I have recently published a series of three articles for Pianist Magazine on fingering, and as always there is a video demonstration for each available on YouTube. In my first article, I outline some of the basic fingering principles as well as giving some suggestions for choosing a fingering. In the second article, I explore fingerings for scales, arpeggios and chords.

CPEB by Löhr

The principles for scale fingerings in use today were first proposed by C.P.E. Bach in his treatise, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753). There are two main principles.

  1. Neither the thumb nor the 5th finger are used on black keys (the exceptions are the arpeggios of F sharp major and E flat minor)
  2. Each scale is made up of a short group (123) and a long group (1234) in alternation.

There are some useful pointers:

  • Long fingers (2nd, 3rd and 4th) usually play on black keys
  • Short fingers (thumb and 5th) go on white keys
  • The 4th finger appears only once in each octave* – if you are struggling to remember the fingering for a scale, just notice where the 4th fingers go and use these notes as anchors.

*not counting situations when the 4th finger substitutes for the thumb (B major and minor LH bottom; F major and minor RH top)

C Major Fingering

We get great value from the C major fingering, since it applies to several other scales too. Once we have learned C major we can use the identical fingering for C, D, E, G and A majors and minors. That’s 10 scales in all! The diagram below shows the fingering for an ascending then descending scale over two octaves.

It’s helpful to notice:

  • 3rd fingers always come together
  • Thumbs come together on the key notes in the middle of the scale (but do not come together elsewhere)

You will spot other fingering patterns too. Instead of learning the C major group of scales from a scale book that uses staff notation, simply follow this diagram as you play, making absolutely sure you stick to this fingering each and every time.

There have been numerous attempts at revamping scale fingerings in order to find more natural positions better suited to the hand. For example, this alternative fingering for F harmonic minor (LH) places the 4th finger on a black key and you may find it ergonomically superior to the standard one.

For detailed practice suggestions and video demonstrations on scales and arpeggios, as well as other resources, follow this link to the Online Academy

And finally, here is the video I made for Pianist Magazine.

***   ***   ***

If you enjoyed this article then please click here if you’d like to sign-up to our mailing list to receive future articles, content updates and special offers. You may also be interested in the following resources:

Practising the Piano eBook Series 

There are surprisingly few books that deal with the art of practising. This multimedia eBook series contains hundreds of videos, audio clips, music examples and downloadable worksheets to show you exactly what need to do in order to get the most out of your practice time. Click here for more information.

Practising the Piano Online Academy

Building on my blog posts and eBook series, the Online Academy takes my work to the next level with a comprehensive library of lessons, masterclasses and resources combined with insights from other leading experts. Aimed at piano teachers and pianists, it will transform the way you approach playing or teaching the piano!

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or on one of the options below to subscribe:

  • Monthly subscription – Subscribe for £7.99 a month to get full, unlimited access to all Online Academy articles and updates (click here to sign-up for this option)
  • Annual subscription – Save over 15% on the monthly subscription with an annual subscription which gives you access to all articles and updates for £79.99 per year (click here to sign-up for this option)
  • Premium subscription – Purchase an annual subscription for  £79.99 per year and get an eBook bundle including the complete Practising the Piano Multimedia eBook series and Annotated Study Edition bundle (combined value of £56.00) for an additional once off payment of £20 (click here to sign-up for this option)

From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up is a series devoted to learning individual pieces using outlines and reduced scores that help you to practise more effectively, memorise more consciously, and interpret music more creatively. Each From the Ground Up edition starts with a reduced score or foundation which reveals the essential structure of the music. Detail is then added in layers through successive scores thus enabling learning a piece from the ground up rather than the top down. Please click here to find out more about From the Ground Up on the Online Academy or on one of the following links to view the first two editions: