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#1239989 - 07/29/09 07:55 PM The right amount of fingering
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
I never seem to get it quite right in my own materials. If I remove all but what I consider to be the most essential finger markings, sharp students "get it", but those who are not as "natural" struggle, and I end up writing the fingering in. Which is REALLY annoying since I do my own materials, and the whole point is to have that stuff done so I don't HAVE to write in extra markings.

But if I put the extra clues back in, it ends up being potentially addictive to those who are sharper and will develop a good sense of what fingers to use.

Right now I actually have multiple versions of some pieces, one with a lot of fingering, another with just a few guides fingers, and another with none or very little.

The problem for me is that I was given almost no fingering, so that became one of my weaknesses, but if I am too "careful" in avoiding that problem with students, I may stunt the reading reflexes I developed that allowed me to successfully work out a lot of problems on my own.
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#1239998 - 07/29/09 08:02 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Gary D.]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Ain't it the truth! It is pretty impossible to get one thing to work for everyone, so we end up with multiple copies of everything frown

I find that happens a lot if students "pass down" their books too. Something written to help student number 1, is a distraction to student number 2. That's one of the reasons I ask families to buy different books for their students.
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#1240028 - 07/29/09 09:04 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11919
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
At what stage are you talking about, Gary? With beginners, I think it is really important to have finger numbers on every note, then gradually eliminated finger numbers on repeated notes, and then work your way down to only finger numbers where needed. This happens over the entire period of elementary learning, so that by the time they are ready for early intermediate pieces, they can do some basic fingering.

I also start students very early on in doing scales. I have a sheet that only has the key signature, and the finger numbers on it (no notes), so that the first few times through the scales we're concentrating on the fingering. Scales really help students get an idea of what ergonomic fingering is.
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#1240061 - 07/29/09 10:29 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Morodiene]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Gary, I just figure it's part and parcel of my job to add fingering when students run into trouble. I generally have them play it "naked" and then begin adding fingering at the major trouble spots. Yeh, it's annoying, but you know, I can pretty much tell exactly where I'm going to be adding fingerings. Also, I do it using light pencil at first, so if the student gets it, I erase it, but if they don't, it gets reinforced by darkening.
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#1240070 - 07/29/09 10:49 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Morodiene]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I try to get music with as little fingering as possible, and I make adding fingerings part of the student's work during the lesson. I have no problem with students rely on fingerings if they write them in themselves.
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#1240110 - 07/29/09 11:55 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Morodiene]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
At what stage are you talking about, Gary? With beginners, I think it is really important to have finger numbers on every note, then gradually eliminated finger numbers on repeated notes, and then work your way down to only finger numbers where needed. This happens over the entire period of elementary learning, so that by the time they are ready for early intermediate pieces, they can do some basic fingering.

I'm talking mostly about beginners or people who are in their first year or so. I don't have problems getting people to use correct fingering. I do have problems, if I'm not very careful, with students trying to use fingering as a means of not reading.

Please don't misunderstand me. My students are not having reading problems, and they know how to follow fingering. But I have to watch them like a hawk.

Here is an elementary example: in Happy Birthday, second to last phrase:

GG G E C B A

The octave G, marked 5, will be misread as D by students who are reading fingering, not notes. The following E (3) and C (1) are in a temporary hand position, but the following B (cross-over to 2) will be played as D by those who are "cheating". Now, if I remove all or most fingering, my young readers will nail the notes, but some will (at first) run out of fingers and try to play two or more notes with the thumb.

I don't want to make this into a problem, because it's not, but the interest is watching different minds work out the notes and fingerings in different ways. Some will come up with clever and workable fingering with no help, and those will nail the notes. Natural readers.

Others will correctly figure out the pattern and nail the notes, but they will pick an awkward solution. Still others, if given fingering and not reminded NOT to use it to find notes, will nail the fingering but stay entirely in a five-finger position, then at some point realize that they are totally wrong.

This is terribly hard to describe. Am I making sense to anyone?


Edited by Gary D. (07/29/09 11:57 PM)
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#1240230 - 07/30/09 08:39 AM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Gary D.]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The octave G, marked 5, will be misread as D by students who are reading fingering, not notes. The following E (3) and C (1) are in a temporary hand position, but the following B (cross-over to 2) will be played as D by those who are "cheating". Now, if I remove all or most fingering, my young readers will nail the notes, but some will (at first) run out of fingers and try to play two or more notes with the thumb.


This is terribly hard to describe. Am I making sense to anyone?


Makes perfect sense. Kids to that ALL the time!! (the D from the "cheating" students lol)

Doncha just love it when you're trying to teach them to "look ahead" and they do like you said above?

"Let's see: I gotta play D with finger one, go down to C with finger one again, and OOPS! there is a B too! I guess I better keep going with finger 1 again" smile Especially when they think we're not looking wink
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#1240382 - 07/30/09 02:05 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
EDWARDIAN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
You're totally making sense, Gary.

I remember when I was a kid talking with a friend who also took piano. I can see her saying "Love those finger numbers! Then I know what the note is!"

It's always tricky to know what is too much fingering help. You don't want it to become a crutch, vis a vis my young friend, but I really try to develop good, comfortable fingering in my students because it will make them play better.

I find doing scales right off the bat helpful. In fact, I'm writing a series of scale books just for that purpose to try to make scales and fingering fun.

I find more fingering numbers in beginners helps them develop good fingering habits, and then weaning them off bit by bit helps with the note reading. I also say that a lot of fingering in pieces is a suggestion, and that sometimes there can be many ways to finger a phrase. In fact sometimes I'll change the printed finger suggestion to a more comfortable finger selection. This allows the student to choose and realize that the fingering is not necessarily "written in stone."

Joan
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#1240719 - 07/31/09 01:18 AM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Kreisler]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I try to get music with as little fingering as possible, and I make adding fingerings part of the student's work during the lesson. I have no problem with students rely on fingerings if they write them in themselves.


Bingo! That's exactly what I do. I try to get the Urtext editions of everything (with minimal fingering). Each student will figure out a fingering that works for him/her. As long as their fingering doesn't violate some major fingering rules, I'll let them keep their own fingering.

I have my students write out fingering for EVERY note, unless it's a repeated passage, or repeated notes in the L.H.
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#1240722 - 07/31/09 01:22 AM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: EDWARDIAN]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: EDWARDIAN
I remember when I was a kid talking with a friend who also took piano. I can see her saying "Love those finger numbers! Then I know what the note is!"


That's the precise reason why I stress note-reading from the beginning. I also stopped using Alfred and John Thompson because those books give way too much fingering. Piano Adventures is better because it gives the first fingering in each hand, and lets the student figure out the rest. Faber/Faber also circles fingerings that require a hand shift.

Even the most beginning student can benefit from writing out his/her own fingering. Never too soon to teach the fingering rules.
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#1240752 - 07/31/09 03:04 AM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
The flip side of that is that the "fingering-challenged" will mange to screw up anything that is not explicitly fingered.

It's not always about wrong notes coming from too little fingering. It's also (in some cases) about people reading surprisingly well but making horrible choices.

You were probably good at fingering, and believe it or not, I was very good at it. That's why I was only slightly damaged by absolutely NO help until I was about 19 or 20. Because of having no help, I came up with some brilliant solutions for very advanced pieces that really have no standard fingering in places where nothing is standard.

But strangely I never learned to play a chromatic scale using four fingers instead of three, and I thought I had the world's slowest fingers for passages that demanded great speed for chromatics.

There is no simple answer in getting fingering right. Too much help cripples the student, because the student relies on a teacher all the time, or editors. Too little and the student develops bad habits, and that can take a very long time to correct.


Edited by Gary D. (07/31/09 03:05 AM)
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#1241616 - 08/01/09 02:39 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: AZNpiano]
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Sometimes it's important to follow the printed fingering, especially in pieces that might normally be played one way, should be played in another because of a skill it's trying to develop (eg: changing fingers on the same note for dynamic effect or note regrouping (as in Kuhlau op. 55, no. 2 first movement) in the Alberti bass patterns. And sometimes I add an occasional fingering to help me play a passage better, especially where I'd be inclined to question which finger to use. But I change fingerings sometimes too, because of my small hands.

Meri
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#1241734 - 08/01/09 06:24 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: musiclady]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Important fingering does not need to be printed. If a point about fingering is being made by a piece or a section, the fingering can always be added by the teacher, to stress the point.

However, I much prefer to have fingering already in the music when it is something I have to teach frequently, so I will either notate it myself, doing my own editing, or find an edition that comes as close as possible to choices I would either make myself or recommend to students.

You mentioned changing fingers (I assume on the same note). If so, I consider that one of the "fine points" of playing that is most easily debated. I do not change fingers when the same note is repeated unless tempo or something special demands it. Other people almost always change fingers for repeated notes, even in slow passages.
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#1241737 - 08/01/09 06:33 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: EDWARDIAN]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: EDWARDIAN

I find more fingering numbers in beginners helps them develop good fingering habits, and then weaning them off bit by bit helps with the note reading. I also say that a lot of fingering in pieces is a suggestion, and that sometimes there can be many ways to finger a phrase. In fact sometimes I'll change the printed finger suggestion to a more comfortable finger selection. This allows the student to choose and realize that the fingering is not necessarily "written in stone."

I'd say we are very close in what we do, although I stress scales in pieces far more than scales practiced in isolation. And I spend much more time explaining WHY certain fingerings are preferred in scales than simply presenting them, Hanon-style.

My objection to scale practice (too much of it) is that most students, I believe, master fingerings for hands together, even for things like scales played in 3rds or 6ths (distance between hands) but do not make the "leap" to reasoning out how to adapt these fingerings in passage work.

I'm not suggesting students not learn scales, simply that learning them is not the "answer" to passage work but only a possible first step to negotiating the nearly limitless number of patterns that weave around in each hand, often in ways that make the hands feel as if they are fighting.

For instance, I feel that practicing the F major scale from now until "kingdom come" is not going to solve the technical problems in the Bach 2-Part Invention in F.
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano

That's the precise reason why I stress note-reading from the beginning. I also stopped using Alfred and John Thompson because those books give way too much fingering. Piano Adventures is better because it gives the first fingering in each hand, and lets the student figure out the rest. Faber/Faber also circles fingerings that require a hand shift.

I am only against "too much fingering", in the beginning, when it gives too many clues about what note is coming next. I do a lot of non-standard stretching, contraction and jumping, almost from the beginning, so the fingering I use as guides will immediately pinpoint NON-reading if my students are taking their first queues from the fingering.

When there is any doubt about actual note reading, I will encourage students to use any fingering that works at the moment, just get the notes, THEN examine the fingering I have suggested to see if it makes things smoother.

I also have my own music layered so that I can globally remove ALL fingering, with one quick command, then add fingering back, when necessary.
Quote:

Even the most beginning student can benefit from writing out his/her own fingering. Never too soon to teach the fingering rules.

Absolute agreement from me on this point! I got no help, and that's not right. But I only needed a little. It is easy for me to be too helpful, since fingering is so important to me. If I am, my students play exceptionally well when I am there to guide them in every moment but become crippled by being unable to work out their own problems, later.


Edited by Gary D. (08/01/09 06:42 PM)
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#1243359 - 08/04/09 02:49 PM Re: The right amount of fingering [Re: Gary D.]
Susan K. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 192
Loc: Central California
I am numbered fingering impaired, which means I currently can't read the note and the fingering at the same time. In fact, I didn't discover this fact consciously until I was practicing sight reading by playing duets with a much better piano player, who commented that I seemed to run out of fingers a lot -- and asked why I wasn't reading the finger markings. My response was, "I'm too busy trying to find the notes and keep the timing!"

I realized that I read notes the first time around, then timing, then fingering, which is why I need essentially three "running starts" at sight reading (not so great when trying to play a duet). I'm reading The Perfect Wrong Note by William Westney and on page 17, he makes an observation that really resonated with me both at my child-self who took rigorous piano lessons for 9 years and my adult-self trying to heal that child-self.

"Now, she is expected to show results ever week. Her overloaded brain feels heavy because there seem to be so many ways to be wrong - wrong fingering, wrong note, wrong counting - that when things do go right she feels more relief than excitement."

That was me. I think that if I had been directed to pay attention to fingering, doing it for homework, like "don't play this yet, but try to put in your fingering." I would have gotten two things, a sense that I needed to preview music (set up rather than plunge in) and to pay closer attention to what my fingers were doing. Now, I do that with my teacher. I preview what I'm going to start say two weeks in the future, the week before I'm going to start it, to look through it and figure out what's going to give me trouble and then we discuss it along with her knowlege of what gives everyone trouble. It has really helped me master previewing and fingering.

Susan

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