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#1278826 - 10/01/09 05:39 PM playing with large fingers
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
I am wondering if I have been teaching something incorrectly.

When teaching five finger patterns students complain about patterns that are less comfortable to play, especially B and Bb. I tell them to place their fingers on the black keys that they need to play first and then let their fingers fall on the white keys. This is so they do not twist their wrists in an awkward position. This can cause a finger to fall between the black keys to play a white key.

I have an adult beginner that is working on the five-finger patterns. For example when he plays Bb, C, D, Eb F he moves his thumb up to Bb which moves his 3rd finger playing D between the two black keys. His fingers are large enough that they do not fit comfortably between the black keys. He says that the 3rd finger sometimes causes the black keys to play.

I have small hands with barely an octave reach. I told him I would ask you all for help.


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#1278838 - 10/01/09 06:09 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: abcdefg]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
I'd love to know just for myself smirk I have fingers like sausages and there's no way any of them will fit between the black keys. Just no way. I just have to work out fingerings that don't require me to do this and, when that's not possible, accept that I have to twist my hand somewhat. In practice, I hardly ever find it a problem, but I imagine that if I'd tried to follow one of those five-finger-pattern methods I'd have been in agony with certain pieces.

Sorry. I wish I had a helpful answer frown Good luck finding one, and let me know if you do!

#1278863 - 10/01/09 07:00 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: kevinb]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Fingers are not meant to play way back on the thin parts of the white keys as some people's fingers do not fit between the black keys and the target for touching a a white key with your finger tip is out in the wider section of the key.

Ask you teacher about this.

So that means that your fingers are gliding forward after playing B to near the ends of the black keys C#D# then the 4 will touch the E while 5 is on the way to the next black key. Same idea with Bb row.

I like placing your fingers on the black keys first and then allowing space for the fingers to be place on the white keys gently. Don't force the hand into a compact, tight position, your arm and shoulder should not be tense either. Drop your arms from the shoulders, let the elbow have freedon, use the wrist to help you move in the direction you are going. The arm bone stays as much as possible in alignment with the finger that is playing at the moment.

If you lift your wrist in the direction the notes are moving, this works better. (wrist gradually lifts up and fto the right to accomodate the finger playing the note when ascending. It would reverse the gesture to play descending notes.

Practice the gesture on a hard surface before moving it to the piano.

I think I would pounding fingers playing as a result of what I am reading in the posters approaches. You want to get out of your own way and let the fingers find their destinations, don't push them into service.


#1278922 - 10/01/09 08:51 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: Betty Patnude]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12571
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Is it possible for the student to play with a more curved hand for the B flat? I'm thinking more along the lines of playing a B flat major chord, rather than 5 finger position. In a 5 finger position, it is easy enough to bring the hand back toward the body more to play on the large part of the white keys and not go in between.

But when playing a chord, perhaps he can get the edge of the B flat key with his thumb, while playing the D with the very tip of his finger and the f with a more natural curve? If this is comfortable for him, then go with it. smile

Btw, twisting the wrist is really not good to do if it can be avoided.

Edited by Morodiene (10/01/09 08:52 PM)
private piano/voice teacher FT

#1279050 - 10/02/09 12:10 AM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: Morodiene]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
We are trying to avoid twisting the wrist. I will look at his hand next week and see how it looks with a cluster and with the chord.

#1279260 - 10/02/09 10:42 AM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: abcdefg]
ocd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/10/06
Posts: 201
Loc: North East
I am also afflicted with thick fingers. My fingers fit between C# and D#; I have trouble when trying to play between F# and G#, or G# and Bb (this spacing is narrower than that between C# and D#). If I cannot re-finger and I must play in the narrows, I tilt my hand so that the finger fits in sort of sideways (playing with the right hand, I would rotate the hand clockwise). This is what my teacher suggests as she (being Taubman trained) avoids twisting as much as possible.

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen."

#1279443 - 10/02/09 03:11 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: Betty Patnude]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Fingers are not meant to play way back on the thin parts of the white keys as some people's fingers do not fit between the black keys and the target for touching a a white key with your finger tip is out in the wider section of the key.

Ask you teacher about this.

Sorry, but I could hardly disagree more strongly. Having seen countless films of the great pianists, it is absolutely standard to play in between the black keys. I can't think of a single player who doesn't do so as routine. I can hardly begin to imagine how difficult it might be to play advanced music without doing so. In various pieces there's simply no time to make the adjustments that are required to avoid it. A single position is generally far easier. If you want to make life easy by covering as many notes as possible, you have to go between the black keys. If this is physically impossible, obviously another way will have to be found. However, it can't be overstated how much more difficult it is to play without ever going between them. Very few high-level pianists move in and out of the keys from note to note. They primarily alternate between whole positions. If that involves putting a finger between black keys, that's simply what needs to be done (to avoid wasted movement). The idea of attempting a rapid fire b flat minor harmonic scale without conceiving it in just two prepared hand-positions (for which there's virtually no contortion that could possibly avoid the necessity of fingers between black keys) doesn't bear thinking about.

Are we actually talking about impossibility, or merely difficulty? If a pianist with hands like Richter could manage it, I'm not too convinced that it's actually impossible for all but a tiny minority. For most hands, it just needs extremely precise alignment. If you can slowly place your finger between the black keys, without moving them, you have everything you possibly need. I'd pretty much always start from contact, when playing in that region.

Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/02/09 05:59 PM)

#1279531 - 10/02/09 05:27 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Joe H. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/13/09
Posts: 11
For the Bb 5 finger position, it's better to finger it 21234 anyway, regardless if you're fat-fingered or not. And this fingering will allow you to keep your hand closer to the wide end of the white keys.

As far as whether it's OK to play in between the black keys, I feel most people tend to fall back on the old adage of "stay away from the narrow part of the white key". However, after seriously injuring my wrists in college and spending two years nursing them back to health by studying Taubman, I have to strongly disagree. The most important consideration when learning technique is being able to keep your hands and fingers relaxed. Tension is the enemy of fluidity, grace, and comfort. And twisting your wrist or bending your fingers awkwardly just stay out of the black keys creates a whole mess of tension, which led to my tendinitis and carpal tunnel.

For my sausage finger students, I work out new fingerings to help keep their fingers out of the space between the black keys, but I never allow them to twist their wrist or contort their hand. If they have to go between the black keys, I coach them to keep their fingers close to the keys when their not playing so that there is very little distance for them to travel and thus less of a chance they'll accidentally hit the black keys.

#1279586 - 10/02/09 07:35 PM Re: playing with large fingers [Re: Joe H.]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
I hope I will not start a debate between those who disagree. I am considering all comments and will hopefully find a solution for my student.


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