Let’s Play #8 – Working on Weaker Fingers
by Jerry Kovarsky
Not all fingers are created equal, it seems. Most keyboardists find that the 4th and 5th fingers (the ring finger and the pinky) are somewhat weaker, and a little harder to control when trying to play passages smoothly/in perfect rhythm. If you find that to be the case for you it’s worth spending some time on exercises to help strengthen and learn to control those wayward digits.
I’ll be using the same 5-note position from the last column. As a reminder, when we discuss fingering we use numbers for each finger, so the thumb is 1, the index, or pointer finger is 2, the middle finger is 3, the ring finger is 4, and the pinky is 5. Place your thumb on Middle C and your other fingers over the adjacent white notes:
Then try this first exercise, playing slowly and being sure to connect the notes and play in even rhythm.
This exercise starts on your stronger fingers and moves into the weaker ones as you go, repeating the weaker grouping an extra time to work that problem area.
This next example is a simple variation of that pattern, starting on the other note of the two-note groupings:
For another approach, we’ll start right away working on the weaker finger groupings, concentrating more on the 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers:
Let’s do the same exercises for the left hand. Place your hand so your pinky is on a C, with the rest of the fingers covering the adjacent white notes up to G.
Here’s the first left hand exercise:
Notice how it starts right off working the weaker fingers. The next one is the variation of that:
And the next one is a slight re-working of the right hand version, to make it more effective for the left hand:
Not all music is played on only the white keys, and you’ll find it a nice challenge to work these same exercises in key signatures that cause you to use a mixture of white and black keys. First up we’ll try the key of E Major, which has four sharps to deal with:
We’ll only be using the first five notes of the scale, so place your right hand thumb on E, and the rest of your fingers as shown:
Now try each of the examples we’ve been learning using this new hand position.
Doing the same thing for the left hand, place your pinky on an E and the rest of the fingers as shown:
Here’s the exercises:
Now let’s try another key center, which causes your hand to be placed in a very different feeling area. By moving to the key of B-flat the hand will to have to move more forward on the keys, sitting over more of the black keys. Here’s the scale notes:
And here’s the right hand position, with the hand moved more forward or towards the back of the keys:
Now try the same exercises — notice how it feels different, and may be harder to execute as smoothly:
Here is the left hand position:
And here are the exercises. For me this is the most difficult position to do well.
Time spent developing better control over the weaker fingers will really help you, and these are but a few examples of patterns you can use. It’s fine to make up some of your own: anything that is a little difficult to execute is something worth working on. You may find passages in music you are trying to play that work the weaker fingers as well, so turn them into your own exercises. And be sure to try them in other keys. Happy practicing!
Jerry Kovarsky is highly respected in the music industry. For more than 30 years, he worked as brand manager, product manager, marketing director, product developer, and product demonstrator for Korg, Ensoniq, and Casio. An accomplished keyboardist, synthesist, and author of Keyboard for Dummies, Jerry passionately advocates for making music with keyboards. After studying at the University of Miami and graduating from William Peterson College with a BA in Jazz Studies, an opportunity to demonstrate early portable keyboards sidetracked his professional aspirations. More recently, Jerry writes about technology and keyboard musicianship for numerous outlets. He likes living at the intersection of technology and art and has returned to his musical roots, performing, recording, and teaching on the island of Maui, Hawaii.