Piano Fingering Success

November 10th, 2015 by

piano fingers

The other month I stumbled on my very first piano tutor book from when I was a seven-year-old. The thing that struck me, as I thumbed through the pages, was that my music teacher had written the word “fingering” on almost every page! I can still hear the frustration in his voice as he yet again tried to explain to me the pitfalls of using “any old finger.”

As a piano teacher myself now, it fascinates me that some students have a natural tendency towards following fingering and others, like me, need constant nagging!

Light bulb!

Most sheet music editions have all the fingering suggestions carefully printed but one of my adult students was learning an arrangement without any fingering. In times past, I would pencil in my suggestions but this time I asked him to go away and work out what fingering would work best. The result was amazing! Not only had he enjoyed “taking ownership” of his fingering but it had made him think long and hard about the consequences of good and bad finger choices teaching him some valuable applications of scale and arpeggio fingering. His exercise practise has greatly improved since as he now has added reasons for practising them and he know happily adds or edits the fingering on his new pieces, carefully deciding how choices he makes will make the performance easier and smoother sounding.

Decomposing!

As I compose and arrange many of the songs that my pupils learn, I’m going to try and deliberately leave out any fingering suggestions and let them enjoy the challenge of figuring out which fingers will work best. Any trick that helps my students to “take ownership” of their learning is a great motivational tool and thoroughly worth exploiting!

Fingering advice

Whenever I look at very old editions of educational piano music from hundred years or so ago, the thing that strikes me is that they often gave fingering suggestions for every single note! I have learnt over the years that the more annotations that are pencilled onto the pupil’s score, the more they ignore the instructions. Less is more. What is the bare minimum finger suggestions that is needed? Strategic moments only and mostly write fingering outside the stave (staff).

 

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Teaching Tips

About the Author

Reuben Vincent
Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a "mean" solo on the Kazoo!!!

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