Piano Fingering for the Very Young

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The younger the child, the less digital control they have. That’s why sippy cups exist.

My message is that you must adopt an attitude of almost Biblical patience, because young kids are barely aware they have five different fingers.

This is why, with toddlers and preschool kids, I allow them to use their dominant index finger. That is what they will instinctively offer you.

Thus, until the child is capable of more, accept the uni-finger method and move on to teach other things until they are ready.

Fingering, in the classic sense, is the art of assigning the fingers to specific keys in order to make difficult groups of notes easier to play.

But younger kids need first to be made aware that they even have ten fingers, of five different types (thumb, index, middle, ring, pinkie.)

They will have played “This Little Piggie,” but piano fingering in infinitely more complicated.

Instead of insisting on fingering, you would do better to explore what the child actually knows about their fingers, both singly and in groups.

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Here are steps to make younger kids more aware of their differing fingers. I can almost guarantee you they have never thought about any of this.

Since they are offering you the index finger, start suggesting they use BOTH index fingers. Let them choose when to use them.

Without them knowing it, they are now exercising both hemispheres of their brain, since the left index finger is controlled by the right brain, and the right index finger is controlled by the left brain.

Next, point out that there is a finger right next to the index, the third finger, which might be very useful.

Suddenly you’ll find the child fascinated with using the two fingers (second and third) as a pair, most likely making a childish game of walking up the piano with those two fingers acting like two legs.

The fourth and fifth fingers on a child’s hand are almost useless at first, so introduce the thumb now.

Hold up your hand and point out that the thumb is half as long as any other finger, and yet is twice as strong.

Kids avoid the thumb because it is shorter, preferring the longer fingers that reach the keys more easily (2,3,4 and 5.)

You first major objective is to get the child to use the first three fingers, thumb, index and third, as a group.

I made up a game called “threesies” to help develop this skill.

Numbered keyboard

123,234,345,456,567,678,789,89 10

These groups of three notes (123,234,) are played with the same finger group: thumb, index, and third.

From here it is an easy jump to get the child to use all five fingers, since they have already established strength with the first three (thumb, index and third.)

Next, take Mary Had A Little Lamb and play it using the first three fingers. It is the only song that fits these three fingers, but it is relatively easy to do, and introduces younger kids to fingering in a very gentle way.

Numbered keyboard

Mary Had A Little Lamb (played with thumb on 1, index on 2, third on 3.)

3 2 1 2    3 3 3   2 2 2     3 3 3     3 2 1 2      3 3 3 3    2 2 3 2    1

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