Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Finger Octaves

Useful tips for octave fingering

In this video, Robert explains how to finger octaves on the piano.

Released on October 27, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. The question today is how to finger octaves. Octaves have a very simple fingering solution the vast majority of the time. Unless you have very large hands, the simple solution is use one and five on white keys and one and four on black keys. Now, this is great, obviously, for legato octaves, but it also divides the load of the hand when playing rapid octaves from the wrist. Now, I'm going to use for an example, one of the final octave section from the mammoth Tchaikovsky B-flat Minor Piano Concerto. You know them.

So that's the final octave section, that magnificent concerto. So you notice that I'm using fourth finger on the black keys, and it divides the load a bit on the hands. Now, there's another technique I want to show you that is really vital. I talked about in previous videos how the wrists accomplish octaves, but the arms have an essential role, I made reference to this, of getting over the keys. And you want to think of going in and out of the keyboard for black keys to accomplish those without having to reach with your fingers so much. So, for example, at the beginning of the octave section, you start over the white keys, then you go, not only with your fingers here, but move your arm in and out.

Now, I'm exaggerating, but it makes it so much easier by using the arm forward and backwards for black keys and white keys so you don't have to use so much finger strength to hit those black keys. This is a great technique for you. In conjunction with using fourth finger on black keys, get over the black keys by moving your hands closer to the fallboard for black keys and towards you for the white keys.

Those are the tips for octaves today. I've got a lot of octave videos you may have noticed, and you can enjoy all of them here at, here on YouTube as well. And we welcome your comments. Thank you for subscribing. Hit that bell if you like the videos. I will see you next time. Robert Estrin here at, your online piano resource. I managed to squeak it by.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Meera on January 12, 2022 @2:51 pm PST
I would never have guessed the 1-4, 1-5 fingering if you had not explained it and demonstrated it in slow motion. Your hands were going at blinding speed - so fast that I saw nothing.
Robert - host, on January 13, 2022 @8:06 am PST
It really helps to divide the load among more fingers!
Audrey * VSM MEMBER * on October 30, 2021 @6:38 am PST
Robert, You are always so clear when teaching various techniques. I am grateful to be a subscriber.
Robert - host, on October 30, 2021 @10:09 pm PST
So glad to be able to share with you what I have learned from so many people, especially my father, Morton Estrin. You can search on YouTube for many of his historic recordings.
Audrey * VSM MEMBER * on October 31, 2021 @12:05 pm PST
I just listened to your father play Rachmaninoff Op. 32 No. 12. The color of the music brought out in each hand was off the charts. I will be sure to listen to many more of his works.
Anne Iams on October 29, 2021 @9:37 am PST
Good advice, as I have small hands and octaves are a stretch for me. Thank you!
Robert - host, on October 29, 2021 @12:52 pm PST
Hopefully you can reach an octave comfortably with your thumb and 4th finger.
Anne Iams on November 1, 2021 @10:06 am PST
Yes, thank you. I found that I am already doing that with the black keys.
lydia leung on October 27, 2021 @4:27 am PST
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