The Fingering on the Piano

Fingerings? What are they and how are they marked?

In piano playing, the fingering is a written or a thought plan of finger you play any given note in the score. The principal is very simple. Spread your right hand and give the fingers numbers from 1 to 5. Thumb is number 1, the little finger is number 5. The left hand finger numbers follow the same principle as a mirror-image. All you have to remember is that the thumb is always number 1. The numbers are printed under or above the given note.

Image of a hand showing piano finger numbers

Why does the fingering matter?

The more complex a score, the more it matters how the fingering is planned and applied by the player. It sounds very different if you play only with the thumb and the index inger compared to a balanced, 5-finger system, which allows a much more flexible transition from a note to another. This is extremely important when you play in legato or cantabile style – binding notes to “sing” with the fingers.

to each other – or when you play in multiple voices. It might not matter so much, if you play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, but it makes all the difference, if you’re preparing a piano sonata by Beethoven with an endless number of layers intertwined together, and in the end, decided how to, by the performer. When attending a music school, it is considered a good practice to begin learning fingerings with the teacher from the very beginning.

Fingerings in the score

Sometimes, the fingerings are already printed in the score. Usually, they are not marked – or only a few crucial ones are. Often, it is thought that it is the normal practice for the performer to add them while practising – this is why the professional pianists usually have a pencil within reach!

How can I know the right fingering for this particular piece?

The truth is that to almost any piece, there is no definite, one and only fingering. Advice to the correct fingerings have been given to players of piano-like keyboard at least since Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach published his work Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments) in 1753.

We all differ from each other anatomically; someone may have longer fingers, or a bigger hand, and our anatomy affects the fingering in any given piece. That is why the publishers are not eager to give printed fingerings in their scores. The same applies to us at Easypianoscores.com.

But I have no idea, on which finger I should press the keys!

Easypianoscores.com offers a customization service of fingered scores of the sheet music available in our catalogue. Don’t hesitate to contact us, if you feel the need!

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