Beginner Piano Exercises: How to Tame the Flyaway Fourth Finger

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When you’re learning how to play the piano, finger exercises are especially important–especially if you’re having trouble controlling that pesky fourth finger! Learn the steps to take in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Amy C...

 

When I first began to learn piano, my fourth finger seemed bent on being anywhere but on the keys. Whenever I was not using it, the fourth finger–and by extension, the fifth finger–simply floated in midair, hovering above the ivories. This meant that whenever those fingers were needed, they were nowhere to be found. To sum it up, this was no good!

My piano teacher devised many ways to make my fingers stay where they were supposed to. Sometimes she would place a penny on the backs of my hands and make me play scales that way. If my bridge began collapsing, or my fingers began doing funky things, the penny inevitably began to slide off. Honestly, the activity made me giggle, and I often could not get through it for that reason.

In any case, my fourth finger woes didn’t last long. Through a combination of scales and rigorous practice, it was soon where it needed to be at all times.

Recently, though, I had a similar problem with one of my own piano students, and the habit was particularly difficult for him to shake. No matter how often I corrected him, no matter how rigorously he practiced his scales and pieces, this particular child could not seem to keep his fourth finger from hovering over the keys whenever he played.

I was starting to wonder if we would ever overcome this obstacle when my mother, who is also a piano teacher, revealed to me a simple exercise that solved my student’s problem within the space of a couple weeks at most. Here are the simple steps to taming that flyaway fourth finger:

  1. Place your right hand on the piano, with your thumb on C (for now, your left hand can remain in your lap).
  2. Play a normal five-finger piano exercise, ascending up to G and then descending down to C.
  3. Do it again, but this time hold your thumb down on the C throughout the entire exercise, as you ascend to G and then descend back to C. You will notice that it is very difficult to lift the fourth finger while the thumb is sustaining a note!
  4. Repeat this exercise in the left hand by holding down the C with your thumb while descending down to F, then back up again to C.
  5. When this becomes easier, you can play hands together, with both thumbs on C.

If you play this piano finger exercise every day before practicing, you will likely begin to see results very quickly. Everyone knows that it can be hard to force ourselves into positions that feel unnatural, which is why strengthening exercises such as this one are so important. There is no doubt that poor hand position keeps you from moving forward with piano, but don’t get frustrated if you or your children are struggling–with this easy exercise, those hands will ultimately learn to do what we want them to!

AmyCAmy C. teaches beginner to intermediate piano lessons in Ann Arbor, MI. She specializes in working with young children (5-10 age range). Learn more about Amy here! 

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Photo by Akash k

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1 reply
  1. Wong Ken Yik
    Wong Ken Yik says:

    Hi, great article. I am 41 and started learning piano a few months ago. I have a few problems with the flexibility of my fingers especially my right hand. My biggest problem is that my 4th finger is always move together with the 3rd and 5th finger. I cannot play notes with my 3rd and 5th finger together with my 4th finger holding up. For example I want to play EG but I always end up playing EFG.
    Any suggestion? Appreciate your advice. Thanks.

    Reply

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