How to Make Smooth Crossings on the Keyboard

By Jerry Kovarsky

Stretching works well for medium moves in hand position, but often you need to move across more than five notes all occurring in a row on the keyboard. Here are a few techniques to choose from..

Crossing a finger over

When you’ve played from the pinkie to the thumb and need to continue, you have to bring a finger — the second, third, or fourth finger — over the thumb. The easiest instance is where you just need the one extra note and then can return to your usual five-finger shape.


This phrase (from the J.S. Bach Minuet in G Major) requires you to play the Fs in bar 3 by crossing your second finger over the thumb and then bring it right back into position.

    Hear an example of the Minuet.

Crossing a finger over can also be used as a transition to a new hand position. Try this phrase from the well-known Christmas carol “Joy To The World.” Notice how crossing over the third finger in bar 3 allows you to move your hand to a second position to finish the phrase.


    Listen to this musical phrase.

Because the hands are built opposite of each other, the right hand uses this crossing over technique when moving down in pitch. The left hand uses it when moving up in pitch.

Passing the thumb under

When you play a phrase from the thumb toward the pinkie and need to keep going, you must pass your thumb under your hand to transition to the new hand shape. You usually do so after playing the third finger and sometimes the fourth, but almost never the fifth (the pinkie); that’s just too far to reach.

Try playing this phrase. When you bring your thumb under, be sure you don’t drop your wrist down, or you’ll end up accenting the new thumb note (making it sound louder than the others).


    Hear this simple exercise played.

Because the hands are built opposite of each other, the right hand uses this passing under technique when moving up in pitch. The left hand uses it when moving down in pitch.

Practicing crossings with a few easy scales

Scales and scale-based runs are some of the most common examples that use these crossing over and under techniques. Here a few different scales with their proper fingerings. Each ranges two octaves and is written for both hands. Play through each scale one hand at a time to get comfortable with the required fingering techniques.


If you’re having trouble reading the notes above and below the staff, remember to count up (or down) from that last line in order (F, G, A, and so on). If necessary, you can write the name of the note in pencil.

Hear these major scales.