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#1082936 - 05/16/07 10:03 PM Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Bryan P. Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 148
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio, US
Since I'm not really sure of my question, I'll just ask it the best way I can.

I am having trouble with the fingerings in the three Bach Inventions I am working on. They are the two part inventions #1 in C, #4 in d, and #8 in F.

The problem comes from me memorizing the pieces with the fingerings that I worked out and did not write into the score. I can play these three, at varying tempos, with my own fingerings, rather well with hands together, to me. My teacher still wants me to work on them hands separate and with fingerings that keep changing. They change because she writes in new fingerings each week.

As time goes on I am feeling like they are losing cohesion. Where I used to use unconventional fingering I am now stuttering and thinking about which to use. I can sight read them even worse, with the new fingering.

I suppose my question is, should I wait until my teacher choses the fingerings to play, thereby mitigating any memorizational problems? I would agree to do that were the pace not so slow. We have been "working" on the d minor invention for over a month and still we are changing fingerings.

I suppose I am more upset that I can't learn them as fast as I want rather than upset with any methodology. Any suggestions on learning polyphony or any specific advice on inventions would be appreciated.

I chose this forum because I imagine these pieces are far behind the "pianists."

And I am realizing that Glenn Gould's inventions and sinfonias are just a work of divine hands. How can he do it, so fast and clear?!?
_________________________
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nil volentibus arduum
Do it for Fux' sake.
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#1082937 - 05/16/07 10:45 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Mike B Sure Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/03/04
Posts: 11
Loc: Kansas City
Wow. That does sound frustrating. I worked out the Bach #1 (C) a few months ago then gave Bach a break. I just recently started #8. My teacher seem to have an opposite approach. We work out the fingering hand separate them practice, practice, practice finally putting them together. The fingering never changes.

He wants me to work on the 2 part Inventions in order to build the playing skills I will need later. It is sort of like getting good at rubbing your belly and patting your head before moving on.

I like them because they are like solving a puzzle. But we start by finding the best fingering first and sticking to it. From there it gets easier and easier to build speed. And it seems a lot easier to learn them more quickly.

Good luck.

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#1082938 - 05/16/07 10:49 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
you can learn the piece with your own fingerings first. but once your teacher make suggestions, you then need to try it to see if it works better than your own one. make a decision once you have tried different fingering selections, i.e. pick the best one for you and write it down on the score and stick to it!

don't change fingerings again once you have selected a set of fingerings for that piece, unless after you have practiced it for long time and still have trouble with a particular passage, then change a different fingering for that passage might make a big difference. but in any case, the best advice is to work out fingerings for a piece first and stick to it (and remember to write it down on score), and only change a fingering for a passage when necessary. you cannot really learn a piece, invention or not, if you keep changing fingerings.

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#1082939 - 05/16/07 11:03 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
gabytu Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 1521
Loc: Portland, Or.
What an excellent question, and something that interests me very much. I am working on several Bach inventions (including #1). I asked my teacher to write in the fingering for me which he did. They were all excellent suggestions, for the very best fingering. But, to my dismay, I found that instead of reading the notes, I was reading which finger to use, and was getting all mixed up.

So today I tried an experiment, erased all the fingering that my teacher was kind enough to write in for me, and tried the pieces again. To my amazement I did much better.

I do believe that I am developing a really good feel for where the keys are and my fingers go automatically to them. So now I am relying on my tactile sense of the keyboard and am just really thrilled at how much better I am playing these inventions.

My fingering seems to be pretty consistant---almost as though the fingers have memorized where to go. Once in a while I run into something awkward, and do what Signa has suggested----work out the fingering for that passage and then I stick to it.

Gaby Tu

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#1082940 - 05/16/07 11:14 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bryan Carney:
I chose this forum because I imagine these pieces are far behind the "pianists."[/b]
Not quite... actually, a friend of mine at Indiana University (bassoonypianokevn) was required during his 1st year as a piano performance major to play all of the 2-part and 3-part inventions.

And as you pointed out -- even Glenn Gould recorded them. If they're good enough for Gould, then they're certainly good enough for the rest of us! ;\)

But even so, your post actually gets at a lot of great points which are important in a lot of other music, too:

-- is it better to just pick one fingering and stick with it, or should fingerings constantly change?
-- is it better to memorize quickly, even if fingerings aren't set?
-- are unconventional fingerings okay, if they work?

** Why is your teacher suggesting new fingerings each week??[/b]

That last question is important -- it might be sloppiness, but it might not be. Ask yourself, why is this fingering different from the one before? Maybe it is causing you to articulate a different way; maybe it changes your phrasing. Maybe the old fingering worked, but the new one will work better for the phrasing that you are trying to do.


-- How do we learn to play polyphony? (That's really a loaded question, isn't it!)
-- How does Gould play so clear and fast?

Lots of great questions, and they are as important for the 2-part inventions as they are for Rachmaninov Concertos.
_________________________
Sam

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#1082941 - 05/17/07 03:38 AM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Bryan P. Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 148
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio, US
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:

** Why is your teacher suggesting new fingerings each week??[/b]

That last question is important -- it might be sloppiness, but it might not be. Ask yourself, why is this fingering different from the one before? Maybe it is causing you to articulate a different way; maybe it changes your phrasing. Maybe the old fingering worked, but the new one will work better for the phrasing that you are trying to do.
[/b]
This is the point I missed in this post. I am the one who came to her with these inventions. I didn't try to learn them all at once. Part of my, and I mean my own, plan was to start on the inventions because I love baroque keyboard music and want to play a Bach suite as one of my first big projects. I waited to be given the go-ahead but I couldn't resist trying as soon as the pistol went off. Upon working through these I dive in work on HS and then put them together as soon as I am able.

The issue with the changing fingerings is that I haven't been putting my own fingerings in as I learn the piece. I see that might be the best solution for me. However, I don't have instant feedback and the few times I have decided upon a fingering a new one has been suggested. I am not sure, in the short time with my teacher, each week, that it would be productive to go through and mark out each voice's fingers. Maybe I have just been making bad decisions in my finger choices and should learn from them.

I like my relationship with my teacher and do trust that she knows more than me. I hear it with my own ears.

Thanks for pointing out my questions. It is good to have clarification.
_________________________
=====================
nil volentibus arduum
Do it for Fux' sake.
=====================

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#1082942 - 05/17/07 04:43 AM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
Hi Brian,

I'm not at all up to the level of the Bach Inventions, yet, but here are some thoughts that may help you.

You do mention that you are playing them at "varying tempos." Sam mentions phrasing, but the other problem that fingering impacts is the tempo. A lot of problems with increasing the tempo you are playing a piece at is actually due to fingering. So besides changing the phrasing, a new fingering will also allow you to potentially increase the tempo you can play the piece at. (Once you have set the fingering and mastered it, that is.)

This might be good to bring up to your teacher so you can learn how she is trying to help you solve the problem. You would like to be able to apply her problem solving approach to other pieces on your own in the future.

Rich
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#1082943 - 05/17/07 02:50 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Starting Over Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 1290
Loc: Toronto
My experience with these pieces is that the fingering is critical. I use the Alfred Edition, edited by Palmer, which includes fingering, much of which is not obvious and would be difficult to figure out. I can't imagine trying to learn these pieces without good fingering, especially if it changed from week to week. This music is challenging enough without uncertainty in the fingering.
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#1082944 - 05/19/07 11:54 AM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
robertp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/05
Posts: 53
Loc: Bethlehem PA
It's easy to get into a mess changing JSB fingerings. Here's what I've come up with in the course of learning a number of the 3 Part Inventions recently.

I do a slow run through and put in some fingerings. Then I try some sections up to tempo and see if those fingerings still work. If they don't, I put a bracket around the old fingering and write the new one next to it. Reason: what looks like a great new fingering may not seem so great the next day. This way you can go back.

Sometimes a bad fingering can lurk into a very late stage with the piece. It's usually hellacious to change then, but it can be done. And worth the pain.

You can easily adapt what I've just written to your particular circumstances. Say one of your teacher's fingerings don't seem to work. Put your new one in a bracket. Then you can promote/demote by erasing/rewriting brackets -- just make sure you put a small initial by either yours or your teacher's so you don't forget who wrote what.
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#1082945 - 05/19/07 01:28 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Ragnhild Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/22/06
Posts: 1117
Loc: Norway
Thank you for this interesting thread. I work with Bach Inventions myself, lately number 15 of the 3-part Inventions.
My teacher has told me to find fingering that works for me, write it down and by all means stick to it. I am only allowed to change if the fingering does not work and causes mistakes.

She tells me that if I change fingering all the time I will never learn the piece, and that this is even more important with Bach than other things I work on.

Ragnhild
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#1082946 - 05/19/07 02:03 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
There are a number of editions of these (inventions/sinfonias) edited by very capable people with excellent fingering which should obviate changing fingering frequently. If you have an unedited printing, then you probably do need fingering written in, but, as previously mentioned in other posts, stick to one that works and gets the musical message across. Continued change of fingering can only lead to confusion and frustration. Usually the simplest fingering is the best but there are instances where something that seems unorthodox will actually work better than what might seem like a straight-forward fingering but doesn't accomplish the musical purpose. Reflexes are developed by consistency in fingering so that it becomes less necessary to think about when playing at tempo after thoroughly learning the piece. Changing an editor's fingering is fine if the change works better for the player. But, once again, a set and stable fingering will produce good results as opposed to continued changing of the fingering week from week.

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#1082947 - 05/19/07 05:05 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Bryan P. Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 148
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio, US
Thank you, _robertp_. This is a suggestion I have just put into use. It does make sense to organize fingerings as phrases. I suppose I never thought of it that way. I will put this into use, right away, for the next piece, be it an invention or otherwise.

Also, an edition with fingerings might be right for me, at this stage of the game. I have been using an edition by Dover: "Johann Sebastian Bach, Keyboard Music." It has all the suites, the Goldbergs, and the Inventions. I gather this is not the popular text to use. It's printed in such a small point font, anyways.

_Varcon_, what are the editions a learner should use for JSBach?
_________________________
=====================
nil volentibus arduum
Do it for Fux' sake.
=====================

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#1082948 - 05/19/07 05:26 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
In Vienna I used the Edwin Fischer edition (Hansen Publications)and I have a couple of others as well--interesting to compare fingering too. The Alfred is very clean and nicely fingered. If you find some not as comfortable or accomodating as you would like you, or your teacher, can modify the fingering. The Henle is also very good as would be the Peters. Maybe your teacher has a favorite that might even be more suitable. I stick with the Edwin Fischer for the most part but I'm not 'bound' by it by any means.

I also have the Bischoff which might afford you some perspective. But the latest and probably the most used now would be the Henle or Alfred publications of them.

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#1082949 - 05/19/07 05:52 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
pianoid Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/07
Posts: 314
Loc: somewhere in the space-time co...
"My teacher still wants me to work on them hands separate and with fingerings that keep changing. They change because she writes in new fingerings each week."

This is insane! Fingerings is just a general guide. Once you find one for particular pieces which suit your fingers the most naturally keep with it.
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#1082950 - 05/19/07 07:41 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions
Bryan P. Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/06
Posts: 148
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio, US
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoid:
"My teacher still wants me to work on them hands separate and with fingerings that keep changing. They change because she writes in new fingerings each week."

This is insane! Fingerings is just a general guide. Once you find one for particular pieces which suit your fingers the most naturally keep with it. [/b]
I am leaning your way. My next lesson, I am going to tell her I'm satisfied with the progress made on these pieces and want to move on to what's next. Maybe she isn't convinced I have implemented her suggestions. I don't see the point of beating a subdued horse, Bach or this very thread.

Thank you all for your input.
_________________________
=====================
nil volentibus arduum
Do it for Fux' sake.
=====================

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#1742128 - 08/28/11 03:59 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
Eglantine Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 01 2013


Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 804
Loc: Another Country
I'm starting to take a look at Invention 4, and while looking around for useful resources came across this doctoral thesis by DK Kahlstorf about the Inventions.

Very practical, with a performing edition as an appendix. Includes plenty of discussion of fingerings.

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=1775546971041147702&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5
_________________________
Currently working on: F. Couperin - Preludes & Sweelinck - Fantasia Chromatica
J.S. Bach, Einaudi, Purcell, Froberger, Croft, Blow, Frescobaldi, Glass, Couperin
1930s upright (piano) & single manual William Foster (harpsichord)


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#1742150 - 08/28/11 04:43 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
I'm curious if your teacher is intentionally changing the fingerings or if she just forgets what she assigned previously and assigns a new one. Neither of these cases, IMHO, are acceptable, but if she's doing it intentionally, she should at least be able to give you her reason.

The Inventions require high degrees of both muscle memory and conscious memory. Changing fingering should only be undertaken as a last resort when a previous attempt fails in spite of studious effort, and even then only one or two changes at a time is advisable.

I second the recommendation of the Palmer edition, as it not only includes good fingerings but dynamic markings, trill details, and a CD of recordings by Valerie Lloyd-Watts.

Best of luck with these intriguing pieces.

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#1742174 - 08/28/11 05:13 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
Eglantine Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 01 2013


Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 804
Loc: Another Country
Hi Bluekeys, I resurrected a thread rather than start another about the same thing. The discussion about changed fingerings took place some time ago, but any discussion of fingerings is always useful.

Good to know about the Palmer edition - the CD seems to be sold separately (UK).
I wonder how this compares to the ABRSM Signature edition, which has "fully realised ornaments" as well as fingerings etc.
_________________________
Currently working on: F. Couperin - Preludes & Sweelinck - Fantasia Chromatica
J.S. Bach, Einaudi, Purcell, Froberger, Croft, Blow, Frescobaldi, Glass, Couperin
1930s upright (piano) & single manual William Foster (harpsichord)


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#1742219 - 08/28/11 06:44 PM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
Sorry. Didn't notice the brief 4 year interlude between postings. Hopefully my point is still valid. smile


Edited by bluekeys (08/28/11 06:44 PM)

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#1742441 - 08/29/11 04:10 AM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1734
Loc: Philadelphia area
lol... I wonder how much time Bach spent on fingering???

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#1742464 - 08/29/11 06:16 AM Re: Fingering in Bach's Inventions [Re: Bryan P. Carney]
Eglantine Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 01 2013


Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 804
Loc: Another Country
From a brief glance through the thesis I linked to above, I'd say that they were far less precious about using all the fingers (e.g. little finger). Lots of other interesting patterns in evidence. It's worth checking out if you like to play Baroque pieces.
_________________________
Currently working on: F. Couperin - Preludes & Sweelinck - Fantasia Chromatica
J.S. Bach, Einaudi, Purcell, Froberger, Croft, Blow, Frescobaldi, Glass, Couperin
1930s upright (piano) & single manual William Foster (harpsichord)


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