Do you have any tips or ideas for determining fingerings for complicated passages?

by Carolyn Topliff
(New York)

Sometimes editorial fingerings in music are helpful as far as they go, but other times there are no fingerings shown.

I have encountered some challenging passages that have me stuck and stumbling as I try to come up with a workable set of fingerings. Fingering can either make a passage playable or not.

Help!! I'd like to hear your thoughts and look forward to any tips, hints or suggestions you may have.

Many thanks.

Maria's answer:

Fingering is a, sometimes overlooked, but important task to do when starting out with a new piece. Here are some short tips:

1. Start by evaluating the editors' fingering- no use to re-invent the wheel! Keep what works, and re-work what doesn't.

2. For all the common fingering patterns, learn all the piano scales, chords, and arpeggios and their proper fingering. This will give you the tools to solve most of the fingering, since all piano music is built around chords, scales (and intervals).

3. Look through the piece for obvious chords, broken and arpeggiated and choose the proper fingering for those. Then for scales, see what scale or part of scale it is, then use the correct fingering pattern for that scale/s.

3. Generally, try to use a fingering so that you can stay in the same position for as long as possible- you want to avoid any "jerky" movements.

4. Look for phrases and musical direction- use a fingering that helps you express that phrase or passage with fluidity. Change or rework basic fingering if necessary.

5. This goes for fast or difficult passages as well. After testing the basic (chord, scale and arpeggio) fingering patterns, rework to assist you in direction and speed.

All the above work also helps you in analyzing and really thinking through the piece as well!

Read more about piano fingering here.

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