Basic Scale Fingering For Piano


When learning scales, there is some basic scale fingering that you can use for many of the major and minor scales. It's basically foundational fingering that you need to know to practice and play scales. 

Here, we'll have a video tutorial, list the basic fingering for both one octave and two octaves, and give you something to practice. 

Scale Fingering Video Tutorial:

The Basic Fingering

Both the right hand and left hand have their own set of fingering to follow for playing major and minor scales. 

This is the fingering:

Right Hand:

Up: 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

Down: 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

Left Hand:

Up: 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

Down: 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

This finger pattern works if there aren't black notes in certain places that make it just awkward to play. (You can see a list of the scales it will work for below.)

C Major Scale Fingering
C Major Scale Fingering Bass Clef

Piano Finger Numbers

If you're not sure of your finger numbers, here is what they are: 

Piano Fingers Numbers

Key Techniques

A key thing that you need to do in order to play scales is tuck your thumb under your third finger when going up in your right hand or down in your left hand. (See video for more on this.)

One thing I do with kids is to put something light and fluffy on the 4th note of the scale (right hand). Then the need to flick it out of the way by ducking their thumb under their third finger. This basically teaches you exactly how you need to make this movement. 

When playing a scale in your left hand going up (or right hand going down), you need to cross your middle finger over you thumb once you get to the point where you run out of fingers. 

That is really all there is to it!

Scale Fingering for 2 Octaves

When playing two octaves, your fingering will be slightly different but start with the same foundation. With 2 octaves, you can play what I refer to (in my head) as the "3-4-3" pattern. 

3-4-3 Pattern

When going up in your right hand, your thumb crosses under after finger 3 (then keep going up), then 4 (and keep going up) and then 3 again until you reach the top. 

For example:

Right Hand: 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5

Your left hand crosses the 3rd finger over, then the 4th and then the 3rd again. 

Left Hand: 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

So ... the 3-4-3 Pattern!

Scales This Fingering Will Work For

The basic scale fingering will work for quite a few scales and here are ones you can try it out on:

Major Scales:

  • C Major Scale
  • D Major Scale
  • E Major Scale
  • G Major Scale
  • A Major Scale
  • B Major Scale (Right Hand Only)
  • F Major Scale (Left Hand Only)

Minor Scales:

  • A Minor Scale
  • B Minor Scale (Right Hand Only)
  • C Minor Scale
  • D Minor Scale
  • E Minor Scale
  • F Minor Scale (Left Hand Only)
  • G Minor Scale

You may notice that none of the scales above start on a black note. So for most scales starting on a white note, this scale fingering will be the one to use. 

Further Resources for Scales:

It's great to have a book of scales, chords and arpeggios to look to when practicing your technique. The one I recommend is The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences (see on Amazon - this is an affiliate link that will earn me a little commission).

It lists all the different types of scales and fingering so it's really useful. 

What To Practice Now:

Now you can practice the C scale which is the scale in the pictures above. If you're just beginning, practice going up only, one hand at a time. 

If you're looking at getting better at scales, join the Scales Challenge if you haven't already. (This page comes up in the early stages of the challenge. 

Download Piano Chord Cheat Sheet

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