Robert Estrin - piano expert

What Is the Right Fingering on the Piano?

Useful tips for all pianists

In this video, Robert talks about fingerings on the piano with unique and valuable insights.

Released on April 22, 2020

    
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Video Transcription

Robert Estrin here at livingpianos.com, your online piano store with a question, what is the right fingering on the piano? Fingering is such a deep subject on the piano that I could give courses on it and have guest artists to share their ideas because, truth be known, fingering is not an all or one proposition. First, let's start with some basics.

Are there some fundamental fingerings that all pianists follow? Well, in a word, yes, there are some essential fingerings that all pianos must learn. For example, unlike the violin and the cello and other string instruments which do not have standard fingering for scales and arpeggios, thank goodness, on the piano there is standard fingering.

I should mention a little aside here. There is a whole other school of a tiny percentage of people, and I'd love to hear from any of you who have mastered what is called mirror fingering on the piano, which is a subject for another video in which the thumbs always play the same notes in both hands and scales and arpeggios, but that is a very small percentage of pianists.

Most pianists learn the fingering right out of Hanon 60 Selected Studies for the Virtuoso Pianist, which you can get the Hanon book on Amazon or any sheet music store. It is kind of the Bible of fingering for scales and arpeggios. Yes, all pianists must learn the correct fingering but what about your music? If you've ever had sheet music to a piece of music that has fingering in it, and then you take another edition of the same piece, you might be shocked to discover that the fingerings are different. Matter of fact, fingerings are different in all different editions so how do you know what's right?

Well, fingering is as much art as science. Not only that, consider this. My father, Morton Estrin, was a concert pianist with enormous hands. I have relatively small hands so just think of that alone, something that might lay right under somebody with big hands would be impossible for somebody with smaller hands so we must accommodate our hand size, even the thickness of the fingers and the stretch between the thumb and the other fingers, all of these things affects us.

Here's the key. You must practice and find the fingering that works for you. Now, does that mean that anything goes with fingering? Far from it. It takes many years to learn how to discover good fingering and there is no substitute for a good teacher as well as having authoritative, well-edited, fingered editions. I use that in the plural because there's nothing better than having another resource of fingering suggestions. When you're running through a problem with a passage, one of the first things to look for are new fingering solutions because sometimes the fingering, even though it seems like it should be perfectly good and maybe it's right in the score, might not work for you, do you have to discover what fingerings work for you.

There are a certain amount of standard fingerings, certain things that definitely are a must. For example, rapid repeated notes with one hand. If you try to do that with one finger, you're never going to be able to get the speed. Watch. I'll go as fast as I can using one finger on one note. That's about as fast as I can go but by using three, two, one, listen how much faster you can go. There is one thing that is certainly a rule of thumb or a rule of fingers and thumb, which is you must change fingers when playing rapid repeated notes with one hand.

In fact, I like changing fingers and repeated notes even when they're slow because of the legato quality you can get. Listen to a repeated note without changing fingers, trying to get a smoothness with no pedal. It's pretty good but, by changing fingers, one finger is going to go down while the next finger comes up so you can actually get smoother, more connected, repeated notes as you'll hear here.

There are some hard and fast rules in fingering. As I mentioned, scales and arpeggios, certainly thirds there are different fingerings but certain fingerings that are definitely better than others. If you have technical problems in a passage and you've worked and worked and you never can get it, try experimenting with new fingering, get another edition that has fingering in it and try it out and you will be rewarded.

It is one of the things that will come to you after you've studied piano for a long time. You'll start to understand fingering in a way that allows for solutions to technical and musical challenges on the piano. Thanks for all the great questions, keep them coming in here at livingpianos.com, your online piano store, with lots of videos to come. Thanks again. I'm Robert Estrin.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on April 23, 2020 @1:20 pm PST
Thank you for mentioning this great video! I can comfortably reach an octave with my hands over the keyboard. My fingers are fairly thick, so I've been working on curving my fingers and experimenting with my arm angles to find my comfort zone between the black keys.
reply
Robert Estrin on April 24, 2020 @3:25 pm PST
We all must discover our own unique ways of approaching the keyboard.
Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on April 22, 2020 @1:52 pm PST
You did a great job explaining fingering techniques. I'm glad that you pointed out that not all fingerings work for all players. I have shorter, thicker fingers than my piano teacher. I've tried to get this point across to him. I'm glad to hear you say it. Thank you for this video!
reply
Robert - host, on April 22, 2020 @6:31 pm PST
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