How to Develop Finger Scales on the Piano

Playing scales on the piano using the correct finger patterns will greatly increase your technique and ability to play increasingly complex music. Learning the proper fingers requires that you understand how the fingers are numbered in piano and can coordinate both hands to play scales simultaneously. The fingers are numbered from one to five, starting with the thumbs of both hands and moving outwards to the pinkies. Knowing this simple numbering protocol will make it possible for you to learn any scale.

Step 1 Play a C major scale with your right hand only. Start with the thumb on middle C. Middle C is the white key in the middle of the piano next to the set of double black keys.

Step 2 Press the next two white keys, D and E with your index and middle finger.

Step 3 Slide your thumb underneath while you are playing E and use it to play the next note in the scale, F.

Step 4 Perform the notes G, A and B by using your index, middle and ring finger. At this point, you can continue to play another octave by sliding the thumb under and starting again with Step 1, or you can end the scale by playing the final C with your pinky.

Step 5 Descend the scale by moving in the opposite direction.

Step 6 Memorize the right-hand scale pattern and then consult a fingering chart to learn the fingerings for the left hand. When you have memorized both scales, slowly learn to play with both hands together.

Step 7 Learn other scales by using a piano scale fingering chart and starting on the correct pitch. Some scales will require that you start on the second, third or fourth finger.

Learning to play hands together can be difficult. Go slowly and do not move on to the next pitch until you are certain you will play it correctly. Even if it takes you 30 seconds between notes, the fewer mistakes you make, the quicker you will learn. The black keys indicate the sharps and flats in a scale.

  • The set of two black keys are C-sharp/D-flat and D-sharp/E-flat. 
  • The group of three black keys are F-sharp/G-flat, G-sharp/A-flat and A-sharp/B-flat. 
  • Each key represents two notes. For instance, F-sharp and G-flat are the same pitch.


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