I keep finding that when moving my hand and playing a note - especially when crossing my index finger over my thumb - the note is already held down by another finger. i.e. I'm not lifting the note when it's played a beat or two earlier.

I'm aware I'm doing it but can't seem to avoid it, as a new player playing two hands at once I don't have the mental capacity to remember to concentrate what each finger is doing.

Is this a common beginner error and are there specific exercises I can do to train my fingers not to linger on keys?

4 Answers 4


Releasing notes after the correct duration is all part of practising. Just as the attack of a note starting at the right time is important, so is the release.

I practice this by slowing the tempo right down, by half or even more. Whatever you need to give yourself enough 'thinking time'. Then really focus on each note length and when notes in each voice get released. Only once you can play the passage precisely at a slow speed should you gradually speed it up.


Widor's suggestion of slowing down is great. Another than can be used in conjunction with it or on its own is to play staccato. Staccato obviously necessitates lifting your fingers back off the keys, and it will change the sound drastically to ensure that you are concentrating on it. It also has the added benefit of building strength, which can help you maintain more control when you go back to playing normally.

  • 1
    I think my natural style is to play very legato so this might be good, by deliberately aiming to play staccato I might play more as the piece is intended.
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 14:22

Great responses. I recommend the following (I used to do this often):

Take any given passage that involves that "finger stuck" problem. Using the correct fingering as if you would normally play it (it would be helpful to write down the correct fingering if you are not comfortable remembering it), play those two notes (thumb and index finger) while also playing one (or two) note above and below those two note.

Slowly go up and down, up and down, gradually increasing tempo. Then, play staccato as Matthew Read suggested. Then, change the rhythm up. Then change the rhythm in a way where one (or more) notes are staccato, but one (or more) notes are non-staccato.

By "pushing" your fingers to do more, and to experience different positions, you will develop better control.

Really it comes down to what Widor said: practice. But yes, you must practice in a smart way (playing a short few notes in a variety of ways would be considered smart, IMO).

As a matter of fact, now that we are discussing this, I actually do this a LOT without even realizing it since I like to do a lot of improv. I'll be at my piano, and I'll find myself playing the same phrase multiple times in different ways <- usually when I'm just having fun and "messing" around.

  • This is a good suggestion as well. Sometimes learning to do something one way means learning all the other ways it can be done, and then not doing them :P
    – user28
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 17:27

This is a common beginner problem, and there are exercises you can use to help you. It sounds like you want to gain independence of the fingers. In addition to finding a reputable exercise volume that includes finger independence exercises, you can do the following things:

  • Practice scales, two to four octaves up and down, all twelve keys, especially with contrary motion (one hand goes up while the other goes down).
  • Practice the passages you have difficulty with very slowly, maybe 1/4 tempo, which will reduce the amount of time it will take you to learn the passage. Also play one note at a time out of rhythm.
  • Play places where you have trouble one note group, and then the next, and then repeat (out of rhythm).
  • 1
    Make that all twelve keys, both major and minor. Of course, you probably meant that, but most of my students will never work on the minor keys unless I keep pestering them about it. :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 2:41

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