Hand and Finger Placement

Proper hand and finger placement on the keyboard is essential. Like your right leg position, your elbows should be bent at an obtuse angle. Moreover, always keep your forearms parallel to the floor and adjust the bench so that you're not unconsciously lifting your shoulders. Once again, don't hesitate to use mats or carpet samples to add height.

Your wrists should be in a slightly flexed position. The keys should be right under your fingertips when you flex your wrists slightly upward. Be careful not to flex your wrists upward in an extreme position. Similarly, do not allow your wrists to dip or extend downward so that your fingers point upward. Also, never tense or lock your wrists. Your fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders should always feel relaxed and free of any tension.

Finger position is also critical. Always play with your fingertips. The best way to learn basic finger position is to pretend that you are holding a ball. When you do this, your hand will naturally cup, allowing you to press down on the keys with the tips of your fingers. If you extend your fingers outward, so that they are straight, you will give yourself a severe musical handicap and you won't be able to maneuver around the keyboard. When you play, you should see your knuckles. Your hand should never be flat.

One of the best ways to learn proper finger technique is to watch classical pianists perform. Classical players maintain very high technical standards, and they are extremely efficient and graceful in their movements. When observing them, their fingers will seem to travel effortlessly up and down the keyboard and they always play on their fingertips.

The good news is that when you place your hand on the keyboard, your fingers will probably automatically form a cup shape. Rarely is finger positioning a lasting problem for students. When playing the black keys, your fingers may extend a little farther to reach these notes. This is okay especially if you have small hands.

It's also important to know where to press down on the piano keys. When playing white keys, the index and middle fingers will press down slightly above the middle of the fat part of the piano key. The ring finger should press down in the middle of the key and the pinky finger should press down slightly below the middle of the key. Because of the placement of the thumb on the hand, this digit presses down on the edge of the keys. When playing chords or melodies with a lot of black keys, you should shift your basic hand position to the black notes. In this case, follow the finger position in the exact same fashion: The index and middle fingers will press down in the middle of the key, the ring finger will press down in the middle of the key, the pinky finger will press down slightly below the middle of the key, and the thumb will press down on the edge of the key. When in this position, you will play the white keys with your fingertips on the thinner part of the key. You still need to maintain a cupped shape in your hand. FIGURE 2-5 shows proper posture and arm, hand, and finger position at the piano.

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