Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play thirds on a piano

Step-by-step instructions to learn and play thirds on a piano

In this video, Robert gives you a practical way to approach, study, and play thirds on a piano.

Released on August 28, 2013

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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, I'm Robert Estrin with and Today, how to approach thirds. Yes, thirds on the piano can be very difficult because you only have five fingers on each hand, and when you're playing thirds, you have to figure out how to negotiate them. So I'm going to show you a couple of tips today. Of course, there's no substitute for practicing endlessly. As a matter of fact, the "Double Thirds" etude of Chopin, it was said that Josef Lhevinne, in his historic recording, practiced that piece for 10 years before he ever performed it. And if you ever listen to that old historical recording of Josef Lhevinne playing the "Double Thirds" G-sharp minor etude of Chopin, you can hear that he worked 10 years on that.

I'm going to show you something very simple today, just a major scale, a D major scale, and show you, first of all, fingering is critical for thirds, and you should reference Hanon or another source to find good fingering. So for example, if you're playing a scale in thirds in the right hand...that's a possible fingering you would use. Now, how do you practice such a thing? Well, one way is to practice the top legato and the bottom third staccato, so it clarifies the melody notes. Now, another little trick is you could just play the top notes of the third, leaving out the bottom notes entirely. You can also play every other note on the bottom. And you could also play the alternate notes that I just left out.

These are all different techniques that you can use to master thirds. You'll find that eventually your fingers will be very close to the keys over the position. So fingering is paramount. Practice every other note on the bottom, and this can give you fluidity. The most important thing is to have the melody notes with a fingering on top that you can get nice legato, and, of course, there's no substitute for doing a lot of metronome speeds. Once you have a passage in thirds, totally solid, slowly you could work up one notch at a time, and that's probably what Josef Lhevinne did in his classic recording of the "Double Thirds" etude. Thanks for joining me. Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Robert L. Smith on September 21, 2020 @1:56 pm PST
None of the standard fingerings for thirds work for true legato (Hanon or MacFarren, for example). There are many alternative fingerings which do work. For some keys, finger substitution can be used.
Robert - host, on September 21, 2020 @5:08 pm PST
In regards to scales arpeggios, the fingerings are standard on the piano (unlike stringed instruments!) But with 3rds, you are right - there are many possibilities of fingering!
martine on October 9, 2019 @2:53 am PST
hello a music sheet with fingerings would help a lot to practice it. Thank you if you find the time to do it. It is really too difficult to see at this speed and this angle
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 9, 2019 @5:46 am PST
Thank you Martine for your comment.

Please, tell me more about it: are you referring to this video or to our sheet music editions? Please, let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you again.
Martine Do on October 9, 2019 @6:42 am PST
i was talking about this video, about thirds and arpeggios it looks like good exercise but it is difficult to follow because you play very fast and your hands are at an angle. it would be very nice of you if you could just jotted it down. i think the other people who wrote comments would agree too. thank you
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 9, 2019 @7:55 am PST
I see, thank you Martine for clarifying. Well, I think Robert will jump into the discussion about that, and I think it's a great idea. That'll definitively help.

Thanks again.
Robert Estrin on October 10, 2019 @1:06 pm PST
I would suggest consulting with Hanon 60 Selected Studies for the Virtuoso Pianist. I believe there are fingering suggestions for scales in thirds.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 10, 2019 @3:04 pm PST
Yes, I think Robert is referring to the "scales and arpeggios" section of Hanon's studies:

Octaves, thirds, and more are included there.
Helena boggia on August 29, 2013 @12:14 pm PST
And yes, an over the shoulder view Of your fingering would have been good also.
Helena boggia on August 29, 2013 @12:13 pm PST
Thank you Robert...always soooo helpful
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on August 28, 2013 @2:25 pm PST
Great tip but I agree with Marget, hard to really see the details.
Robert - host, on August 29, 2013 @12:27 pm PST
We have a new camera boom on order. So you can enjoy a better view in future videos!
MARGET on August 28, 2013 @8:09 am PST
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