Open up a score of piano music, and the chances are you will find fingering suggested by an editor, and sometimes even by the composer. If you consult a different edition of the same work, the fingering is likely to be different. What does this tell us? There can be no standardisation of fingering, no matter whether it is from the composer, an editor, or a teacher. The only correct fingering is the one that works for your hand. Fingering in any score is a suggestion only!
Once a fingering has been selected, practising always with that fingering means that after a while the series of finger strokes will become automated – we will not have to think about which finger goes where because when we master a new motor skill, we go from active effort (thinking and concentrating) to automatic ability.
If we haven’t taken the trouble to organise a good fingering or we practise with different fingerings each time, we make life difficult for ourselves – especially if we are preparing a memorised performance. Practice makes permanent, so whatever we engrave on our motor cortex is going to stick. This is why it is very difficult to correct embedded errors later – and this includes sloppy fingering.
Suggestions for choosing fingering
The following are some suggestions for choosing and embedding fingering:
- Fingering in any score is a suggestion only. Consult as many different editions as possible (IMSLP is a great online reference source, and often has multiple editions of standard works, each with its own editorial fingering).
- It is vital to consider the eventual tempo, as well as the dynamic level, articulation, phrasing, shaping, timing and tone quality when working out a fingering (as much as is possible at the start).
- Keep the hand closed as much as possible, avoiding stretches between the fingers that can lead to tension.
- Avoid staying too long in one fixed position. Frequent changes in hand position keep the hand mobile, and thus free of tension.
- Fingering that feels fine when playing each hand alone might not work so well when playing hands together. Try to organise the fingering with both hands together (after which you can practise hands separately).
- As you start embedding the fingering during the process of practising, you might find you want to change some of it. Allow a small window of time to do this before settling on your final fingering.
- Commit to the fingering you have chosen and it will soon reach the automatic stage.
Principles of Piano Fingering – Online Workshop
Join us on Sunday 13th June @ 16:00 – 17:30 BST (GMT + 1) for an online workshop in which Graham Fitch explores the principles of piano fingering, showing how to choose the best fingering for your hand to find solutions to the technical and musical challenges. The following topics will be covered:
- Basic principles of identifying and choosing fingering
- Pitfalls to avoid e.g. unnecessary stretching between the fingers
- How to factor in the eventual tempo, touch and articulation, etc. when selecting a fingering
- How to embed a fingering, once selected, so that it becomes automated
- Tips for hand redistribution and solving problems for players with small hands
Click here for more information or to book your place!