Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Essentials of Fingering

Very important tips and tricks to improve your piano fingering

In this video, Robert gives you a few tips and tricks to improve your piano fingering a great deal, with practical examples taken from popular compositions of the classical piano repertoire. A must to watch!

Released on April 5, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, this is Robert Estrin. Welcome to Today's show is very important. It is, in fact, "The Essentials of Fingering on the Piano." We're going to utilize a couple of pieces. We're going to start with the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier in C Major, the famous Prelude. But, before I do that, I want to just talk a bit about fingering on the piano.

Fingering on the piano is one of the most essential aspects for developing a good technique. But the question is, how do you figure out the right fingering? After all, even in scores that have fingering, there are two aspects of it that are coming up short. Number one, you don't have all the fingering that you need, except the very primer books where they might put fingerings for every note. Most fingerings are just suggestions in key spots.

Secondly, if you look at different editions of the same music, you'll find there are different suggestions for fingering. And, indeed fingerings are just that, suggestions. After all, my hands compared to my father's hands are completely different animals. He could reach far more than I can. So, a fingering that might work beautifully for him would be impossible for me. And vice versa, with my little fingers I can get between keys more easily.

So, you have to discover the fingering that's right for you in a passage. I would go so far as to say that when you're having a problem you can't solve with your practice techniques, metronome speeds, all kinds of slow practice and hands separate, look at fingering for the solution. It's oftentimes the way you can solve technical problems.

So, let's begin. We're going to talk about how to figure out fingerings in a piece. And the essential thing...I have a video I did years ago about breaking down piano technique to two essential components. That is fingering patterns and hand positions. And that is really the essence of piano technique. So, if you can break things down to chords, you will know the best fingering to use. Because, after all, you want to take in as many notes at a time as you possibly can within a hand position.

Now, the reason why I chose the Well-Tempered Clavier Prelude in C Major from Book 1 of Johann Sebastian Bach is because the entire Prelude is just a series of broken chords. You know this piece. I'm going to play just the beginning for you.

And so it goes. The entire piece is just this beautiful chord progression, broken chords. So, like any place you have broken chords, you want to first, in order to figure out the best fingering, play them in block chords and you'll discover the best fingering. So, that would be playing it like this.

So, you grab as many notes as you possibly can. And it makes it so much easier, not to just play, but to learn your music this way. Just like in the C major famous Mozart Sonata, K. 545 which you all know.

When you're learning a left hand initially, to figure out the best fingering, practice that in chords.

This is an essential part of piano practice when you learn your music. Now, the trouble starts when it isn't so neat and cozy like this. When the hands shift to different positions on the piano, then what do you do? For example, in the second movement of the Pathetique Sonata of Beethoven, when the first theme finishes, it goes up an octave and the theme repeats. And how do you approach that? Let me show you what I mean.

So, you see at the very end there, it goes up the octave. So the secret, once again, is practicing in chords. And I'm going to stop when I get to that place where the hands change position and show you the trick.

So, now what do you do? Well, you figure a pivot note, usually a third or fourth finger crossing or, in this case, a thumb crossing which instantly puts you into a new hand position over a new chord.

If I play it as written, you'll see the pivot note and I'll stop on it. And I will get over the rest of the chord.

So notice, as soon as I hit that middle C, I'm over the next chord.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret to piano technique and how to figure out fingering in your music. It can solve technical as well as musical problems for you. Explore it and let me know how it works out for you. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

sheila * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2021 @10:05 am PST
How does one explain double sharps and flats to students ? They always ask why F double sharp can’t just be called G for example.
Robert - host, on February 5, 2021 @11:38 am PST
This article and video explains the nature of why double sharps and double flats make sense:
François Leroux * VSM MEMBER * on April 16, 2017 @11:16 am PST
Wow! This essentials on fingering will keep me busy for a few hours if not days. I have just picked-up a fantastic new technique which I know will allow me to learn quickly and master some of my peffered classical sheet music. Merci mille fois Robert!
Richard Blocher on April 5, 2017 @12:09 pm PST
I really appreciate your advice on chord's.All chord's, are built in the scale, or key the music is written.If we can break this down to the chord level, I can see, the fingering can become personal. Thank you for Sharing Robert. Dick B.
Christopher Slevin * VSM MEMBER * on April 5, 2017 @8:55 am PST
v. interesting tks. What's the difference between arpeggios played with the right hand only and those played with the left crossing over the right and why?
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