The Piano Finger Independence Challenge

Lisa Witt  /  Technique  /  UPDATED Jan 13, 2023

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How’s your finger independence?

What I mean by that is this: Do you fingers do what you WANT them to do? Or do you have trouble keeping them under control?

I’ve got a great way to improve your finger independence. But a warning. It’s not easy.

So are you ready for a challenge?

Full disclosure, I had to practice part of this challenge a lot to get good enough to teach it. So if you find yourself struggling with some of it, don’t worry, it’s normal, and you will get better (just like I did).

Ok, now that you’re probably worried, let’s begin.

The Finger Independence Challenge Explained

This exercise uses the five-finger scale. If you don’t know what a five-finger scale is, check it out in this lesson.

You’ll be playing a five-finger scale from C up to G and back down again. 


Each time you play up and down, you’ll HOLD DOWN a different note.

Let me explain.

Start on C, and HOLD C down with your thumb while you play the rest of the scale up and down like normal. So while the rest of your fingers are playing D, E, F, G, F, E, D you’re always holding down C.

Easy right?

Now it gets harder…

Now instead of holding C, you’re going to play C and then hold down D while you play the rest of the notes up and back down. So on the way down, you’ll skip over the D because it is still being held down.

That’s not so hard right?

Once you’ve done that it’s time to play up to the E and hold that note while playing all the rest. This is where it starts to get a bit more difficult. You have to concentrate because your fingers are naturally going to want to lift off the keys.

But if you can do it, you’ll be feeling good.

Unfortunately, I have some bad news…

Here is where you’ll fail!

MOST people will fail this part the first time they do it.

I did.

This is the part I had to practice a lot, so just know that it’s normal.

You’re going to play up the five-finger scale to F and HOLD the F with your ring finger while playing the other notes.

Your ring finger is going to want to lift with your pinky and the 3rd finger. Plus it feels weird to leave it pressed down while the others are playing.

So pay attention, focus, and practice.

The final pattern will see you play up to the G and hold that down with your pinky while you play the rest of the notes.

So why even bother?

This exercise can be frustrating, and you might be thinking, “why even bother?”

Building up your finger independence will make your fingers stronger, faster, and will allow YOU to be in control of your fingers, not the other way around.

So try it out. You can play it going up and down, or down and then back up. Try it in different keys. Try it with both hands.

But don’t spend hours doing this. Just do it once or twice each practice. Doing it for too long could lead to injury.

Good luck and let me know how you go! 

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

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