What do vertical numbers above chords mean in a sheet music for the piano?

Never seen this before:

Sheet Music

What do the numbers mean? How do I play it? Thanks!

  • Note that pianists number the fingers ̶w̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ differently from most other instruments, where the index is 1. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 20:10
  • 2
    @leftaroundabout Probably because most other instruments don't use the thumb, so the index is first. Not sure how that's "wrong;" it just seems natural.
    – Doorknob
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 21:14
  • There is also "English Fingering" for piano - now very out-of-date - which uses "+" for the thumb and then 1 for the index finger etc., up to 4 for the pinky. You don't see it very often but I do have some older editions that use it. Can be very confusing.
    – JimM
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 21:41

3 Answers 3


Fingerings. A number is assigned to each finger. The numbers suggest you which fingers to use to play the note or chord.


  • So if I want to, I can safely ignore those?
    – MoritzLost
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 18:04
  • 8
    @Gin-San It's worth to try them, they are suggested for a reason. If you find another fingering that is more comfortable to you go ahead and play it your way. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 18:06

It's the fingering for the notes. I am pretty sure you know that your five fingers can be represented by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, 1 being your thumb and 5 being your pinky. When it is stacked like that, it means to play the chord using those fingers. For the first set of stacked numbers on the left, You use every finger but the middle(3) finger to play that chord. It is by no means fixed to only use that fingering, but it is recommended to do so.


Those are recommendations for fingering the chords. The fingers are numbered with 1 being the thumb and 5 being the pinky.

So in the first chord, labeled 1245, you use all fingers except your middle finger to play the chord, and in the second chord, labeled 125, you only use your thumb, index, and pinky fingers.

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