The Secret to Fingering: Always Look Back, Never Look Forward

Piano Lessons / piano playing techniques / The Secret to Fingering: Always Look Back, Never Look Forward

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to give you a really valuable tip for fingering: Always look back, never look forward. If you’re an advanced player, you know that doesn’t make any sense at all, because you have to know what’s coming in order to negotiate a good fingering. That is absolutely true. However, if you’re a student, it’s very different, because the fingering that’s indicated in the score is what you must follow. A good teacher will provide you with good fingering. You must always determine what finger to use by looking back to the last note that has a fingering marked. Put your hand in the position over those notes. Then, whatever finger is over the next note is the finger to use. Because if you look forward, you could run into trouble.

If you want to know what finger to use, always look back to the last printed fingering.

I have a Burgmuller study here called Innocence. It’s a lovely little piece. I want to show you something in the right hand after the second ending. You have your third finger on C, but you have a first finger on the very next C. So if you look ahead you might think you have to have your first finger on the first C. And then the same thing happens again. You have your third finger on E, and then you have another E after that which has the first finger marked. So instead of using the third finger, you may think you need to use your first finger on the first E since the E coming up has a first finger marked. You might think you should use the first finger because you’re going to need it later. But that is not the way fingerings work in music.

So indeed, you would play this passage with the first, second and third fingers, then change your third finger to your first finger on the same E, and then use your second finger on the F. Why? Because the last printed finger was the first finger on E, so you naturally use your second finger on F. You always look back to the last printed fingering to know what finger to use on the following notes. If you look forward, you’ll get fouled up because that’s not the way fingerings are followed in the score.

I hope this clarifies things for you!

If you’re figuring out a fingering because there’s no fingering written, you might want to get a sense of the whole passage to be able to execute a good fingering possibility. But if you’re a student, and you have an edited edition that’s fingered, and your teacher provides additional fingering solutions for you, you must always follow the fingering by looking back to see the last note that had a finger marked. Put that finger on that note and see what fingers are over the next notes instead of looking ahead to see what fingerings are coming. That won’t work. This is something that some of my students have asked about. I hope this is helpful for all of you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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2 thoughts on “The Secret to Fingering: Always Look Back, Never Look Forward”

  1. My first good teacher taught one techniqe: finger it so you don’t run out of fingers! I alsoI
    incorporate organ fingering that works well on some lines

    For what its worth!

    1. Organ fingering is a great idea since you can’t rely upon holding notes with the sustain pedal. You must come up with fingering that allows for smooth legato playing.

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