Finding and Choosing Piano Fingering

Open up a score of piano music, and the chances are you will find fingering suggested by an editor, and sometimes even by the composer. If you consult a different edition of the same work, the fingering is likely to be different. What does this tell us? There can be no standardisation of fingering, no matter whether it is from the composer, an editor, or a teacher. The only correct fingering is the one that works for your hand. Fingering in any score is a suggestion only!

“The only correct fingering is the one that works for your hand!”

Once a fingering has been selected, practising always with that fingering means that after a while the series of finger strokes will become automated – we will not have to think about which finger goes where because when we master a new motor skill, we go from active effort (thinking and concentrating) to automatic ability.


If we haven’t taken the trouble to organise a good fingering or we practise with different fingerings each time, we make life difficult for ourselves – especially if we are preparing a memorised performance. Practice makes permanent, so whatever we engrave on our motor cortex is going to stick. This is why it is very difficult to correct embedded errors later – and this includes sloppy fingering.

Suggestions for choosing fingering

The following are some suggestions for choosing and embedding fingering:

  • Fingering in any score is a suggestion only. Consult as many different editions as possible (IMSLP is a great online reference source, and often has multiple editions of standard works, each with its own editorial fingering).
  • It is vital to consider the eventual tempo, as well as the dynamic level, articulation, phrasing, shaping, timing and tone quality when working out a fingering (as much as is possible at the start).
  • Keep the hand closed as much as possible, avoiding stretches between the fingers that can lead to tension.
  • Avoid staying too long in one fixed position. Frequent changes in hand position keep the hand mobile, and thus free of tension.
  • Fingering that feels fine when playing each hand alone might not work so well when playing hands together. Try to organise the fingering with both hands together (after which you can practise hands separately).
  • As you start embedding the fingering during the process of practising, you might find you want to change some of it. Allow a small window of time to do this before settling on your final fingering.
  • Commit to the fingering you have chosen and it will soon reach the automatic stage.

Principles of Piano Fingering – Online Workshop

Join us on Sunday 13th June @ 16:00 – 17:30 BST (GMT + 1) for an online workshop in which Graham Fitch explores the principles of piano fingering, showing how to choose the best fingering for your hand to find solutions to the technical and musical challenges. The following topics will be covered:

  • Basic principles of identifying and choosing fingering
  • Pitfalls to avoid e.g. unnecessary stretching between the fingers
  • How to factor in the eventual tempo, touch and articulation, etc. when selecting a fingering
  • How to embed a fingering, once selected, so that it becomes automated
  • Tips for hand redistribution and solving problems for players with small hands

 Click here for more information or to book your place!


Tips for Choosing Piano Pieces

Many pianists tend to choose piano pieces that they feel drawn to playing, but how does one know whether these pieces are right for you? Is the piece at a suitable level of difficulty for your ability and available practice time? How will the piece support your musical development? Given the vastness of the piano repertoire, are you also perhaps missing out on other works which might be a better fit?

In this post we share some tips and ideas to help you avoid common pitfalls and select piano pieces that help you get the most out of your playing!

choosing piano pieces

Consider easier pieces

Pianists often hanker after the most challenging pieces in the repertoire at the expense of building a broad base of repertoire that includes easier pieces that offer more immediate gratification. Quick studies can be an excellent way to increase your active repertoire, improve your ability to learn music faster and expose you to new styles.

Fill the gaps

By primarily choosing pieces we’re drawn to, we often overlook how our pieces might aid in our musical and technical development. Perhaps consider selecting some pieces based on technical or musical gaps that you wish to address e.g. an area of technique you wish to improve or a style that is unfamiliar to you.  

Finding the right level

To avoid being bogged down by pieces that are too difficult and losing motivation, assess the difficulty of a piece you’re planning on learning by doing a read through and identifying trouble spots from the outset. If you find too many of these that feel daunting then the piece might possibly be a step too far. You may even consider tackling some of these “quarantine spots” upfront (a great way to start if you do end up learning the piece!).

Once you’ve started learning the piece, do review how long it is taking you to learn and whether you’re making steady progress. If you find that you’re not making much progress despite regular, consistent practising then you may wish to reconsider your choice.

To select pieces that are broadly the right level, you might want to use examination syllabuses as a guideline or researching comments on the difficulty of pieces in discussion forums. Even if you’re not taking an examination, the syllabuses offer a graded set of possibilities and the often the chance to discover some exciting new works!

Try something new

Being exposed to a wider variety of pieces aids your overall development as a musician. Try choosing pieces by composers that you haven’t played before or possibly works in keys you haven’t played in often. Not only will this help you improve as a pianist, but you might also discover new things that you like!

Mix it up

It’s ideal to aim for a balance of projects at different levels. This would include challenging projects that might stretch you a bit and perhaps include aspirational pieces that you’ve always wanted to play. However, it’s important to learn others that are easier, offering more immediate gratification and the opportunity to assimilate what you can already do.

Further information & resources

If you’d like some repertoire ideas and inspiration then our online workshops on 4th February might be just what you’re looking for! Graham Fitch will be presented a a bouquet of pieces at different levels, including popular works and hidden gems. Click here to find out more or to book your place.

You will also find many ideas and resources for the piano repertoire in our library and if you’re embarking upon a new piece, we have several other initiatives to support you along the way here.

Repertoire Ideas & Interpretation – Save 20%!

Save 20% by purchasing a combined ticket for both our 14th of January workshop on creating personal interpretations and the full set of repertoire ideas workshops on the 4th of February. Click here to take advantage of this offer and obtain access to these events and the recordings for £80 (£48 for Online Academy subscribers)!