How to play a chromatic scale on the piano starting on any note
Notice that both the left and right hands always use finger 3 on black keys.
Rule: Where fingers 1 and 2 exist together (for example on notes E to F and B to C, NEVER turn the 2nd finger over the top of the thumb when ascending or descending the scale.
When ascending the chromatic scale on the piano with the right hand, the fingers will naturally fall into place on E to F and B to C. However, when descending the chromatic scale with the right hand it is quite easy to find yourself placing the thumb on F and turning the 2nd finger over onto E. This is incorrect because this could then cause you to attempt to turn the 3rd finger over the 2nd onto E flat, which really doesn’t work too well!
The same problem arises with the left hand when ascending the chromatic scale. Descending the scale is not a problem because the thumb and index finger will naturally fall into their correct positions without too much effort. However, when ascending, there is a tendency to put the thumb on E and B, which creates a similar problem where the index finger will then try to turn over the thumb, leaving you with no option than to then turn the 3rd finger over the index finger. This is bad practice so care must be taken to ensure the index finger is placed on E and B.
In other words, the thumb and 3rd finger feature highly in the playing of this scale, moving from a white to a black key. However, where there is no black key in between two white keys (E/F and B/C), it is very important to keep the hand straight without turning the index finger over the top of the thumb.
What is a chromatic scale?
A major or minor scale is a ladder of notes consisting of all seven letters of the musical alphabet, A B C D E F and G. A chromatic scale is a ladder of notes consisting of all twelve tones found within one octave, all sounding equally distanced from each other being one semitone or half step apart. On the piano, this means playing every note within one octave in an ascending or descending order. Like the major and minor scale, the chromatic scale begins and ends with the same note so if starting on C, the ascending scale must end on the C found one octave above. When starting on E flat, the descending chromatic scale must begin on E flat and end on the E flat found one octave below.
Example: Chromatic scale beginning and ending on C, ascending
Example: Chromatic scale beginning and ending on D, descending
Back to Piano Scales and Arpeggios