If you have ever observed a beginner, you may have noticed how awkward playing the piano can look when a player’s fingering is not right, however instructor’s opinions on the topic of correct fingering can vary. There are some who are of the school of thought that the correct fingering is strictly important at all times, while others advocate a more free-style fingering approach.

While neither school of thought is strictly right or wrong, let me share my own perspective on the topic of piano fingering positions for those seeking the ideal way to learn how to play piano.

The length of a player’s fingers will vary from person to person, but our thumbs are always shorter than our fingers. Our thumb is also a bit stronger than our fingers. The most common fingers used are generally the thumb, second finger or index finger, and the little (pinky) finger or fifth finger, however the first three are generally stronger than the last two.

Some general rules are as follows:

1. Try not to play black keys with your thumb. However, here there are some exceptions: If the piece has all black notes, then obviously playing black keys with your thumb cannot be avoided.

The reason why playing black keys with your thumb is not recommended is due to the shorter length of your thumb. It is generally recommended that black notes be played with your second or third fingers, even when playing scales that start with a black note. In this case you start playing the scale with your second or third finger instead of your thumb.

2. If you are playing a melody and need to play a key that is beyond your reach, you can move your hand to reach the note you need to play. When the key is only a step or two lower than your current thumb position, then you can anchor your thumb and move the second finger left so as to reach the note left of your thumb. The hand does not need to move, but only the second finger. Once the note is played, your thumb can be moved left if needed.

3. This rule also applies to the left hand.

4. Whenever you can, watch experienced pianists and see how they position their fingers. Learning to imitate their finger positions can be a great learning experience, especially musicians who are classically trained as musicians at this level tend to be well trained with many years of experience. They have usually undergone years of training of a structured repertoire as well as virtuoso training beyond that of other musicians.

Keep in mind that the goal in getting the right fingering is to ensure a high level of smoothness in musical passages. This is especially important when playing the work of classical composers, who’s work can be great to learn for practice. Learning the work of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven and playing it well can, for example help to mold a piano player who is aiming for a higher level.