Meri’s Musical Musings

The importance of following the fingering in piano music

Posted on: February 5, 2016

While I generally used logical fingerings in piano music, which was usually consistent with the printed fingerings, occasionally I ignored or forgotten the printed fingering, especially when the printed fingering seemed illogical. A professional piano colleague of mine taught me indirectly that with rare exceptions, and almost never in elementary and most intermediate to early advanced piano music, you should use the fingering given even when it does not seem to make sense.

One case you should ALWAYS use the given fingering is in playing various technical elements on the piano. It is very easy at the elementary levels of piano study to use incorrect fingering for the solid and broken triads, which down the road will make practicing four note chords of various types and arpeggios a lot more difficult. I enforce this with my piano students, after having learned about this little bad habit I had myself the hard way.

Almost all elementary and intermediate level piano music the printed fingering is the correct one. Unless a professional piano teacher says to change the fingering, do NOT change the fingering. In piano method books, especially those for children, I require students to use the fingering printed. Sometimes the composer is looking for the student to master a particular piano technique, or to avoid an accent intentionally on a beat that would normally be accented, such as in parts of the Mozart K545 first movement piano sonata, starting on the first page; the normal way to do it is with a standard scale fingering, but most editions have the thumb on the last 16th note in the previous bar on the thumb, not on the first 16th note of the next bar, which would SEEM logical, but it appears that the composer’s intention was to avoid the accent with the thumb intentionally to make the passage sound more fluid before the end of the modulation.

Only in advanced piano music should fingering changes be considered seriously, and generally only if you have small hands (a reach of a 9th or less) and the grouping of notes is impossible to play without significant pain or potential injury. Some jazz arrangements (particularly Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller), and classical works of Rachmanninoff, Liszt, some to most Chopin, and some Mendelssohn works fall into this category of fingering changes that may be necessary for players of small and even normal sized hands.

If you are going to make a fingering change, do so with careful consideration, ideally with a quality piano teacher or an experienced, professional pianist who regularly plays challenging jazz or classical pieces. Otherwise, just use what’s there.

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  • None
  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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