I have a chord that requires a different hand position from the music surrounding it. Because it is only one note, I think it is unnecessary to indicate recommended position instead of recommended fingering. How do I show which finger number belongs to which note? I've come up with this: Possible fingering notation for a chord

but there is uncertainty about what string the notes are on at a glance (the whole reason for adding fingerings in the first place) and about whether the fingerings go from top to bottom or bottom to top. How would this be notated?

Note: I realize that sustained three note chords are (almost) impossible to play on a violin/viola/cello, but they can still be rolled, and the same problem applies to double stops.

EDIT: The fingering in the image is wrong. It should be 5 (or 4+), 3, 1. The fingering is for viola, starting on C string.

  • 1
    " It should be 5 (or 4+), 3, 1" What is finger 5 supposed to mean, for a string player? The thumb is irrelevant on violin and viola - the fingers are numbered 1 2 3 4, and 0 means an open string. On the cello, the thumb (used in higher positions) is marked as +. As @MattPutnam said, unless you have specified a non-standard tuning there is only one way for a player with normal sized hands to play this chord, so fingering it is irrelevant.
    – user19146
    Jul 27, 2016 at 22:43
  • @alephzero I use 5 or 4+ to mean an extended fourth finger. That is, place your fourth finger one note (either half or whole step, depending on position and key) above where it would normally be. I'm not sure what is usually used, but I've seen 4+ before. And fingering is quite relevant. Try glancing at that image and see if you could play that with one look, and no fingerings, while in an orchestra.
    – cat40
    Jul 27, 2016 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


I'm used to seeing this for chord fingering:

enter image description here

Image source

In case it's not clear, as spacing requires, sometimes the numbers are above the staff rather than below, but they are always arranged vertically and corresponding to the notes of the chord. I.e., the bottom of the three numbers is the finger to use for the lowest note of the chord, etc.


I'm not a violist, but I'm thoroughly confused by your fingering. There's only one way to play this chord, and I can't see how "3-3-1" describes it.

At any rate, since there's only one way to play this chord, there's no need to mark a fingering at all.

  • I realized I screwed up the fingering when I tried to play it. Also, it's for viola, on C, G, and D strings. As for "one way to play it" (a common fallacy), there are always multiple ways. They may involve alternate tunings, but they exist. Also, the fingerings are there so a violist can reasonably play it the first or second time though, without having to stop and read all three notes, scratch head, and try to play it. Obviously, one would figure out the best fingering for the individual later.
    – cat40
    Jul 27, 2016 at 19:44
  • 1
    I upvoted this answer, but I would say that even if there is only one way to finger something, making fingering explicit in sheet music can be useful for many reasons, such as when doing one's own transcriptions for one's own reading, or when teaching. Jul 27, 2016 at 20:32

I most commonly see fingerings for double-stops placed above or below the staff (or even the finger for the top note above and the finger for the lower note below the staff), as in the last pair shown here:

Fingering example

For 3- and 4-note chords such a stacked fingering tends to disrupt staff spacing, so I often see fingerings stuffed next to the chord in the staff itself, as on the first chord shown in the image. (The four-note chord in the image also has the redundant shorthand III underneath which indicates that it should be played in third position.)

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