five-finger exercise

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five-finger exercise (plural five-finger exercises)

  1. (music) A musical composition for the piano, designed to require the use of all the fingers of the hand for the purpose of skill development.
    • 1899, Arthur Conan Doyle, chapter 20, in A Duet:
      It was the singular room which Carlyle had constructed in the hopes that he could shut out all the noises of the universe, the crowing of cocks, and the jingling of a young lady's five-finger exercise in particular.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) An activity which is undertaken for the purpose of skill development.