How to Play the Piano or Keyboard in C and G Position

Position is a common term you hear regarding any musical instrument. Using effective hand positions is vital to playing the keyboard or piano well. From each designated position, you can easily access certain notes, groups of notes, and chords and then move to other positions.

C Position

Many easy piano tunes start at middle C or close to it, so you often find yourself in C position at the beginning of a song. C position simply means placing your right-hand thumb on middle C and your other right-hand fingers on the four successive white keys.

Put another way, RH 1 should be on C and RH 5 on G with the other three fingers in the middle. If the other three aren’t in the middle, something very unusual is going on with your fingers.

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With your right hand in C position, which is sometimes also called first position, play the melody of “Frere Jacques,” playing one note at a time. It may be helpful to just imagine the moves your fingers will make as you listen to Track 23 a couple times before you attempt to play along.

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Be sure to observe the numbers above the notes. These numbers, called fingerings, tell you which finger to use for each note. Most players appreciate fingerings because they indicate the best possible finger pattern for executing the notes. Of course, you may invent other custom fingerings. For now, though, try the helpful fingerings.

Try another song that uses C position. In “Ode to Joy,” the melody begins on RH 3, travels up to RH 5, and then dips all the way down to RH 1. Beethoven, the composer of this piece, was a pianist, so no doubt he knew just how well this melody would play under the fingers.

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As you can probably imagine, not all melodies use only five notes. Eventually, you must come out of your safe little shell of five white keys, make a move, and extend certain fingers up or down. The following information guides you through extensions from basic C position.

Thumbing a ride to B

From C position, your thumb can extend down to B. As you play B with your thumb, you simply leave your other fingers exactly where they are.

To play “Skip to my Lou,” simply move your thumb one key to the left in measure 3 to play the B.

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Good stretch, pinky!

From C position, RH 5 (right pinky) can reach up one key to the right to play A. In the campfire classic “Kumbaya,” you anticipate the extension up to A by shifting fingers 2 through 5 to the right from the very start. Notice this shift in the fingerings: Instead of playing D with RH 2, you play E with RH 2, but keep your thumb on middle C.

Note: “Kumbaya” begins with a two-beat pickup.

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Don’t take the word stretch too literally. You don’t want to injure yourself. It’s quite alright to allow RH 1 through 4 to move toward RH 5 as you reach up to play A.

Stretching C position to the limits

In many songs that begin from C position, you shift your fingers or extend RH 5 and RH 1 to play all the melody notes. “Chiapanecas” is one such song. Using the music, try to play this Latin American song as it was meant to be heard: hot and spicy.

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Check the time signature before you start playing. You don’t want to be thinking “1, 2, 3, 4” if the song is in 3/4 time. And, by the way, “Chiapanecas” is in 3/4 time.

G position

To get into G position, move your right hand up the keyboard so that RH 1 rests on G. (This is the same G occupied by RH 5 in C position.) Check out this new position as well as the staff notes you play in it. Notice that RH 5 now rests all the way up on D.

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The melody to “Little Bo-Peep” fits easily in G position. Give it a whirl.

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Just like in C position, in G position you can extend RH 5 and RH 1 east and west to access E and F, respectively. Try out this extended G position by playing “This Old Man.” Watch the fingering in this song and shift your fingers where appropriate.

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Shifting your hand position as you play

Knowing two positions, C and G, is great, but you really only get five or six notes in each position. Shifting your hand to different positions in the same song allows you to play a few more notes. To do this, you just need a bit of planning and practice. One strategy is to simply make good use of a rest in the music to make a move.

For example, here you play the first two measures in G position. During the rest on beat 4 of measure 2, you can move your hand down and get ready to play G in measure 3 with RH 5 — you’ve just shifted to C position.

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