Piano finger numbers! Teach and review with beginners [Online or in person]

Do your young piano students ever mix up their finger numbers?

Sometimes kids think Left Hand 5 (pinky) is finger 1, because it looks like it’s on the same side as Right Hand 1 (thumb).

And do kids always remember which finger is 2 and which is 4 (either hand)?

When students mix up little things like finger numbers it’s really difficult to get on with real music-making. And sometimes their finger number insecurity can haunt them for years!

The trouble with how finger numbers are taught

All standard piano methods have a page or two on finger numbers. There are three common approaches:

  1. There’s a writing activity in which the student fills in the finger numbers on a picture of two hands.
  2. The student is asked to wiggle fingers as the teacher calls them out.
  3. Usually the student is asked to wiggle only one finger at a time, right hand or left hand.

While the child might be able to write the numbers correctly on a picture, there’s very little visual direction to instil that the finger numbers are mirrored.

Wiggling fingers is not very helpful in instilling the numbers in students. It’s simply not tactile enough. (Besides, wiggling isn’t a motion used in actual piano playing.)

Also, when the finger numbers are practiced only one hand at a time, there’s a disconnect between the hands and which fingers have matching numbers.

That’s why students get confused.

But what if you could teach finger numbers in three unforgettable ways to ensure that your students know them for sure — from day one?

How to teach finger numbers so students will remember

I’m willing to share with you the special approach I developed for my students and have been using for nearly 20 years. My students have enjoyed remarkable success!

It’s Visual

In one simple image, the rainbow highlights the matching finger numbers.

Learning that the numbers are mirrored is the key to avoiding confusion and encouraging confidence from day one!

It’s Auditory (learning by sound)

The song that accompanies the rainbow teaches the finger numbers through words and music, and reinforces which fingers have matching numbers.

There’s a music video students and parents can sing along with at home!

It’s Kinesthetic (learning through touch)

The actions of the song instil by touch which fingers have matching numbers.

The Rainbow finger number strategy includes actions that reinforce matching fingers.

Use this teaching strategy with your beginners and you’ll notice them learning and remembering their finger numbers with great success!

Copyright notice. Finger Number Rainbow concept and design, song and words Copyright (c) 2003 by Rebekah Maxner. All rights reserved. Teachers may use the reproducible sheet provided by Piano at Play blog with personal students. Piano method writers and/or publishers may not publish or reproduce this design or concept.

Want to use this approach with your students for FREE?

I’ve created a special blog post for beginner piano students and their parents to use at home, and I’m sharing the link so you can use it, too!

Go to the link:

  • To see how the Rainbow Finger Numbers teaching strategy really works
  • To watch the videos
  • To get the reproducible printable

Whether you’re teaching in person or online, share my student-friendly post directly with your piano families! Click the following link:

Finger numbers for piano students at home!


Do you like this post and want more? In the side menu click “follow” to get notification of my posts each week in your inbox.

I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤

Rebekah Maxner, composer, blogger, piano teacher. Follow my blog for great tips!

For teachers

My blog content helps make your teaching easier! But did you know I’m a composer? Purchasing and teaching my music helps me continue to provide this content for FREE! Check out my shop for music your students will love to play!


Video of the Week

Scat, Cat! (Early Elementary, Prep A), a mini toccata and fugue! This piece begins with a toccata-like intro, then has imitation between student and teacher (like a fugue). From the print and eBook Rock the Boat, 11 Early Elementary piano works with optional teacher duets. Or, Check out the studio-licensed Scat, Cat! eSheet!

YouTube video of “Scat Cat!”
Here’s an audio file of Scat, Cat!

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