Finger numbers allow players of various musical instruments to learn their music faster.

Therefore by looking at any of the musical scores, we will always find small numbers belonging to certain notes, depending which instrument is it written for as different instruments require different systems.

  • Did You know? Once You worked out the best finger sequence for playing Your particular piano piece, by sticking to it, Your practise becomes more efficient?
  • Did You know? This efficiency allows You to learn anything faster?
  • And, that the most joyous side effect is that You can cut down practise time per piece?

Try it out and feedback on your happy experiences!

Handy Hint:

For keyboard/piano playing we add numbers to every finger – from thumbs to pinkies 1 to 5
(as opposed to other instruments that I will not mention to prevent confusion 🙂 )

So, the
Thumbs are: 1
Index fingers: 2
Middle fingers: 3
Ring fingers: 4 and
Pinkies are: 5


Great question! With NEW music that would be impossible. So the secret is:

Keep a pencil handy next to Your piano. Always use pencil, as You might change Your mind occasionally working out more practical finger sequences.

At piano examinations it is also required for pencil marks to be erased. So I would suggest to photocopy Your ‘working page’ with all the valuable notes including finger numbers that You keep in Your music book before heading to Your exam. That way all that work of ‘optimizing’ ‘making something playable’, Your own intellectual property, fingering tailored to Your own needs will not be lost.

As You are familiarizing Yourself with the music and feeling Your way through between the musical phrases, – phrases can be compared to coherent thoughts or sentences that will have beginning, middle and end and we can be musically guided what the cluster of notes are ‘saying’ – for example, we will not lift our hand off the keys ‘half way in the sentence’ and the finger numbers are to support us in intending to express this way of ‘talking through the notes’. This could be compared to the breathing technique that singers use, where the breath is to last until the end of the musical sentence. So, from an other angle we can start to see finger numbers, as much as a breath for singers as support systems in expressing musical meaning. This is a significantly important point and we will return to it a bit later.

So experiment with ways of playing certain groups of notes and write some of Your preferred numbers at key points of the piece above or below the notes in a way that they do not obstruct clarity of reading. You may decide at a later stage to change or erase some of them as this is a process that is not carved in stone.


The finger numbers therefore, that You find as suggestion in purchased, printed music scores can not always be helpful, they can not always guide everyone as we all have different sized hands with varied stretching abilities. They are there to consider but are subject to personal preference. Mind You that is not entirely the truth either.


Remember that we started to see the finger numbers as support system for musical meaning?

From ‘comfort’ point of view we might want to use a ‘lazy option’ which would not support the musical expression of the phrase. In which case we might end up in a ‘musical pickle’ that is not serving true expression of the piece and consequently at an exam for example it could even contribute to being awarded a lower mark. So now, we can establish, that the finger numbers need to be as personalized as possible, while they are still able to support and work for the musical integrity, style, expression, technical requirements, etc of the piece.

I know, there is a lot to take in 🙂 Just take only ONE step at a time.

Start with Your pencil – One phrase at a time. Then, if have a piano teacher, at Your next lesson share Your ideas and solutions, and teamwork for the best solution that supports the music as much as supports Your own abilities and comfort.

Word of advice:

At times with the help and suggestion of Your teacher let those less preferred finger numbers ‘stretch Your mind as much as Your hands’ if they lead You to become a more expressive musician with stronger, more experienced hands. Scales, arpeggios and other technical work is there to assist You on that path. In doubt, ask Your teacher for advice how to become a more seasoned player.

Happy experimenting, don’t forget to feedback if this article was helpful for Your learning or drop me a line and see if I can assist.

Yours in Teaching and Nurturing, Happy Learning and Playing!

Ms Marchie
Marchie’s Piano School