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Piano Fingering Diagram

Piano Fingering Diagram

A piano fingering diagram shows that fingering is an art that is easy in its simplest form. Fingering is a very complex system of rules meant to be broken. The simplest arrangement is five fingers in a row. All beginning piano methods start in this position.

The history of fingering is one of refinement and the breaking of rules. Carl Czerny was one of the first to number the fingers, or at least one of the first to publish a piano method that did so.

Rules Meant To Be Broken

It is interesting to examine the beginner's piano prohibitions that are broken by famous composers and pianists every day:

  1. Never have two of the same fingers in a row. Thus, it is bad form to play pinkie-pinkie, or thumb-thumb.
  2. Play with curved fingers.
  3. Follow the fingering in the book.

Regarding the first, Chopin has many passages that require two pinkies in a row, the most obvious of which is the opening theme of the G minor Ballade. And don't expect to play Rachmaninoff without similar "breaking" of the rules. I find countless places where he requires two thumbs in a row, often several feet apart on the piano keyboard, and timed a millisecond apart as well.

Curving Your Fingers

Curving your fingers is fine if that lets you play well, but many pianists use a flat fingered position, among them the very best, Vladimir Horowitz. I often use  it as well, especially in legato and melodic passages. It suits my hand, but perhaps not yours, refuting the madness of a "one size fits all" finger and hand position.

What is the physical reason for the flat finger? If you play with the pad of your finger, the last knuckle, you will have much more surface area of your finger on the piano key, whereas if you play with the tip of the finger, especially the pinkie, you will have a much smaller area to "grasp" the key.

Practice Fingers In The Abstract

Here's a fingering game that uses the fingers in the abstract sense, not as part of a song. Try it on our online piano, using the first three fingers of the right hand, thumb, index and middle fingers, for each group of three notes:

THREESIES
| 1 2 3 | 2 3 4 | 3 4 5 | 4 5 6 | 5 6 7 | 6 7 8 |

Learn The Rules, Then Break Them

As for following the fingering in piano books, I try to get children to learn the rules and then creatively break them. So if a child breaks a fingering rule but shows a clever alternate solution, I pay attention to it and reward the creativity. Even a child can perceive, after a while, that putting the right finger in the right place will be crucial.

The difference is that I get them to ask, "What is the right finger?" without slavishly following the suggestions of book. My advice is to learn and memorize the sequence of keys visually in the song you want to play. Do this long before you try to assign fingers to the groups of notes. It's easier to assign fingers when you have a feel for the "road." Trying to learn both at once (fingering and notes) can be painful for absolute piano beginners.

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