I'm just now learning the correct fingering for when practicing scales and arpeggios. Scales are going quite well, but when I practice arpeggios, I seem to have a lot of trouble with my thumb placement. More specifically when I move to the second octave.

For example with a C major arpeggio, I press C > E > G with my thumb, indexfinger and middlefinger. But then I need to move my thumb all the way across to the next C underneath my hand. My wrist feels very uncomfortable when I do this. I also often press the C key very hard because I need to move my thumb very quickly in order to make it in time. Even if I try to start out slowly. I try to move my elbow to the right when doing this movement and it helps slightly, but it still feels uncomfortable in my wrist.

Does anyone have any tips on this issue that might help? Or is it really just practicing slowly until it gets better? The uncomfortable feeling makes me think I'm doing something wrong.

4 Answers 4


The arm places the thumb. Using just your arm and gravity - not your thumb's abductor, play your thumb down on C, then from the arm, lift up the arm and hand and leading with your elbow play the octave higher C.

Regarding your wrist pain, a lot of times when a pianist crosses the thumb under the palm, they anticipate the next finger position and twist the wrist. This is called ulnar deviation going up and radial deviation going down. Eventually, too much twisting can cause problems. It will surely make you play unevenly and make your hands feel weak. Get your playing into your arms before you start using your fingers (forearm muscles).

To help propel your arm, and thumb, use your pronator and supinator muscles to rotate the forearm. They are located around your elbow. With your arm in front of your chest, rotate left and right very fast. Notice how fast you can move your thumb and pinky and notice that they don't fatigue at all. Those are the muscles you should use to play the thumb.

Also, because of rotation, remember that every motion has an equal and opposite motion. Using your pronator to play the first note with your thumb actually should start with supination. The rotation in the opposite direction gives the finger power and speed without using any muscles that actually move the fingers.

Throw something. Notice that you first swing in the opposite direction you are throwing the object. You need that in your piano playing but up, down, in, out, left and right. Try to play with a "still and quiet hand" and you will indeed create tension. Play from the arm and the hand will be still and quiet.


It's not so much making your thumb go underneath the fingers/palm as moving your whole hand. As soon as you've played the first C, the whole hand should have started to move right. By the time your middle finger hits the G, your thumb should be under that part of your palm. Whole hand then continues gently right, putting the thumb onto the next C.

The thump on that C is because you play the first three notes, then start to move your whole hand. Imagine instead your hand gently flowing to the right as each note gets played. As you then hit the second C, it stretches out so the other fingers are in line with the last three notes.

It all needs to be done in real slomo to start with, listening for even play on every note. Gradually, over a week, speed up, and you'll find it'll flow like it should.

When you come to play chromatics, the same trick works - concentrate on keeping the whole hand moving, with the wrist at the same height all the time.

  • 1
    That's something you'll have to work out, dependent somewhat on how long your fingers are and how pliable your hand is. Trying to play legato, as arps are often played, requires the notes to flow into each other, not bleed into each other.
    – Tim
    Jan 30, 2019 at 14:34
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    @Albrecht Hügli I always do some research before asking a question on here, but I was unable to find information on my specific situation. That is not to say that there isn't any. Perhaps my search term was incorrect or I used the wrong terminology.
    – TJRC
    Jan 30, 2019 at 14:45
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    Tipsi, this was not a critic. My comment was not finished, as I looked up the mailbox the comment has been posted. What I was going to say is that you'll find further advice when you look up here how to get speed in Chopin op. 10;1. I have found pdf of Cortot and Godowsky in IMLP and was surprised that they were not mentioned in the answers to this questions. Jan 30, 2019 at 14:53
  • 1
    @AlbrechtHügli - it's always possible to re-write a comment, add what's needed, post it, then delete the original comment.
    – Tim
    Jan 30, 2019 at 15:17
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    It's way too soon to decide it's the preferred answer! There may well be other far better ones in the pipeline from people who have to do other things, like work for a living!
    – Tim
    Jan 30, 2019 at 15:21

I assume you are using this fingering...

enter image description here

Obviously, you are having trouble with the transition from finger 3 to 1, the G4 to C5 move.

First thought: if playing the C major chord is considered easy, because so much beginner stuff is in C major, reconsider that all white key passages can be harder than a mix of black and white keys.

Try playing this arpeggio on B major. It should fit the right hand much more naturally. You can use this as a sort of transitional pattern to get the feel of passing the thumb under in an easier position. Compare it to the movement on C major.

Try playing the arpeggio descending as well as ascending. It shifts the which finger is last in the first position and first in the next. In other words, when ascending finger 3 is sort of 'holding' the first position, then finger 1 is in movement to get to the next position. When descending the finger roles are reversed, finger 1 is holding the first postion, finger 3 is in movement. It's a subtle difference, but it might help you get comfortable with the crossing under.

Also, you might try playing the full octave like this C4, E4, G4, C5 with fingering 1, 2, 3, 5. Then to change position you make a repeated note fingering on C5 using fingers 5, 1. Obviously, this doesn't directly practice passing the thumb under, but it will help with two things: help finger 1 spatially find C5, and contracting the hand to bring fingers 1 and 5 together. Both of those should help develop your hand and benefit crossing under.


I fully agree with Tim!

To get faster you have to move the whole hand (first looking and then trying to play "blind" (closed eyes):

  1. try to catch/touch the 3 black keys over all octaves from down to up by your 1. finger on f# (right hand)
  2. the same catch/touch with closed the 2 black keys starting with C#
  3. when you have the orientation for finding the black keys try to find with closed eyes the key of C playing with your thumb and touching c# and d# with fingers 2 and 3 across all the octaves.
  4. start to get more speed by playing the full triad (not arpeggio but the whole chord)
  5. the same as ex. 4. but playing c-e-g-c by 1-2-3-5

look up for Chopin op. 10,1 in IMSLP, (also Godowsky and Cortot) and look the advises in this SE

searching for Chopin etudes, CORTOT and Godowsky.

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