Fingering Tips for The Piano

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Hi, I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. Today I’m going to show you fingering tips for the piano. Fingering on the piano is as much art as it is science. It is a complex subject. There isn’t one right fingering for everyone. But there are a lot of fingerings that are definitely better than other fingerings. I’m going to give you some general guidelines. Keep in mind that this is a deep subject. These are guidelines that you can take to heart, but finding fingering solutions is something that involves a lifetime of discovery.

To find appropriate fingering, try to cover as many notes in a passage as possible.

 

Avoid unnecessary finger crossings. If you can be over a whole chord and have your fingers play those notes, it is far easier than having to cross over unnecessarily. There are some exceptions to this. Sometimes you might find that by playing over a chord, it’s hard to get enough power and speed. You might find you want to do finger crossings. But generally you can just get over as many notes as possible in a hand position because it’s easy to play once you’re over the notes. Thumb crossings and third and fourth finger crossings can be difficult to achieve. So get over as many notes as possible.

Unless you’re playing octaves or chords, generally you avoid the thumb on black keys.

Every single rule I’m going to tell you has exceptions. If you’re playing a Bach fugue for example, where counterpoint is very complex, you’ll have the craziest fingering you could ever imagine that breaks every single rule I’m going to tell you here today. So these are only guidelines that you try first. If you can accomplish fingering without using the thumb on black keys, do so. Now of course, if they’re in chords or octaves, that rule does not apply.

On repeated notes you must change fingers.

Obviously, for fast repeated notes it’s essential to change fingers. There’s no way anybody could play fast repeated notes with one finger. But what about repeated notes that are slow? In order to get a true legato out of repeated notes you must change fingers, so one finger is going down while the other finger is going up. For example, the beginning of the second movement of the K 330 C Major Sonata of Mozart. It starts off with three C’s. Without changing fingers, you end up with breaks between the notes. Changing the fingers on those notes makes it possible to achieve a smooth legato sound. You can add the pedal to enhance it. But you can achieve that beautiful legato just with your fingers by changing fingers for each note.

There isn’t just one fingering for all players.

People’s hands are built differently. Not just the size, but the angle of the thumb, as well as the length of different fingers. For some people, the thumb is at a greater angle offering a wider reach. The thickness of fingers can also determine what fingering works best. So every player has to discover what fingerings work for them.

Find the fingerings that work for you!

You must experiment with different fingerings in order to find what works for you. In fact, I will go so far as to say that whenever you have a technical problem, you should search for a fingering solution.

Reference different scores that are edited with different fingering suggestions.

You’ll find if you have more than one edition of a piece, the fingerings are not the same. Different editors have different ideas about what fingerings are going to work best. Sometimes you’re tearing your hair out, not able to play a passage, and then you find another book that has a different fingering and it instantly solves the problem for you!

Those are some tips for fingering for you!

I’m sure there are other valuable tips out there. If anybody has any more tips, leave them in the comments here at LivingPianos.com or on YouTube. I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

8 thoughts on “Fingering Tips for The Piano”


 
 

  1. I was surprised by your tip for playing with different fingers at the beginning of the Mozart. I never thought of that. That tip alone made the whole video worthwhile (but of course that wasn’t the only thing that did; the whole video was helpful).

  2. 2021.11.22

    Dear Robert,

    Thank you so much for your video on fingering tips. What you shared here regarding fingering on the piano is even more appropriate, necessary, and absolutely critical in organ playing. I have a JohannusONE one-manual digital pipe organ in my apartment. I was a substitute church organist for over 60 years. (I’m 80 now, and I started doing substitute church organ playing when I was 15.) For the most part, hymns must be played absolutely legato. That is because when you let go of a note on an organ, the sound stops. There is no damper pedal on an organ! I am still trying to work out the best fingering for certain hymns
    and it is a real challenge that I have been refining for more than 60 years. Sometime I get into problems that seem unsolvable, and then boom!, the right fingering hits me and the problem is solved.I write in fingerings on all my music, so I don’t lose hard-won fingerings that came to me as an “art,” and not from technical analysis. The connection of the mind and the fingers is a wonderful and almost mysterious thing. You hit the nail on the head with this video! Thank you so much.

    Sincerely,
    Charles

    1. Organists understand the importance of fingering better than anyone! I always encourage my students to practice without the damper pedal in order to discover the best fingering.

  3. As much as possible, I want my hand to stay in a closed natural loose position and go straight into the keys for ease of playing and best control to create beautiful tone. With a floating loose arm and wrist, I can swivel my wrist to cover passages with ease over large spans of notes.

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