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There are so many advantages to using good fingerings, it may be impossible to mention all of them.

Being tied up in knots is painful!

The most obvious answer is that you could easily tangle your fingers up in the middle of a piece.  Then you would have to slow down or stop playing, making the problem obvious to the audience.

Learning the fingering is part of knowing the music

Learning a piece includes having good fingering.  Without that, every time you play the piece you use different fingering.  There are so many options, the music is never completely learned and always sounds like sight-reading.

Bad fingering causes unwanted accents

Using the thumb on black keys is to be avoided as much as possible.  Playing in that way is awkward, causes unwanted accents, and slows you down. Why work on a passage repeatedly to banish accents when finding a good fingering would correct the problem instantly?

Why scale fingerings are important

When playing scale passages, passing over the thumb as few times as possible allows you to play faster and without accents.  Without good fingering, you could also run out of fingers before the end of a phrase.  Then what do you do?  Play the remaining notes with your pinkie?  Wouldn’t that sound completely different?

When encountering a scale passage in a composition, using that scale’s normal fingering will save you a great deal of practice time.

Each finger creates a unique sound

When imitating orchestral instruments, appropriate fingering is crucial.  The thumb will never sound like a flute; the pinkie doesn’t make a good horn sound.

Accuracy

Unless good fingering is employed, accuracy will always be difficult to achieve.

Security

With good fingering, you will feel much safer on the keyboard.

Velocity

Bad fingering will always slow you down.

Expressivity

Expressive playing is far more difficult when using bad fingering.

Articulation

Each of these variations in articulation requires attention to fingering:

  • legato
  • staccato
  • slurs

Memorization

Finger memory, while not the only factor in memorizing music, does make a difference. But it should not be relied upon exclusively, since people’s hands may shake when nerves kick in.

Besides finger memory, other memory tracks include the look of the music on the page and on the keyboard, and the sound.

Injury prevention

Constantly playing with no attention to fingering can lead to injury. Rather than being forced to stop playing completely for months, it would serve you well to learn about good fingering now. That effort would make playing easier for life, in addition to being a big time saver.

Illustrations of good and bad piano fingering:

F Major Scale, right hand ~ this came out cockeyed, didn’t it?  In editing mode, each row is aligned.

F G

A

Bb

C

D

E

F

1

2

3

1

2

3

4

1

no

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

yes

This is the table that wouldn’t go away.  Just ignore it.

Playing the Bb with the thumb causes an unwanted accent because of the distance the hand is required to move. The 2nd fingering is accent-free.

C Major Chord, right hand

C E G C
2 3 4 5

no

1 2 3 5

yes

The stretch between G and C with the 4th and 5th fingers causes a great deal of tension, which could lead to injury over time. The 2nd fingering is much better.

The fingerings for all major and minor scales and chords are considered standard. If you spend a little time learning them, then you can eliminate a great deal of decision-making time from that point on. When a special effect is desired, alternate fingerings are sometimes used. But you should not be approaching a new piece with no ideas about fingering at all.

How much attention to you pay to fingering? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

E-books

Learning a new piece? New program? Back in school? Looking for teaching ideas? Read “Goal-oriented Practice: How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer!”

Goal-oriented Practice

August 2011 review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

When You Buy a Piano

How to Maintain Your Piano


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