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#1014812 - 08/18/07 05:17 AM A five finger exercise -what do you think?
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 303
Loc: UK
I thought I would post this exercise I am developing. I am a musician but a beginner pianist so keep this in mind. Comments from the more experienced welcome.

The purpose
To gain flexibility and control in the fingers
To gain mastery of the first five notes of the major scale
To bed in the "Closed five finger position"

I am not referring to the fingerings of the major scale used when running the whole scale, but to the fingering of the closed five finger position only.

Here is the exercise

1] Using the fist finger for the first note, the second for the second..... etc play the C major scale up to G ensuring one finger per note, then back again to the root

2] When comfortable then play this with both hands

3] play the same using all twelve keys (Bb is a killer at first!) in both hands. I recommend not using the same sequence of key changes. By this I mean first go say C C# D, E, F etc, then next time around the cycle of fourths C, F, Bb etc - a bit harder for the brain at first but you get the advantage of practicing changes (ignore this comment if you want to)

4] When comfortable with this, play very simple patterns using all or some of the fingers (maybe better to start with just a few). Each time ensure that you are using the correct fingers

here are some examples:
135 (triad)
531 (triad)
123 5 (first four notes of the pentatonic scale)

The aim at this stage is to be able to play any simple pattern in unison with both hands

Once this is accomplished and very comfortable there is a phase two

Phase two:
Aim to coordinate both hands whilst playing different patterns:
In the left hand play a simple bass pattern. In the right a simple melody using mostly on beats to start with.
LH 13531 RH 12345
LH 135 RH 54321
LH 531 RH 5531
(you might like to write out a few of these patterns for yourself and see if they work - if they sound horrible analyse the intervals used)

2 Take through all twelve keys (this is not that hard when you get used to it!)

3 When comfortable vary the patterns, first by keeping one hand to a pattern you already have accomplished, and adding another you have already accomplished but with a different pattern - for example take the left hand of the first pattern above and combine it with the right hand of the third pattern.

4] If a pattern does not sound great - dont use it simple!

The aim of this exercise so far is to enable both hands to play the first five notes of any scale in any key in a flexible and comfortable way, here is some more advanced stuff:

a]Use the thumb and little fingers to incorporate the seventh tone (one step left on the right hand one step right on the left) and the sixth tone (one step right)
b] Start incorparting a couple of quavers to replace a crotchet

c]Incorporate syncopation

d] Incorporate chromatic tones ( as passing notes)

e] move your five finger position away from the first five notes of the scale. What I mean here is use the C major scale but start your fingering on say D or F. These will be the first five tones of the modes of the scale.

f] Use other scales such as the minors, whole tone etc.


When you think about it, this extended exercise incorporates a lot. You are getting your fingers coordinated in a number of ways, geting used to your keys, thinking about hearing and practising patterns, consolidating unison playing (in the first phase). It also gets your fingers used to esily playing in the "cracks" between the white and black keys.

What it does not incorporte:
The standard fingerings of whole scales
The movement of the thumb underneath
Large spans
Does not address typical chord change sequences

A similar exercise could be developed for arpeggios.

Comments anyone?


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#1014813 - 08/18/07 11:00 AM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Being willing to come up with your own exercises (playing an awkward bar in plenty of various keys/rhythms/dynamics) will really help when you come across difficult passages. Make sure you're aware of the different hand shapes needed for each black/white key configuration.
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.

#1014814 - 08/18/07 01:35 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
my teacher always advocates making up own exercises, even for 5 finger ones. he showed me (in responsse to one of my problems) what variations of finger sequence could be done in even 5-finger position. it's interesting and useful. this is part of what my teacher described as 'smart practice', but unfortunately i don't always remember doing such practice.

#1014815 - 08/18/07 03:27 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 303
Loc: UK
Do't know abvout hand shapes - care to enlarge Keyboardklutz?

thanks Zero

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#1014816 - 08/18/07 04:33 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
jotur Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 6364
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
ZeroZero, again I appreciate your posts and your laying out how you think about learning.

It seems to me that as adults we've had similar experiences of learning many times in our lives - whether we learning to make music, or specifically to play piano, or sports, tennis or golf or bowling or archery or math or whatever, and that the approaches to learning are transferable, as you transfer your approaches from other instruments to piano. When I was ski racing we'd memorize courses from the bottom up because the way we exited one gate depended on how we wanted to enter the next one, or vice-versa - but the whole course was interlocked and one had to "set up" to get the line that gave us the fastest run. And lo and behold, that's true for fingering on the piano, too - it's connected from measure to measure, and while particular fingering on particular scales can be helpful in getting to know one's way around the piano, in an actual piece there may well be a context in which a different fingering is easier for getting to or from some place. We'd also, in ski racing, run the whole course over and over in our mind's eye - now it's called visualizing and it's used for many many different activities - and you'd see racers standing around the mountain with their eyes closed and their heads bobbing gracefully. And that process is transferable to piano playing, too. So is the "chunking", the playing in meaningful phrases, and, in particular, the actual transferring a way of learning from one activity to another. You illustrate that process well, and I appreciate it.

When I was teaching basic math to adults who were returning to college it was some of the best part of the fun to learn from them how they were using, consciously in many cases, the ways they knew how to learn in learning math.

So again, thanks for your posts -


Practice like you are the worst; play like you are the best - anonymous

#1014817 - 08/18/07 04:59 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Hand shape changes as you do the same figuration but in different keys. The new black/white note arrangement governs how your hand shapes itself. In the late 19th century there was a drive to preserve the fingering of similar passages when transposed even if it was awkward. That's why equalization of fingers was so important. William Townsend is one of the few who wrote about how each modulation affected the hand shape. If you search at http://www.archive.org for The Musical Educator you'll find his articles on piano playing there. I'm afraid I can't remember (and I'm not at home) which volume has his modulated figures.
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.

#1014818 - 08/18/07 07:51 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Some of the difficulty factor might be removed if you thought of the 5 Finger Positions as simply always using 5 consecutive alphabet notes of the keyboard and always using the same order of your five fingers. Everything is named from the white keys.

The black notes that you put into place (only 5 black keys) are "ELEVATIONS" of your fingers moving upward and forward (extensions)from the white keys locations to their new # or b identity.

From the white key group D-E-F-G-A you can play either D Major as D-E-F#-G-A or Db-Eb-F-Gb-Ab. From white key A-B-C-D-E you can play A Major as A-B-C#-D-E or Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb. Etc for other white key groups.

If you discover your options of sharpening or flattening from the white keys adjacent letter names, the work of spelling 5 Finger Positions can be done more quickly and you begin to "get" how the fingers are played automatically upon certain keys.

Keyboard Graphics are very helpful, but it is also valuable to be able to find them in the way I am describing, because then you have to options for success in placing them quickly and comfortable into position.

A game you can play with yourself is: If I put a 2 on the Db/C# what position am I in? Name it both ways as a # key and as a b key.

If I put a 3 on C# what position am I in? 4? 5? And, then transfer the question to the next black note Eb/D#. Then Gb/F#, Ab/G#, Bb/A#.

If anybody actually does this and finds it helpful, please let me know. It works grand at the piano with my students as it's a big discovery process. It does take some time to do this, so don't expect to do all 5 very quickly. Get one correct, then go on one at a time for think about each one in turn. No rush!

#1014819 - 08/20/07 04:30 PM Re: A five finger exercise -what do you think?
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 303
Loc: UK
Thanks Betty I am keeping my fingrs consistent


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