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#1967419 - 10/01/12 05:13 PM Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Hi Everybody!

I need your help in understanding a concept that has left me somewhat confused. Bear with me, for this may be a long post! I don’t understand the relevance of the fingering of scales to fingerings that would be used to play an actual song in that key. Perhaps, I’m over thinking the problem. I certainly understand that fingering suggested for a given scale makes it easier to play, but these fingering suggestions seem to go out the window to some extent when actually playing a song in that key.

Here’s an example:

In Alfred’s All-In-One Level 2 book on page 132, the Eb scale is introduced with fingerings for the treble and bass clefs and it mentions that the 5th finger is not used in either hand, and the key note Eb, is played by the 3rd finger of the right and left hand. OK – from playing this for both clefs, it make sense.

The song used to demonstrate the Eb scale is good ol’ Loch Lomond, which begins in the first measure of treble clef with the Bb below middle C fingered by 2 and middle C fingered by 1 which makes sense. In measure 2, Eb above middle C is fingered with the 3 also in keeping with the scale but directly below it in the bass clef, the low Eb one ledger line below and the Bb above it are fingered 5 & 2 respectively. While it’s natural, at least for me, to play them that way, I feel like saying “Liar, Liar, pants on fire!” seeing that the verboten 5th finger is playing that low Eb! Now, I certainly understand that in playing a song, you have to move your fingers and hands around and that in Eb you might want to use your longer fingers to hit the black keys wherever possible, but is knowing the fingering for the scale terribly relevant to playing a song in that key?

I know that if I had come across a version of Loch Lomond in Eb, that had no fingering suggestions, my attempt at working out what fingers should be playing what notes would probably be significantly different than the Alfred version. I have this mental picture of "The Fingering Police" with the expression on their faces reminiscent of "The Scream", saying “you idiot - you’re doing it the wrong way!”

Most of the pieces I’m working on are from Masterworks Classics Vol. 4 where just a few fingering suggestions are fine and I have no problem figuring out what goes where, but Easy Piano pop song books without fingering suggestions tend to baffle me. Anyone else have this problem?

I have Alfred’s Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences which I’m sure is a wonderful tome for playing perfect scales all day long, but seemingly wouldn’t do much for me when it comes to deciphering a Burt Bacharach song. So, it has sat largely unused Any advice?
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#1967520 - 10/01/12 08:29 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1151
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Emissary52
I certainly understand that fingering suggested for a given scale makes it easier to play, but these fingering suggestions seem to go out the window to some extent when actually playing a song in that key.


Yes, agree and I wouldn't suggest you lose any sleep over it. There are bigger fires to fight (fish to fry?) with this learning the piano business.

I recently posed a similar question of what the tiny little #'s were for. This is the response I received which you may also find of help.

Originally Posted By: zrt90

Yes, the tiny numbers are fingering suggestions that suit the editor's hand or that of a friend he knows. Very occasionally they may suit yours and even less frequently they'll be the composer's suggestion for bringing out the phrasing.

Don't ignore them without trying them first to see what they're trying to achieve/solve but don't treat them with too much respect.
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#1967677 - 10/02/12 08:26 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Greener]
Farmerjones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
A song's key is where it returns to and may not even start from. Better to know the song's chord structure/progression, for myself. Most of the melody is within the chord. Sometimes it seems the notes that aren't in the chord but are in that scale make up the song's individuality. In other words, many songs have the same chord structure, where they depart melodically makes them unique.

The usual disclaimers apply: I don't know Alfred. I'm 90% non-classical. I just play nursing homes.

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#1967798 - 10/02/12 03:06 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Farmerjones]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Greener – I’m one of those people who believed that any fingering numbers were strategically placed in a music piece by editors that had some special “inside knowledge” that the composer “miraculously imbued” them with! Who knew! Zrt90’s answer is probably the absolute true take of the situation.

Farmerjones – From my years of guitar playing, I agree with you on this aspect. In looking at individual measures throughout a song, I find it interesting in how the melody can modify what the originally marked chord is, at the start of a measure - say, Am7 which may start out sounding an Am then Am6 then finally Am7 by the end of the measure.

This whole rant started as a result of my transposing the version of “I Saw Three Ships” that appears in Dan Coates’ “Top 50 Christmas Hits” from the key of G to the key of Eb and then wondering whether I could use his suggested fingering sequence in G and have it be “correct” for Eb. Luckily, that song consists of pretty much 3 quarter notes in the left hand measures and a half note and quarter note for many of the right-hand measures so I may be able to get away with it! But if I had transposed a Chopin piece in E to the key of G to eliminate those nasty sharps and black keys, (Hey – I like Debussy and Gb, but using this as an example!), would the typical fingering numbers that might be found in the original be that far off for the new key?


Edited by Emissary52 (10/02/12 03:09 PM)
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I'm Craig, I'm retired, It's Saturday every day!
Alfred's Masterwork Classics Vol 3 and Vol 4
YDP-160, GH-170R
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#1967803 - 10/02/12 03:24 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8387
Loc: Georgia, USA
I don't know much about all the intricacies and depth of music theory, but I do know that the scale of a key is very important... so, it is certainly relevant.

You know that you can safely play any note in the scale of a particular key/chord or key/chord combination and be safe, so to speak.

Just my .02.

Rick
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#1967817 - 10/02/12 03:56 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Rickster]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Rickster - Whatever music theory you think you lack, is overcome by your "inherent musicality"! You make singing and playing at the same time look so easy and I must admit to being a bit jealous! Whenever I attempt to sing and play at the same time, one of those modes stops! I feel like I'm the living example of LBJ's line about Gerald Ford - "That guy can't chew gum and tie his shoelaces at the same time! That's why I transposed the easy "I Saw Three Ships" from G to Eb in an attempt to have something simple enough to learn, to the point where I can sing along with it and not have to think much about the piano-playing aspect. That is proving to be a monumental task for me! When you doubt the correctness of what you're doing on the piano, little brain power is left to properly modulate the voice - in my case! There is a method to my madness, although at this point, more madness than method!


Edited by Emissary52 (10/02/12 03:58 PM)
_________________________
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Alfred's Masterwork Classics Vol 3 and Vol 4
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#1967831 - 10/02/12 04:19 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8387
Loc: Georgia, USA
This past weekend, when I was playing my digital piano with my son, Mark, and his band, they played some songs in E major, A major and B major... boy was I lost. smile

I was able to prod along, but just barely. I can play very comfortably (by ear) in C, G, F (my favorite singing key) and D. I'm learning to play in the flats (or sharps). I've come to favor F# and Eb. Ab and Db are not bad keys either.

E major and A major just seem awkward on the key board, though they are very popular keys on the guitar. The spacing between the Chord intervals just seems odd.

Again, it is very important to be familiar with the scales of these keys.

I've learned that it takes a long time and a lot of playing to be really good on the piano. I admire anyone who wants to learn to play the piano and puts some effort into it.

By the way, thanks for the complements, Emissary52… you play pretty well yourself.

Rick smile


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#1967878 - 10/02/12 06:10 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Tararex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/11
Posts: 395
Loc: Middle Georgia, USA
Ah, I'm not the only one pondering fingering incongruities encountered between key and pieces. (Or even amongst pieces.)

I also have Alfred’s Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences. After taking great care with memorizing "proper fingering" while working through the keys I've moved on. Now I'm working on Beethoven bagatelles and Clementi (pieces originally created for instruction) and find the masters way is sometimes importantly different from common teaching.

It's not even a coin toss as to which method I follow in these cases.
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#1967906 - 10/02/12 07:01 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Tararex]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Rickster - I know exactly what you mean when it comes to key suitability. But I seem to prefer G over F! Guess I Iike F# better than Bb. Maybe it stems from keeping one of my guitars in a open G tuning ... handy for playing a lot of old Joni Mitchell songs. As for my piano skills, I tend to feel that when I can play some of my early intermediate pieces more musically than some of the six-year olds on youtube, I'm on the right track.

Tararex, I'm glad I'm not the only one to recognize some of these inconsistancies. I can accept that playing scales and trudging through Hanon can certainly increase the speed of hand movement and finger dexterity and ...if you can do it just for those factors alone, more power to you! But even if you can play the Eb scale backwards and forwards at nearly the speed of light, will it actually do you any good trying to figure out how to come up with a fingering pattern for "Send In The Clowns" which always seems to be in Eb? I just feel mostly that I should spend time actually trying to figure out a piece by playing it, rather than study scales and Hanon, hoping that doing so will somehow translate into better playing and provide some sort of "magic insight" into approaching a new piece of music. Am I off base with this attitude?
_________________________
I'm Craig, I'm retired, It's Saturday every day!
Alfred's Masterwork Classics Vol 3 and Vol 4
YDP-160, GH-170R
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#1967973 - 10/02/12 09:49 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
MaryAnn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/11
Posts: 388
Loc: Japan
I don't think fingering in a scale has anything to do with playing a piece in that key, unless the piece has a scale in it (which isn't unheard of). I guess it generally gives you good practice going over and under, playing evenly, etc. If you're interested in pop music, I would guess that skipping past the scales to the chord cadences would be the way to go. I'm actually struggling with this at the moment. Playing chords and changing between them is hard for me.

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#1968018 - 10/02/12 10:59 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Tararex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/11
Posts: 395
Loc: Middle Georgia, USA
Hi Emissary,

All I feel qualified to say is that learning each key scale has helped in visualizing where fingers are likely to land when first viewing the upper left corner of the staff. Other than that I'm totally with you.

My first year of self-instruction included the Alfred's All-in-one books, simple Bach and Burgmueller op.100. At the end of that year I was still having considerable difficulty moving the old fingers "at the speed of light". Ornaments & arpeggios seemed impossible no matter how many times repeated as explained in the Alfred's books.

Although progress was fine considering my available practice time I adjusted learning objectives for "year two" in April. Beethoven and Clementi's educational offerings are now my daily companions. The difference in acquiring technique has been as if the pieces actually do contain magical insight.

Yes - I agree that playing real music is more important, but I think what is selected is just as important. That's my opinion today anyway. It's difficult to see the big picture from the bottom of the learning curve, so someone with much greater knowledge than myself may point out that I'm completely wrong here.
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#1968081 - 10/03/12 02:25 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: MaryAnn]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Originally Posted By: MaryAnn
I don't think fingering in a scale has anything to do with playing a piece in that key, unless the piece has a scale in it (which isn't unheard of).


MaryAnn - I actually came across a piece of music just like that in my Masterwork Classic Vol 3 book - Latour's Sonatina in C Major with a C above middle C scale (complete with the thumb tuck-under on the F note ...at no extra charge!), so I know that situation really exists! grin

Tararex - I know exactly what you mean about "old fingers syndrome" and for a while I started to think I was a prime example of it. When I got to Turk's "The Ballet" in M.C. Vol 3(forgive the missing umlaut in his name), I had so much trouble with the 16th notes, that I thought I was maybe too "old" and I skipped it before I mastered it. When I came across Mozart's Country Dance K15e in M.C.vol 4, I finally decided to sit there until I could play those damn 16th notes nearly as fast a Valery Lloyd-Watts does on the accompanying CD. (Sure wish I could play like her!) I decided that since I didn't have arthritis in any fingers or any other "malady" to blame my slowness on, I had no excuses! A couple of afternoons later, I was pretty close! Sometimes, just plain perseverance creates those break-throughs! crazy But in the long run the satisfaction is soo worth the effort.

One of my weird idiosyncrasies is that I seem to be able to memorize classical pieces much easier than pop songs. This is exactly the opposite of what I thought would occur when I took up piano. I haven't figured that one out yet. Maybe it's having words associated with it or the sparse arrangements that come with this level of skill or a bad key for me to half sing along with! Who knows?

Someone is going to have to give me a really good reason not to shelve my Alfred's version of Hanon and the Scales, Chords and Whatever books and just proceed to keep playin those pieces that interest me.

Playing piano has also had an effect on my health. I've gone on a diet and lost 25lbs with the intention of losing another 35 so I'll weigh exactly what I weighed at 17 - 147.5 lbs. I'm turning 60 on the 20th and I'll be Damned if I'm going to croak, before I get "good" at the piano!!!! grin grin


Edited by Emissary52 (10/03/12 02:39 AM)
_________________________
I'm Craig, I'm retired, It's Saturday every day!
Alfred's Masterwork Classics Vol 3 and Vol 4
YDP-160, GH-170R
Alfred 1 Graduate

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#1968125 - 10/03/12 07:51 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8387
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Emissary52
Playing piano has also had an effect on my health. I've gone on a diet and lost 25lbs with the intention of losing another 35 so I'll weigh exactly what I weighed at 17 - 147.5 lbs. I'm turning 60 on the 20th and I'll be Damned if I'm going to croak, before I get "good" at the piano!!!! grin grin

Me too, Craig... smile

Since I started learning to play the piano (or playing to learn smile ) I've lost about 50lbs. My cholesterol and blood pressure is lower than it has ever been. I feel better than I’ve felt in years. And, to top it off, I’ve noticed that when I go grocery shopping, the women in the grocery store will stop, turn around and take another look at me when I pass them in the isle. Now that has never happened before… laugh

So, all in all, my interest in the piano has been a very positive thing in my life. Now, if I could actually play a piano. smile

Rick



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#1968174 - 10/03/12 10:12 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Rickster]
Tararex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/11
Posts: 395
Loc: Middle Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: Rickster
Originally Posted By: Emissary52
Playing piano has also had an effect on my health. I've gone on a diet and lost 25lbs with the intention of losing another 35 so I'll weigh exactly what I weighed at 17 - 147.5 lbs. I'm turning 60 on the 20th and I'll be Damned if I'm going to croak, before I get "good" at the piano!!!! grin grin

Me too, Craig... smile

Since I started learning to play the piano (or playing to learn smile ) I've lost about 50lbs. My cholesterol and blood pressure is lower than it has ever been. I feel better than I’ve felt in years. And, to top it off, I’ve noticed that when I go grocery shopping, the women in the grocery store will stop, turn around and take another look at me when I pass them in the isle. Now that has never happened before… laugh

So, all in all, my interest in the piano has been a very positive thing in my life. Now, if I could actually play a piano. smile

Rick


+1. I've also lost 20lbs since piano entered my life. The desire to eat out of boredom has disappeared along with half the meds I was tied to pre-piano. 15lbs to go to hit "age 20" weight!

Learning Piano = Best choice ever.

There are down sides to this obsession. After waking up in the middle of night last week screaming "no, no, no", I realized my dream was of my piano being stolen. That and my husband is beginning to become suspicious of my constant companionship with books faced with portraits of other men. grin

I wouldn't throw away the Hanon and scales - they're reference and very useful at times. Don't use or expect them to teach beyond what they are and all should be well.

Julie
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#1968196 - 10/03/12 11:09 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2375
Loc: Virginia, USA
When a piece has a number of runs (scales) in it, knowing the fingering of the scale really helps. If it doesn't, it might not.

That's not a reason to not learn scales - that's a separate decision you need to make. There are pros and cons to both. I personally find learning scales has helped with sightreading.

As far as a piece goes, if I spot there is a scale and the suggested fingering is not standard, I look and see if it works with the standard fingering. Usually the only reason it doesn't is if something comes immediately before or after it, or a note has to be held down.
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#1968199 - 10/03/12 11:25 AM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
Jacob777 Offline
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Registered: 08/21/07
Posts: 103
Scales are pretty much non-existant in the stuff that I play so the fingering as such isn't that important. However, playing the scales of the different keys every once in a while help me to imprint and know each key signature more thoroughly which again helps when improvising and composing. The fingering isn't particularly difficult once you know the basic principles (no thumb on black keys etc) and so I think it is worth spending a little time learning it.

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#1968214 - 10/03/12 12:17 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: Emissary52]
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
Speaking from "the bottom of the learning curve," as Tararex might put it, this is my understanding:

Scales are used to learn the keys themselves (C Major is all naturals, F notes are sharp in G Major, etc.) to develop fluidity, timing and dynamic control, and to enhance one's ability to play up and down the keyboard.

The fingering for scales is not connected to the fingering for any given piece of music. When playing, fingerings provide guideposts so the player can move to, or keep his/her hands in, the correct position on the keyboard. Beginner pieces typically have more fingering notations to help the student stay on track.

Although experienced players certainly experiment with fingering and may ignore the notations, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the fingerings in Alfred's (or other) learning books since they are mostly likely intended to guide the student into through specific hand positions.

smile
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#1968250 - 10/03/12 02:00 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: piano_deb]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2309
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Emissary52
This whole rant started as a result of my transposing the version of “I Saw Three Ships” that appears in Dan Coates’ “Top 50 Christmas Hits” from the key of G to the key of Eb and then wondering whether I could use his suggested fingering sequence in G and have it be “correct” for Eb.

...is knowing the fingering for the scale terribly relevant to playing a song in that key?

It's not about learning what finger plays what notes, it's about learning how to turn the thumb under while another finger is raised on a black key or, when passing over the thumb, that it's on a white key.

Scale fingering tries to keep the shorter thumb and fifth finger on longer white keys and use the longer fingers on shorter black keys while minimising the number of thumb turns per octave.

Fingering for pieces follows the same principle - minimising thumb turns but effecting them, if possible, when the finger being passed is raised on a black key.

It would do no harm to examine each phrase for necessary hand movements and choose turning points for the thumb and/or stretches between fingers to achieve this then examine the recommended fingering and see how or why they might differ. The more you do this the easier and quicker it is when you come to a piece without marked fingering (such as when you've transposed a piece).

A final phrase in G can end with 4th finger on F# and 5th on G but in Eb that would result in 4th finger on D and 5th on Eb and that isn't really optimal.

The fingering police turn up when the legato breaks down awkwardly in mid-phrase, like singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and taking a breath (or moving the hand) between rain and bow.

Originally Posted By: piano_deb
...Scales are used to learn the keys themselves...
You can learn the keys without having to practise the scales. Scales are used to learn the principles of fingering and to give the ear an easy time hearing whether notes are played evenly in time and tone. The brain can then make tiny adjustments so that the fingers give the impression of being equal in strength and facility.
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#1968357 - 10/03/12 06:18 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: zrtf90]
Emissary52 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/09
Posts: 317
Loc: Monroe, NC USA
Well folks, I went to bed at my now usual 6 AM and arise at 2:30 PM to find all of these wonderful responses. BTW, I do some of my best practicing between 2 and 3 AM!

Rickster – My ultimate plan is to get to the point where I can get off of my blood pressure medicine totally. Four years ago, my BP was measured at the hospital at 238/149. Not exactly conducive to a long life! Now, when I get out of bed it’s usually 85/62 or thereabouts. It’s amazing how with each decade past our 20’s, we slowly pack on about 10 pounds or so. For all of you 30 and 40 somethings, keep excessive weight off as long as possible. You’ll be playing piano a lot longer that way!

Tararex - Sounds like all of us baby-boomers should take up piano for our health. If I could only find a way to practice piano and do my treadmill at the same time, I might be much farther down the road to Immortality …at least health-wise, if not piano-wise! I never would dream of throwing books away tho’ – a cardinal sin. In fact, while try to get Valery Lloyd-Watts spelled right, I went on Amazon to discover she has a new 7 volume series – Mastering The Piano, with plenty of new pieces I don’t have. You can never have a music library that is too big!!

Andy Platt – From your posts, you’re miles ahead of me, but I do realize that knowing the scales through playing them would have a positive effect. There’s got to be more of a connection than I’m currently seeing. I always thought there might be some musical algorithm ( kind of like the good ol’ binomial theorem) that would explain all, but even with hand size as a variable that would go out the window!

Jacob777 – Here’s an example of something I might have trouble figuring out. Going from Thomas Atwood’s Sonatina in G first movement to “A House Is Not a Home” is kind of a big leap for me. Sometimes you find interesting things in the strangest places! I've somehow morphed into a semi-elderly classical Gleek!

http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0090673&

In Eb : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fajOFZn3fjY&feature=fvwrel

This represents something where scale practice would seem to me to go out the window. The big spans in the left hand would be a 5 & 1, but figuring out what might be a correct fingering would be the challenge. Those chords are a bit intimidating too!


piano-deb – “The fingering for scales is not connected to the fingering for any given piece of music. When playing, fingerings provide guideposts so the player can move to, or keep his/her hands in, the correct position on the keyboard. Beginner pieces typically have more fingering notations to help the student stay on track.” Thanks for stating this! “Guideposts” is a great term!

Zrtf90 – Most of the pieces I’ve done in Masterwork Classics are relatively short and I haven’t really come across much thumb tuck-under. My Alfred’s Sonatina book does have many examples of that though, and I’m sure that when I get to it, with its much longer pieces, that it will all make a lot more sense and those scales will loom much larger in the musical picture!


Edited by Emissary52 (10/03/12 06:42 PM)
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I'm Craig, I'm retired, It's Saturday every day!
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#1969472 - 10/06/12 02:14 PM Re: Relevance of Scale Fingering to Songs in that Key [Re: zrtf90]
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: piano_deb
...Scales are used to learn the keys themselves...
You can learn the keys without having to practise the scales. Scales are used to learn the principles of fingering and to give the ear an easy time hearing whether notes are played evenly in time and tone. The brain can then make tiny adjustments so that the fingers give the impression of being equal in strength and facility.

Good clarification, thanks. I'm learning scales as I learn the keys so they are connected activities in my mind. smile
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Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
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