If you already read music (including flats and sharps) this mini-lesson is for you.

Do you relate to the white and black keys like they’re unfamiliar, possibly intimidating, strangers? Or as familiar friends?

Wouldn’t you prefer the latter? To feel like one of those players who lays hands on the keys and works miracles, eyes open or closed?

A big part of knowing the keyboard like an old friend is knowing the five-finger positions used for playing.

Relaxing your fingers into these positions as you move around the keyboard helps you be prepared for what’s to come. Being prepared is a big part of being a good player.

Excepting some strange music from the last century, most popular and classical music uses the 24 major and minor keys. A “key” is synonymous with a seven-note major or minor scale.

And every seven-note scale can be understood as a series of five-finger positions.

For example, when you know the five-finger positions for the Ab major scale, playing in the key of Ab becomes much less daunting. In fact, the key of Ab may start to feel like C – easy.

The Five-Finger Pattern exercise consists of three pentascales (five-note scales) that comprise most of the five-finger positions found in the major and minor keys.

Here it is in the Key of C:

The formula for the three different pentascales in relationship to the C major scale is shown above each pattern:

  • The major pentascale consists of the first, second, third, fourth and fifth notes of the C major scale.
  • The minor pentascale is nearly the same, but the third note is lowered by a half step.
  • The diminished pentascale has a lowered second, third and fifth.

If you know the 12 major scales, you can easily transpose the Five-Finger Pattern to the other keys.

Learning the Five-Finger Pattern exercise in all 12 keys – and practicing it regularly and repeatedly (that’s what the repeat signs are for!) – will take your comfort and familiarity with the keyboard to a whole other level.

And if it doesn’t already, your keyboard may start to feel more like a friend – one you’ve known for years.

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