes at the correct times, then your fingering technique should not be a big concern for them. In my opinion.

• Thank you for your answer, but I am surprised by your angles of "safely" meaning, because I explained it right at the first sentence of my post. Safely = compatible with possible schemes based on arpeggios. Commented May 9 at 14:06
• This seems like a great answer to a different question, one about fingering choices in general in a "real piece." The OP is asking about formulaic fingerings for practicing arpeggios as a decontextualized exercise, and these are usually taught with a particular recommended fingering pattern. @greenoldman Physical safety should be a consideration, though! I doubt that your proposed fingering is "bad for you," and I also doubt that stretching 2-3 to accommodate a third would harm you in the long run, but it's always a part of why one might choose a fingering. Commented May 9 at 14:30