From BWV 914, Toccata in E minor, Fuga:

My Henle edition marks 5-1 for the first four pairs of fifths starting from F#, E, D, C#, but doesn't give fingerings for the next 6 pairs of fifths.

What would you recommend? I'm inexperienced and wonder if using 5 for the top note in each fifth is really efficient. Thanks in advance! I included screenshots of two public domain versions:

(Version 1: bars 4 & 5): Version 2

(Version 2: equivalently, bars 2 & 3): Version 1


2 Answers 2


I can't find the passage in question, but in general, I play parallel 5ths moving up or down a scale by alternating between 5-2 and 4-1. If you can't reach that stretch, then playing 5-1 and 4-1 is another option (in this case, keep the top line legato, and it will be okay if the bottom line is disconnected a little bit).

Either way, it's a little tricky because you need to be able to make that 5-4 crossover smoothly. If you're having trouble, you can practice that by playing scales using only those two fingers.


As it turns out, I was assuming that the 5ths were chords; I wasn't expecting them to be broken. In this case, playing 1-5 and walking your hand down the keyboard would be possible, but I would consider playing 5-2 when the lower note is on a black key. In this case, a rigid alternation between 5-2 and 4-1 would be fairly awkward.

I did neglect to add this disclaimer: since I have no idea how large your hands are, I'm assuming that they're about an average size for a guy who's about 5 feet 6 inches tall (coincidentally, that's how large my hands are). If your hands are smaller, you'll probably favor using 5-1 for all the intervals, and if they're larger, you'll feel more comfortable using 5-2. In the end, it's all about what feels best for you; these are just suggestions to try. In this situation, the fingering isn't all that critical, so feel free to experiment!


I play those with 5 on most of the upper notes, and a 4 here and there on a black key... thumb on the lower note except when it's a black key then usually 2. Practice them blocked (i.e., as an interval sounded together) then open to play as written.

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