In many piano practice worksheets, they write fingers for notes. However, different exercise uses different fingering. Sometimes, the same piece also has different fingerings.

Now given a random piece, I'd like to know how I can properly finger it? Are there any rules/tips for fingerings or it's kind of personal preference? Thanks

  • 2
    The only general answer is "get a good teacher". The fingering that is "best" for you depends both on the size and shape of your hands and your current playing ability. At an advanced level, you should also study the different styles of fingering, and the different playing techniques that used them, over the time period since keyboard instruments were first invented. You can find lots of information on the Web and videos on YouTube - but I'm not going to spend my own time reading and watching to recommend "good ones".
    – user19146
    May 1, 2016 at 23:41
  • You might be able to find some guidance in these questions: music.stackexchange.com/questions/16565/piano-fingering?rq=1, and my answer here: music.stackexchange.com/questions/32787/…
    – Josiah
    May 2, 2016 at 1:02
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    I hardly play piano at all, but there are weird fingerings on violin as well. Particularly, knowing when the best time to shift into a different position is. Sometimes, I've wondered where I learned this ability, and I suppose it's from countless hours of playing weird scales and -- on piano -- doing exercises in different positions. Try playing the same etude in a different key and see where your fingers fall. You shouldn't have to stretch your fingers more than a few notes; it should be natural. May 2, 2016 at 3:26

1 Answer 1


The first obvious (and therefore not really helpful ha) suggestion:

Experiment. If you're having trouble with a section, play around with a couple different ways of doing it, even try things that seem unintuitive or "wrong", you may be surprised by something.

But now for the real tips:

Think in phrases. First read through the whole piece, and gain an understanding of how things generally play out, where things repeat ideas, what areas are similar to each other, etc. Then go through the piece phrase by phrase, not measure by measure or line by line, but musical phrase by phrase. Phrases are meant to have some sort of internal consistency, so the fingers should help achieve that.

Think in bursts. Usually music is written similarly to the spoken word, in that there are bursts of activity that can be thought of as sentences or words. Since most of the point of writing finger numbers is to help you execute things, and since the most difficult things are those that are fastest or closest together, these bursts of motion are good units to think about your fingers. If the bursts come across right, then the pauses or slower sections between bursts will usually fall into place.

Think in hand positions. As you are figuring out your phrases and bursts, try to understand what chords and scales are happening underneath the notes, and try to lump groups of notes together into hand positions. The biggest fingering challenge is to change hand positions, so if you understand where those positions are, and minimize how often you need to change them, the fingers should be much easier.

Think about where your fingers need to go next. At the end of the day, if you've already successfully gotten to one point of the music, then the previous stuff has been handled. Always think about where the music is going to demand you move next, and try to optimize what you're doing to make those next movements easy. If you need to go up, your hand should be "opened" upwards, etc etc.

Think about "hand symmetry". This one can be surprising. Although hands alone practice and analysis is always a good idea, try sorting out phrases and bursts with the other hand as well. It might be easier to do something in one hand if the other is doing something similar. Of course don't let this be a crutch or let it dictate bad decisions to you, but take advantage of it when it appears.

Make sure your fingers fit the final intended interpretation. One of the biggest reasons practicing in units of bursts and phrases is essential is because that's a small enough amount of information for you to quickly build to full speed and voicing and articulation etc. In the same way that your legs do completely different things when they're walking vs running, your fingers have to do completely different things when they're going fast vs slow or loud vs soft or staccato vs legato. Don't just "learn the notes" and then try to slap that other stuff on top, that other stuff is fundamental to the way the "notes" are actually executed.

  • 1
    Great answer. I would add a few more considerations: Think about strong vs. weak fingers. I.e. thumbs can occasionally come to the rescue to make a voice stand out, especially when "lost" between the left and right hand. Or to finish a scale or arpegio when a more intuitive 5th wouldn't have enough power. Likewise, think of weak combinations: the 3rd and 4th fingers share the same ligament, making them not ideal for fast repeats (e.g. trills and mordents).
    – Lolo
    May 3, 2016 at 18:26
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    Nice to see someone actually took the time to answer and not just say to find a teacher.
    – Caleb
    May 28, 2016 at 13:47

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