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#1055042 - 07/29/04 09:43 AM best way to play/fingering
nan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/04
Posts: 140
Loc: San Francisco
Learning piano this late in life, I realize my fingers are not as dexterous/strong as a child's. I'm wondering -- is it better to have your fingers curled when playing or is hitting the key with a straight finger just as good? I do mostly the latter, but notice my 5th finger (little finger) is still very weak (after three years practicing) especially on the black keys. So I am wondering if I tried curling my fingers more would that be better? During summer I don't have a teacher -- but she hasn't really said much about this before. Any advice?

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#1055043 - 07/29/04 10:08 AM Re: best way to play/fingering
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
Actually, what you want is a grip on each key. To demonstrate this, first determine the relaxed position of your hand by letting it dangle by your side. You will notice that your fingers are curved in an arc. Rest your hand in this position on a table. With the rest of the hand still relaxed, extend your index finger straight up and out. Now sweep the extended finger down, making sure the first joint of the finger does not collapse when your fingertip makes contact with the table. You can even exagerate by sweeping down such that your fingertip curls under at the end of the motion.

If you do this properly, you will notice that your fingertip is exerting a slight grip as it contacts the table. If you can grip all your notes this way (with wrist and arm relaxed at the same time), you will develop a rich tone (vs. a weak one). The grip should always be there whether your fingers are flat or curved. Flatter fingers produce a different tone from curved fingers; Debussy sounds good with flat fingers while Bach benefits from curved fingers.

To build strength in individual fingers, you need to practise first by sweeping down until your fingers are more curved because this is more difficult to achieve that the flat-fingered version. You also need to practise your weak fingers on their own. There are exercises written for such purposes, most notable Pischna and Schmitt. You can make up your own exercise for your pinkie by holding down all the other fingers on the keyboard and just using your pinkie to play a single note over and over again. E.g. hold down C-D-E-F with fingers 1-2-3-4 on the right hand and then play G over and over again with 5 (pinkie).

If you have a weak pinkie, you probably also have a weak ring finger, although you might not realize it. You can also try the above exercise, i.e. hold down 1,2,3,5 and play just using 4. It is highly likely that the sound produced in this manner would be weak.

I have been practising my 4 and 5 for the past 3 years this way and while they have improved tremenously, I still have to be careful to produce an even tone across the scale when it comes to 4 and 5.

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#1055044 - 07/29/04 02:25 PM Re: best way to play/fingering
nan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/04
Posts: 140
Loc: San Francisco
Thanks for the very detailed advice and I will certainly be using it. I definitely need to build up strength in 4 and 5th fingers. I was wondering how to get more control and the gripping action you mention sounds right.

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#1055045 - 07/29/04 04:48 PM Re: best way to play/fingering
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
practicing trills with 4th and 5th fingers only (on both hands) will help a lot, especially when you also hold your thumb down at the same time.

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#1055046 - 07/30/04 09:35 AM Re: best way to play/fingering
nan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/04
Posts: 140
Loc: San Francisco
I am trying to curve my fingers more and grip and already notice it is different and helps me when playing Beethoven's Ecossaise. And just trying your suggestion Signa makes me realize my fingers are so weak! Not an easy exercise. Well, that will be my challenge for the future -- finger exercises. Thanks for the tips.

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#1055047 - 07/30/04 10:28 AM Re: best way to play/fingering
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
Nan, glad to know that you are improving in your technique. I have also practised the 4-5 trills extensively myself. To really get a good workout, hold down 1-2-3 and do the 4-5 trills. You will probably find that you can hardly lift your 4. But it is necessary to develop a larger range of motion for 4 in order to get a nice sweeping motion and the grip at the end. Make sure that your wrist, arm, elbow, shoulders, neck should all be relaxed, so that you are not relying on any other part of the body to play the 4-5.

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#1055048 - 07/30/04 11:28 AM Re: best way to play/fingering
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
another thing to remember is to never avoid using your weakest fingers in your fingering of any piece. many beginners tend to use their strongest fingers (1,2,3) more than the weakest(4,5) when playing. so, use 4,5 fingers as much as possible which over the time will improve things for you.

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#1055049 - 07/30/04 01:25 PM Re: best way to play/fingering
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
another thing to remember is to never avoid using your weakest fingers in your fingering of any piece. [/b]
I second this. However, I found there is merit in avoiding using these fingers when one is giving a performance and needs full control and eveness in tone. I am preparing for a performance diploma examination next year and while I started out learning my pieces with the most "natural" fingering, including 4 and 5, I have come to the conclusion that in the remaining months I have until the exam, it would be impossible for me to work these fingers up to the level I want. So in order to use my practice time more effectively (e.g. memorizing) and to ensure a secure performance, I have been using 3-5 instead of 4-5 in scale passages, for example. After all, at the exam as in all performances, it is the aural effect that counts, not which fingers I use!

But I reiterate my stand that one *must* practice their weak fingers diligently, so maybe they would not have to resort to my tactics.

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