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I am taking piano lessons, and my teacher has taught me the scales and chords/arpeggios for the keys of C, G, D, A, and E. So far, the fingerings for the chords of each key have been the same- fingers 1, 3, and 5 on each hand. For example, for a C chord:

Left hand:     Right hand:
5 on C         1 on C
3 on E         3 on E
1 on G         5 on G

This seems natural to me, especially since I can play the 4-note or the 2-note of chords without adjusting where my hands are. However, the fingering for B was taught differently. For a B chord, I'm taught:

Left hand:     Right hand:
5 on B         1 on B
3 on D#        2 on D#
2 on F#        3 on F#

As you can see, neither hand is 1-3-5 fingers, and the hands are different from each other. I would have thought that with 5-3-2 on the left hand, then the right hand would perhaps be 1-3-4.

My teacher is university-trained and has been playing/teaching her whole life, but she did not have a ready answer when I asked why the fingering for B was different that way, especially the right hand. She might come back with an answer during a later lesson (which is fine- I'm doing as taught even if I don't fully understand), but I was wondering:

Does anyone know why the fingering for B would be done this way?

Is there some advantage which I don't yet realize, some common note progressions that this facilitates, or some easier way to change to other common chords?

Edit: For example, I am thinking that the right hand 1-2-3 positioning would make some song melodies more difficult to play in the key of B (e.g., the "Ode to Joy"), and quite a few songs that I am familiar with use the notes 1 through 5 heavily in their melodies. If playing these in the key of B, maybe for these I would use a different positioning, but does the 1-2-3 positioning offer any benefits that I might not be seeing?

(Note: I realize that there are probably other ways that B is taught. I'm not trying to find a better or different way with this question. I am only trying to find out the reasoning for this particular fingering.)

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    Funny that even she doesn't even know why she's teaching you that fingering. While I often play the highest note of a chord with the fourth finger of my right hand because it's much stronger than my fifth finger, the only reason why I would use my third finger is if I need my fourth and fifth fingers to play some higher notes right before or after the chord. – Todd Wilcox Jan 28 '17 at 17:02
  • @ToddWilcox I agree, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt since she's my teacher. Also, I think most of her students are younger kids so she probably hasn't had to answer many questions like this :P – elmer007 Jan 28 '17 at 17:07
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    When I teach, I ask myself all of these question because I don't just repeat what I've been told. IMHO that's not teaching. If I don't know why I'm teaching something I either find out or don't teach it that way. – Todd Wilcox Jan 28 '17 at 17:10
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    I can - sort of - see the case for the left hand. You are avoiding putting your thumb on the black key (f#) which twists the hand out of position slightly. The right hand I can't understand but, oddly, it is how I always do it. Don't know why - probably how I was taught. – JimM Jan 28 '17 at 20:50
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The reason why you are not using 1-3-5 in either hand for a B chord is that your first and fifth fingers are shortest, and the black keys are furthest away. Using 5-3-2 and 1-2-3 simply avoids having 1s or 5s on black keys. These fingerings make intuitive sense to me (also university-trained), but I can imagine that 1-2-3 is uncomfortable for beginning piano players, since you need to stretch your hand a bit.

I would see no problems with other fingerings like 1-2-4 (RH) or 5-4-2 (LH). You mention 1-3-4, which is fine, but I would argue that it is less comfortable than 1-2-4 since this way you don't have to span a third with 3-4. Again, that is perfectly possible, but given the choice I would prefer 1-2-4.

  • Depends on the shape and length of your fingers. 1-3-4 works best for me for the right hand, then 1-2-4. But a lot would also depend on dynamic context too, and I might favor 1-2-3 if I had a melody or a seventh to play with my 4 or 5. – Bradd Szonye Jan 28 '17 at 22:14
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    @BraddSzonye Thank you for your edit! Somehow I assumed it was about b minor. In the case of a D# 1-3-4 makes more sense, too. I might still be somewhat concerned about playing the D# too loudly, but it indeed also depends on hand shape. – 11684 Jan 28 '17 at 22:48
  • @11684 Thanks for this answer. When you say that the fingerings make intuitive sense, do you mean that this is how you play B? If so, do any disadvantages become apparent when you think of playing it some other way? For example, with RH 1-2-3, I imagine that some common note patterns in melodies (e.g., Ode to Joy, if played in the key of B) would be rather difficult. A number of songs that I am familiar with use the notes 1 through 5 heavily in their melodies, and I am thinking that they would be difficult to play in B like this. – elmer007 Jan 30 '17 at 15:43
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    @elmer007 I was exclusively referring to a situation where the triad is notated as a chord or arpeggiation. Then I would play it with these fingers. In the case of a melody in B (that is to say, if there are other notes present), it depends heavily on the shape, range, speed and countless other characteristics of the specific melody. It is impossible to say anything about the fingering of a piece of music without seeing the specific piece, let alone solely based on the key of the piece. – 11684 Jan 30 '17 at 15:51
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All I can think of is that l.h. B sort of reflects the scale fingering, in that index goes on D#, then on F#. Now, you can't play both with the same finger, so middle takes over D#. But that's weird.

Both hands for the B chord leave it easy to put the octave, 7th or 6th on top with thumb (l.h.) and pinky (r.h.).

However, if that's teacher's thinking, and it's good, why hasn't the same idea been followed with C. It's entirely possible to play C, l.h.5,3,2 and r.h.1,2,3, again leaving an extra digit to play an octave root, 6th, 7th, on top, without any changes.

As Todd says, and I entirely agree, I must have good reason for anything 'being that way'. Just because I say so isn't enough. And certainly not just because one of my teachers said so, years ago! However - I, as often as possible, give options, because I do it one way doesn't necessarily mean a student will find that the best.

Your best option is to experiment a little, as there are often two, or three different fingerings for the same thing. And show teacher that they work just as well! I chuckle when scales have to be played with only this fingering. Chances are in a piece in that key, playing a run - usually less than an octave - a different fingering works better than the 'scale' one.

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